Two big races were the focus for primary election voters Tuesday in the Will County portion of Naperville.
The race for Will County sheriff saw a crowded field of five candidates between the two major parties, while the GOP primary in Will County Board District 11, centered in Naperville, featured three candidates for two spots on the November general election ballot.
There will be a new sheriff in town in Will County after the November election, but just who will represent the Republicans on the ballot later this year remained a mystery as ballot counting for Tuesday’s primary wound down.
With 295 of 310 precincts in the county and the city of Aurora reporting as of 9:45 p.m., Mike Kelley was comfortably ahead as the choice on the Democratic side, but the Republican race between Ken Kaupas and Nick Ficarello was too close to call.
Kaupas had 17,402 votes — or 50.4 percent — and Ficarello 17,101 — or 49.6 percent.
Only moments earlier, the totals showed Kaupas trailing by 20 votes.
“Well, it’s exactly 20 votes, and I know it’s down to 19 because my mother-in-law voted for me,” Kaupas said. “This is very close, I’m unaware of any election countywide that has come down to 20 votes, but I could be wrong. I hope they will get all the votes counted and we’ll see where we go from there.”
On the Democrats’ side, Mike Kelley had 40 percent of the vote, while Steve Egan and Ed Bradley were splitting the remainder with 30 percent each.
There will be a new sheriff for the first time in 12 years, replacing Sheriff Paul Kaupas, who did not seek a fourth term.
The District 11 primary for the Will County Board featured three Republicans running for two spots on the GOP ballot this fall. Candidates included incumbents Suzanne Hart, Chuck Maher, and new challenger Michael Strick.
Primary results posted early on showed the incumbents holding a sizeable lead over Strick, who trailed with less than half the percentage of votes earned by either Hart or Maher. By 8:45, all 23 precincts had reported with results showing Hart with 2,258 or 40.68 percent of the vote, followed by Maher with 2,063 or 37.1 percent of the vote. Strick trailed the incumbents with 1,230 or 22.1 percent of the vote.
Hart, 48, said in her opinion, “voters like that I’ve done so far” and believes that they have communicated their wishes.
“I’m excited about serving again and I think it’s because everyone knows I’m out in the community and know people,” she said. “I put 100 percent into this and people know that. This isn’t the state or the federal government and people know that I take things to heart.”
Fellow incumbent Maher, 56, spoke before the election about his work with various energy and utility committees and said that he believes both he and Hart have been successful due to working with a balanced budget, reducing taxes, and improving services without raising the cost of them to constituents.
“We have a job we were hired to do and we’ve looked at the big picture,” Maher said. “We know this election is not just about one issue and people recognize that. Local politics are different. This isn’t the state or federal level. We get to know people here and often fight the state and federal government on their behalf.”
Strick said he believes he worked hard in the election and still has the goal of seeing politicians not receive pensions and have term limits.
“This might not be the last time I try to become a politician,” he said.