Here's a political candidate fundraising idea you don't see every day: buy a $5 raffle ticket for a chance to win a rifle, a revolver or a shotgun.
That's what newly inaugurated state Rep. Josh Harms, R-Watseka, is doing to replenish his campaign fund.
"I like guns and I didn't take any special interest money and it's a good way to raise money and show my support for the Second Amendment," explained Harms. "(Candidates) usually don't do raffles because it's a lot easier to get a thousand bucks out of a lobbyist than it is to sell a $5 raffle ticket."
He won't take campaign contributions from political action committees or lobbyists, the new lawmaker said. None of the $51,000-plus he has received since organizing his campaign has come from PACs, according to his campaign reports.
His campaign fund has $8,858 on hand.
Harms, who was elected to represent the 106th House District in November, ran on a platform that included support for a state concealed-carry law, eliminating the Firearm's Owner Identification card and instituting a "castle doctrine" in Illinois that would give citizens in their homes the right to protect themselves and their property, in some cases by way of deadly force.
He serves a district that includes all or parts of Vermilion, Ford, Iroquois, Livingston and Woodford counties, and is one of the most politically conservative areas of the state. He had no Democratic opponent in November.
Raffles by political candidates in Illinois are legal, said Rupert Borgsmiller, executive director of the State Board of Elections, as long as candidates get an application in advance and file a report after the raffle.
And Harms, who had a similar raffle last year, has done both, Borgsmiller said.
The candidate said he came up with the idea himself.
"I set it up the way I wanted it to be and I made it five bucks so that people could afford (the tickets)," he said.
He said he doesn't know how tickets sales are going so far; March 2 is the deadline to purchase.
Harms' last raffle yielded $983. He sold $2,865 of tickets minus $1,881 spent to purchase the guns, according to his raffle report.
This time, Harms' father, Jeff Harms, purchased the guns and two gift certificates to a Big R store and donated them to his son's campaign fund. The five prizes have a total value of $1,776, according to a campaign report. The grand prize is a Ruger Mini-14 stainless steel rifle. First prize is a Ruger LCR hammerless 357 revolver. Second prize is a Mossberg 535 pump shotgun. The gift certificates are for $100 and $50.
Josh Harms said he's an avid hunter who hunts mostly deer and turkey "whenever I can." He also has shot an antelope in Wyoming and a bear in Canada.
"I would do it for a living if I could. I love hunting. I grew up in it. When they talk about the differences and people's opinions on guns and how some people view them as instruments of violence and some people view them as a tool in the toolbox, I grew up with them as a tool to go hunting," he explained.
Those who enter the raffle must be 21 years of age and must be eligible to own a gun, according to the contest rules. For more information on Harms' fundraiser, see his web site at http://joshharms.com.
Stratton money. Les Stratton, who is challenging Laurel Prussing in the Democratic Party primary election for mayor of Urbana, has reported $3,063 in campaign contributions through Dec. 31. Only $500 of it — a donation from the local electricians' union — is itemized. Stratton reported spending $932, most of it on postage.
Prussing has yet to file a campaign disclosure report, although she expressed some amusement last week with Stratton's statement of organization filed with the State Board of Elections. It said that the purpose of Stratton's campaign was not to support any particular candidate, but to oppose "Laura Prussing."
Shimkus' Danville office. U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, hopes to open a congressional district office in Danville by around Feb. 1, according to Shimkus spokesman Steve Tomaszewski.
The office will be in Danville's 102-year-old federal building and U.S. courthouse at 201 N. Vermilion St. (As an aside, let me say I think the building should be named for Joe Cannon, a Danville resident who was U.S. House speaker from 1903 to 1911 and was on the first cover of Time magazine on March 3, 1923).
Although Danville is 200 miles from Shimkus' Metro East home, it is the largest city in the 33-county 15th Congressional District. Shimkus already has district offices in Maryville, Effingham and Harrisburg.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.