Tom Kacich: Durbin's luck will likely hold
There are those who consider Gov. Pat Quinn the luckiest politician in Illinois — something that's hard to dispute given the way he became governor, succeeding convicted felon Rod Blagojevich.
But Sen. Dick Durbin can make a pretty good case for No. 2.
Durbin, in 1996 a congressman endorsed for the Senate seat by retiring Sen. Paul Simon, won election that year over Republican Al Salvi, an anti-abortion state representative who was swimming upstream against the growing abortion-rights movement. Durbin won with 56 percent. Six years later, Durbin outraised his Republican opponent, Jim Durkin, by 10-to-1 and beat him with 60 percent of the vote. In 2008, Durbin again outraised his GOP opponent, this time little-known physician Steven Sauerberg, by 10-to-1 and won with 68 percent of the vote.
Durbin probably won't be as lucky this year — it's not going to be a good year for Democrats and he's facing a better-known Republican, Jim Oberweis, who is independently wealthy — but Durbin likely will be lucky enough to win a fourth term.
One of the reasons, oddly, is that so many of his Democratic colleagues in the U.S. Senate are much more vulnerable. The big national campaign money will be directed against weakened Democratic senators, many of them in red states, like Mark Pryor in Arkansas, Kay Hagen in North Carolina, Mark Begich in Alaska, as well as popular Democrats hampered by President Barack Obama's high negatives, such as Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, Al Franken in Minnesota and Mark Warner in Virginia.
For the most part, Durbin, in bright blue Illinois, is still off the radar of the big-money national groups.
That's why you see Oberweis practically begging those national special-interest groups to look at his race.
"We need to get this to the national level. This is going to be a very expensive race if we're going to win this race," Oberweis said Monday in Champaign. "Mr. Durbin has millions and millions in his campaign account. We have a little less than a million in our campaign account. We need some help. I can't do it alone."
Although updated campaign disclosure reports are due within the next week, Oberweis' last report showed that of the $757,697 he raised, $500,000 was a personal loan.
And the National Republican Senatorial Committee doesn't even acknowledge Oberweis in the drop-down menu in the "Daybreak" category of races on its website.
That committee and other groups are focusing their attention on candidates considered more likely to be successful, such as Scott Brown in New Hampshire, Monica Welby in Oregon, Tom Cotton in Arkansas, Joni Ernst in Iowa and Terri Land in Michigan.
Win those races and one more and the Republicans gain control of the Senate.
Republican and conservative groups will pour almost all of their assets into those races considered most winnable. Why would they devote money to a longer shot like Oberweis — down 13 percent in the most recent public poll — when there are easier pickings all around the country?
"Unfortunately," said Oberweis, "the way these things work is the national groups tend to put their money into those races that are very, very close, and I believe that we really need to see 4 to 5 points (difference) for us to bring the national guys in in a big way."
Unless there's a big political shift in the next two months, that's not going to happen, and Dick Durbin's luck will continue.
Republican county chairmen in the 106th House District want to have a replacement candidate for state Rep. Josh Harms, R-Watseka, by Aug. 15, says John McGlasson of Livingston County.
McGlasson is head of the five-member committee that will name Harms' replacement. Interestingly, two of the other members of the committee also are among the four announced candidates to replace Harms on the ballot.
Harms, a freshman lawmaker, announced last week that he was withdrawing as a candidate for re-election and returning to a teaching job. He cited unspecified family issues as the reason.
The four announced candidates include former state Sen. Shane Cultra of Onarga, who also is the Iroquois County Republican chairman; Parkland College Trustee Tom Bennett of Gibson City, who also is the Ford County Republican chairman; Susan Wynn Bence of Watseka, an aide to Harms; and Jason Bunting of rural Cabery, head of the Livingston County Farm Bureau. But others can apply to be considered, McGlasson said, by filling out an application form from the House Republican Organization. To get an application, he said, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The five members of the committee will review applications on July 22 and conduct interviews on July 27.
But McGlasson said the process to choose Harms' successor would not be open to the public.
"It is what it is. It's a party process at this point," he said. "It would be virtually impossible, short of another election, to have anything more open. This is just the way we decided to do it."
Asked if there was a front-runner among the four current candidates, McGlasson said "no."
And he said he wasn't worried that the GOP candidate would be hampered by getting such a late start in the general election campaign.
"It's such a Republican district that I don't think they will have any problem," he said. "I would be very surprised if the person we selected didn't win in November."
The Democratic candidate in the 106th District is William Nutter, a member of the Watseka City Council. Two years ago Harms was elected without any opposition.
Meanwhile, Harms' most recent campaign disclosure report, filed July 2, indicates that he may have known for some time that he wouldn't be running again. Between the period April 1 and June 30, he raised no money for his re-election campaign and spent just $3,531, none of it on election-related expenses, such as brochures, yard signs, advertisements or voter data.
The first Champaign mayoral candidate to file a second quarter fundraising report is Champaign council member Deborah Frank Feinen. It shows that she had $16,246 on hand on June 30, up from $7,606 on April 1.
Feinen, one of four announced candidates for mayor in next spring's municipal election, raised $6,350 in itemized contributions in the second quarter and $2,999 in unitemized donations.
Major donors included her mother, Linda Frank, $1,000; local businessmen Jeffrey Hartman, Michael Hartman, Joe Lamb and William Peifer, $500; her former law partners, Traci Nally, $500, and Wendy Bauer, $400; and Candlewood Estates LLC of Mahomet, $300.
None of the other announced mayoral candidates — Mayor Don Gerard, council member Karen Foster or businessman Joe Petry, who is president of the Champaign park board — has filed second quarter disclosure reports.
Sanitary district disclosure
Following last Sunday's column on local governments and their uneven adherence to a state law requiring the public posting of total compensation figures, the Urbana & Champaign Sanitary District is now putting the information online. Previously the information was available only in person at the sanitary district office.
"The Total Compensation information is now available under the 'Employment' tab," wrote Rick Manner, the sanitary district's executive director. "I think that is the most logical place for it. It is just two clicks away, so I think we're now making the information very easy to find. And of course, we'll continue to respond to any inquiries about this, or any other issues, as best we can."
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at email@example.com.