Tom Kacich: Polls say voters are angry at government
Two recent polls say that Illinois voters are really angry about their state and local governments. They think government is corrupt and wasteful, that it's going in the wrong direction and that elected officials need to be more honest and forthcoming. A majority even thinks it's "very important" that politicians annually disclose their tax returns.
We'll see how irate the voters are when they go to the polls on Election Day. We've been down this road before: People say they are livid but vote to return their incumbents.
Adam Andrzejewski, whose For the Good of Illinois group paid for one of the angry-voter polls, hints he'll be reminding them this month.
His poll found, among other things, that 78 percent of Illinois voters think that government waste, mismanagement and corruption is a "big problem" in Illinois. And 65 percent think that their property taxes are too high, prompting the inevitable question: who are these people in the other 35 percent? It turns out that 29 percent said they're "about right." But 1 percent said their property taxes are too low. Really.
Combine that with the results of a poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University and it appears you've got one angry electorate. The Simon survey found that 58 percent of voters think Illinois government is more corrupt than in other states, that almost 80 percent favor term limits for legislators and for legislative leaders, and that a big majority appear to favor a stricter campaign contribution system with either outright limits or complete, immediate disclosure of all contributions.
Andrzejewski said there's a reason he took his poll.
"For the last three years we've advocated a policy mix of freezing property taxes, adversarial forensic audits and repealing the (67 percent income) tax hike," he said. "At the ballot box we've helped candidates win impossible races on that platform. Scientifically we wanted to prove this is how Republicans win in a blue state."
It's an uphill effort. Illinois' political profile is 40 percent Democratic, 28 percent independent and 27 percent Republican, according to his polling. "Republicans are a third party in a two-party state," he said.
Yet he called his survey "a blueprint to win in a blue state. Here's the good news: these are the robust policy solutions that save Illinois. The people are with us."
Starting next week, he promised, "we're aggressively going to take this message across the state." That's all he would say although it's likely he'll be a major player in television advertising.
For the Good of Illinois has been busy collecting money — at least $100,000 since July 1 — and spending some of it on candidates like 52nd District state Senate candidate John Bambenek of Champaign. Bambenek's race against incumbent Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, is one of those "impossible races" Andrzejewski spoke of. It will show how deep and widespread this anger over government really is.
Chamber endorsements. The Champaign County Chamber of Commerce political action committee has made endorsements in a number of local electoral races, but the real news may be the candidates who didn't get the group's backing.
Among those without endorsements: neither Frerichs nor Bambenek, and neither five-term state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, nor her GOP opponent, Rob Meister.
The PAC, known as the Business Empowered Political Action Committee, is supporting state Rep. Chad Hays, R-Catlin, in the 104th House District.
In countywide contests, it is backing Democrat George Danos for auditor, and Republicans Gordy Hulten for county clerk, Katie Blakeman for circuit court clerk and Barb Frasca for recorder of deeds.
In County Board District 1 it is behind Republican Gary Maxwell, and in District 5 it is supporting Republicans Jeff Kibler and Max Mitchell.
Jim Goss, who chairs the PAC's board, said the endorsements include a cash donation to the candidate's campaign committees. Two years ago it gave $750 to state legislative candidates and $500 to county board candidates.
Among those getting the endorsement two years ago was Frerichs. But not this time.
Asked why there was no endorsement in the Frerichs-Bambenek race, Goss was discreet.
"In the case of the 52nd District and in all cases our PAC endorses candidates that the board believes will be fiscally responsible with the taxpayers' money, respect the rights of business owners to run their business and govern in a way that helps local business to be successful," he said, without noting Frerichs' support for the income tax increase that the Chamber of Commerce opposed.
"Additionally, we factor in the competitiveness of the race," he said in an apparent reference to Bambenek's longshot status.
As for the 103rd House race between Jakobsson and Meister, Goss said neither submitted a candidate survey on time and therefore didn't get an endorsement interview. Meister is a local restaurant owner.
Obama in the 13th District. The same poll that gave Democrat David Gill a negligible 40 percent to 39 percent lead in his 13th Congressional District race against Republican Rodney Davis also finds President Obama narrowly leading Republican Mitt Romney, according to pollster Donna Victoria.
Obama's lead (and Gill's) are within the poll's 4.9 percentage point margin of error.
"I cannot see the president posting the 56 percent here he did in '08," Victoria said of the 13th District that runs from Champaign-Urbana southwest to the Illinois suburbs of St. Louis.
Statewide, Obama is ahead of Romney by an average of 15 percentage points, according to two recent polls. But that's down from 2008 when he won his home state by about 25 percentage points.
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at email@example.com or at 351-5221.