Tom Kacich: Magazine examines Callis' campaign narrative

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 every Friday. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at

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wayward wrote on April 13, 2014 at 8:04 am

Here's the link:
Realistically, neither Callis nor Davis grew up poor. Lance Callis is a successful lawyer and an astute investor. Davis's parents owned the McDonald's in Taylorville. If Callis wants to talk about her Irish immigrant grandmother or Davis wants to talk about working at his parents' McDonalds, fine. Lots of people in IL-13 have ancestors who immigrated from Ireland, and many people have also worked fast food.

Political Observer wrote on April 13, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Wow!! Happy Palm Sunday to you, too, News-Gazette!

Have the area Bishops, by any chance, declared Palm Sunday, 2014, as a Special Day of Extreme Hatred Toward Democrats?!  (It's hard to keep up with the bishops' letters to their parishes these days.)

In any event, those are 3 really, really solid column-items we have here today.  May all the employees of the News-Gazette be many, many times blessed when they cash their N-G Christmas bonus checks at the end of 2014!

It's always hard to argue with the logic and the framing of the issues by the News-Gazette.  Oh, the Evil, Evil Riches of Ann Callis and Michael Frerichs!  That they have amassed such extreme amounts of money, therefore let us rend our garments and gnash our teeth!  For doth the Lord not say, that she who has great wealth must necessarily abuse it in exactly the same way as does the Much-Beloved, Young Sir Rodney of Taylorville, who hath achieved his narrow temporal victories only by resorting to making ridicule of our many esteemed healers, yea by even calling one of them "Dr. Radical" and producing graven images of him snapping those hated surgical gloves?  Let us also all be grateful to Young Sir Rodney, for calling over 40 times from the tops of the mountains throughout the land that health care shall forever be abolished, all in the name of that which is righteous and good!

But, in the interest of balance in the great media before the people, shall the great Golden Arches of the sky ever be open to those whose families forever purvey the pink slime that supersizes the people and robs them of their health and essence?  Doth one who sees all, and knows all, not knoweth whereth be the real cooked cattle carcass, as once was so fervently demanded by St. Clara of Peller in her Meditations at Wendy's?  Perhaps through the Great Wisdom of Father John of Shimkus himself, Young Sir Rodney of Taylorville may some day come to realize that there is even a much, much greater need for health care as a result of the long-running ministry of his family...rather than the lesser need that he so strongly proclaims.  May we all hope for a super-sizing of Young Sir Rodney himself so that he can some day move beyond his long-established identity as the Mini-Me version of Father John of Shimkus.

And further, by the heavenly doctrine of Divine False Equivalence in the Media, doth not St. Tom of Kacich prophesize that for she who hailed from rural Troy, Lo shall she not misuse her millions in exactly the same manner as doth those who have followed the fallen paths of  Young Sir Rodney of Taylorville and Young Sir Rodney of Baloneyvich?  Hath not the lesson been learned that he who tries to amass such piles of the Devil's luchre must spend great amounts of time laundering it, roving among the fallen souls, seeking its return, and otherwise using it in unholy ways that bring great grief, the rending of garments and the gnashing of teeth?  Shall such activities increase a person's faith and convictions?  (Probably not so much the former, but perhaps, indeed, the latter!)

And did not the Goliath of Gifford slay the great thinker and strategist known in all the land for his love of the beverage tea and its partakers (and also for his assistance to St. Andrew of Breitbart, the Patron Saint of Dirty Tricksters)?  And though this great battle was widely-chronicled as the "Bambi Frozen in the Headlights Campaign of 2012," Lo, did not the martyred J.C. arise yet once again to a great public stature, as a highly-valued member of the esteemed Champaign School Board, a position that he had earlier been denied in attaining?  Is this not a lesson that the more than a million dollars that the Giant has accumulated in sponsorship can not stop the progress of one who has steadfastly pursued his divinity studies for many years and is utterly devoted to destroying so-called "Government Schools?"  And aren't such great sums of money subject also to great ridicule when the twice-martyred J.C. can partner with a failed ice cream cone salesman from Philo and St. Tom of Kacich himself to bring contempt for hated rulers of great lands, simply through the use of  false charges of ethics violations, that require essentially no expense at all to make and promulgate, and that never seem to have any serious blowback?!

Finally, shall there not be another 30 shekels of silver awarded to St. Barbara of Wysocki for her masterful role as the leader of the League of Wysocki Voters, and for her long history of ripping power away from her hated Democratic "colleagues" in order to empower her extremely wealthy friends, such as those in her beloved "Reboot Illinois!"?  She shall indeed be forever hailed for helping to comfort the comforted, while also afflicting the afflicted, while verifying the prophecy that to he who has much, will more be given, while to he that has little, shall even that be taken from him!  May St. Barbara of Wysocki follow always in the direction of her role models, St. Benedict of Arnold and St. Judas of Iscariot, reaching out to the other side to empower them in any way she can!  May we wish her all the success in the world in her "Democrats for Bruce Rauner!" campaign, as she attempts to "Reboot Illinois!" in the image of St. Mitch of Indiana and St. Scott of Wisconsin, even as they stripped the carcasses of their home states bare and privatized the public wealth for their now-even-wealthier friends!  May St. Barbara, with the help of her hero Bruce Rauner and her beloved organization "Reboot Illinois!" now loot, rape, pillage and "Destroy Illinois!"...and may she ever be remembered as the Patron Saint of teachers of history who fail to do their homework and also of athletes who have exhibited great pride in helping to lead their opponents to victory!

lga wrote on April 14, 2014 at 7:04 am