Tom Kacich: Younger crowd not pleased with some Dems

Tom Kacich: Younger crowd not pleased with some Dems

The newly formed Champaign County Young Democrats may be about to flex their collective muscles in party politics.

The group, whose leadership includes county board candidate Scott Redenbaugh, current board member Josh Hartke and former board member Matt Gladney, sent questionnaires to Democrats in contested primary elections this spring, including four county board races, the local 103rd House District race and the 13th Congressional District contest.

Those questionnaires will help determine whether the executive board of the Young Democrats makes endorsements this weekend.

One likely loser: county board Chairman Alan Kurtz, who is being challenged in District 7 (south central Champaign) by former county board Chairman C. Pius Weibel.

"I don't see myself being endorsed by them. Let's put it this way: I would be surprised to be endorsed by the Young Democrats," said Kurtz, who was elected chairman in December 2012 with the votes of 10 Republicans, himself and two other Democrats over the Democratic caucus nominee, Michael Richards.

"I know what they're doing here. In my opinion, that's why this Young Democrat organization was founded. It's more of retribution than promoting Democratic ideals and principles," Kurtz said. "It's what happened a number of years ago in the Republican Party when they were at each others' throats. Now it's our turn, I guess."

For his part, Weibel said he doesn't know how the eight officers of the Young Democrats will vote on an endorsement in the District 7 race. An endorsement requires votes from two-thirds of the officers.

"If there's a plot, I'm not aware of it," he said.

But Hartke, who is the outreach director of the group, admitted that Kurtz is in trouble with the Young Democrats.

"From my read of their opinion, they're just unhappy with his leadership in general, not just the way he got to his leadership," said Hartke, citing Kurtz's failure to get the board behind a countywide food-service rating system. Only restaurants and food service outlets in Champaign-Urbana are in the new program.

"He couldn't pull votes from the caucus that voted for him for chairman. To me, that's an example of his lack of leadership," Hartke said. "The restaurant-inspection system, especially among young people who eat out a lot, that is on their radar."

Hartke said he will vote to endorse Weibel and added, "The votes haven't been cast, but from my conversations, nobody is happy with Al Kurtz."

Scott Redenbaugh, founder and president of the Young Democrats, said Kurtz's responses to the group's questionnaire — which Kurtz sent to The News-Gazette as well as the Young Democrats — did not help him.

"As strongly worded as it was, and the fact that he also sent it to you guys, I think that might have rubbed some people the wrong way and he might have lost some support," Redenbaugh said.

Still, it's unclear how much influence an endorsement from the new group would carry. Hartke said attendance at its social events has topped out at about 50 people.

"Whether we can magically affect a lot of voters is one thing. We've got a lot of hard workers on the team, a lot of organized people. The people who are involved with us know who to put their energy behind," he said. "You look at that district, there are a lot of young homeowners, young renters out there."

As for the other races, Hartke said there is probably no consensus on the House race between Urbana City Council member Carol Ammons and Champaign attorney Sam Rosenberg, and congressional candidates Ann Callis, George Gollin and David Green.

There's also a split opinion, he said, on the District 6 race between incumbent Pattsi Petrie and challenger Tony Fabri.

He thinks incumbent Lorraine Cowart will get the nod over Brent West in District 11.

"As far as I know, everyone is pretty much in favor of Lorraine because she's been a long, hard-serving Democrat who's been there in bad times and in good times. She's always been with the team on all of the important issues," he said.

But longtime board member Ralph Langenheim of Urbana could lose out in District 9 to Young Democrat member Shana Jo Harrison of Savoy.

"We're really happy with her and with what she's done. I know a lot of people are unhappy with Ralph and his vote on the leadership and a few other things," Hartke said.

For all the talk of unhappiness and division, however, Hartke said he hopes Democrats can unite once the primary election is over.

"I really hope that we can keep these primaries about the issues, about people's style of leadership and not get into personal stuff, and try to set an example to the entire community about what the Democratic Party offers as candidates as opposed to the Republicans," he said.

Harold town halls

Republican congressional candidate Erika Harold of Urbana, unable to get U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, to commit to debates, has announced a series of town-hall forums. The first was held last night in Litchfield.

Harold will also speak and take questions at town halls from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Monticello Community Building, on Jan. 21 at the Decatur Civic Center and on Jan. 27 at the Champaign Public Library. As many as 12 to 15 of the events may be scheduled.

"It is clear that Representative Davis has to this point denied the public opportunities to evaluate us side by side in debates or to engage him directly in open, public forums on the important issues that face our communities," Harold said.

