By Jim Perez
Rachael Parker for County Board
With the Feb. 2 primary a few days away, voters are being left in the dark about the political backdoor dealings that are manipulating the Peoria County Board races to help the status quo remain in power.
In the 1st District, Bonnie Hester didn’t want to run for re-election, but was strongly urged to run by leaders of the Peoria County Democratic Central Committee.
Why? Because former County Board Chairman David Williams is running for her 1st District seat, and it’s common knowledge that Williams and Billy Halstead, Peoria County Democratic Committee Chairman, do not get along. Their differences stem from Halstead trying to manipulate Board committee appointments and Williams refusing to play along during Williams’ tenure as Board chair.
Halstead has even gone so far as to question Williams’ loyalty to the Democratic party, suggesting Williams may be a Republican because he forged relationships on both sides of the aisle during his 14-year tenure on the board.
Susan Yvette Cagle, who was on the ballot for that same 1st District seat, was pushed to withdraw from the race. Through backdoor dealings by Halstead, Cagle was allowed to withdraw after the deadline.
Cagle said she was asked to run, and was then intimidated and harassed to withdraw by Halstead and Jackie Petty, another Peoria County Democratic leader. She has phone records and saved messages showing numerous intimidating calls to her.
Halstead told Cagle she could use the Democratic Committee office to compile a list of voters and for whatever else she needed for her run. But Halstead never told Cagle he was supporting Hester, never said Hester was going to retire even though that was the message the 1st District incumbent was putting out. Hester said she felt overwhelmed with the demands of the position, a heavy workload at her full-time job, and health issues, which is why she did not want to seek re-election.
Hester hasn’t really campaigned. The Democratic Committee is basically running her campaign for her. When Cagle found out Hester was going to run again, and that Halstead would support Hester, not her, “I really felt like I was used,” Cagle said.
Another candidate, who possibly has the strongest credentials of all three women, is treated like a Republican outsider.
Rachael Parker was never asked to speak with the Democratic Committee about her candidacy or her qualifications, despite the committee’s and other groups assurances that they would support all Democratic candidates.
Other than Williams, all three candidates are black women.
At a candidate’s forum, Halstead was hostile to Williams and Parker, peppering them with questions, as if he were questioning Republicans, not members of his own party. Even though he told Cagle he would meet with all candidates before the races took off, he never met with Williams or Parker.
To add even more layers of craziness, the Peoria Journal-Star interviewed all the County Board candidates except for Williams and Parker.
“This is the strangest race I’ve ever seen,” Williams said, wondering why the media will report on every other race except the County Board races.
The question voters should be asking on Feb. 2 is: How racist does the Democratic Committee need to be? How sexist does the Peoria Democratic Committee need to be, said General Parker, Rachael Parker’s campaign manager.