Candidates' petitions challenged by party insiders

“Politics is war without bloodshed.” ~Mao Tse-Tung.

First, a primer:

Political campaigners know the truth: every vote counts. Winning isn’t as complicated as pundits would have you believe; it’s a simple formula. Winning is about getting your neighbor to vote. And your other neighbor. And his neighbor.

That’s where precinct committeemen come into the picture.

Think of political influence as an inverted pyramid, with a precinct committeeman on the bottom. Sure, it might just be one person, but it’s the building block that holds the entire structure upright.

Precincts are the smallest unit of organized political structure. Precincts are geographic in nature, contiguous, and manageable. How does a politician get his votes out? He gets his precinct committeemen to walk their neighborhoods, to hand out literature to neighbors, and to keep an eye on what is going on during election day and call registered party voters who haven’t voted yet and get them to the polls to vote.

Precinct committeemen are infantry. They are the ground troops. A good committeeman is of great value; a group of dedicated committeemen can win an election.

Committeemen select their party’s county chairman, with their vote weighted for size of party voters in their precinct.

That’s why, especially for local elections, the person in charge of the infantry has a lot of political power.

And it’s about money, too. Political offices, most of which are part-time positions, come with a paycheck. Whoever controls the precinct committeemen controls the votes, the jobs and the political power.

That’s how it works.

Although Cook County gets the lion-share of media attention for its political cronyism, DuPage County is not immune to such shenanigans. The Downers Grove Township RepublicanOrganization (DGTRO) is quietly embroiled in a controversy that now has reached into the courts.

On Monday, December 5, the last day to file nominating petitions, 10 residents in the Downers Grove Township filed to run for Republican precinct committeemen without the prior knowledge and approval of Brian Krajewski, who is Chair of the DGTRO.

Several are running against committeemen who hold an additional elected office. Bob Grogan, DuPage County Auditor, is being challenged, as is Frank Wurster, Downers Grove Township Supervisor.

Four of the non-sanctioned candidates have had their nominating petitions challenged by their incumbent opponents. One of those is Wurster, who has filed an objection to the nominating petitions filed by his opponent, Donald Peters III.

According to Wurster and the objection, Peters’ petition is marred by the inclusion of voters who are Democrats. Wurster’s objection states, “Candidate’s nominating petition can only be characterized as a raid by an opposing party on the Downers Grove Township Republican Party and the election of one of its political offices.”

Wurster’s opponent, Don Peters III, disagrees, saying that he’s always voted as a Republican.

“I suspect that the incumbent is unaccustomed to being challenged in this position and was ill-prepared for another person to run.” he said. “Many of us are like-minded and believe that things can be run better than they have been. It’s not surprising that those who are comfortable with the way things are would feel threatened with the attempts by any other person seeking office.”

In an interview, Wurster said, “When 14 out of 20 [signatures on the petition] are Democrats, it seems like it might be a takeover of the organization.” He went on to say, “There’s a Republican [running] for 81st District, Ron Sandack. It appears that he has run 10 people against standing committee precinctmen.”

When asked why Senator Sandack, who was appointed by DuPage County Republican Party Chair Dan Cronin to fill his empty senate seat when Cronin was elected as Chair of the DuPage County Board, would want to support a Democratic Party takeover of the Republican Party, Wurster replied, “I don’t know the answer to that. It’s not normal to run people against standing precinctmen,” adding that he’s been a precinct committeeman for “15, 16 years.”

Brian Krajewski, DGTRO Chair, also named Sandack as being responsible for the additional candidates.

“When it’s a concerted effort, like Sandack, you have to wonder why he’s doing something like this.” Krajewski said.

In fact, Sandack and Krajewski are long-time political opponents. In 2007, Sandack, then a Downers Grove village commissioner, beat then-Mayor Krajewski in a landslide mayoral election. Krajewski’s name was also floated to replace Cronin in the Illinois Senate, with Sandack getting the appointment instead.