Harold adviser Mark Shelden said  the Davis campaign has thus far not responded to any requests for debates or joint appearances.

He said the town-hall meetings are not being held in lieu of debates before the March 18 primary election.

"We're still looking for debate opportunities," he said. "It's certainly along the same lines in terms of people being able to ask questions and hear her respond to things, but this is certainly no substitute for a debate."

Meanwhile, The National Journal calls Davis' 13th Congressional District race the 16th most likely in the nation to flip from one party to the other. It says that Harold's challenge of Davis is "not the obstacle here," but claims that "Democrats have gotten behind former Judge Ann Callis" in the three-way Democratic race, an assertion that isn't the slam-dunk the Journal implies.

Rauner a no-show

Businessman Bruce Rauner will be missing when the three other Republican candidates for governor meet in a televised debate Jan. 23 in Peoria.

Rauner won't be at the forum at WTVP-TV in Peoria, but State Treasurer Dan Rutherford and state Sens. Bill Brady of Bloomington and Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale have committed.

Rauner has told organizers that he has a conflict on the date. The Rauner campaign said Tuesday that the candidate has committed to five other debates or forums between Feb. 4 and March 13.

Door to door in the cold

Rosenberg, one of the Democratic candidates for the 103rd House District seat, tweeted last weekend that he was campaigning door to door in the snow and the 30-degree (and lower) temperatures. Turns out he wasn't alone; Ammons was out there, too.

I asked them if there's a risk to asking voters to open their doors in the cold weather.

"I had a good time," Rosenberg said. "I usually come with a letter explaining my positions and who I am. Frequently, people will be a little perplexed, and when they realize I'm not selling something, they'll either talk to me briefly and take the letter or they'll invite me in."

"We did go out Saturday afternoon, my sons and (husband) Aaron and I," Ammons said. "We didn't have any problems as far as response. A lot of people did not open the door, so we did (literature) drops. But I think the response was pretty positive."

There comes a point, though, when it's too cold to campaign.

Neither candidate ventured out in the arctic chill Monday or Tuesday.

"I guess it's when you don't feel safe," Rosenberg said.

"There are times when you feel a little momentum going and you feel good and you're hitting the doors. Then after a while you just say, 'OK, we've had enough fun for today.'"

"No, we did not go out in that," said Ammons. "But I did spend a lot of time on the phone. And that was successful because most people were home because of the weather.

"I think these last couple of days, people just don't want to let any of that cold air in. But I think we'll be back out this weekend," when the forecast calls for temperatures to be near 40 degrees.

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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alabaster jones 71 wrote on January 08, 2014 at 11:01 am
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"There's also a split opinion, he said, on the District 6 race between incumbent Pattsi Petrie and challenger Tony Fabri."



GeneralLeePeeved wrote on January 08, 2014 at 3:01 pm

No kidding!  Hartke talks about endorsing candidates who demonstrate sound leadership, etc and then he throws that zinger out there.  I'd say that any of the YD's officers who would vote to endorse Tony Fabri are the ones who don't know much about good leadership!

tammier wrote on January 08, 2014 at 2:01 pm

Scott Redenbaugh is my younger brother.  He is the most patient, compassionate, difficult to anger person I know.  He's been volunteering with local democrats like Naomi Jakobsson since he was in high school, going door to door at the tender age of 16.  He cares about people.  I have never, in his entire life, seen him behave unkindly or in a bullying manor to anyone.  He is a hundred times more patient than I am.  How dare you question his motives, Alan Kurtz. You don't figure into play here.  He's involved in politics and the Young Democrats because he cares about people, and he cares about this community, how crass and egotistical it is for you to suggest otherwise.  

bluegrass wrote on January 08, 2014 at 5:01 pm

He sounds just dreamy.

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 08, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Entrance into professional politics comes at a price.  If newbies expect that their criticisms of those within their own party will go unanswered, they are entering the wrong profession.  It is a profession after all; not the oldest, but close to it.

Davis not debating Harold will not serve him well in the general election facing Callas.  Women voters are a target group ignored by the GOP in the past.  Refusing to debate Harold makes him look even more "appointed".  If he refuses to debate Callas, he will look scared.  Sooner or later, he will have to say something that is not scripted.

Kevin Sandefur wrote on January 08, 2014 at 5:01 pm

I've known Scott Redenbaugh for ten years, ever since he was one of literally a handful of volunteers instrumental in forming the local Clark for President committee.  Since then, he almost single-handedly jump started a Parkland College College Democrats chapter that had been dormant for years.  His work to establish the Young Democrats this past year has accomplished a goal that had eluded countless other local Dems for decades.  He is easily one of the most selfless, guileless, and trustworthy people I have ever met in a lifetime of politics.  I have complete confidence in both his honesty and the purity of his motives.  In fact, if I had one wish for our local Dems, it would be that we could have ten more just like him.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on January 10, 2014 at 5:01 pm
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That must be an ENORMOUS hand. How many people can fit in it, literally?

