High interest in vacant Lake Co. board seat

  • Waukegan Mayor Bob Sabonjian

    Waukegan Mayor Bob Sabonjian

  • Lake County Board Chairwoman Suzi Schmidt

    Lake County Board Chairwoman Suzi Schmidt

Published: 5/21/2009 2:45 PM

Waukegan Mayor Bob Sabonjian is backing a friend and political ally to replace him on the Lake County Board.

Waukegan resident Keith Turner has Sabonjian's support for the vacant 8th District seat, a post that will be filled by a Lake County Board appointment.

Turner is no stranger to Lake County politics, having unsuccessfully run for seats on the city council and the Waukegan Park District board. Most recently he volunteered with Sabonjian's successful mayoral campaign.

Sabonjian had to quit the county board earlier this month to be sworn in as mayor.

Sabonjian described Turner, who works as an information-technology project manager, as a fiscal conservative and social progressive.

"He's the kind of guy who thinks for himself," Sabonjian said.

That portrait could've easily been used to describe Sabonjian during his decade on the county board. Known for speaking his mind regardless of the potential political cost, Sabonjian often stood up for Waukegan's poorer residents and often tried to hold the line on government spending.

Turner, 57, said he was "overwhelmed" to have Sabonjian's endorsement.

"I hope that I can get the appointment and carry on representing the district as Bob has," he said.

Sabonjian said he's spoken to County Board Chairwoman Suzi Schmidt about Turner and the vacancy. It's Schmidt's responsibility to recommend an appointee to the full board.

Seven or eight hopefuls are in the running for the seat, said Schmidt, who legally has until early July to name a candidate.

Other names mentioned include park district board member Bill Durkin and Karen Carstens, an official with the Lake County branch of the NAACP. All are Democrats.

Although Sabonjian left the Democratic Party and became an independent ahead of his mayoral campaign, he last was elected to the county board as a Democrat. As such, a Democrat must be appointed.

Schmidt said she hasn't whittled down the list of candidates because she's waiting to hear from Democratic leaders. She hopes to recommend a candidate to the full group at its next meeting on June 16.

Whoever is appointed will face an election in 2010 to keep the seat.

Thirteen Republicans and nine Democrats now comprise the county board, which doubles as the Lake County Forest Preserve District board. Sabonjian's replacement will bring the Democratic caucus to 10 members.

Schmidt and the board actually will have two vacancies to fill in upcoming months. Longtime Commissioner Pam Newton is expected to resign within the next few weeks to take over as Hawthorn Woods' chief operating officer.

Newton, of Long Grove, will be replaced by a fellow Republican. Her term ends in 2010.