Tom Kacich: Dems back opponents of 2 county board incumbents

Citing the "betrayal" of the Democratic Party electorate in Champaign County, party chairman Al Klein said the party is backing the opponents of county board chair Alan Kurtz and veteran board member Ralph Langenehim.

About 30 members of the Democratic central committee voted last week to endorse C. Pius Weibel, a former county board chair, and newcomer Shana Harrison over Kurtz and Langenheim in the March 18 primary election.

It's the first time — at least in recent memory — that the party has taken a position in a primary election, he said.

The main reason for choosing sides, Klein said, was Kurtz's decision in December 2012 to work with 10 county board Republicans and two other Democrats, including Langenheim, to become county board chairman. The county board's Democratic caucus earlier had chosen Michael Richards as their candidate for county board chair.

"One man joined the other caucus for the purposes of his own election. He came out and got some friends to reverse that for his own sake," Klein said of Kurtz. "That was not acceptable to the Champaign County Democratic Central Committee. It's an affront to all the Democratic voters in Champaign County who managed to elect a county board with a preponderance of Democrats, with those Democrats organized for a common goal."

The motion to endorse Weibel and Harrison was made by the party's executive committee, said Klein. There were no objections to the idea either by the executive committee or by the central committee, he said.

"This is all new ground for us," Klein noted. The party changed its rules about 10 years ago after a similar incident when former Democratic county board member Barbara Wysocki and a handful of allies joined with Republicans to elect her the county board chair over incumbent Democrat Patricia Avery.

"That's when we changed the bylaws to permit very limited endorsements in very limited cases. It was with that in mind," Klein said. "If we did not do this then what were we all about? We did not have the tools available last time to object to it. The only way you can object to the results of an election is to elect someone else.

"If you feel that the people you have nominated have betrayed you, what are you going to do about it? The answer is you have to work with them once they're elected. You're not 100 percent against what they're doing but you make an issue of it by proposing other candidates who are better than them and will not betray the common interests of the party."

Klein said Weibel and Harrison also are "more acceptable" to organized labor and to progressives in the party.

Asked if he felt bad opposing Langenheim, a World War II veteran and a member of the county board since 1998, Klein said, "I feel bad that we have to do this at all. I feel bad that we have to endorse in a primary when typically we don't. But Ralph knew what he was doing just as much as Al knew what he was doing. Ralph chose to run again. Neither feels bad about what they did so I don't feel bad about what we're doing.

"Endorsements in our party just aren't done, but neither is this betrayal done. We object to it at the only time and in the only way we can."

Langenheim and Kurtz said leaders were dividing the party.

Langenheim said endorsements "are divisive and in no way strengthen the party. However, this year the committee made endorsements strictly to punish those who did not join the faction supporting Michael Richards for board chair."

Langenheim said he did not support Richards "because I felt that he was the far less effective candidate. His conduct since that vote, for example his murky withdrawal from the race for state legislator, is a case in point."

"As to this new step by my party," said Kurtz, "in the words of the Bible, quoted by Abraham Lincoln, a House divided against itself cannot stand."

Richards announced that he would run to replace state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, in the Illinois House but then soon withdrew, saying it would be difficult to run for public office and continue to hold his state job in Springfield.

Meanwhile, Klein said the endorsement allows Weibel and Harrison "to say they're endorsed by the Champaign County Democrats. That's really it. There's no money."

And if Kurtz and/or Langenheim win their primary races this month, "we'll support them (in the general election). If we do not object now in this way, that's the only way you can effectively make your feelings known. Of course I don't want a Republican."

Rosenberg and Madigan

The biggest charge leveled at Sam Rosenberg, one of the candidates for state representative in the 103rd House District, is that he's already too cozy with House Speaker Michael Madigan, both in terms of ideology and campaign support.

Rosenberg sided with Madigan on cutting Illinois' corporate income tax rate, although he added that "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."

In terms of campaign funding, through Saturday Rosenberg had reported $38,897 in campaign support from Madigan-affiliated political organizations including the Friends of Michael J. Madigan and the Democratic Majority PAC. The support included spending on polling, and printing and postage of mail pieces.

The sum is about 48 percent of the $80,722 in itemized contributions that the Rosenberg campaign has reported so far. (By contrast the Ammons campaign has reported a little more than $10,000 in itemized donations so far).

In that respect Rosenberg isn't much different than the incumbent representative who has endorsed him.

State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, has reported more than $812,871 in contributions from Madigan-affiliated groups since her first run for state representative in 1996 (a race she lost to Republican Rick Winkel). The Madigan-connected contributions to her campaigns came from the Democratic Party of Illinois, $565,690; the House Dem Majority, $43,925; the Democratic Majority, $2,500; the Friends of Michael J. Madigan, $2,757; and the IL House Dem Majority, $197,999.

That $812,871 from Madigan groups is more than 50 percent of the $1.42 million in itemized campaign contributions that Jakobsson has collected since 1996.

Another Davis ranking

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, is more politically moderate than the average House Republican, according to a new rating by the American Conservative Union.

Davis earned a score of 56 percent from the ACU, significantly below the House Republican average of 76 percent. Davis' score also was the lowest among the six Republican House members from Illinois. Next-lowest was Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Manteno with 67 percent. The highest score was Rep. Peter Roskam's 89 percent.

House members were judged on 25 votes in 2013. More information is available at http://www.conservative.org/legislative-ratings.

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Sundays and Wednesdays and his "mailbag" column appears online on Fridays at News-Gazette.com. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at kacich@news-gazette.com.

Sections (2):News, Local
Tags (1):2014 election

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