Belleville City Clerk Dallas Cook on Thursday said he wants to challenge the Democratic dominance in St. Clair County elected offices, and he will run as a Republican against Circuit Clerk Kahalah Clay in the November 2016 election.
Clay, a Democrat, said she will “absolutely” run for re-election to the post. She was appointed to the position in 2011 and ran uncontested in the 2012 election. She said she was not available for additional comments on Thursday.
Cook said he has heard complaints from judges, lawyers and individuals about the service they receive from the circuit clerk’s office, which is responsible for maintaining court records.
“They don’t feel like they’ve been treated with the kind of respect that they would like to receive, and they don’t feel like the circuit clerk’s office is being run properly,” Cook said.
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“That’s my No. 1 thing, everybody deserves equal treatment and respect,” he said.
Cook also said he would work to lower fees charged by the circuit clerk’s office.
I think government by the few for the few is something that is awful.
Dallas Cook, who is running for St. Clair County circuit clerk
Cook said he relishes the challenge of running as a Republican in a county where most countywide offices are held by Democrats.
“I think government by the few for the few is something that is awful,” Cook said. “It leads to corruption and tyranny to the people.”
“My hope is that I can continue in my role of bringing fairness and equality to all people and bringing a different point of view in perspective to government that isn’t currently there. I’m not your typical politician. I like to tell it how it is and I like to treat everybody very fairly,” Cook said.
“I do not ever allow anybody else to get an unfair advantage no matter who you are and I’d like to bring that to the circuit clerk’s office.”
Cook, who was elected as an independent to the city clerk’s position in 2013, will retain that job while running for the county position.
As city clerk, Cook said he has worked to make city records more accessible to the public by having them digitized, pushed to have aldermen receive documents on iPads instead of paper, and he reported to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund that the city attorney positions did not belong in the pension fund as part-time contractors of the city.
“That’s going to save the city approximately $80,000 a year for the rest of time, possibly more as the salaries get higher,” Cook said.
Cook, 30, also serves as clerk as the Belleville Township, which he has lobbied to have dissolved to save taxpayers’ money. Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed a bill that would allow the township board to vote on an ordinance that would dissolve the township and transfer its duties to the city. The township board is now considering a draft ordinance that would shut down the township.
Cook has served as vice president and president of the Southwestern Illinois Municipal Clerk’s Association.
Established party candidates for countywide offices have been allowed to collect signatures on their petitions since Sept. 1. The petitions must be turned into the county clerk’s office between Nov. 23 and Nov. 30. The primary is scheduled for March 15, and the election is scheduled for Nov. 8, 2016.
Based upon state law, countywide candidates in St. Clair County need to collect 291 signatures to be on the ballot if they run as a Democrat and 197 if they are Republican.
Cook is the only GOP candidate to announce a candidacy for the circuit clerk’s position.