Updated: Dem split over 103rd seat widens

Updated: Dem split over 103rd seat widens

URBANA — A divided local Democratic Party became even more split Wednesday when retiring state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, endorsed Champaign attorney Sam Rosenberg to be her successor but Jakobsson's past campaign manager said he is backing Urbana City Council member Carol Ammons.

Jakobsson, along with Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing and Champaign Mayor Don Gerard, announced Wednesday morning they were supporting the 29-year-old Rosenberg.

But the Ammons campaign countered that endorsement with one from county board member Michael Richards of Champaign, who was Jakobsson's last campaign manager and who at one time appeared to be the favorite to succeed Jakobsson. She had endorsed Richards to succeed her until he announced he wouldn't be able to run for office and continue to serve at his state job in Springfield.

Richards, in making his endorsement, stressed Ammons' record as a member of the county board and Urbana City Council.

"Every one of these elected officials and activists who are working to improve the community every day knows that Alderwoman Ammons is the only candidate who has taken a vote, created new programs and responded to constituent concerns. Carol has been active in the community long before this state representative seat came open," said Richards, who is leader of the 12-member Democratic caucus on the county board.

Richards also hit Rosenberg for "divisive tactics" in his campaign, although none of the political attacks on Ammons in recent weeks could be traced to Rosenberg.

"Sam's campaign's attack on Carol for attending a correspondence school as a young mother working her way out of poverty makes me wonder if he has the maturity to represent those in the district with different life experiences than him," Richards said.

But the revelation about Ammons' degree from Walsingham University in London had come from Eric Jakobsson, the husband of Naomi Jakobsson and a colleague of Ammons' on the Urbana City Council.

Meanwhile, Naomi Jakobsson, who after saying in October that it was "quite likely that I'll stay out of" the 103rd District race, said she was backing Rosenberg because "I just watched both candidates and I really felt that Sam is the one for me. I think he's the one who can work with everybody in Springfield, represent the people here in this district, work with all of the people in this district and get the job done."

Asked if that meant she believed Ammons could not do so, she responded tersely, "I'm talking about Sam. We're here this morning to talk about endorsing Sam Rosenberg for state representative for the 103rd District."

Like Jakobsson in the past, Rosenberg said he would take campaign support from powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan of Chicago.

"I don't think standing up to a man who has been Speaker of the House of Representatives longer than I've been alive benefits this district," he said. "I will be happy to stand by my values and support those values, including not supporting Senate Bill 1 (the Madigan-backed pension reform plan approved by the Legislature in December). I'm against pension reform as it currently stands.

"I'm against many of the policies that Speaker Madigan advocated for. That said, if I stand up here today and say that I'm going to go to Springfield and fight Speaker Madigan, that not only hurts me, it hurts the 103rd District tremendously."

Jakobsson, meanwhile, said Rosenberg brings "a good firm background" in ethics.

Without mentioning Ammons' past problems as an Urbana school board candidate where it later was discovered she had briefly lived in Rantoul during the time before the election, Jakobsson referenced ethical problems in Springfield.

"When I first went into the Legislature one of the first things we had were ethics bills, and I thought to myself, why do we legislate ethics?" Jakobsson said. "But as we looked around we saw some examples in our state leaders of people who didn't have a strong plant in their ethical practices.

"One of my former colleagues was arrested and convicted for fraudulent campaign practices. It wasn't the campaign. It was the papers she filled out when she ran for that office. She was arrested because she did not live at the location that she said she lived when she was filling out all the papers."

Asked later if she was referring to Ammons, Jakobsson said, "If that's the way her supporters want to receive that, that's fine. But I'm talking about Sam's strong ethical behavior."

Jakobsson said she had "a very brief" conversation with Ammons when she told her that she would be backing Rosenberg.

"She started to tell me that she would be the first African-American woman from this district," Jakobsson said. "I don't think that by itself is a qualification."

Prussing added, "I think Martin Luther King Jr. said that he wanted his children to be judged by the character and not by the color of their skin. This is not a racial thing. I think it's a real mistake to say that what we should be doing is affirmative action. It's open for anybody to run and they're in a competition."

Regarding the potentially influential endorsements from Prussing and Jakobsson, Ammons issued a statement saying that "Representative Jakobsson and Mayor Prussing have the right to endorse the candidate of their choosing. I appreciate their service as elected officials."

Republican John Bambenek, who attended the Rosenberg endorsement announcement at the Urbana Free Library, later charged that use of the library for a political event was an ethics violation.

