Ammons & Danos Join Democrats’ “Blue Wave” In Champaign County
A higher than usual voter turnout is bringing Democrats to Champaign County offices, many of which have not been filled by a Democrat for years.
One of those Democrats is Urbana Alderman Aaron Ammons, who won the election for Champaign County Clerk, over Republican county clerk’s office employee, Matt Grandone. (The current county clerk, Republican Gordy Hulten, ran unsuccessfully for the new county executive office, losing to Democrat Darlene Kloeppel).
Ammons, the husband of State Representative Carol Ammons (D-Urbana), will become Champaign County’s first African-American county clerk. He says he’ll be visiting the clerk’s office soon and meeting with employees to prepare for his transition.
“Let’s get everyone on the same page and move forward as we continue to offer services to the citizens of Champaign County,” said Ammons. “That’s one of the first things that I really think is necessary for us to make happen. But then we have to turn right around and get ready for a municipal election. So we’re really going to have to have a quick transition.”
Ammons says one of his goals will be to fight for pay equity for women in the county clerk’s office.
“We have women who have really been doing an outstanding job for generations, for decades here in Champaign County,” said Ammons. “And we want to make sure they are paid equitably for the same work. So I want to make sure that I start to address the pay inequity and the lack of diversity that currently exists in the managerial staff.”
Ammons campaigned on a platform that includes increasing student voter participation, and broadening voter education programs, with a focus on minority and other marginalized groups. Ammons is also a critic of the Champaign County Clerk’s office’s use of the Interstate Crosscheck Program, which checks voter registration data for possible double voting, but has been accused of being error-prone and a tool for minority voter suppression.
Ammons won election as county clerk on his first try at the office, and will become the first Democrat in decades to serve as Champaign County Clerk. George Danos, on the other hand, took three tries to win election as Champaign County Auditor, an office that was regularly held by Democrats until 2012.
Danos defeated Republican interim Auditor Diane Michaels to win a two-year unexpired term as Champaign County auditor. He previously lost races for the office in 2012 and 2016 to John Farney. Michaels succeeded Farney as auditor at the beginning of the year, when Farney was appointed county treasurer to succeed the retiring Dan Welch.
Before Farney’s election, a string of Democrats had held the auditor’s office including Tony Fabri, Gerrie Parr, Mike Frerichs (now the state treasurer) and Laurel Prussing. But after Fabri’s tenure in office was marked by reports of absenteeism, Danos could do no better than close losses in 2012 and 2016, losing the latter by just 36 votes.
Tuesday’s election was different. Auditor candidates ran for a two-year, unexpired term, and unlike previous contests, ran in a non-presidential year, when voter turnouts are lower. However, Tuesday’s turnout was unusually high in Champaign County, at 64%, closer to presidential-year turnouts.
Danos notes that the so-called “blue wave” of Democrats’ election success did not occur in every state. He believes the party’s success in Illinois had something to do with voter reaction to two top Republican leaders.
“And I think the reason is, that when you have President Trump and Governor Rauner both being fairly confrontational, it just goes against the grain of Midwestern Nice. It was just too much to take,” said Danos.
Danos, a certified public accountant who is leaving a position with Ernst & Young to become auditor, says he wants to beef up the auditor’s role as a watchdog over county spending.