Prussing to challenge Satterthwaite

Prussing to challenge Satterthwaite

URBANA – Former state representative Laurel Prussing confirmed Tuesday that she intends to challenge Urbana Mayor Tod Satterthwaite in the Feb. 22 Democratic primary for mayor.

Prussing said she's received considerable encouragement to run from city residents. She said she was also heartened when, in the Nov. 2 election, a proposal to add two at-large seats to the Urbana City Council – a proposal championed by Satterthwaite – went down to a crushing 63 percent-37 percent defeat.

"A lot of people think we need a change," Prussing said. "There's not a very productive atmosphere. There's bullying and intimidation and a lot of people feel it's inappropriate. I feel it's inappropriate. It detracts from what needs to be done in terms of economic development."

Satterthwaite said accusations about his temperament are false.

"Obviously, she (Prussing) wants to get this campaign in the gutter from the go, and I'm not going to go there."

Prussing is a political veteran who served on the Champaign County Board from 1972 to 1976, as Champaign County auditor from 1976 to 1992 and as state representative for one term in 1993-94.

Since then, she's endured a string of political defeats, losing two congressional races to former U.S. Rep. Tom Ewing, a Pontiac Republican, losing a 2000 primary contest for Congress to Democrat Mike Kelleher and losing, in 2002, in a Democratic primary contest for state representative to Naomi Jakobsson.

Prussing said she'll campaign on the issues of both economic development and protecting neighborhoods.

"You have to have a balance," she said. "We have to find out what do people in Urbana agree on and want and how do we pay for it?"

Satterthwaite, 50, who has served three four-year terms as mayor, took a shot at Prussing for backing Ralph Nader for president in 2000 when he represented the Green Party.

"I don't mind a challenge from the Green Party," he said. "Is she running as a Green? Is she a Democrat again?"

Satterthwaite said he would be running on his record and will announce his candidacy at a news conference this afternoon.

"The city has a lot of accomplishments," he said. "We have a new library coming out of the ground we built with cash. With our Build Urbana program, we've seen $70 million in new home construction and 550 homes built in four years. We've got downtown redevelopment with the Timpone building going up and Lincoln Square redevelopment."

Satterthwaite's battles with the progressive community are likely to be a recurrent theme in the primary campaign.

The battle erupted in recent months when Satterthwaite vetoed a political ward map supported by city council progressives, who then overrode the veto.

Satterthwaite then helped launch the unsuccessful campaign to add two at-large seat to the city council.

Veteran Urbana Alderwoman Esther Patt, D-Ward 1, said she will be supporting Prussing, as will Ruth Wyman, D-Ward 2, and Danielle Chynoweth, D-Ward 4.

Patt said she's tired of Satterthwaite's attitude toward council members who disagree with him.

"You have to support him 100 percent or you're his enemy," Patt said. "I have tried to get along with Tod for 11 years. I've carried water for him. I've taken public hits for him. But he gives me absolutely zero credit for anything I've ever done for him, governmentally or politically, because I'm not in his pocket."

Patt said that while Prussing is strong-willed and strong-minded, she is open to new ideas.

"Laurel doesn't hold grudges," she said.

You can reach Mike Monson at (217) 351-5370 or via e-mail at mmonson@news-gazette.com.

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