Republican incumbent Kurt Prenzler prevailed against Democratic challenger Marleen Suarez in Tuesday’s hotly contested Madison County Treasurer race.
Prenzler defeated Suarez by 44,418 to 33,120 votes, a 57 percent to 43 percent margin.
The race was marked by acrimony on both sides, with the candidates trading accusations of unethical behavior and illegal actions.
Suarez alleged Prenzler broke the law when he conducted a tax sale in February 2013 on property owned by political ally Don Weber before public bidding opened. Prenzler said the practice was a longtime custom in the county and he was advised by an assistant state’s attorney that it did not violate the law. But Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons said Prenzler was advised not to conduct the presale. The Illinois Attorney General’s Office is reviewing the Madison County Board Finance Committee’s request for an investigation into the matter.
The new state law on tax sales was enacted after former treasurer Fred Bathon was convicted in December 2013 of rigging the sales to let political allies get the maximum interest rate. The tax sales operate through a reverse auction in which buyers purchase properties of delinquent taxpayers by bidding to offer taxpayers the lowest interest rate.
On Wednesday morning, Prenzler called Suarez’s accusations “completely ridiculous, completely political.”
Prenzler said the election shows voters appreciate his efforts to restore integrity to the Treasurer’s Office. By automating tax sales, his office has reduced the penalty interest rate from 18 percent to a low of 1.59 percent and helped delinquent taxpayers save millions, he said.
“I think if there’s one thing the voters appreciate it was integrity,” Prenzler said. “I’ve tried hard to bring that to the office.”
Prenzler also said he reduced the treasurer’s budget by 30 percent and saved $1.5 million, along with beefing up Internet security. His office is the only one in the state that offers a free “e-check” option for taxpayers, he said.
“I’m proud to say where I’ve saved 30 percent overall in my budget, I have increased spending on Internet security,” Prenzler said. “We are taking no chances.”
Prenzler said he has tripled the county’s deposits in local banks from $30 million to $90 million, which helps spur local economic activity by generating loans for businesses and individuals.
“I’m investing according to Illinois law, which has three priorities: first priority, safety; second priority, liquidity; and third priority, yield,” Prenzler said.
“I want to thank the voters of Madison County for giving me the vote of confidence to continue as treasurer, and I will remain committed to bring integrity and restore confidence in the Madison County Treasurer’s Office,” he said.
About 44 percent of the county’s registered voters cast ballots, higher than average for a mid-term election.
In other contested county races:
• County Clerk: Democrat incumbent Debbie Ming-Mendoza of Granite City defeated challenger Republican Stephen J. Adler of Alton, 39,405 to 38,593 votes.
• County Board District 5: Incumbent Republican Michael “Mick” Madison of Bethalto defeated challenger Democrat Will Hanfelder of Edwardsville, 2,239 to 1,356.
• County Board District 9: Incumbent Democrat James “Jim” Dodd of Alton defeated Republican Terrence G. Peterson of Alton, 1,145 to 737.
• County Board District 10: Incumbent Democrat Bruce Malone of Alton defeated Republican Chris Doucleff of Alton, 1,199 to 1,067.
• County Board District 12: Independent Robert Pollard of East Alton defeated Democrat Steven L. Kochan of Wood River, 977 to 872.
• County Board District 14: Incumbent Republican Tom McRae of Bethalto defeated Democrat Jared J. Hartsock of Bethalto, 1,611 to 1,063.
The County Board seats are four-year terms.
In Madison County’s Third Judicial Circuit, Republican John B. Barberis Jr. of St. Jacob defeated Democrat Associate Judge Clarence Harrison, 41,723 to 35,114, to fill a circuit judge vacancy.
Alton advisory question
Voters in Alton approved an advisory referendum to name the fountain at the corner of Belle and Third streets downtown the Miles Davis Memorial Fountain.
The Miles Davis Memorial Project is raising funds to install a life-size statue of Davis, an Alton native and renowned jazz musician, on Third Street.
Republican challenger Bruce Rauner defeated Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn with 50.6 percent of the vote, Politico.com reported.
According to politico.com:
• Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart lost his 12th District re-election bid against Republican state Rep. Mike Bost of Murphysboro.
• Republican U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis defeated former Third Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Ann Callis by a 58 to 42 percent margin.