Sandy Johnson was hoping to unseat State Sen. A.J. Wilhelmi in the November election. But in February, after seven years in the Illinois Senate, Wilhelmi resigned to accept a job with the Illinois Hospital Association.
Now, political newcomer Johnson is lashing out at local Democrats because they haven’t officially named the candidate who will replace the Joliet Democrat on the ballot.
Because Wilhelmi to file for the March 20 primary, his name remained on the ballot. And because there was no other Democrat challenger, it’s still on the November ballot.
“It’s inexcusable, both from a political perspective and from a moralistic standpoint,” said Johnson, a Manhattan banker who ran unopposed for the Republican nod for the 43rd District seat.
Johnson claims the situation is robbing voters of their right to fairly elect a candidate.
“ … It gives all the power to the [Democratic] county chairman,” she said, referring to the fact that it’s left to the head of the local Democratic party to decide who will run in Wilhelmi’s place this fall.
Thanks to new legislative boundaries, which put the 43rd District in both Will and DuPage counties, Will County Democratic Central Committitte Chairman Scott Pyles said he and DuPage Democratic party Chairman Robert Peickert will jointly make the call.
“The chairmen form a committee, and the vote is weighted,” Pyles said, noting that since a larger portion of the district is in Will County, his vote will have more pull.
Johnson also criticized Democrats for in Springfield. Whether McGuire will also appear on the November ballot is also up to the Will and DuPage party chairmen.
McGuire is the nephew of 86th District State Rep. Jack McGuire, who also resigned last spring. Will County Democrats chose Larry Walsh Jr., a Jackson Township trustee and son of Will County Executive Larry Walsh Sr., to serve the remainder of the elder McGuire’s term and take his spot on the November ballot.
“Who needs to go out and meet the voters for honest debates when you can just play musical chairs with the family and not have to bother with that democracy stuff,” Johnson scoffed, saying whether it’s Pat McGuire or another local Democrat on the ballot, the situation could put her challenger at a disadvantage.
“If A.J. waits until the last minute [to be taken off the ballot], this person’s campaign cycle is so shortened,” she said. “That makes all the difference. You have to wonder what their strategy is.”
Johnson claims it’s part of Democrats’ strategy to keep Wilhelmi’s name on the ballot as long as possible — an assertion Pyles refutes.
“The only reason things are working on this timetable is that there were some other things we had to attend to” first, including filling vacancies on the county board and the opening in the 86th House district.
“It’s going to happen in the next couple of weeks,” Pyles said, noting that first, Wilhelmi will officially ask the state board of elections to remove his name from the ballot.
“It’s just a matter of some paperwork,” Pyles said. “There’s no strategy, no hidden motive.”
Pat McGuire, Johnson's likely opponent, could not be reached for comment Friday.