Tom Kacich: Dems already looking ahead to 2014
It's been a whole month since Election Day, so isn't it time to look ahead to the 2014 election, particularly the 13th Congressional District race?
After all, victorious Republican Rodney Davis is almost a congressman; he'll be sworn in on Jan. 3.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is already looking 23 months ahead to the next election. DCCC Chairman Steve Israel, a congressman from New York, has identified Davis as one of the four most vulnerable Republicans in the new Congress, according to a report in Politico. And Israel supposedly started recruiting candidates for 2014 as the 2012 ballots were being counted.
State Sen. Mike Frerichs of Champaign says he's not interested; likewise State's Attorney Julia Rietz. A few other potential candidates — Champaign City Council member Paul Faraci and Normal Mayor Chris Koos — also have ruled themselves out.
"I'm up for re-election for mayor of Normal this spring and I've committed to that," Koos said.
Faraci, whose mother-in-law, Debbie Halvorson, served in Congress and is a candidate to replace Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., said "it's just not something I'm interested in.
"I love being on the city council," he said. "But Congress, I just think it's not for folks who have a young family."
But there are some possibilities. Urbana Democrat Brendan McGinty, who recently left the Champaign County Board, said he's looking at the race. And Champaign Mayor Don Gerard didn't say no.
McGinty, who also considered the 13th District race this year, said he finds the possibility "intriguing," but that it will require plenty of conversations, research and soul searching.
"So many people were turned off by the negativity of this last race that it's hard to get enthusiastic about that prospect, though I certainly recognize it as part of the process of getting elected," McGinty said.
"It's never been my dream to be a congressman, so I would say that someone would really have to sell me on it," Gerard said. "I very much enjoy public service and it's a very exciting time to be on the council in Champaign. When you go to that next level, it really becomes partisan and you have to work for the party."
Gerard said he had met both Davis and Democratic candidate David Gill.
"Rodney Davis took me out for a beer and called me up a bunch of times and I talked to David Gill," he said.
The heavy negative advertising in the Gill-Davis race didn't bother him, he said.
"It certainly doesn't thrill me, but I get some of that at the mayoral level so I'm getting pretty thick-skinned," Gerard said. "If that's what it takes to be a public servant, then it's something I'd have to consider. But at this point for me, it's exceptionally gratifying to get things done and work with people on a nonpartisan basis."
Gill, who already has lost four congressional races, is a possibility. He has said he wouldn't rule out a fifth attempt in 2014.
"I think everyone has told David to take some time and think it over," said Champaign County Democratic chairman Al Klein. "No one's in a hurry."
Except Israel and the DCCC.
"I know of no one making any serious effort right now, since even Gill hasn't decided. I would assume they'd wait to see what David has decided," Klein added.
Unofficial St. Patrick's Day
The least favorite day of the year for University of Illinois officials — Unofficial St. Patrick's Day — has been set for March 1, according to a notice on Facebook.
It's also on the radar of the Illinois Liquor Control Commission, which lists it as an agenda item for its meeting in Chicago this week.
"I think what it will involve," said Steve Schnorf, the acting chairman of the commission, "is a report on what we did in 2012 at Unofficial and what our plans are for 2013. As far as I know, I think that what we'll be doing the coming year is what we've been doing the last several years. We work in a kind of interagency task force with the Champaign and Urbana police, the U of I police and other people."
Schnorf said there's nothing the liquor control board can do to control the flow of liquor at "Unofficial."
"We don't think there is anything we can do to put an end to it. It would be like putting an end to the celebrations that occur after the Bulls win an NBA championship or something like that," Schnorf said. "You might wish you could, but there's not much you can do about it. You try to keep it under control."
New pension bill
Legislation proposing a broad-based fix to Illinois' underfunded pension systems was unfurled last week by 21 rank-and-file House members, but downstate legislators were for the most part absent from the group.
Local lawmakers are looking at the bill with a cautious eye, partly because in many downstate districts there are large numbers of state employees and partly because the bill shifts pension costs to local school districts.
That's "kind of a deal-breaker in downstate Illinois," said Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, who nonetheless likes that his suburban and Chicago colleagues are pushing the legislation.
Rose said the proposal "provides a nice template for a final agreement. You can add some things and take some things out, but I think it advances the ball immeasurably. If anything else, it shows that there isn't just one magical, morally superior way to get this done, the Mike Madigan way."
Rose called the bill "a big step forward," but wasn't certain a pension reform bill could be passed by the lame-duck Legislature before it adjourns Jan. 9.
Neither was Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign. He said the proposal "reinvigorates the debate."
But he said he had concerns about its constitutionality, adding, "I hope it sparks movement in the next few weeks.
"I think that all sides of this issue would have an interest in resolving this as soon as possible," Frerichs said.
Farewells to Johnson
At least two area groups are planning formal farewells to retiring U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, who is leaving Congress after six terms. One date seems secure, but the other could be in jeopardy because of Congress' wrangling over tax and spending issues.
The Active Senior Republicans of Champaign County will salute Johnson and retiring state Sen. Shane Cultra, R-Onarga, on Monday morning at the Champaign Public Library.
The free event begins at 9:30 a.m. and is open to the public. People are asked to bring thank-you cards for both Johnson and Cultra.
That event isn't in doubt, but a second one — at noon Dec. 28 — could be in trouble.
The Ford County Republican Women and Ford County Republican Central Committee hope to host a thank-you luncheon for Johnson at the Country Thyme Tea Room in Paxton. The cost of the luncheon, which is open to the public, is $12. Reservations must be made by Dec. 20 with either Gwen Ennen of Paxton or Tom Bennett of Gibson City.
But Johnson spokesman Phil Bloomer said there's a possibility that Congress will be in session after Christmas and that Johnson may have to miss the Ford County event. Stay tuned.
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Sundays and Wednesday. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at email@example.com.