Afro-Latina Democratic Candidate running for Champaign Township Supervisor

By Zulema Herrera

The Champaign County Primary Election Day is near with only six more days left to hit the polls until Feb.24. The results will determine the next Urbana Mayor, City Clerk, Alderman in select wards, and Champaign Township Supervisor—a position Democratic Candidate Rita Conerly hopes to fill. Conerly is running against the current supervisor, Andrew Quarnstrom, and if elected she will be the first Afro-Latina to serve in this position.

Conerly is a Champaign native and currently lives there with her eight children. Her mother is a Mexican-American nurse who migrated to the U.S at a young age and her late father was African-American and spent years working as the neighborhood mechanic. She credits her biracial identity as beneficial to her abilities to aid the community.

“My experiences as a biracial woman has enabled me to identify high-risk populations that need these services yet are often overlooked due to language barriers and lack of knowledge.” said Conerly in a candidate guide on the VoteChampaign website.

The Champaign Township Supervisor is described as being the “CEO” of the Township who handles funds, issues welfare benefits, oversees the Township budget, and serves as a member of the Champaign—Urbana Public Health Board. Running mate to Conerly is Chicago native and firefighter, Andrew Quarnstrom, who was elected as supervisor in 2013. He mentions some of his accomplishments since being elected.

“I’ve added comprehensive housing assistance for the underserved and those impacted by COVID-19,” said Quarnstrom in the VoteChampaign candidate guide, “The Township started a nationally renowned CU @ Work program that employs the homeless in Champaign, getting them back on their feet and providing them the dignity they deserve.”

Quarnstorm’s goals if re-elected includes continuing his efforts to reduce homelessness and improve outreach by creating a better media presence for the Township. Conerly, despite her inexperience in office, has been an advocate and activist in the community taking part in movements such as the Black Lives Matters protests and participated in the opening of pop-up food pantries in the community. 

“Interactions in the community, most recent activism work throughout the Champaign-Urbana counties, have proven time and time again that I have the experiences needed for such a role” said Conerly on VoteChampaign, “This involves my ability to focus on issues that are near and dear to every family; homelessness, food insecurity, abuse and trauma, and insufficient support to manage daily life.”

She intends to take representation further if she wins the election and says her first objective would be to enhance the diversity of the board to be reflective of the members of Champaign.

Information on ways to vote and poll locations can be found on the Champaign County Clerk website: https://champaigncountyclerk.com/elections