Illinois House candidate Carol Ammons of Urbana says a new disclosure about her past is all about politics, not about her record in public office.
Emails and exchanges on local political websites have resurrected a 2003 incident when Ammons, then known as Carol George, had to vacate an Urbana school board seat she was elected to. On April 8, 2003 — the night she was to be sworn in — George acknowledged that she hadn't lived a full year, as required, in the school board district she had been elected to represent. She vacated the seat, and Jerry Moreland, who had run a write-in campaign, was appointed to replace her.
Ammons explained Tuesday that her family rented a home on Linview Avenue that they were attempting to buy. A property dispute was uncovered and the bank wouldn't approve a loan. The owner of the home ordered her family out of the house. And before they were able to move into a second north Urbana home, she said, they spent three weeks living with her mother in Rantoul.
"The controversy came about because we had a break in the residency. That was the controversy. I didn't realize at the time that that break in the time disqualified me from the seat. Instead of me fighting that claim, I just decided to release it and let them have the seat. I moved on to do some other civic and social service work," Ammons said.
She said that she didn't have one child attending a Rantoul school and another at an Urbana school, as had been alleged at the time.
"You know this was 11 years ago and (Urbana City Clerk) Phyllis Clark, who is supporting me now, was the one who raised the issue then," Ammons said. "Her and Benita Rollins-Gay. Both are now supporters of me. They were critical on this issue because the rules said you can't do that, that if you're out of the district you can't do it."
In fact, both were highly critical of George in 2003.
Clark said that George "blatantly set out to discredit the trust of the people of the district. Should she be given carte blanche to disregard the rules?"
Rollins-Gay, now an Urbana school board member, added, "Education in Illinois is in a critical stage now. We need good, honest leaders."
Both are now listed on Ammons' website (carolammonsforstaterep.com) as supporters.
"This is all a political strategy. I've been elected twice (to the Champaign County Board and the Urbana City Council) and this issue has never come up. It's convenient now. And it's a timing issue. There were many opportunities for people who were concerned to bring this up," Ammons said of the school board disclosure and another one, made last week by fellow city council member Eric Jakobsson, about her college degree from a London-based institution he called a "diploma mill."
Ammons is locked in a Democratic primary race with Champaign attorney Sam Rosenberg to succeed Jakobsson's wife, Naomi Jakobsson, as the state representative in the 103rd House District.
Asked if she knew of any more disclosures that could come up before the March 18 primary election, Ammons said, "I'm 42 years old. I didn't smoke so there's no 'inhale' story. But the truth is, who knows what people are seeking to find? The reality is I'm a human being and I've lived and I have made mistakes like I imagine everyone has. I am not above reproach, but I've done a good job as an elected official."
The disclosures should make for an even more interesting debate tonight (Wednesday, Feb. 5) when Ammons and Rosenberg meet, weather permitting, at 7 p.m. at the Brookens Administrative Center, 1776 E. Washington St., Urbana.
Rodney Davis the RINO
If you're a Republican, there's nothing worse than to be called a "RINO." That is, a "Republican In Name Only."
Google "RINO" and check out all the Republicans who have been referred to that way by other Republicans: John McCain, Peter King, Mark Kirk, Lindsey Graham, Mitt Romney, Chris Christie, Bruce Rauner, Kirk Dillard, Dan Rutherford, Judy Baar Topinka, former Illinois Republican Party chief Pat Brady and many more.
Even Herman Cain has been called a RINO.
And now Cain has tossed the RINO epithet at U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville.
But he did it in the least courageous, backhanded, hard-to-fingerprint way possible.
In a commentary posted Sunday on his "Best of Cain" website (http://www.caintv.com), the onetime Republican presidential contender endorsed Urbana attorney Erika Harold for Congress and used the old "somebody else told me" method to label Davis.
"She is challenging a first-term Republican incumbent who many district voters say he has been a RINO (Republican In Name Only). How do I know this? Many of them told me directly when I attended and spoke at two events in support of Erika Harold last weekend," Cain wrote.
Cain lumped Davis into the "political class," and Harold into the "anti-establishment," "tea party" and "patriots" categories.
"Admittedly, my presence may have helped to boost attendance on a cold, rainy Friday evening and an equally cold and rainy Saturday morning, but it was clear they had already made up their minds to support Erika Harold," the humble Cain said of his appearances with Harold in St. Louis and Edwardsville. "My role was to help inspire the attendees to believe that we can still take our government back from the political class, and that an anti-establishment candidate as capable as Erika could win with their help.
"Secondly, all of the attendees were working class, tea party, liberty-loving patriots. In fact, I don't recall one elected official at any level of government in attendance. Does that sound like a snub by the establishment? You bet you daddy's britches it does!"
Harold, who in announcing her candidacy last year said she would run a positive campaign, said in an email statement Tuesday that she has not shifted strategy.
"I encourage supporters to advocate for me and not against other people, and that has not changed," she said. "To even suggest that my campaign has somehow gone negative is baseless and without merit."
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette columnist and editor. His column appears on Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.