C-U Townie wrote on January 08, 2014 at 11:01 pm

Advise him to stay out of politics. Entering the political world is the fastest way to strip a good man of his virtues. 

tammier wrote on January 09, 2014 at 8:01 am

I don't think its inappropriate to expect politicians to have ethics.  If we accept the adage that politics corrupt, we are contributing to that corruption.  

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 09, 2014 at 10:01 am

It's Illinois... not some other state.  Who with any experience expects Illinois politicians to have ethics?  This is nothing more than planning to be Class President in high school.  It is the path to becoming a candidate.  I have nothing against your brother; but don't expect long time Illinois citizens to be gullible, and naive.  Illinois politics is a spectator sport just like professional wrestling.  Just ask Tony F.  

An old Illinois adage: "I would rather have a sister in a bordello than a brother in the Illinois Legislature."

Son of a Barrelmaker wrote on January 09, 2014 at 11:01 am

Tammier - Does Scott Redenbaugh support Tony Fabri's bid to be re-elected to the Champaign County Board?

tammier wrote on January 09, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Son of a Barrelmaker: I would recommend directing such questions to Scott.  I'm sure he would be willing to answer any questions you have.  He's an open guy.

Sid Saltfork: your reply reminds me of a story Scott told me once.  He likes to dance and was at a local establishment one night a few years ago having fun with his friends. A man there had had too much to drink, and apparently was the kind of drinker that likes to try to start fights in that state.  Scott is not a large man, but knows martial arts and has participated in many a Jiu Jitsu tournament.  The man walked up to Scott and said, "you think you're the big boss but you're not.  I'm the big boss."  Scott chose to shrug it off, and be the bigger person and instead of reacting, said: "that's okay. You can be the big boss." 

--Tammie Redenbaugh

alabaster jones 71 wrote on January 09, 2014 at 5:01 pm
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....AND he then single-handedly saved a kitten from a burning building.


Was Al Kurtz the angry dude at the bar?

C-U Townie wrote on January 09, 2014 at 10:01 pm

That's a nice andecdotal story, but that doesn't sell me on a candidate. We saw a candidate who had his "Change" elevator speech that he toted around the country. And he might go down with Dubya as one of the worst presidents. So who Scott is today may not be who is he once he gets to office, assuming he has more than anecdotal stories to persuade voters. Politics change people. We've had plenty of elected officials locally who've been long time residents of the area and once they got to office the "faux" power went to their heads. I heard this during a conversation about local politics, "[Local reps] act like they're big fish in a little pond." 

You said that if we don't push people into the political system we contribute to corruption. Trying to change the climate of politics these days is a top down approach. So good luck with that. Much more can be done via  grassroots approaches. A friend of mine once told me that they didn't want to run for office because they never wanted to be limited by the parameters of a position. They preferred to go the grassroots route where they could do the work they wanted on their terms. That's how you change climate, by changing citizens' ways of life so that they are involved. You can't make the big changes by being in office. 

cjwinla wrote on January 10, 2014 at 7:01 am

Tom Kacich writes an article about a group of young people who have good intentions and a promising future. The last two local election cycles they may have participated individually but as a group had no impact.   The North End Breakfast Club has been extremely active in the last two local election cycle spearheading record breaking turnout in the African American community which resulted in the margin of victory for both Don Gerard and Andy Quarnstrom. (Check the #'s, if you take out District 1 vote tally they both lose) . How many articles has Tom Kacich wrote about North End Breakfast Club ? Zero ! If he ever does write one it will be certainly negative . How do you spell a white is always right, ignore the contributions of black voters/organizations to local elections reporter ? Tom Kacich 

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 10, 2014 at 7:01 am

Tammier;  I appreciate your standing up for your brother.  You feel the need to do so; and it is commendable.  However, it is a mistake.  Rather than you defending him, he should be defending himself.  If he wants to engage in politics, he needs to defend himself instead of having others do it for him.  It is a tough sport, and a dubious occupation.  Your brother made a statement to the media regarding another party member.  He created a ripple in the local political pond.  He is the one who should be clarifying his statements, not you.  If he is going to be successful in his chosen endeavor; he has to walk, and talk on his own.

The NG staff must be loving this "young democrats" article.  When will we hear about the aspiring Karl Roves in the "young republicans"?   Are there young republicans?