"It is a long-standing policy of the city of Urbana that city property cannot be misappropriated by Urbana employees or elected officials (of which Mayor Prussing is one) and used to attempt to gain votes for political candidates," Bambenek said. "As mayor, not only is it likely Mayor Prussing herself voted for this ordinance, she likely was responsible for its authorship. I'm personally offended that she would apparently violate an ordinance she herself probably wrote and the pattern of treating city property as an arm and instrumentality of the Democratic Party."

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sweet caroline wrote on February 12, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Laurel and Hardy and the Bobsey Twins look overjoyed, don't they?

Local Yocal wrote on February 12, 2014 at 2:02 pm
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For how many years has The News-Gazette editorial board criticized and chastised every rep for cowtowing to the almighty Speaker of the House, Michael Madigan, the N-G believes most responsible for the crony capitalism, the irresponsible budgets, and general corruption of Illinois State Politics?

And there before Tom Kacich, at this press conference, Kacich watched and recorded Sam Rosenberg sell his soul to the Speaker of the House. And not one word does Kacich print of it.


ericbussell wrote on February 12, 2014 at 2:02 pm

I suspect this picture was taken while Don Gerard was engaged in a heated exchange with someone from the audience.  I felt pretty horrible for Sam Rosenberg as Don Gerard demonstrated how not to behave at a press conference.  

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 12, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Are the endorsements a good thing for the candidate?  Are they more harmful than helpful?  How many vote in the primary versus the fall election?  The majority of voters see themselves as Independents versus Republican, or Democrat.  They vote in the fall election.  The endorsements may help in the primary election; but they maybe harmful in the fall election.

locavore wrote on February 12, 2014 at 4:02 pm

Does anything recommend Sam Rosenberg for a position in state government? He has no experience as a civic leader, organizer, or policy maker, nothing that even makes him stand out as an attorney. So why has he been urged to run for office at such a tender age?

Well, precisely because he has no experience -- if he gets to Springfield, he will have to turn to those people who picked him and orchestrated his campaign in order to know what to do. (Hello, Mike Madigan!) And, if he doesn't do what they recommend (these are always framed as recommendations, never orders), then he'll be abandoned by the party. He wil fail, in public, with plenty of publicity shining on him.

This is the essence of machine politics. It's not enough to look comfortable in a suit and tie. Your dedication to principle must have some evidence of substance.

clayeater65 wrote on February 12, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Well, everyone has to start somewhere, but probably the best place to start is not the State Legislature.  Madigan is already lining up the insiders for this guy, but that's really all he has going for him.  Is that enough?  Time will tell, but it's not enough for my vote.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on February 12, 2014 at 9:02 pm
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But, but, but, he went to the U of I!  And he's a rich lawyer!  And he wears nice suits!  Now THAT is what a state legislator is SUPPOSED to look like!

Aren't rich lawyers what everyone wants more of in government?  Everyone knows that rich lawyers are severely under-represented in politics!

BruckJr wrote on February 13, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Can you imagine a general election between Rosenberg and Harold, neither of whom have a lick of political experience.  Chicago attorney vs. Urbana attorney.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on February 13, 2014 at 2:02 pm
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Harold might be feeling pretty foolish right now for not entering this race instead.  Unlike Williamson, I think she would have had a decent chance of winning this heavily blue district, even though she seems to be more to the right than Williamson is.

wayward wrote on February 13, 2014 at 3:02 pm

AFAIK, Harold would not have met the residency requirements for running in 103 this cycle.  Otherwise, it probably would have been a smarter way to launch a political career than primarying an incumbent from her own party.

bambenek wrote on February 12, 2014 at 4:02 pm

What I found most ironic was Rep Jakobsson starting her comments about ethics law while at a press conference convened in violation of local ethics ordinances. Sec 2-203 of Urbana's Municipal Code says city employees and electeds cannot misapproiate city property for advocating voting for a candidate for office. 


Mayor Prussing was there doing exacty that. Not only did she likely vite for the law, she probably wrote it. Don Gerard, you should know better. Julia Rietz, also in attendance certainly should know better. If Sam can't have a press conference without breaking the law, what levels of criminality can we expect if he gets elected?

alabaster jones 71 wrote on February 12, 2014 at 9:02 pm
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News flash:  no voter cares.

Just like no voter cared about Rodney Davis or Charlie Smyth using taxpayer funded property for campaign events.

