Tom Kacich: Legislative incumbents have money advantage

Tom Kacich: Legislative incumbents have money advantage

Incumbents enjoy huge fundraising advantages in all three state legislative races in Champaign and Vermilion counties.

Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, may have as much as $400,000 in his campaign treasury to about $8,000 for his Republican challenger, John Bambenek.

In the 103rd House District, state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, could have as much as $32,000 on hand versus about $11,500 for her challenger, Champaign restaurateur Rob Meister.

And in the 104th District, which includes parts of Champaign County and most of Vermilion County, Republican Chad Hays of Catlin may have as much as an 11-to-1 financial lead on his Democratic challenger, Michael Langendorf of Urbana.

It's not certain precisely how much the candidates have in their funds because after Sept. 30 they are required by state law to report only contributions of $1,000 or more and don't have to disclose expenditures. In Frerichs' case, for example, he had $374,207 on hand on Sept. 30 and has since added at least $28,500 in campaign contributions. Bambenek had $2,655 on hand on Sept. 30 and has since received at least $6,500.

Frerichs' most recent donors have included the Illinois Federation of Teachers, $10,000 and AFSCME, $5,000; and smaller amounts from groups as diverse as the Illinois Trial Lawyers, Exxon Mobil, JPMorgan Chase, MillerCoors, the Illinois Road Builders, the Illinois Manufacturers Association, Comcast, Marathon Petroleum, DuPont, Monsanto, Abbott Labs, Meijer, ComEd, the United Auto Workers, the Service Employees International Union and the Chicago Fire Fighters Union.

Bambenek's money has come mostly from conservative political action groups and from donors outside of the 52nd District, although he has received a total of $4,250 (out of about $27,000) from individuals in the 52nd District since July 1. Bambenek is an outcast among some Champaign County Republicans because he is blamed for local favorite Alan Nudo's decision to drop out of the Senate race in January.

Meister's been a major beneficiary of last-minute campaign contributions; on Oct. 18 he got a single $10,000 contribution — more than all the money he had raised in his campaign up to that point — from a somewhat mysterious donor named Otto in Carpentersville.

Otto, according to board of elections data, has given out $648,910 in 81 separate contributions to Republican candidates and conservative causes this year.

Otto turns out to be Otto Engineering, a manufacturing firm whose founder and chairman is Jack Roeser, 88, a University of Illinois graduate who also is president of the conservative Family Taxpayers Foundation. In 1994 he opposed Jim Edgar for the Republican nomination for governor, receiving 26 percent of the vote.

Since then Roeser has worked for education reforms including school choice, school vouchers and more transparency in spending.

Jakobsson, unlike past years, hasn't received any money from House Speaker Michael Madigan or any of his campaign funds. Her biggest donors include Local 841 of the International Union of Operation Engineers in Terre Haute, Ind., $2,500; the Illinois Trial Lawyers, $2,000; and AFSCME, Emily's List, Champaign County AFL-CIO, and Citizens for Lou Lang, each $1,000.

Langendorf has received just over $10,000 in campaign funds, half of which is a personal loan. Much of the rest of his money comes from family members around the state.

Hays' major donors include Mervis Industries and Merlan Inc., both of Danville, $5,000 each; the Illinois Farm Bureau, $1,500; Ameren, Anheuser Busch, the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce, the Illinois Realtors, and the Illinois State Bar Association, $1,000 each.

Brady for governor, part 2? While speaking at a campaign event in Champaign on Monday, state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, told a group of University of Illinois students that "it's important to not only elect (congressional candidate) Rodney Davis but more Republicans so that whoever our next nominee for governor, whether it be me or somebody else, has the strength and the background of Republican incumbents throughout this state."

Later, Brady said he's interested in another try for governor. He lost the 2010 race to Gov. Pat Quinn by 31,834 votes, losing only a handful of counties.

"As I travel around the state, a number of people think that we missed an opportunity that we should go after again," Brady said. "After the first of the year, we'll start evaluating that and probably make a firm decision by early summer.

"I'm pretty well known because of the last campaign. We've got a lot of support out there. But campaigns I think often last too long and we have to be careful of that."

Brady said, "Illinois can do so much better. It's hard not to care, which is why I'm interested. I think I can lead us to a better place than the failures of the current administration and the past."

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at

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