Tom Kacich: Dems already touting candidates for 2014

Tom Kacich: Dems already touting candidates for 2014

Once burned, twice shy?

Not the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Illinois' 13th Congressional District.

A little more than a year after the DCCC backed former Greene County State's Attorney Matt Goetten in the Democratic primary over Bloomington physician David Gill only to see Goetten lose by 163 votes, they're back at it.

The DCCC has produced a video highlighting what it calls its "Jumpstart" candidates. The first of the eight candidates mentioned in the video — although it doesn't feature audio, video or even a still picture of her — is Ann Callis, the former Madison County judge who announced last week that she would seek the Democratic nomination, presumably to face incumbent U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis of Taylorville.

In a statement accompanying the video, the DCCC says its Jumpstart candidates "know how to put results for the middle class ahead of partisan ideology — and they'll all be just the antidote the American people want.

"From a former CIA analyst to a well-respected judge, Jumpstart candidates have a record of putting this country first and solving problems. We're excited for this class of strong recruits to hit the ground running and talk with voters about how they'll tackle the country's problems, instead of voting in lockstep with a dysfunctional and out-of-touch Republican Congress," said the DCCC's Emily Bittner.

The problem with the video is that Callis isn't the nominee yet.

University of Illinois physics Professor George Gollin also is considering seeking the nomination in the district that stretches from Champaign-Urbana to Edwardsville, and runs through Decatur, Springfield and parts of Bloomington-Normal. Gollin has said he'll decide this summer or fall whether to enter the race.

To be fair, Callis is a full-fledged candidate — she filed her one-page statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission on May 7 — and Gollin is not. But one might think the DCCC wouldn't want to be accused, again, of favoring one candidate over another or dictating to voters who their candidate should be.

Gollin, reached Tuesday, was diplomatic about the omission. After all, he may have to work with the DCCC if he runs and wins the nomination next year.

"The DCCC has a very big, very broad mission which is to try to win as many seats as possible and I think this is part of their strategy. I don't have much more to say than that," said Gollin. "I'm not surprised by it. I believe they hope to win as many seats in the House as possible and they have highly intelligent people in there, going about developing their strategy."

Politico.com reported that Jumpstart would give its designated candidates "early financial, communications, operational and strategic support to help top-tier candidates get a head start in these highly targeted races," according to a memo from DCCC director Kelly Ward.

So close in the 13th

Research by the website dailykos.com found that last November's showdown between Davis and Gill was the second-closest of 435 House races in the country, behind only the contest in North Carolina's 7th District where Democrat Rep. Mike McIntyre defeated Republican David Rouzer by two-tenths of a percentage point, or 654 votes.

Davis beat Gill by four-tenths of a percentage point, or 1,002 votes. Another race decided by four-tenths of a point — in Florida's 18th District where Democrat Patrick Murphy beat incumbent Rep. Allen West — was decided by 1,904 votes.

It's another reason why both parties anticipate spending a lot of money in the 13th District next year, no matter who the candidates are.

Recuperating Bill Black on Madigan and pensions

I asked Danville Alderman Bill Black, who is home recovering from what he called "a mild heart attack," what he thought of Jim Nowlan's recent provocative column on House Speaker Michael Madigan, the Illinois Supreme Court and the pension issue.

In it, Nowlan reminds that Madigan — who is promoting a pension solution that many believe is unconstitutional, over a plan by Senate President John Cullerton — has said that he believes there are four votes on the seven-member Supreme Court to find his bill constitutional.

Writes Nowlan: "The Illinois Supreme Court has always been considered a 'political court,' capable of responding to political realities. Its members are elected in partisan contests. One member is the wife of a prominent Chicago alderman."

He notes that another member, Thomas Kilbride, was elected in 2000 with Madigan's financial backing.

"So this 'armchair constitutional lawyer' predicts," writes Nowlan, "going way out on the limb, that a bill closer to Madigan than Cullerton will pass sometimes this year, and that the state Supreme Court will swallow hard and declare the underlying defined benefit unimpaired, thus constitutional."

Does Madigan really have that much clout, I asked Black, that he can practically tell the Supreme Court how to rule on a major constitutional issue?

That's not it, said Black. It's that Madigan knows the Supreme Court members' backgrounds and how they interact.

"I don't think Sherlock Holmes would ever be able to trace any indication, verbal, written in code or whatever, that Mike Madigan would ever suggest to a Supreme Court justice how they should find a certain case. And I don't think he would do so," said Black, who served for 14 years in the Illinois House with Madigan.

"But I do think he has a very keen knowledge how that court works. And he certainly has a keen knowledge of where those people came from. I think that gives him an advantage. If anybody could understand how they would react to anything, it's probably Speaker Madigan."

Meanwhile, Black said he's feeling much better after his time in the hospital, but that he's in for another lifestyle change.

"They did a heart catheterization and found no damage to the heart," said Black. "But I will have to change my lifestyle and my diet. I'm an inveterate snacker — potato chips, peanut butter crackers, maybe a little popcorn and that kind of stuff, and maybe too much Diet Pepsi — so they want me to pay more attention to the sodium and sugar."

Best wishes to Alderman Black for a full recovery. I hope to see him many times at Danville Stadium for Danville Dans games this summer.

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 tkacich@news-gazette.com.

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