Tom Kacich: Harold's campaign faced many obstacles
If Erika Harold's long-shot congressional campaign ever caught a break, I missed it.
The Urbana attorney announced in June that she would challenge freshman Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, in the 13th Congressional District Republican primary set for Tuesday, saying she believed she would "be the best candidate to represent this district."
"I think that in order to hold this district and to be able to represent the district effectively, you have to have somebody who can persuasively and compellingly communicate conservative values but also has a demonstrated track record of reaching out to people who are not traditional Republican voters," she told an enthusiastic crowd gathered on the steps of Urbana High School.
But almost from the start, Davis was able to use the power of incumbency and trade off on his years of service to the Illinois Republican Party to blunt any advances by Harold.
On Republican Day at the Illinois State Fair, Davis was allowed to speak to the crowd, and Harold wasn't. The state party barred Harold's campaign from using a "voter vault" database, arguing that Davis' campaign had helped collect some of the data and that giving it to her was essentially helping his opponent. Party leaders, Harold said in October, "attempted to discourage people who wanted to support or contribute to my candidacy."
Hobbled by weak fundraising, Harold challenged Davis to a series of 14 debates — one for each county in the district — in order to boost her name identification. Davis didn't rule it out, but he eventually agreed to only one face-to-face meeting with Harold and his other challenger, Moro veterinarian Michael Firsching. It was held eight days before the election — after early voting had already started — at a radio station far from the center of the sprawling 13th District.
Even when she tried another tack — holding town-hall meetings throughout the district — she ran into winter-weather problems. Some sessions were postponed; others were poorly attended because of the unusually harsh winter.
Harold has raised about $280,000 for her campaign — not a bad sum for someone challenging an incumbent — but Davis has brought in $1.7 million in the same period. In the last week, he received $43,500 in itemized contributions to Harold's $3,600.
Harold's campaign hasn't gotten a dime from other Republican political action committees. Davis has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from industry political action committees and from his congressional colleagues, including Speaker of the House John Boehner, and Illinois Reps. Aaron Schock, Peter Roskam and Randy Hultgren. The American Chemistry Council gave Davis an estimated $250,000 in free television spots last month, praising him for his support of "small business, Illinois agriculture and domestic energy production." The U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed him for re-election on Monday.
Even things that could have been perceived as breaks for Harold, such as her six-minute, nationally televised speech Sunday at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., didn't give her the political bounce it might have. In her speech (available at c-span.org/person/?erikaharold), Harold wasn't allowed to mention that she is a candidate for election.
The election is six days away, and polling says there's little reason to think Harold will be able to pull off an upset. She ran a good race, but Davis, by essentially not running a race and largely ignoring his opponents, ran a better one.
If she has any regrets about devoting 10 months of her life to trying to unseat Davis, Harold isn't showing it.
"Being able to participate in this campaign and meet the great people throughout this district has been one of the great privileges and honors of my life," said Harold, whose resume includes winning the Miss America pageant and attending Harvard Law School.
Rosenberg cash jackpot
The campaign of Democratic state representative candidate Sam Rosenberg reported a new haul of campaign contributions Monday night: $21,500 from nine groups with little or no connection to the Champaign-Urbana district where Rosenberg is running against Urbana City Council member Carol Ammons in Tuesday's primary election.
The $21,500 in donations, all received Monday, is more than the $20,770 in contributions that the Ammons campaign has reported in the entire race. Still, it may be an indication that Rosenberg's allies, particularly House Speaker Michael Madigan, are concerned about the closeness of the race.
The largest contribution, oddly, came from state Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City, a black lawmaker and a Madigan ally who is not only running for re-election to the Illinois House but also serves as a Calumet City alderman. Jones has his own primary race next week but gave $5,000 to Rosenberg's election campaign.
Other new contributors to Rosenberg include: $3,500 from the Illinois State Conference of the IBEW in Decatur; $3,000 from the Alliance for Living, a Northfield lobbying group; $1,000 from the Government Navigation Group, a Chicago lobbying group; $2,500 from Gtech Corp., a gambling technology firm; $1,000 from RAI Services of North Carolina, a division of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; $2,500 from the Florida-based Southern Wine and Spirits of America Inc.; $2,000 from J&J Ventures Gaming in Effingham; and $1,000 from Select Managment Resources LLC, a title loan company in Georgia.
With the new contributions, Rosenberg's campaign has now raised at least $144,033.
Rosenberg and Ammons are running for the 103rd Illinois House seat now held by state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana. She decided not to seek a seventh term.
Meanwhile, Ammons announced the endorsement Tuesday of Emily's List, a national group that supports pro-choice female Democratic candidates. The endorsement includes a $500 campaign contribution.
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or firstname.lastname@example.org.