Tom Kacich: Prussing ready and willing to tackle Senate race

Tom Kacich: Prussing ready and willing to tackle Senate race

Nature abhors a vacuum, said Aristotle. So does politics.

Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing has proven that principle by suddenly becoming the most public, most outspoken and biggest fish in the sea of heretofore quiet candidates for the appointment to succeed Champaign Democrat Mike Frerichs in the Illinois Senate.

Just two weeks ago Prussing said she had no interest in the Senate seat, that she still had "plenty to do" as mayor of Urbana.

But no one else stepped up very publicly to grab the mantle of a favorite to replace Frerichs, who in less than a month will become state treasurer.

Former Champaign County Board Chairman C. Pius Weibel said he'd be interested, as did Danville City Council member Michael Puhr. The list of Democrats who looked at the seat and rejected it is much longer: Andy Quarnstrom, Paul Faraci, Patricia Avery, George Gollin, Pat Devaney, Don Gerard and Carol Ammons.

Al Klein and Frank Wright, the Champaign and Vermilion County Democratic chairmen who had hoped to make the appointment privately and quietly, now have a problem. Prussing is all-in. What effect does that have on other candidates for the appointment, and how can Klein and Wright reject her overture without offending her and her allies?

Good luck, gentlemen.

One thing Klein and Wright have been clear on is that they want someone who not only can move into the Senate seat right away but also can devote the time and energy to running in 2016. They essentially want a candidate for a six-year term. Is Prussing, who turns 74 years old in February and would be the second-oldest member of the Senate if appointed, willing and able to do that?

"I'm younger than people who are in the United States Senate and people who have run for president so I'm not unable to do the job," said Prussing, who frequently walks the mile from her home to the Urbana City Building. "I don't know who else is in the running but I think I'm pretty well qualified and I think you should take that into consideration."

When I suggested that serving in the Senate while running for election would be demanding on anyone, she was ready.

"I will tell you that it is not more demanding than being mayor. That is not as hard a job as this," said Prussing. "I think it's a tough job but you can't say it's tougher than mayor. You can't say that it's tougher than I'm doing as mayor because I'm not a figurehead. I'm actually doing the work."

Prussing acknowledged that earlier she said she wasn't interested in the job.

"But then people talked to me and I thought, you know, we really need somebody good in Springfield to work on the kind of issues that affect local government. Too many times there's just no reality check with local government. The Legislature has this tendency to just spend things without looking at the consequences," she said. "The (charity care exemption for hospitals) is a classic example."

Prussing noted her government career includes county board, county auditor, state representative, mayor and a run for Congress.

"If somebody wants to say they're younger than me, fine. But what have they done and what's their potential for getting things done for this district?" said Prussing. "This district needs somebody really good in that position. So does every district, but this one especially is more dependent on state government than others. It really requires somebody good, and I'm willing to have my qualifications compared to anybody else's."

But with her list of qualifications over a 42-year political career comes lots of positions taken, votes cast, statements uttered and other things that can be used against her by a Republican opponent in a competitive district.

"All I can say is that if everybody loves you, maybe you're not taking on tough issues," she said. "Somebody's got to make the tough decisions and I'm willing to do it. I'm willing to say no to people."

Redenbaugh response

Not Scott Redenbaugh but his good friend and roommate Matt Duco sent an explanation last week for Redenbaugh's sudden resignation from the Champaign County Board earlier this month, about three days after he was sworn in as a Democratic board member.

Duco wrote, in part, "Here is what happened: Scott decided to run for the open county board seat well over a year ago. He then met a wonderful Irish girl who was in Champaign studying abroad. She moved back to Ireland but not before they fell in love. She is a doctor now in Ireland, and in November they got engaged. Scott is going to be moving to Ireland very soon to get married and live with his new wife."

Duco said Redenbaugh's talents as a campaign strategist — he worked for congressional candidate Ann Callis in Champaign County — "were recognized and he was offered a job with (Chicago) Mayor (Rahm) Emanuel's reelection campaign" in Chicago.

"Scott knew that he would be resigning the county board seat next year anyway in order to move to Ireland, and ultimately decided that he should just resign it immediately so that whoever replaces him has every opportunity to be involved with the decisions the county board will be making from day one. Therefore, he resigned the first week that he was sworn in and moved to Chicago," Duco explained. "I know that these decisions were not easy for Scott. He looked forward very much to serving on the county board. He had a lot of ideas to help the county. He grew up here, and his family lives here. He felt very strongly that he would be letting down those that supported him and voted for him by not serving all four years of his term."

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

Sections (2):News, Local

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
MSJ66 wrote on December 14, 2014 at 8:12 am

ANYBODY but her. I am a staunch Democrat and have never found a Republican that I could vote for but if they trot out Laurel Prussing it might be my first time were she to actually run in 2016.

MahometMatt wrote on December 14, 2014 at 12:12 pm

I knew it!  The Mayor could not get through an interview about vying for the state senate seat without making clear that she would be heading to Springfield to give Carle a legislative spanking it won't soon forget.

787 wrote on December 14, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Even IF she gets the position... she can't do it by herself.


Joe American wrote on December 14, 2014 at 2:12 pm

Dear Santa,

Please, please, PLEASE give us Prussing as our next State Senator.  That way it will assure a win for the GOP when she has to face the voters.  


Joe American

p.s.  I've been a very good boy this year.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on December 15, 2014 at 3:12 am
Profile Picture

"The Legislature has this tendency to just spend things without looking at the consequences," she said.

The lack of self-awareness that this lady has is truly awe-inspiring.

Does she actually believe that more than a handful of the voters in this district want her to be their State Senator?

If Klein and Wright want to gift-wrap this seat for the Republicans in the next election, picking Prussing would be the best way to do it.  Even Don Gerard, had he been interested, would be less of a forehead-slapping choice.

These two county chairs have known for a long time that Frerichs was going to run for state office in 2014.  That's a long time to line up strong potential replacements.  If Prussing is the best they can come up with, then that will make them look stunningly incompetent.

ilmsff7 wrote on December 19, 2014 at 4:12 pm

You think every Democrat wants the seat now?  There would be about a dozen-candidate GOP primary in 2016.  Senator Prussing could make for low-hanging GOP fruit.