It's taken some time to see progress, but it appears there will be at least one, and maybe more, much-needed debates among the candidates in the 13th Congressional District.
All three hopefuls — Republican Rodney Davis, Democrat David Gill and independent John Hartman — have agreed to a live, one-hour Nov. 1 debate at WILL-TV in Urbana, co-hosted by WILL, the League of Women Voters of Illinois and WCIA-TV. Hartman was the first to agree to the forum, and both the Gill and Davis campaigns signed on Friday morning. Davis spokesman Patrick Pfingsten said the Republican candidate also had agreed to participate at other debates in Springfield, Collinsville and Bloomington-Normal.
And because this is politics, here's where it gets a bit muddy. Hartman said he hadn't been made aware of all the other debates, possibly because he is not of a major party. And the Gill campaign, said spokesman Tom Alte, is still looking at which debates it will be able to participate in.
Among the debates the Davis campaign has agreed to is one that isn't even set yet. The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce "is trying to put together" a session with the candidates in October, said staffer Josh Collins. If it is held, he said, it would be cosponsored with the Citizens Club of Springfield at the Hoogland Center for the Arts.
The debate agreements among the 13th District candidates are late in developing. In the 12th Congressional District — which adjoins the 13th in the Collinsville/Edwardsville area — non-incumbents William Enyart (Democrat) and Jason Plummer (Republican) already have had one debate and have scheduled two more.
In the 8th District where Democrat Tammy Duckworth is challenging Rep. Joe Walsh, R-North Barrington, the candidates have debated once and have scheduled three more. In the 17th District, Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Moline, will debate his Democratic opponent, Cheri Bustos, at least twice.
And in the 11th District, where Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Hinsdale, is being challenged by former Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville, the candidates already have met face-to-face twice.
Debates are welcome in the 13th District because none of the candidates has a congressional voting record and two of them, Davis and Gill, already are spending thousands of dollars on TV and radio ads that do little to address issues beyond sound bites.
Voters should welcome the opportunity to hear side-by-side statements from the candidates on such issues as health care, Medicare, federal tax policy and budget cuts, gun control, abortion, campaign finance, climate change, U.S. involvement in the Middle East and immigration policy.
Hartman, the independent candidate (voting records show that he generally has been independent except for voting in a Democratic primary in Madison County in 2010), already has posted position statements on his website and on a YouTube video.
"My job as I see it is to describe the situation that we're in and say what I'd do to make it better. That's what I want to hear from a candidate and that's what I want to do," he said. "I think that's the way it should be; answer the question and tell the people what you want to do."
Lisa Madigan campaign money. Last month, Facebook Inc. made a $1,000 contribution to the campaign of Attorney General Lisa Madigan. There's nothing too unusual about a $1,000 campaign contribution to the popular Democratic politician; the Facebook donation was among 10 of $1,000 or more that Madigan received that single day.
But here's why it stood out: State Board of Elections records show it was the first campaign contribution Facebook had given to any state politician in Illinois. That's also the case in Indiana, where Facebook gave $2,000 in June to Republican Attorney General Greg Zoeller.
Why Facebook's sudden interest in the campaigns of state attorneys general? Might it have something to do with the possibility of legal action against the company after its botched initial public offering in May?
There has been speculation that some AGs might go after the company on behalf of disgruntled investors.
Madigan spokeswoman Natalie Bauer said, however, that there is no current investigation of Facebook. And if there was in Illinois, it would start with the secretary of state's office, not the attorney general.
"If it's a securities-related issue, the likelihood is that it would start with the secretary of state's office," she said. "Now if the secretary of state's office came to us and said we have some founded concern, then we would dedicate resources from the office, as appropriate," Bauer said.
Katie Blakeman campaign money. When Champaign County Republican precinct committeemen chose Katie Blakeman to be their candidate for circuit clerk, one of the reasons was that she would be a prolific fundraiser. She has been — among the party's bigwigs, hardly a surprise.
Campaign disclosure reports show that Blakeman has received $4,068 from the party's central committee; $1,500 from county party Chairman Habeeb Habeeb; $1,000 from U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson's campaign fund; and $1,000 from Champaign precinct committeeman John Reed. That's $7,568 of her $9,522 in campaign contributions disclosed thus far.
Kathleen Piatt campaign money. Kathleen Piatt, a Democratic candidate for the Piatt County Board, last week reported having $2,948 on hand, a good-sized sum for a county board candidate. She crossed the campaign disclosure threshold when she got a $1,000 contribution from her father, Luke Feeney of rural Ivesdale.
She explained that her father would campaign with her late uncle, former Champaign County Democratic Chairman Jack McHale, who ran unsuccessfully three times for the Legislature. Her father once gave McHale a $1,000 campaign contribution.
"I think he just wanted to show his support for me too," she said. "He's been a lifelong supporter of mine, God bless him," she said of her 89-year-old father.
Max Mitchell campaign money. Champaign County Board member Max Mitchell, a Republican running in County Board District 5, filed a statement of organization that said he has $600 on hand.
— The League of Women Voters of Champaign County will host a meeting at noon Thursday with Scott Gima, vice president of Management Performance Associates, the management firm operating the Champaign County Nursing Home. Gima will present an update on the financial condition and the programs at the nursing home. He will be accompanied by Mary Ellen O'Shaughnessey, chairwoman of the nursing home board of directors. The event will be at noon at the Urbana City Council chambers, 400 S. Vine St., U.
— State Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, and Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, will hold a program on mortgage relief from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Parkland College lecture hall L111. The program is part of the Illinois Foreclosure Prevention Network and is designed to help Illinois homeowners lower mortgage costs and avoid foreclosure. Free counseling will be available. Call Frerichs' office at 355-5252 for information.
— Champaign County Republicans will hold their annual fall festival from noon to 3 p.m. Sept. 16 at Frasca Field in Urbana. Tickets for the event, which includes food from Hickory River Smokehouse, popcorn, cotton candy, snow cones and inflatables for children, are $5 per adult, $2 per child and $20 for a family. Local, state and national officials are expected to attend.
— The Illiana Tea Party will host a program on Second Amendment rights at 7 p.m. Sept. 17 at the Catlin American Legion Hall at Commercial and Sandusky streets. Valinda Rowe, a founding member of the Illinois Carry organization, will be the speaker.
— Joy Thornton and John Walter, 820 Dodds Drive, C, will host a fundraising reception for state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 18. The suggested donation is $50 per person, $75 per couple. Call 390-1740 for information.
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 email@example.com.