Madison County's jail bonds referendum was defeated Tuesday, as a contest between two Democrats for county sheriff led to the incumbent's defeat.
Madison County voters faced a referendum to decide whether the county should issue $18.8 million in bonds to renovate the jail. County board members voted several months ago to approve the project, but a citizens group collected signatures on a petition to put the measure before the voters instead.
While both sides agreed that the jail renovations needed to happen -- the building no longer meets codes and does not have sprinklers -- the question of how to pay for it led to the petition.
With all precincts reporting, 16,276 voted against the bond issue and 8,092 voted for it.
Meanwhile, incumbent Sheriff Bob Hertz lost a challenge from his former deputy, Glen Carbon Police Chief John Lakin. Hertz, 64, has served in the sheriff's department since 1972 and was elected sheriff in 2002. Lakin, 54, served 22 years in the sheriff's department before he was hired as chief of police in Glen Carbon in 2011.
Lakin won with 7,929 votes to Hertz's 4,401, with all precincts reporting. Hertz could not be immediately reached for comment.
The jail referendum's failure means that the county may have to stagger the project out over years, which Madison County Chairman Alan Dunstan has said would cost the taxpayers more money in the long run. He had vowed to lower the general fund taxes to offset the increase for the jail bonds, which were estimated at $7.89 a year for the owner of a $100,000 house.
Dunstan could not be immediately reached for comment.
But organizer Rod Spears said his group, Bonds on Ballot, believes the county should prioritize the projects and do them one at a time, rather than borrowing.
Spears said he was "very relieved" to see the results. "The only reason we would have had any doubt was when we ended up with a Democratic sheriff's race between Lakin and Hertz," Spears said, which drove up Democratic turnout. "I think we lost 4 to 5 percent over that."
But Spears said he believed the taxpayers sent a message to the county board. "There's no reason in the world we need to borrow $18 million," he said. "Let's just prioritize (the projects) and get some things done."
Meanwhile, Lakin credited his base of supporters and endorsements for his win over incumbent Hertz. "We heard from a lot of people that they felt it was time for a change," Lakin said. He thanked his family, volunteers and financial supporters for their help, "those who could speak outwardly and those that had to be silent," he said.
The Madison County Republican Party did not slate a candidate for the office of sheriff, though the party still has the option to nominate a candidate after the primary. Lakin said he knows he still has "a huge hurdle" ahead of him for the general election.
"But this is a special night for me, my family and friends," Lakin said. "I am grateful and humbled."
While most other county races were uncontested, one county board district had a primary challenge. Brad Maxwell, a Republican appointed to fulfill an unexpired term for county board District 11, was challenged by Republican Don Weber. Maxwell held the nomination with 399 votes to Weber's 276 with all precincts reporting. There were no Democratic candidates for District 11 in the primary.
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at email@example.com or 618-239-2507.