Surprise Endorsement in Kane County: Hultgren Chooses Lauzen

-By Warner Todd Huston

Kevin Burns (left) and Chris Lauzen (right)

Early on Saturday, the Illinois Review reported that Congressman Randy Hultgren (R, 14th District) was going to endorse a candidate in the race for Kane County Board Chairman and it was going to be Chris Lauzen that would get Hultgren’s nod.

This endorsement came as a bit of a surprise to Lauzen’s opponent, Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns. Only last weekend Representative Hultgren had come out to walk the district with Burns. Mayor Burns reports that Hultgren was all smiles and handshakes and said some nice things about the Geneva Mayor as they talked to voters. Burns even noted what a great time they had on an entry at the Geneva Patch saying, “We look forward to doing this again … so Randy, just pick up the phone and let us know where we’re going next!”

Apparently they ain’t a’going anywhere! It is obvious that Hultgren’s endorsement of Lauzen seemed to come out of left field as far as Burns was concerned. As Burns’s statement about Hultgren’s endorsement says, “I was obviously taken aback by this action. It was only last week he told voters we encountered in Huntley that I was ‘the right man for the job,’ so you can understand my surprise when I read the news.” (Download full statement HERE)

Regardless, Hultgren picked Lauzen in a newly released statement:

For Kane County Board chairman, I endorse Chris Lauzen. When I served in the State Senate, I worked closely with Chris for many years; I was always impressed by his drive and commitment to his constituents. He is a good family man as well as a man of convictions. I know that he has the skills needed to lead Kane County in these challenging times.

I think the key to Hultgren’s pick is right there in that second line: “When I served in the State Senate, I worked closely with Chris for many years.” It is likely that Randy felt obligated to endorse his long-time colleague. Don’t ask me to read the Congressman’s mind, but this sort of close working relationship often forms the basis of endorsements.

Unfortunately in his rush to get a statement out about the endorsement, Mayor Burns let his pique take control of him. In that statement, Burns reveals the private phone call he had with Hultgren about the pick and says that Hultgren told him that he “hates doing this,” and that having to pick Lauzen “sucks.” Burns also put in his press release that he reminded Hultgren that Lauzen was a Walsh supporter when Walsh was about to run in the 14th District (before Walsh changed his mind and filed in the newly redistricted 8th) and asked Hultgren how he could support Lauzen after that. Ouch.

One thing is sure, were I Hultgren, I don’t think I’d be having any more phone conversations with Burns if the good mayor is going to be telling everyone that will listen what was said in private phone calls!

Burns’s statement ended in a very indelicate way, too.

“This is politics 101,” said Burns, “friends will sometime disappoint. What’s noteworthy and telling about Randy’s statement about Chris is the absence of any reference to his honesty, integrity and ability to the job required of Chairman. I’m not surprised, however, because Mr. Lauzen has no record to run on and hasn’t offered any plan to move the county forward.”

So, not only will Burns talk out of school and reveal to everyone what was said to him in a private phone call, but he’ll also attempt to read that phone caller’s mind and put words in his mouth.

I mean, read Hultgren’s endorsement. He called Lauezn a “man of convictions” and said, “he has the skills needed to lead Kane County.” That seems to directly refute Burns’s sour grapes, doesn’t it?

Sheese.

But this isn’t the first time that harsh words have flown between Lauzen and Mayor Burns. In a recent go ’round reported in the Daily Herald, Burns called Lauzen a woman hater and said he was bigoted against gays.

“Chris obviously hates homosexuals, is afraid of women and believes that only he has the answers to everything,” Burns said. “That’s sad.”

Harsh, indeed.

Lauzen has given as good as he’s gotten, though, so let’s not claim that Chris has been wide-eyed and innocent in the mud slinging, of course. Politics ain’t beanbag, as they say.

This whole situation might come back to bite Hultgren, too. As Ill. Review notes, some of Hultgren’s supporters are a bit more than mystified with his endorsement. “Hultgren supporters now question Hultgren’s wisdom about getting into Kane County’s nasty political brawls by endorsing Lauzen,” the blog post states, “but others question if Hultgren will endorse in other raucous primary battles.”

I think Congressman Hultgren did not handle this all very well.

Maybe the best lesson we’ve learned is that federal officials should stay out of county politics? Would Hultgren have been better advised to play on with his first inclination to be supportive of all local candidates, help them if he can, but otherwise not come out and endorse people? It would have been safer for Hultgren, anyway, if safe is the way he wanted to go. And he could have made logic of it. After all federal politics is a separate sphere from local, county politics.

We’ve also learned another thing. In a day when the Illinois GOP should be soaring back in the esteem of the people due to the abject failure of the Illinois Democrats, the party simply cannot get its act together. Why do I say that? Because the State Party Chairman of the Ill. GOP, Pat Brady, is intervening in this very Kane County Chair race we are discussing here. Brady has lined up behind Burns and signed on as Burns’s campaign chairman. So, at a time when the state party is at low ebb despite what should be favorable conditions for a come back, the state party chairman is messing around with the race for a county chairmanship! It doesn’t make much sense to me.

All I can say is that moving to Tennessee or Indiana looks like a better idea every day.

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