Wilmette, Elections

Election Notebook: Local groups play their cards; Avoca slate improperly uses district logo

Local elections in the New Trier area have long been nonpartisan. Candidates do not claim blue or red. Local caucuses comprise members of each party.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t partisan interference.


The New Trier Republican Organization has made clear its preferences in contested races in Wilmette and New Trier Township. 

Group chairwoman Kathy Myalls, of Wilmette, said the NTRO regularly gets involved in local elections, whether it is recruiting candidates, assisting them in procedure and even endorsing them.

“We always work to help promote candidates,” she said. “The NTRO supported me when I ran for New Trier Township. We support candidates who align with our philosophy.”

The New Trier Democrat Organization tries to distance itself from local, nonpartisan elections, said Judy Mandel, the group’s president.

In one of its recent newsletters, though, the Democrat group promoted a campaign event for Wilmette President candidate Joel Kurzman. Mandel said, however, that any candidate, no matter the party affiliation, is welcome to submit information on campaign events for inclusion in the newsletter.

Additionally, some of NTDO’s members are speaking out as part of an ad hoc resident group called Wilmette Moms Care, which released a “palm card,” a list of supported candidates that voters can bring into voting booths. 

“That was not done through the auspices of the NTDO,” Mandel said. “… We have been very neutral, but our members have not. And that’s OK.” 

Wilmette Moms Care and the NTRO have prioritized the race for the New Trier High School Board of Education, for which six candidates are running for four open seats. 

Wilmette Moms Care supports the “Top 4” — Keith Dronen, Kimberly Alcantara, Avik Das and Sally Tomlinson — a slate put forward by the nonpartisan New Trier Caucus. In a Facebook post announcing the Wilmette Moms Care recommendations, Alexandra Eidenberg, a NTDO board member, said the list contains candidates affiliated with both parties.

“With that said, we have worked hard to understand all the races and make the best picks to win against the far right candidates that are ready to defund our community and allow racism to fester and grow,” the post reads. 

Eidenberg told The Record that while multiple NTDO members are involved in Wilmette Moms Care, the group is a nonpartisan collection of local mothers to which “no one’s name was supposed to be attached.”

Wilmette Moms Care reportedly interviewed candidates for each race in which it offered endorsements; though, Eidenberg said, it was unable to connect with Julie Cho and Dr. Chad Prodromos, running for NTHS School Board; Brian Locke, Wilmette Village Board; and Patrick Duffy, Wilmette Park Board.

Through email and social media posts, the NTRO announced an endorsement list that included Cho and Prodromos for New Trier High School Board of Education.

In one of the posts, which tags a news article about the indictment of former Ill. State Sen. Annazette Collin, the NTRO claims those running “in New Trier” are “Democrat lobbyists, Mayor (Lori) Lightfoot advisors and longtime Democrat party operatives” that are “working hand in hand with the Cook County Machine.”

The NTRO endorsed candidates in other nonpartisan races as well, including contested elections for Wilmette Village Board, Park Board and D39 School Board. 

At least one candidate, however, was not pleased to see his name on the NTRO list .

Running for Wilmette Park Board, Mike Doyle released a statement saying in part:

“To be clear, I have no affiliation with this group whatsoever and did not seek their endorsement. Until recently I hadn’t even heard of the NTRO.”

Later adding, “I consider myself an independent and vote for whom I perceive to be the best candidate, regardless of party affiliation. I’m running for park commissioner because I believe in the unifying power of our parks.”

Avoca D37 slate improperly uses district’s lighthouse logo

According to Avoca District 37 policy, the district’s logo cannot be used without authorization from district administration.

The Avoca Coalition, a four-person slate of candidates running for the D37 School Board, used D37’s lighthouse logo in multiple campaign items, including emails and yard signs. 

Slate member Gil Gibori, a current board member, said the group used the logo early in the campaign but “it has been a while” since.

“The coalition used the district logo early in the campaign as a symbol of pride,” he wrote in an email. ” … Some are trying to use it to distract from the issues. We aren’t focused on logos. We are focused on improving academic achievement, creating a more inclusive environment and maintaining a balanced budget.”

District 37 Superintendent Dr. Kaine Osburn said the district did not give permission for use and was unaware of its use until notification from a community member.

Osburn released this statement:

“This notice serves as a reminder that the District 37 Administration does not endorse any candidates for School Board and does not authorize the use of the District Logo or other official images for use by any candidate or campaign. Use of the District logo may only be authorized by the Administration and consistent with uses outlined in Board Policy 8.90.”

Avoca Coalition consists of Gibori, Ami Das, Dan Seals and Sara Balassa. Gibori and Das are listed on the ballot; however, Seals and Balassa are official write-in candidates. 

The race features two other approved write-in candidates: Cecilia Dunn, who was removed from the ballot in January; and James Rohner, an Avoca parent who sits on multiple district committees.

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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