I know you and plenty of others on both sides of the aisle love this pathetic, petty, partisan BS, but could you at least find more interesting things to complain about?  Please?

johnny wrote on February 13, 2014 at 5:02 am

Charlie Smyth lost a relatively close race right afterward.  Just because you couldn't be bothered to care doesn't mean no one did.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on February 13, 2014 at 2:02 pm
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Did it change your vote in that race?  How many voters do you know who changed their minds on who to vote for because of it?

By that same logic, the fact that Rodney Davis won despite using a U of I building for a campaign event is proof that nobody cares about such things.

wayward wrote on February 12, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Dictionary.com defines misappropriate as "put to a wrong use" or "apply wrongfully or dishonestly." Given that anyone is free to hold a political press conference in the city library (or in the city building), it doesn't seem like Prussing misappropriated anything.

ohmy wrote on February 12, 2014 at 5:02 pm

I think it really was bad all the way around. From Naomi and Laurel's endorsement to Don endorsing Sam again and then taking over press conference. This should have been a good moment for Sam, but instead it was overshawdowed by a bloated baffoon who happens to be the mayor of Champaign. How does someone screw up a press conference? Invite Don Gerard. Hopefully Rosenberg's advisors will let him know that he needs to find new company to hang with at press conferences and for the remainder of the campaign. 

One good thing about the event? I LOVE Laurel's boots. They must be her fancy ones.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on February 12, 2014 at 9:02 pm
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Gerard really is the Chris Christie of Champaign County politics, no?  Pretty amazing when, even among a crowd of politicians, you stand out as being egotistical.

trysomethingnew wrote on February 12, 2014 at 8:02 pm

Rosenberg cannot relate to anyone who is not white.  

alabaster jones 71 wrote on February 12, 2014 at 9:02 pm
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That might be a broad statement.  I'm sure he has no problem relating to rich black lawyers.

I think it's anyone who didn't grow up with a silver spoon in their mouth, regardless of their color, who he might have trouble relating with.

wayward wrote on February 12, 2014 at 11:02 pm

How do you even come up with this kind of crap?

alabaster jones 71 wrote on February 12, 2014 at 9:02 pm
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I'm very surprised that Richards is endorsing Ammons.  Makes me wonder if he's suddenly not on best terms with the local Dem establishment, for some reason.

bambenek wrote on February 12, 2014 at 11:02 pm

It doesn't really matter what dictionary.com defines something as, what matters is what Laurel Prussing's own ethics ordinance defines it as, and since "prohibited political activity" is defined as activities to get people to vote for a candidate, this press conference was a misappropriate of city property and thus a city ethics ordinance violation.  Made much more ironic considering Naomi Jakobsson's discussion on how important ethics law is.

wayward wrote on February 12, 2014 at 11:02 pm

If she was doing it on her own time, which I assume she was, she's not engaging in political activity during compensated time. You're asserting that participating in a press conference held at the library is a "misappropriation" of city resources. Given that this room is available to any member of the public who wishes to hold a press conference, I'm not convinced that it is.

bambenek wrote on February 13, 2014 at 12:02 am

"Compensated time" only applies to employees, not elected officials.  And while you could make a case for structuring an ethics law so that elected officials can't make use of city property not otherwise available to other people, that is not with this law says.

Further, when a member of the public has a press conference, no one mistakes it for an official action.  When the mayor uses one of her own buildings to announce support of a candidate, it creates the appearance of a state act.

For instance, as I mentioned in another forum, the Blue Room at the State Capitol can be used by anyone who makes a reservation, but no politician would ever have a political event there because it's overtly prohibited against using state property for campaign events.

Laurel's ethics ordinance says city elected officials shall not misappropriate city property for prohibited political activity, in essence, exactly what she ended up doing.

Of course, it's all academic until a complaint is filed and adjudicated.

Mr Dreamy wrote on February 13, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Then file a complaint, Mr Bambenek.

Step up, or shut up. 

Political Observer wrote on February 19, 2014 at 3:02 am

I have a question for Tom Kacich:

On at least two occasions, Mr. Kacich, you've written articles allowing partisan Republican political operative John Bambenek to attack elected Democratic officials Charlie Smyth and Laurel Prussing with highly questionable legal interpretations of Urbana municipal codes.  Unfortunately, neither Bambenek nor you have ever provided a link to the key ordinance in question, which, it turns out, is found here:


1.  In the case of Bambenek's allegations against Charlie Smyth, the law doesn't apply because there's a specific exemption in Sec. 2-20 (i) that says it doesn't apply to activities "relating to the support or opposition of any executive, legislative, or administrative action..."

