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Daily Journal
     March 18, 2020      #63-78 KDJ

Lee holds off challenge from Meredith 

By Chris Breach

The voters seemed to have tuned out the noise in what had become the most contentious race of Tuesday’s primary election in Kankakee County.

In the end, incumbent Jake Lee held off a challenge from Brandon Meredith to win the Republican Party’s nomination for Kankakee County auditor.

Republican voters gave Lee the edge in nearly every precinct, with Lee taking 55 percent of the 7,822 votes cast.

“I’m very honored and very humbled they placed their confidence in me yet again,” Lee said. “It’s a blessing.”

The Democratic Party did not field a candidate for Tuesday’s primary election.

Lee campaigned as a taxpayer watchdog and noted he had saved the taxpayers $100,000 in his three-plus years as auditor with just one employee. Lee and some members of the county board have had an embattled relationship.

At the heart of the struggle is differing interpretations of the state law regarding the auditor’s role in county finances. Lee’s interpretation of the law differs from what has been the rule in Kankakee County government and has been a point of contention between county officials.

Lee said he won over voters through his campaign on social media, attending meetings and knocking on doors.

“We worked tirelessly,” he said. “... People decided to do the research, and they asked questions. People were asking me to dinner, and I went. What they showed is they were really appreciative.”

Lee said he worked as hard on this campaign as he did the first time he ran for the office three years ago.

“I didn’t discount my opponent,” Lee said. “He was very qualified for the job. I did all that I could do and stood for what I’ve accomplished. They decided to give me another shot.”

Meredith campaigned hard, saying he was the better choice to do the job and would have a better working relationship with the county board. Many board members expressed their support for Meredith during his campaign.

“That’s the best I could do,” Meredith said when reached by phone after the results were tallied. “I wish I would’ve had more time to focus on the race. I’ll lick my wounds and find out what I did wrong.”

He said he hopes people put their personal aspirations aside and work together.

“It took someone like me to come off the sidelines and bring this to the forefront,” Meredith said. “If I could find a silver lining, that would be it. We’re all on the same team. Let’s get it figured out for the county.”

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