State Democratic leader seeks more candidates to ride ‘blue wave’

By Lenore Sobota, The Pantagraph

BLOOMINGTON — After a “blue wave” that swept many Democrats into Congress and governorships — including J.B. Pritzker in Illinois — the new leader of the Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association is looking for stronger county organizations and more Democratic candidates to keep the momentum going.

Kristina Zahorik, who became president of the association five months ago, said she is “very optimistic” about the 2020 election.

Before the 2018 election, “perhaps I was holding my breath and now I can breathe,” said Zahorik, who also is chair of the McHenry County Democratic Party. “We’re working to move in the right direction.”



Zahorik was in Bloomington on Monday to meet with McLean County Democratic Party Chair Erik Rankin and the party’s executive board.

Her visit was part of a series of trips to counties in Central and southern Illinois to “see what’s working and not working in other counties” and to share that information, she said.

Zahorik wants to work with Democratic county chairs across the state to recruit candidates and have full ballots with competitive races as well as election judges and poll watchers.

“Every county in Illinois matters for Democrats,” she said.

Although McLean County has remained strongly Republican, it had a net gain of two seats on the county board in the November election.

After Donald Trump’s election as president, “we saw a lot of pop-up groups” with no particular party affiliation rallying around various issues, said Zahorik.

The next step is “moving from that angry activism” into active roles, she said.

“What we see today is people, women in particular, being motivated and engaged to provide some civic duty beyond just voting, … not only running for office but also engages in other parts of the process,” said Zahorik.

The Democratic County Chairs’ Association provides training for county organizations and a three-day intensive “boot camp” for Democratic candidates.

The boot camp “gives them the tools they need to be successful,” said Zahorik, noting that it might take more than one run to win an election. “We certainly have our work cut out for us,” she said.

Even if they aren’t elected, the boot camp gives candidates “knowledge they can share with other people in their communities,” she said.

Getting the word out about the boot camp and resources available through the county organizations is important because people are more likely to run for office if they know they will have a support system, said Zahorik.