Since Mr. Smyth's news conference in October 2012 was called specifically to oppose the adminstrative actions of County Clerk Gordy Hulten with regard to the extraordinarily unusual obstacle course Hulten had set up to obstruct grace period voting, the law obviously does not apply in this case.  Bambenek is trying to deprive Mr. Smyth of his freedom of speech to use the City Council Chambers to support or oppose administrative actions (in this case, by County Clerk Gordy Hulten).  Mr. Smyth's legitimate use of the City Council Chambers is protected in the law by the specific exemption given in Sec. 2-20 (i).

2.  In the case of Bambenek's recent allegations against Laurel Prussing, the law once again does not apply because there's a specific exemption in Sec. 2-20 (iii) that says it does not include activities that are "otherwise in furtherance of the person's official duties."  Part of the Mayor of Urbana's duties obviously includes communicating with the public through events such as press conferences, and it's beyond ludicrous for Bambenek to contend that Mayor Prussing isn't allowed to say anything that Bambenek might consider "political" on property that's owned by the City of Urbana.  (Does Bambenek think that the mayor should only give press conferences on privately-owned land in Urbana, or perhaps outside of Urbana altogether, in order to avoid the possibility that something she might say might somehow be taken as "political" by Mr. Bambenek?)

Don't you think that you at least owe your readers a link to the full text of the law that Mr. Bambenek is misinterpreting?  And shouldn't the News-Gazette print some sort of correction to your articles where you point out that non-lawyer Bambenek's fanciful interpretations of law aren't consistent with the specific exemptions that have been written into the law to protect the right of free speech of Urbana employees and elected officials?

ericbussell wrote on February 19, 2014 at 6:02 am

I noticed in the ordinace link that it specifically references the Urbana Free Library and prevents prohibited political actity there.   "Prohibited political activity" means (from ordinace): (1) Preparing for, organizing, or participating in any political meeting, political rally, political demonstration, or other political event. (7) Soliciting votes on behalf of a candidate for elective office or a political organization or for or against any referendum question or helping in an effort to get voters to the polls. (12) Campaigning for any elective office or for or against any referendum question.  I can't speak to whether or not Political Observer's very loose defense has any legal merit, but it appears that Bambenek is correct.   It seems clear to me that both Charile Smyth, Laurel Prussing and Diane Marlin were all engaged in Prohibited political activity as defined by the ordinace link.  I wonder if Bambenek will file a complaint. 

Political Observer wrote on February 19, 2014 at 4:02 pm

Well, well, well!  One of the 2 dishonest dirty tricksters involved in carrying out the right-wing series of smear campaigns against elected Democratic officials, Mr. Eric Bussell, shows up in person to try to revive, resuscitate and breathe new life into the Bambenek-Bussell rotting smear campaign!

Wow!  That's a shock!  And, not only that, Mr. Bussell points his dirty finger at yet another elected Democratic official, Diane Marlin (whose name I hadn't seen previously mentioned in this discussion thread)...He's apparently trying to tie her into his imagined web of illegalities, as well.  It almost brings to mind those old sayings, "As long as you're determined to be a rotten dirty trickster, there's no real point in being only half-rotten, is there?" ...and... "If you really want to wallow in the mud, you might as well go whole-hog! RIght?!"

Political Observer wrote on February 19, 2014 at 4:02 pm

By the way, Mr. Bussell, I want to get around to answering the claims in your post above, but before I do, I'm curious if you remember the last time we had a back-and-forth discussion in the News-Gazette discussion forum?

I'm referring to the discussion here:


where you wrote:

"I have written a check to Anne Callis for $1000.  I will mail it to her to her if "Political Observer" can make a rational case that Rodney Davis violated laws with his announcement."

After I made a case right after your post that Davis had violated an Illinois state law by holding his campaign rally in the UI's ACES Library, you disappeared from the forum for quite some time.  And so I never did hear if you really sent that promised $1000 check off to Anne Callis, or not.

So, I guess now that you're back and engaging in dialog with me, I'm really quite curious, what ever became of your promise to mail that $1000 check to Anne Callis?

