Tom Kacich: 106th House District race heating up

Tom Kacich: 106th House District race heating up

Tom Bennett is getting all the publicity in the 106th Illinois House District race, given his appointment last week by Republican officials to take the place of retiring state Rep. Josh Harms, R-Watseka, on the November ballot.

But Bill Nutter is in the race too, although he’s been pretty quiet.

Bennett, the Ford County Republican chairman from Gibson City, also is chairman of the Parkland College board and is fairly well known in the district north of Champaign-Urbana for his run against Harms in the Republican primary two years ago.

Nutter, 54, is a Watseka City Council member and a firefighter in Aurora, about 100 miles away.

He says that having a new opponent doesn’t change his campaign.

“No, not at all. I’m not sure what Tom stands for, to be honest with you. I haven’t heard him say anything that changes my approach to things," Nutter said last week. “But I’m knocking on doors and such and trying to get out and meet people. I’m hoping that Iroquois County is familiar with some of the things I’ve done. I’ve been trying to get out into other counties who may not know who I am.”

Nutter is up against big numbers in 106th District: an overwhelmingly Republican electorate, the lack of campaign funds (Nutter hasn’t filed a campaign disclosure report yet and says he will run a “modest” campaign) and apparently no help from the state Democratic Party.

“I have not heard from them yet,” he said.

No fool he, Nutter is running like a Republican. He wants “change” in Springfield, the temporary income tax increase to expire and more local control of government.

“I think a deal was made. I think we need to figure out a different approach. Let ’em expire and then go back to the drawing board and see if there are places where we can become more efficient,” Nutter said of the 5 percent state income tax rate set to roll back to 3.75 percent on Dec. 31. “I’m a little disappointed that (Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce) Rauner has all of a sudden changed his position, but I think a deal was made. Let ’em expire and make sure were as efficient as we can be before we start raising taxes again.

“For local communities and such, local governments they need the power to direct their own future, I think there are things in Springfield where they are trying to overgovern, and I think by doing that it limits what local communities can do. Springfield has a lot of problems to solve on their own.”

Nutter said he hopes voters look beyond political labels.

“I hope people kind of separate the idea of Democrat and Republicans, versus somebody that will represent the district well. That’s my goal, to try to represent them the best I can. I think people want change. That was impression I got during the primary election.”

Frerichs/Cross poll

A new automated poll of the state treasurer’s race between Republican Tom Cross of Oswego and Democrat Mike Frerichs of Champaign gives Cross a lead of 45 percent to 34 percent.

The poll, of 1,005 likely Illinois voters, was taken Thursday. It has margin of error of 3.1 percent, meaning Cross’ lead could be anywhere from 8 percent to 14 percent.

Cross leads Frerichs 48 percent to 30 percent downstate, 57 percent to 27 percent in Chicago’s collar counties and 45 percent to 34 percent in suburban Cook County. Frerichs leads in Chicago, 52 percent to 25 percent.

But it’s early in this generally low-interest race.

“Cross’ lead over Democrat Michael Frerichs may be attributable to his better name recognition alone,” pollster Gregg Durham said, noting that Cross had been minority leader of the Illinois House Republicans. “There’s lots of time for this one to tighten up.”

The poll was taken by the group Reboot Illinois.

The Illinois Republican Party issued a press release saying that the poll results showed that “Frerichs’ support for the Quinn-Madigan agenda of tax hikes and broken budges is crushing him with voters.”

But the Frerichs campaign disputed the results, saying its own polling shows a much closer race and that Cross’ advantage now is familiarity.

“While Tom Cross is better known than Mike Frerichs on August 1st, we have the resources and game plan to turn that around and show voters there’s a clear choice between a prepared and experienced finance official and a 20-year Springfield insider to be the next state treasurer. Mike Frerichs has detailed plans to clean up the mess created by the current Republican treasurer and when voters tune into the race in the fall, we are confident they will choose what Mike has been talking about for over a year now; bringing competency and transparency to the treasurer’s office while making wise investments to help build our economy from the middle out,” said Zach Koutsky, Frerichs’ campaign manager.

Two things:

The Koutsky statement probably contains all of Frerichs’ fall campaign message in two efficient sentences.

Second, what’s most interesting about the Reboot Illinois polls so far is that voters are being remarkably independent in their election selections. Republican Cross leads in the treasurer’s race by 11 percent while GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner is up by 10 percentage points and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka leads by 19 percentage points. But in the races for U.S. Senate, attorney general and secretary of state, incumbent Democrats Dick Durbin (up 15 percent), Lisa Madigan (leads by 17 percent) and Jesse White (up 29 percent) have commanding advantages.

Boehner with Davis

House Speaker John Boehner will attend a private fundraiser with U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis on Monday night in Davis’ hometown of Taylorville.

But no details of the event — including where it is being held — are being released.

It’s similar to the situation two years ago when Boehner came to Champaign for a $250 per person Davis fundraiser just before the 2012 general election. That event was closed to the press. The result was no media photos or video of Davis and Boehner, but plenty of images of protesters outside of the event.

More Rauner money

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner dropped another $1.5 million into his campaign fund last week, bringing his personal investment to $9.57 million. The Rauner campaign had raised at least $31.87 million through Friday, including a new list of other donors whose names included Dr. Tom Pliura of LeRoy, $1,000. Two years ago Pliura challenged state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, in an Illinois Senate race.

Rauner also listed a $11,213 in-kind contribution from Gary Melvin of Effingham. Melvin, the CEO and majority owner of Rural King stores, gave the Rauner campaign use of his personal airplane.

Breakfasts in Piatt County

The Piatt County Republican Central Committee will host two free breakfasts this month, according to Jim Ayers, chairman of the Piatt County GOP.

The first will be from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Aug. 9 at the Mansfield American Legion Post, 28 N. Jefferson, Mansfield. The second will be from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Aug. 16 at the Second Story Banquet center, 111 E. Bodman St., Bement. Local, state and federal candidates, or the representatives, are expected at the events.

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

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