D36 Candidates Hand-Picked by Winnetka Caucus Decline to Appear at League of Women Voters’ Forum

Five candidates are vying for four slots on Winnetka School District 36’s Board this year. Four of the five candidates, Luke Figora, Emily Rose, Katherine Myers-Crum, and Marena Rudy, are Winnetka Caucus candidates and have refused to participate in a Winnetka League of Women Voters (“LWV”) candidate forum with Patrick Conway, the one candidate running outside of the Caucus.

It is unusual for any candidate to refuse to participate in a debate or candidate forum prior to a contested election for public office, especially an office that oversees an annual budget of more than $45 million. It is even more unusual for the 40-45-members of the Winnetka Caucus Council, who conduct the day-to-day business of the Caucus and claim to act on behalf of all Winnetka voters, to pull the plug on pre-election candidate interactions with voters. But according to the LWV, that is exactly what happened:

"All candidates were asked to participate, the challenger [Patrick Conway] accepted, but the Caucus declined on behalf of the Caucus slated candidates. League procedures only allow for a forum to take place if all candidates participate." (Emphasis added.)

According to a source close to the Winnetka Caucus Council, the Council claimed Village voters have all the information they need from a November 16, 2022 Winnetka Caucus Zoom meeting. But this Zoom meeting required advance registration, was held months before the April 4, 2023 election, and only 437 Winnetka voters – out of 9,704 registered – participated. What’s worse, in preparation for the November Zoom meeting, just nine Winnetka residents (the members of the Caucus Council “Schools Committee”) recruited, interviewed, and selected the candidates to be slated.

This is anti-democratic. In today’s environment, we need more transparency from schools and school board members – not less. And we need to inform and involve as many voters as possible. Regardless of how capable and qualified the Caucus candidates may be, by withdrawing from the LWV candidate forum, the Caucus Council is stifling a healthy, lively, and open debate about who should oversee local schools and thus have done a disservice to Winnetka voters and Winnetka’s children. 

In a December 22, 2022 email obtained by New Trier Neighbors, Winnetka Caucus Council President, Scott Myers, urged Council members to pull out all of the stops to preserve their positions as the king- and queen-makers of Winnetka government.

"[A] challenge to the Caucus slate in the general election is exceedingly rare (there have been about 4 cases of individuals running against the slate in the last 30 years). As in the previous cases of a contested race the Caucus will aggressively campaign for the four candidates we have slated. . . . [I]t is important to defend the Caucus system against challenges." 

In a more recent email to voters, Mr. Myers claimed Winnetka is "best served when" the Caucus selects the candidates, rather than individual citizens choosing to run and then vigorously campaigning for available votes.

We disagree. Instead, we believe the North Shore is best served when as many citizens as possible run for office, voters are informed, and turnout is high. All North Shore residents, including the Caucus Council and the Caucus candidates, should be working to ensure this happens. 

Nonetheless, given the Caucus candidates’ withdrawal from the LWV candidate forum, Winnetka voters can best inform themselves by checking out the candidates’ websites (Conway and Caucus slate) and listening to interviews of each candidate by the Record Editor in Chief, Joe Coughlin. 
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