URBANA – The wave of social and racial unrest, and pushback against police misconduct both locally and nationally have spurred a cohort of newcomers seeking change in the Champaign-Urbana local government.

Their foray into the political arena has been an uphill challenge from the get-go. Many of the first-time candidates for the Champaign-Urbana 2021 Municipal Elections are community activists, watchdogs, and volunteers. They are not career politicians and do not have the backing of a political establishment behind them. They have had to fundraise and collect petition signatures by themselves in the midst of a global pandemic.

Three new candidates had their petitions challenged by seasoned politicians and their associates for trivial reasons such as unclear spelling, as well as discriminatory reasons such as signature legibility and voter registration addresses.

A recent report published by Caracal Reports highlights the intimidation and antagonism against newcomer candidates by elected officials within the Champaign County Democratic Party.

Candidates spoke about the tactics used by already elected officials to harm their campaigns and influence elections in favor of their preferred candidates.

According to the report, Danielle Chynoweth, unchallenged Cunningham Township Supervisor stood out as a one of the main influencers within the Champaign County Democratic Party. It is not surprising as Chynoweth has been known to use people when it is convenient to her platform.

In what seems like a move to control the local political scene, Chynoweth has put up her tenant as a candidate for Urbana City Council Ward 2. Chynoweth has collected petition signatures, filled the petition forms, and hosted meet and greet and fundraising events for her tenant using her influence as Cunningham Township Supervisor.

In January, Chynoweth hosted a questionable “Meet The Candidates” event. The event page had no indication if it was a personal event or an official Township event. There is also no indication that there are other Democratic party candidates, and that “the candidates” are only the ones that Chynoweth supports. No other Democrat candidates running for those positions were contacted to participate in the “Meet the Candidates” event.

It is disheartening to see seasoned elected officials, who are elected to serve the people, use various tactics to control the local political scene and use their influence to put their choice candidates in office. It is concerning that newcomer candidates, especially those representing marginalized communities have to fight a steep uphill battle to represent the usually unheard voices in our community.