George Gollin, a potential Democratic candidate for Congress in the 13th Congressional District, said he's prepared for negative ads, dirty tricks or anything else thrown his way should he get into the race.
There was some measure of that last year when Republican Rodney Davis ran against Democrat David Gill in the district that stretches from Champaign-Urbana southwest to Madison County near St. Louis. So-called independent groups poured millions of dollars into the race, much of it spent on harsh, negative television ads. There were also "trackers" who trailed the candidates, tried to goad them into provocative exchanges and constantly videotaped their responses.
Davis won that race, and likely will face a similar onslaught next year when interest groups will attack his congressional voting record.
Gollin, although he has never run for public office before, said he had a similar experience when he investigated diploma and credentials fraud, and worked with members of Congress to crack down on them.
The reaction, found on numerous websites, has been all kinds of vitriolic attacks on Gollin, his family and the University of Illinois.
"If someone says something negative about me in a political context, it would at the worst just be more of the same," said Gollin, a Champaign resident who is a professor of physics at the University of Illinois. "I can't imagine it would be similar to that level in a political election."
The attacks, Gollin believes, are from people involved in credentials fraud.
"They published doctored photographs, published my Social Security number, my vehicle identification numbers and other personal information," he said.
Gollin is still looking into running for the Democratic nomination, but he has set up a website, is accepting campaign donations and gave what he said was his first political speech Sunday night.
He's even preparing for a summer of meetings, political picnics, parades and more.
"I love that stuff," he said. "I'm just so happy talking to people, hanging out. I really do enjoy it."
He said he'll decide whether to run either this summer or fall and said if he does run, he will take unpaid leave from his job at the UI for the spring semester of 2014.
Bruce Rauner, the wealthy Winnetka venture capitalist who is considering running for governor of Illinois, seems to be running a national campaign to finance his equally wealthy exploratory committee.
So far, Rauner has raised at least $1.363 million since forming his committee Feb. 28. He has far more money than his closest potential primary election opponent, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, who reported $739,714 on hand March 31.
Although $922,401 of his itemized contributions are from Illinois donors, Rauner has collected nearly a half-million dollars from out-of-state contributors.
In fact, Rauner has more itemized contributions from many states — California ($92,800), Georgia ($38,600) and Connecticut ($25,200), for example — than he has from Champaign-Urbana, Springfield, Decatur, Peoria or Bloomington-Normal (zero).
In Illinois, Rauner's itemized contributions generally are from Chicago ($303,000) and the northwest and North Shore suburbs, including Winnetka ($364,976), Wilmette ($28,000), Highland Park ($23,200), Barrington ($22,220), and Northbrook and Northfield ($21,950 each).
Frerichs on progressive tax
State Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, who is considering running for state treasurer, isn't shying away from his support for a progressive income tax, a proposed change despised by business and Republican groups.
At Sunday's spring dinner of the Champaign County Democrats, Frerichs again voiced support for the tax change, also known as a graduated income tax. The shift would require changing the state Constitution, and the approval of Illinois voters.
"We have a flat tax. If Steve Forbes came forward and said, 'This country needs to go toward a flat tax,' our party would be up in arms and say, 'That's not fair.' Those who have benefited more ought to pay more," Frerichs told the Democrats. "Here in Illinois, in our Constitution, that's what we have. We have a flat tax. It is a problem."
Frerichs added, "We can be more fair. We can help out those who need government the most, and those who have benefited the most by government can help out a little more."
He said that he "hopes you get a chance to vote on that next fall on your ballot," although none of the legislation promoting a constitutional amendment for a progressive income tax — including proposals by Frerichs and state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana — has gone anywhere in the Legislature this spring.
Tea party update
Champaign's Tea Party is out of business, and the Illiana chapter in Danville has been quiet for months, but Springfield's Tea Party group will hold a rally at noon Saturday to, as organizers put it, "express their concern over present economic conditions."
The group will meet at the Lincoln statue on the east side of the State Capitol grounds. Among the speakers scheduled: state Sen. Sam McCann, R-Carlinville; Kristina Rasmussen of the Illinois Policy Institute; William Kelly, a Chicago-based conservative activist; and Sandy Dragoo, a Springfield real-estate agent and Springfield Tea Party organizer.
It's a far cry from past tea-party rallies — both in Springfield and Champaign — when incumbent Republican legislators, GOP congressional candidates and even statewide candidates would routinely show up at rallies that attracted hundreds of people.
Kurtz, Piatt appointed
Champaign County Board Chairman Alan Kurtz and Kathleen Piatt of the Piatt County Board have been appointed to the legislative committee of the Illinois Association of County Board Members and Commissioners. The committee is charged with monitoring state legislation that affects county government.
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 email@example.com.