Tom Kacich: House GOP group getting involved in 103rd

Tom Kacich: House GOP group getting involved in 103rd

For the first time since 2002, the Illinois House Republican Organization is on the ground in the legislative district that includes Champaign-Urbana.

Kristin Williamson, the GOP candidate in the 103rd House District, has a full-time staff member assigned to her campaign from House Republicans.

"We absolutely think she can win," said House GOP staffer Garret Hill, who moved to Champaign-Urbana last week and said he'll remain here through Election Day. "Illinois is ready for change at the moment.

"And I know that a Republican hasn't been elected in this district, but Kristin is just a phe- nomenal candidate with a phenomenal story. We feel she represents the issues of the district. As long as we can get her message out, we think she definitely has a good shot at winning."

Williamson is opposed by Democrat Carol Ammons in the district that has been represented by Democratic Rep. Naomi Jakobsson of Urbana since 2003.

"I don't think since Tom Berns we've had anybody here," Hill said in reference to the Urbana Republican state representative who was beaten by Jakobsson in November 2002. "So I'm really excited to be the first person here in 10 years. I'm glad to be here."

Ammons said she has turned down staff assistance offered by House Speaker Michael Madigan's organization.

"They offered two staffers early on, but we decided to stay with our own staffing team," Ammons said. "We don't have anybody from the speaker's office on our campaign."

The Democratic Party of Illinois, also headed by Madigan, may be called upon to help with voter registration and polling, Ammons said, "but as far as staff is concerned, I think we have a good team of folks who are working on the ground and are familiar with the area."

Meanwhile, Hill said Williamson's campaign is only one of three downstate that House Republicans are involved in — the other two are in the 115th District in deep southern Illinois and the 96th District covering parts of Decatur and Springfield.

Hill said when he moves into a district, he is often considered the campaign manager, but this situation is different.

Williamson "already has a pretty good team set up, so I plan on working with what they're already doing and making sure that they're firing on all cylinders," he said.

Williamson said BankChampaign President Mark Ballard is her campaign director, and she also has a "dozen or so volunteers leading up key parts of the campaign."

She said that because "of the hard work we have put into the campaign, (House Republican Leader Jim) Durkin and the House Republican Organization have taken notice. I am honored to have them all-in with me."

Congressional debates

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, said he is "very eager" to debate his 13th Congressional District Democratic opponent, former Madison County Judge Ann Callis.

Callis and Davis will likely be the only candidates in the congressional district that stretches from Champaign-Urbana on the northeast to Edwardsville and Collinsville on the southwest.

Third-party candidate Josh Dill of Springfield is on the ballot now but likely will be removed later this month because his campaign collected far fewer petition signatures than required by state law.

"We'll decide based on what we can put together, how many times, where and when," Davis said of the debates. "I debated my last opponent (David Gill) more than a couple times, and frankly, showed up at a couple that he didn't show up at."

Callis' spokesman said she, too, wants to debate.

"Ann looks forward to debating Congressman Davis and discussing her record of looking out for Illinois' middle-class families versus Congressman Davis' record of taxpayer-funded perks for himself, steakhouse dinners for lobbyists and tax breaks for his wealthy donors," said Callis spokesman David Miyashiro.

Rauner help

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner — who has given $1.15 million to Illinois GOP candidates and groups in the last 20 months — is stepping up to help 106th House District candidate Tom Bennett of Gibson City.

Bennett is a late entry, being chosen last month by Republican leaders in the solidly GOP district. He'll face Watseka City Council member William Nutter on Nov. 4.

Rauner will be the top draw at an Aug. 16 fundraiser for Bennett at the Railside Country Club in Gibson City. The event begins at 6 p.m. Tickets are $25 per person. Call Bennett at 784-8540.

Bennett, incidentally, filed his statement of organization with the State Board of Elections on Monday. It shows that he had no campaign funds on hand at that time.

Rauner's probably good for some financial help, though. In addition to the $10.8 million he's already given his own campaign, Rauner and his wife have given to the following area GOP candidates and groups: $10,600 to Williamson, $5,000 to the Champaign County Republican Central Committee and $2,500 to Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten.

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

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