Daily dose: Local history; Sen. Cultra will take on big debt and perhaps leave early; health insurance for state retirees targeted
In 1912, city officials in Champaign would like to see everyone in the city taking part Wednesday in the annual clean-up day. Property owners are asked to clean up streets, alleys, backyards and every place in need of overhauling.
In 1962, a man who suffered a heart attack laid on Champaign’s Main Street for 20 minutes before being taken to Burnham Hospital. The man, identified as Elmer Epler, later died. Firemen administered oxygen and police were on the scene to help, but no Foltz Ambulance Service vehicle was available. Only one ambulance was in service for all of Champaign-Urbana, and it was on a call for an auto accident 4 miles north of Fisher. Finally Epler was taken to Burnham in a hearse that had a cot inside. Firemen rode with the patient and police escorted the station wagon.
Cultra will live with big campaign debt; may leave early
State Rep. Jason Barickman outspent his primary election opponent, state Sen. Shane Cultra, by almost 2 to 1 in the critical period before the March 20 primary election, campaign disclosure reports show.
The Champaign lawmaker who defeated Cultra, of Onarga, in the 53rd Senate District Republican primary by about 62 percent to 38 percent, spent $160,107 between Jan. 1 and March 31. Cultra spent $86,796 in that period.
The disparity in fundraising during the period was even more overwhelming. Barickman raised $80,945 to $13,625 for Cultra.
Barickman closed out the primary season with no debt and $12,169 in the bank. And for now he has no Democratic Party opponent. Even if he gets one, the 53rd Senate District — located mostly north of Champaign County, although it includes a sliver of northern Vermilion County — is so overwhelmingly Republican that a Democrat would have little chance.
Cultra, meanwhile, ended the primary season with just $1,184 in his treasury, plus a $91,764 debt — all owed to himself. He said he won’t try to get his money back.
“I put that in never expecting any help,” he said. “It’s just my contribution to my political career. I don’t expect to pay it down.”
Some of Cultra’s debt is from earlier House campaigns, but the bulk — more than $68,000 — was taken on last summer when Barickman announced that he would challenge Cultra for the Senate seat. The disclosure reports show that the bulk of Cultra’s expenditures this year were on cable television and radio advertising. He spent $13,241 with Comcast for cable TV time and a total of $11,101 on radio spots with 10 radio stations.
Barickman’s $160,107 in expenditures included $72,165 on radio and television advertising, although the individual purchases were not segregated. Barickman’s media buys, along with video production, mailings, polling and other costs, were handled through Results Plus Consulting of Urbana, a business once owned by Gordy Hulten, who said he sold his interest after becoming county clerk more than a year ago. Jeremy Cirks, the deputy county clerk, is now the owner.
Among Barickman’s contributions was $7,500 from the Illinois Lunch Pail Republicans, a group that according to its website believes in “freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, and most of all, in limited government.”
It also, however, is pro-union and receives most of its funding from unions. Other Republicans supported by the Lunch Pail Republicans include Sens. Kirk Dillard, Dave Syverson and Ron Sandack, and Reps. Kent Gaffney and Randy Ramey.
Barickman also received support from other unions, including $2,250 from the Illinois Federation of Teachers, $2,500 from an operating engineers local in Countryside and $250 from the Illinois Education Association.
Cultra — who has been in the Legislature since 2003 and in the Senate for about a year — said he might leave the Legislature earlier than January, when his term expires.
“I may quit early. It’s possible, but it won’t be really early,” he said, adding that he would stay though the spring legislative session, scheduled to end May 31. “I’m not planning on leaving real early. No plans whatsoever. I’m going to be there for the hard votes.”
As for post-Senate plans, Cultra said, “I’ve got nine months until then. We’ll see what happens. I’m still involved in the family (nursery) business here a little bit. I’ll probably just be more involved.”
He plans to remain in East Central Illinois.
“I’m not moving anywhere. My family has been here for six generations,” he said. “I’ve lived in the same house for 37 years, the same town for 60 years.
“And my house borders right up to the cemetery and when it’s time to go they’ll just move me a little farther over.”
The 52nd Senate District race is, for now, a fundraising blowout with incumbent Mike Frerichs of Champaign holding a lead of $375,932 in money on hand to $1,370 for Republican challenger John Bambenek. Both are from Champaign.
That is a ratio of almost 275-to-1.
Frerichs’ receipts includes an unusual $10,000 loan he made to his campaign on March 31. The reason? “I set a fundraising goal and didn’t reach it,” he said, “so I
loaned the money to get to that goal. If I make enough in my next quarter to reach the next goal then I’ll have enough to pay that ($10,000) back.
“I’m just trying to reach benchmarks.”
Frerichs collected $75,930 in the Jan. 1-March 31 period, with a good chunk of it coming from March 28 fundraiser at the home of Danville industrialist Lou Mervis.
Many of the donors who attended that event are Republicans, including Julius Hegeler of Danville, David Cocagne of Chicago and
Adam and Laurel Mervis of Decatur.
Frerichs’ biggest donors during the period were the Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois and the Illinois Laborers’ Legislative Committee, each of which gave him $5,000. He also got $2,500 each from the Illinois Physical Therapy Association and the Southern Central Illinois Laborers’ Political Action group.
Bambenek’s biggest contributor was John Roeser of Barrington, president of the conservative Family Taxpayers Network and the owner of Otto Engineering.
Roeser gave Bambenek’s campaign $5,000, more than a third of all the financial support Bambenek received in the first quarter. But he also got $1,000 each from two conservative state senators, Dan Duffy of Barrington and Kyle McCarter of Lebanon. The McCarter money actually came from the senator’s business, Customer Product Innovations.
Bambenek said he isn’t distressed by he financial disadvantage.
“I went into it knowing it would be a hard race. I don’t need a lot of money to knock on doors and make phone calls,” he said.
But he is planning fundraisers and hoping for financial support from the Senate Republicans organization.
“They’ll give me the tools to help make it a race,” he said. “What I’ll need to do is go out and make calls and raise money.”
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Sundays and Wednesdays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
State health coverage for retirees at risk
From The State Journal-Register
"Legislation to do away with the health insurance premium subsidy available to state retirees opens a new front in the battle between legislators determined to cut the state’s retirement debt and unions representing state workers.
“'It would wipe out retiree health care entirely for retired state employees,' said Anders Lindall, spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the largest public worker union.
"The amendment to Senate Bill 1313 would eliminate subsidies for health insurance for retirees. Instead, the Department of Central Management Services would determine how much the state would contribute to “the basic program of group health benefits on behalf of retired employees, annuitants and survivors.”
"Initially, the amendment listed Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, as the sponsor. That was later changed to House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.
“'This is another place where the state is spending money and it’s important as we go through the whole budget debate to look at each one of these situations and determine if that is the best way to go forward,' said Madigan spokesman Steve Brown.