CHAMPAIGN — Carol Ammons, the Urbana City Council member opposing Champaign attorney Sam Rosenberg for the Democratic nomination in the 103rd House District, announced a fresh round of endorsements Wednesday headed by the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the Independent Voters of Illinois and the Graduate Employees Organization at the University of Illinois.
The support of the groups — plus an updated list of endorsements from local officials, University of Illinois and Parkland College faculty members and religious leaders — was meant to blunt support that Rosenberg has gotten from House Speaker Michael Madigan's organization, plus retiring state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, and the mayors of Champaign and Urbana.
"I am here to address the recent assertions that support for my candidacy has wavered or waned and to announce a host of new endorsements since the Chicago-style negative attacks began a couple of weeks ago," Ammons said at a crowded news conference at the Champaign County Democratic headquarters. "The message is clear that the people of the 103rd District want someone who has served this community, understands this community and loves this community, for their next state representative."
Rosenberg, a 29-year-old Champaign attorney, reported Tuesday night that he'd received a $4,500 in-kind contribution from Madigan's Democratic Majority political action committee. The contribution was for printing and postage of a mail piece sent to voters in the Champaign-Urbana legislative district.
Rosenberg's updated report also showed his campaign received $5,000 from the Illinois State Medical Society, and $1,000 each from Champaign businessman Joe Lamb, the Champaign Firefighters for Good Government and state Rep. John Bradley, a Marion Democrat who is a top lieutenant of Madigan.
Meanwhile, the IFT endorsement of Ammons could be the most significant because it could mean either a campaign contribution, a union-subsidized mail piece or "boots on the ground," said IFT spokeswoman Aviva Bowen.
Ammons said she wasn't told "what that amount is." As of Jan. 1, the IFT had more than $1.85 million in its political action fund.
Ammons was critical of Rosenberg's alliance with Madigan, but only to a point. She would not say if she would vote for Madigan to be Speaker of the House next January.
"We in the 103rd District want to select our own representative, and Mister Rosenberg has chosen to align himself with the person who took the pensions from our retirees," she said of Madigan's sponsorship of Senate Bill 1, which reduced some pension benefits. "Our message to them is that we are the people and the people will select its own representative. They can send as many mailers as they like. It is not going to help them."
Later, when pressed about whether she'd support Madigan for another term as Speaker, she responded, "I don't have a position at this point. I don't know who's running for Speaker of the House. But I'm told that if no one else is running, he won't need my vote."
Ammons herself readdressed two issues that have nagged her campaign: her college degree from Walsingham University in London, an uncertified school, and her 2003 decision to vacate an Urbana school board seat to which she had been elected.
"There are many online schools that are out there today. For us, we just have to get enough information out to make sure the students who are young like myself are not taken advantage of," Ammons said. She said she would encourage young people to seek help from guidance counselors, "those who weren't available for me when I went to school."
When asked if she should have known better at the time, Ammons said, "Everybody is this room probably has a story where they said 'I should have known better'. I'm sure Representative Jakobsson has a few of her own."
The Urbana school board issue was resurrected by Urbana City Clerk Phyllis Clark. She endorsed Ammons on Wednesday, noting that in 2003 she had objected to Ammons taking the school board seat after it was discovered she had lived outside of the school district for a short time before the election.
"I advised her to withdraw," Clark said in 2003. "When we choose to seek office, we lead people to believe we have the desire to make things better. She blatantly set out to discredit the trust of the people in the district. Should she be given carte blanche to disregard the rules?"
On Wednesday she said she "was obliged to object to her representation at that time because of her three-week absence from the district."
"With that knowledge it was my duty to come forward with what I knew, as I would have for any candidate who did not fully meet the guidelines for the position," she added. "I was not aware that she could have challenged the rule based on the fact that she sought temporary shelter with her mother (in Rantoul) and then moved back into the district. I agree with others who now say that Mrs. Ammons should be commended, not condemned, for volunteering to respect the objection that was raised."
Asked Wednesday if she expected more disclosures about her past, Ammons said, "I would love to say, 'Oh no, I think they got the message.' But it doesn't actually work that way. We suspect that there has to be continued assault. The only way you can shake loose this kind of support is to try to do spin master type of politics."
A complete list of Ammons' endorsements is at her website, http://www.carolammonsforstaterep.com.