When political maps were redrawn earlier this year, Sandack was pushed into the same senate district as Republican Senate Leader Christine Radagno, and decided to run instead for the newly formed 81st House district.

The DGRTO, headed by Krajewski, is not supporting Sandack in his election bid.

For his part, Sandack says that he notarized nominating petitions simply because he was asked to do so. “It’s not about him, and it’s not about me, and I don’t know why Brian’s threatened by the democratic process of elections.”

Downers Grove Village Commissioner Sean Durkin is one of three running for committeeman in the same precinct, and he doesn’t understand why the DGTRO is challenging petitions. “This is Cook County politics in Downers Grove Township.”

“I have run 5 times for office, 4 times successfully,” he said. “I have never challenged anyone running against me. I am a staunch Republican, and I am ashamed that in our party we are sinking down to this level. I think challenging is a cheap shot. If the signatures [on the nominating petition] are valid, then so be it. Let the public decide who they want to have in office.”

When asked why he is running without prior approval from Krajewski and the DGTRO, Peters said, “I feel like the process has lost its value. My goal is to bring both process and party into light and call awareness to the issues that are important today. I’ve lived in this precinct for 15 years and I’ve never even met my committeeman.”

“I intend to respond to this common legal instrument and provide supporting information to clearly indicate that all my signatures on my petition are valid.”

Peters and Wurster will meet for the first time on Monday, December 19, when they are required to appear before the DuPage County Officers’ Electoral Board on the matter of Wurster’s objection.

“War does not determine who is right- only who is left.” ~Bertrand Russell


Leave a comment
  • This is a very good article about local politics, but the headline provides a slant and serves as an editorial rather than just being news. Does being the incumbent and challenging a petition when the evidence makes things look "hinky" make you a bad person. "Insider" is a term used in politico-speak when we want to identify a politician as being part of the problem. If we strip away the connotation of the term and just consider therm "insider" to mean those that are already involved in politics that is fine, but then let's look at some of the other PC candidates that are running in these PC challenges. Sean Durkin and Becky Rheintgen are two village council members endorsed by Senator Sandack (Rheintgen's husband is also running using the address of another property in another precinct). More importantly, they were endorsed by the local organization Downers Grove Community Advocates ( and did not even seek Republican support. It should also be noted that the Board of Directors has many "insiders" from the Democratic party (Schroeder, Nicola, Cheever, Denk, Harvey, and Peraino). Councilman Durkin is right. This is Chicago politics, but it is his backers that are doing it. I'm not saying that Rheintgen and Durkin aren't the staunch Republicans that Councilman Durkin claims he is. I'm just saying that their supporters aren't. If like anywhere else, you follow the dollars...tell me whose interests might be served.

  • In reply to Ron Brzoska:

    In the list of names on of Democratic Party insiders, I incorrectly listed "Nicola" as one of the people. I made a typo and that should read "DiCola" as in Kathleen DiCola.

  • I feel is it important for readers to understand the true facts of the story. Mr. Brzoska has neglected to thoroughly check his facts before posting his comments. First of all, my husband did not submit nominating petitions for Precinct Committeeman in another district. My father-in-law, Jack Rheintgen, submitted petitions to run for PC in his own district. He has lived in Downers Grove for over 50 years and is a Republican.

    The second statement that should be corrected is that Downers Grove Community Advocates is a Democratic organization. The board members are a diverse group of Republicans and Democrats. Mr. Brzoska chose to only list the Democrats in his response. This is a “snippet” of the description of their organization as listed on their website:

    “We're not "Watching" or allying ourselves to "Oppose" this or that (as too often groups are formed to do) rather, our goals are to promote the best attributes of our village and to explore and inform citizens about those issues facing our community that will have an impact for many years to come.
    Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians or Independents - we've got it covered. First and foremost we're caring and concerned Downers Grove residents who choose to be involved in shaping the future of our community.”

