What Heavy External Influence on Election Might Mean for Harper's Future

Article excerpt

Byline: Shruti Date Singh Daily Herald Staff Writer

When Palatine attorney Matt Murphy began his campaign last fall for the Harper College board, he knew he needed to distinguish himself from the other seven candidates running for three seats.

To bolster his presence in Harper's vast district, Murphy sought and gained the endorsements of prominent local mayors and state Rep. Paul Froehlich and state Sen. Wendell Jones.

"Nobody knows me from Adam," said Murphy, who beat two incumbents to win a six-year seat on the board. Murphy believes the name recognition and credibility he gained by connecting his name with well-known elected officials pushed him over the top.

Schaumburg attorney William Kelley and incumbent Barbara Barton, who both snagged endorsements from state and local elected officials, won the other two seats. Incumbents Patrick Botterman and Leon Shure did not win second terms.

The exact effect of an endorsement is difficult to gauge. In a crowded race, if voters do not know the candidates well, association with a popular elected official can only help, several local leaders said.

But why would elected officials want to use their clout and name recognition in a community college race?

Local leaders have come forward in support of Harper board candidates before. But this year, concerns stemming from ongoing construction on the campus, strained faculty and administration relations and even the political mix of the board pushed them to throw their support behind one or more candidates.

Former Rolling Meadows Mayor Tom Menzel said community leaders pay attention to Harper - whether it's the college's accomplishments or problems - because it plays a key role in the economic development of the Northwest suburbs. Hundreds of area high school graduates head to Harper each year, and droves of adult students return for continuing education and retraining.

Menzel said Harper's profile is high enough that the Rolling Meadows economic development committee, for instance, has a Harper administrator.

He added, however, some of the infighting at Harper has brought questions to people's minds. Menzel said he endorsed Murphy hoping he will be a consensus maker.

Hoffman Estates Mayor Bill McLeod said he endorsed Kelley and Murphy because he believes they will bring sound judgment to Harper's board.

"A good dose of judicious temperament would do Harper good," McLeod said.

Other local leaders said they also hope the controversies will die down soon. …