Political Observer wrote on February 21, 2014 at 2:02 am

Part of the modus operandi of smear-job dirty tricksters and outright con-men is often to use truthful material taken out of context to try to build a fanciful (but, in reality, of course, completely bogus) narrative, in order to advance whatever totally  deceptive claims they happen  to be peddling at a given moment in time.   Naturally, they hope  that no one will ever go back and actually examine the source where they originally grabbed  their material, because then their whole nefarious scheme  may soon collapse about them, like the house of cheap, marked cards that it really is.  Such is often the case with the type of crazy antics we have seen on display in this discussion thread and in earlier discussions in the N-G forum, courtesy of Bambenek and Bussell, Shysters-at-Law.

Earlier in this discussion thread I provided a link to a City of Urbana Ordinance that anyone can click on and easily see the kind of fraud that John Christian  Bambenek and Eric Bussell are trying to perpetrate here, in order to smear public officials who lawfully participated in a recent news conference at the Urbana Free Library:


 If you look on Page 3 of this link, you'll find  "Political activity" defined in this way:


"Political activity" means any activity in support of or in connection with any campaign for elective office or any political organization, but does not include activities

(i) relating to the support or opposition of any executive, legislative, or administrative action (as those terms are defined in Section 2 of the Lobbyist Registration Act),

(ii) relating to collective bargaining, or

(iii) that are otherwise in furtherance of the person's official duties.

These 3 exceptions are very important ones, because they're saying that this law regulating "political activity" does not apply when an elected official like Charlie Smyth is, say, (i) opposing an administrative action, such as the administrative action that Sgt. Gordy Hulten took in constructing an obstacle course to make it difficult for voters to cast a ballot during Grace Period Voting in 2012.

If you read this definition, what it's telling you is that that kind of opposition of administrative action is not what we're considering when we're regulating "political activity."  The law is saying that we do not want to deprive Mr. Smyth of his freedom of speech to speak out for or argainst an administrative action, like that taken by Sgt. Hulten to make it more difficult for voters to vote.

Likewise, the law also does not apply when a public official like Laurel Prussing calls a Press Conference in order to communicate with the public, as long as it is (iii) in furtherance of her official duties, such as her duty to keep the public informed of newsworthy items, that have relevance to the citizens of Urbana.

Now this is essentially what I've already written above, in my earlier post.  However, this second time around, I've tried to elaborate things in somewhat more detail, because apparently Mr. Bussell had a hard time trying to grasp this part of the law, where certain exemptions have been carved out and  the law is directly specifing that these types of activities are not considered the types of "political activity" that it is trying to regulate.

What Mr. Bussell apparently decided to do, though, is to just skip this part of the law altogether, and then go down a few lines to a definition that says:


"Prohibited political activity" means:

(1) Preparing for, organizing, or participating in any political meeting, political rally, political demonstration, or other political event.


In addition to the activity listed in Point #1 above, this definition of "prohibited political activitiy" goes on to list a total of 15 different "political activities" that are prohibited by the ordinance.  Mr. Bussell picked out 3 of these activities that he really seemed to take a shine to, activity #1 (above) as well as #7 and #12 in the list at the link above.  Wow!  Bingo!  He had found 3 different "prohibited political activities that he could use to convict his political enemies in the court of public opinion!!"

Mr. Bussell then triumphantly finished up his post:


"I can't speak to whether or not Political Observer's very loose defense has any legal merit, but it appears that Bambenek is correct.   It seems clear to me that both Charile Smyth, Laurel Prussing and Diane Marlin were all engaged in Prohibited political activity as defined by the ordinace [sic] link.  I wonder if Bambenek will file a complaint."


Well, you sure have me there, Mr. Wile E. Coyote!!  Yes, I certainly "agree" with your "carefully thought out arument," I guess:

If one completely ignores that these activities are not even considered "POLITICAL ACTIVITIES" in the first place (for the purposes of the law and what it's intended to regulate), then I guess, yes, they do tend to sound kind of like what the law terms,


so let's pronounce the defendants "GUILTY, AS CHARGED!"...

Yes, I see your point, Judge Bogus Bussell!  Even though these actions are specifically exempted as  "POLITICAL  ACTIVITIES" to begin with, they certainly would be PROHIBITED if they hadn't been exempted!

"KA-BLAM!" and the ACME package that Wile E. Coyote has been holding, with his law books and his homework inside, goes poof in a cloud of black smoke... yet one more time, just like it always seems to happen in the Roadrunner cartoons...

Beep!  Beep!


chief21 wrote on February 19, 2014 at 3:02 pm

There was a caller on radio station WDWS that indicated that Ammons and her husband were both convicted felons. I find this hard to believe.Is there a web link or reference to this?