    Personally, I chose to submit nominating petitions for Republican Precinct Committeeman after the last election. I am a republican and was disappointed that during the last election that the DGTRO endorsed candidates without any candidate interviews or questionnaires. Any other organization in town, that chose to endorse candidates, either conducted candidate interviews are asked candidates to complete questionnaires. I believe if you want to truly affect change, you need to get involved. Sitting on the sidelines and complaining won’t make a difference. So a few weeks ago, on a rainy Sunday afternoon while the Bears were losing – I walked my precinct and asked my neighbors to sign my nominating petitions. I only needed to get 10 signatures in order to submit my petition to be on the ballot. At the time, I didn’t think anyone was running for Committeeman in my precinct.

    There is no “master plan” for a Democratic takeover as Mr. Brzoska suggests. In my case, and I won’t dare speak for others, it was a simple attempt to get more involved.

  • In reply to Becky Rheintgen:

    Ms. Rheitgen posted her response on my blog as well. Here is my response.

    Councilwoman Rheintgen,

    I stand corrected on it being your father-in-law, and not your husband, that is also running for committeman. I thank you for pointing this out. I apologize.

    I appreciate your assertion that the DGCA is not a predominately Democratic organization. I also appreciate the nice promo that you gave to them, but to deny that the bulk of their board of directors are not players in the local Democratic party is just having your head in the sand.

    I liked your second to last paragraph. It reminded me of myself and my own experience getting involved. After the 2010 primaries, I was very confused about the direction the Republican party was taking. I IMMEDIATELY contacted the DGTRO and asked if I could become a committeman. They offered my a living-out-of-precinct (LOOP) position or to be an assistant to the committeman in my precinct. I opted to be an assistant in my precinct so I could learn the ropes and determine if this was something that I really wanted to do. Here we are at the next election cycle and I can say that I earned the trust of my mentor where he feels he can retire, and I am on the ballot. I felt the need to be involved, and I am. There are some times when I don’t agree with the preferences of the party, but that’s life, and I do what I can to change minds.

    I say again, as I said in the comment to the Lloyd story, I don’t believe that you aren’t a staunch Republican, but things look suspicious…suspicious enough for some to file challenges to a few candidates petitions. The evidence was compelling enough that you felt the need to refute it. If I’m off base you don’t need to defend the Advocates, you can just laugh me off as a crackpot.

    Who knows? If you get elected maybe we can sit at a table together at a DGTRO meeting.

  • Has Ms. Rheintgen ever attended a DGTRO meeting? Ever? I never have and I'm betting she hasn't either.How can I be so sure?

    She didn't think anyone was running! Who told her that? Ron Sandack? LOLOL.

    Ms. Rheintgen:
    Did you fill out petitions for him?
    Was that included in your walk around?
    Were you part and parcel doing everything you can to help him?
    Did he ask you to run for Precinct Committeeman so you can follow his lead there?

    She makes it sound like "shucks lil ol me just wants to get involved". Save it lady, just from her comments she proves herself a liar.

    The "snippet" is BS she seems to accept whole. Advocates is a political party run by Democrats. Their web page is crystal clear on that. You can try and spin that any way you want ma'am, but you sound foolish repeating it.

    What is amusing is the author Lucy Lloyd, a Democratic Precinct Committeewoman, is the only person this Sandack can find to write this post as if it's real journalism, and here is some other dope jumping on that bandwagon.

  • fb_avatar


    I am not a Democratic precinct committeewoman. I resigned some time ago.


    Lucy Lloyd

  • DanL60, why hide behind some mysterious moniker? If you are man enough to hurl assertions against Ms. Rheintgen why not use your own name and stand behind it? It this how you intend to run your campaign? Residents in Downers Grove and Downers Grove Township are sick of these petty and insolent games. The DGTRO can attack the DG Advocates, or their members, under the cloak of internet anonymity but it’s just another childish response by those loyal to the Great Brian Krajewski! Be a man and use your real name!

  • Sometimes bloodshed is quicker. Of course, I jest.

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    Lucy Lloyd

    Writer, reporter, researcher, hockey mom. I'm an inveterate reader, relentlessly curious, and rarely without an opinion. I want to know the rest of the story and then I have to write it down. So I do.

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