Tom Kacich: Magazine examines Callis' campaign narrative
Democratic congressional candidate Ann Callis will be outed today in a piece in The New York Times Sunday magazine. It's not for anything she has said — she's been cautious enough to say little in the campaign so far — but for how her candidacy narrative, that is, her biography, her personal story, is just so darned unappealing, so lacking in charm.
"Her privileged background does not make for the onerous, up-from-nothing story that every politician today craves, especially one who is continually reminding everyone that 'people are hurting' and vowing to 'do what's right for the middle class,' writes the Times' magazine's chief national correspondent Mark Leibovich.
Callis, Liebovich claims, overcomes her lack of personal hardship by borrowing from her parents' and grandparents' stories. Her father, Lance Callis, once worked in a steel mill (although he became a wealthy lawyer and riverboat casino owner). Her grandmother, an Irish immigrant, eventually became head nurse at a Granite City hospital.
That's interesting because that's not the narrative that voters around here have heard. I've heard Callis speak in Champaign-Urbana and in Bloomington, and the narrative I hear most is about her son, Elliott, a Cornell graduate and an Army Ranger.
No matter, the story that is unsaid in Callis' narrative — which Liebovich never really touches and her Republican opponent, Rep. Rodney Davis, might — is just how "privileged" Callis is. She's not just a well-off retired Illinois judge. She is rich, and would be likely one of the wealthiest members of Illinois' congressional delegation with a net worth of at least $3 million.
Her U.S. House disclosure statement lists a variety of assets held by her spouse, James Halloran, between January 2012 and June 2013. Included is stock in Cablevision Systems, Madison Square Garden, AMC Networks, AT&T, Honeywell, Pepsico, Anheuser-Busch, Cisco Systems, Kroger, McDonalds, Wal Mart, Walt Disney and Wellpoint Inc.
The biggest assets, though, are an ownership in John D. McGurk's Irish Pub in south St. Louis, rental property in St. Louis, Scottsdale, Ariz., and Columbia, Ill., a 75 percent ownership in Halloran's law firm, a 25 percent interest in a St. Louis funeral home and a checking account with between $100,000 and $250,000 in it.
All of that wealth could become a prime target for Davis or for the interest groups that will be running television ads in the 13th Congressional District (which includes Champaign-Urbana) this fall, particularly if the Callis campaign continues to try to portray the race as between Davis and "special interests" and Callis and "middle-class families."
The gist of Liebovich's column, by the way, is that candidates today go out of their way to come up with compelling narratives.
I remember Rod Blagojevich's tear-inducing tale of how his father worked at a Chicago steel mill. Rod didn't have it so tough, attending Northwestern for his undergrad degree and Pepperdine for his law degree. Rod's story wasn't nearly as dramatic as his father's, so dad's story became the stuff of TV commercials. Sad to say, it worked.
Frerichs passes million-dollar mark
State Sen. Mike Frerichs, the Champaign Democrat who is his party's nominee for state treasurer, has more than $1 million in his campaign fund, according to a quarterly campaign disclosure report filed last week.
His Republican opponent, state Rep. Tom Cross of Oswego, has not yet filed his quarterly report.
Frerichs reported $1.082 million on hand, which his campaign noted made him "one of the best funded treasurer candidates in Illinois history."
A direct comparison with the candidates four years ago isn't possible since reporting laws have changed since 2010. But on June 30, 2010, Republican treasurer candidate Dan Rutherford had $1.078 million on hand, and Democrat Alexi Giannoulias had $1.160 million in his treasury.
Frerichs' first quarter donors included a number of area residents, such as John Wetzel of Champaign, $2,000; Richard Noel of Champaign, $1,000; Bruce Hannon of Champaign, $750; Tom Fiedler of Champaign, Doug Larson of Champaign, Rosann Noel of Champaign, Barry Howell of Urbana, Nezar Kassem of Mahomet, each $500; Steve Beckett of Urbana, Robert Riley of Urbana, Charlie Hoss of Champaign, Joe Petry of Champaign, Joy Thornton-Walter of Champaign, and Dave and Glenda Kietzmann of Danville, each $250; and David Wickness of Champaign and Steve Seibert of Champaign, each $200.
His biggest donors, though, are his Democratic Senate colleagues and labor unions. Frerichs got $50,000 from Senate President John Cullerton of Chicago and $10,000 from Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, plus $27,600 from the Illinois Laborers' Legislative Committee; $20,000 from AFSCME Council 31 and the Illinois Education Association, $15,000 from the Illinois Federation of Teachers, $10,000 from the Associated Firefighters of Illinois.
Frerichs campaign manager Zach Koutsky said that the Champaign Democrat has raised $1.12 million from 1,193 donors.
Independent maps campaign
Last week a group of local volunteers handed over petitions signed by more than 3,500 area voters who favor the Yes for Independent Maps constitutional amendment proposal that could be on the November general election ballot.
Urbana volunteer Trent Shepard said more than 10,000 of the 75,000 signatures collected statewide by volunteers came from Champaign County.
"What I can confirm," said Michael Kolenc, manager of the campaign that aims to change the way that Illinois legislative district boundaries are drawn, "is that more than 10,000 signatures were collected in Champaign County and that that is the top area in the state."
Shepard said the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce office would continue to collect petition signatures through Tuesday.
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Sundays and Wednesdays. He also writes a Tom's Mailbag column that appears at news-gazette.com every Friday. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at email@example.com.