Metro-East News

Madison County Circuit clerk, who also leads local Democrats, won’t run for re-election

Madison County Circuit Clerk Mark Von Nida does not plan to run for re-election in 2020, he confirmed Tuesday to the Belleville News-Democrat.

Von Nida, who also serves as the chairman of the Democratic Party in Madison County, said his decision not to run allows him to concentrate on running the party. He said running the party and being circuit clerk amounted to two full-time jobs.

Von Nida, who was first elected as circuit clerk in 2012, said he does plan to finish out his term. He also served as county clerk from 1997 through 2012. In 2017, he was paid an annual salary of $116,625.

During his career, Von Nida has worked as a probation officer as well as for the Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Von Nida worked with youngsters in the detention hall, where some kids were able to get on the right track while others didn’t.

“You have to treat everyone like they’re going to turn their life around ... I think some of them did,” Von Nida said. “I like to think I made a difference.”

Von Nida, 61, who has been party chair since 2016, is looking to build the party back up, which lost the County Board chairmanship, as well as control of the County Board, in 2016 when Donald Trump won the county in the presidential election.

Von Nida said Democrats are still recovering from the scandal involving Fred Bathon, the former county treasurer convicted of rigging tax sales.

“It severely hurt our brand,” Von Nida said. “What we need to do is convince Democrats and independents that Democrats on the local level care about them. If voters give us a chance to do our job, we’ll do it well, with them in mind.”

He said local Democrats have had successes at the ballot box. He noted that Democrats were able to hold onto three primarily Madison County state legislative seats in November. State Sen. Rachelle Aud Crowe, D-Glen Carbon, and state Reps. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, and Monica Bristow, D-Godfrey, all won their elections.

“You notice we’re getting more women to run and that’s by design,” Von Nida said. “It shows voters we are different from the past (and) open to bring in new people.”

With Von Nida not running again, Democrats already are vying to replace him.

Local attorney Amy Gabriel, who previously worked in the Madison County State’s Attorney’s office including as chief of the Children’s Justice Division, has thrown her name in for the party’s nomination for circuit clerk.

“The lens that these experiences, including practicing law for 20 years, have given me a special skill set for the office, and I would be proud to serve as circuit clerk,” Gabriel recently said at a local Democratic convention, according to a Facebook post.

Even though Gabriel has announced her run, it doesn’t mean she’ll have the party endorsement.

Von Nida said the local party has adopted a process where the party’s executive board will make its endorsements in October. Candidates however will have to show they’re able to build up a campaign and get to know other Democrats in the county.

“Candidates have to come forward and go out and do the work that’s necessary,” Von Nida said.

Salary database

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Joseph Bustos is the state affairs and politics reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat, where he strives to hold elected officials accountable and provide context to decisions they make. He has won multiple awards from the Illinois Press Association for coverage of sales tax referenda.