Tom Kacich: Rauner backs candidate in state House race

Tom Kacich: Rauner backs candidate in state House race

Gov. Bruce Rauner has jumped into the 102nd House District Republican primary, endorsing former state Rep. Brad Halbrook in what for now is a three-way race.

Halbrook, of Shelbyville, is running with Jim Acklin of Ogden and Randy Peterson of Paris to replace retiring state Rep. Adam Brown, who announced this summer that he would not try for a fourth term in 2016.

"The governor is supporting Brad because he's the right fit for the district and supports the governor's Turnaround Agenda," said Rauner spokesman Lance Trover.

The 102nd District includes all or parts of Champaign, Douglas, Vermilion, Shelby, Moultrie, Macon and Edgar counties. It is largely rural and heavily Republican and its biggest county, by population, is Champaign.

"I think it's a positive," Halbrook said of Rauner's backing. "I'm an advocate for the Turnaround Agenda."

Asked if Rauner's endorsement also would include financial support, Halbook said, "I think that's the case. With the governor's endorsement and financial backing, I think this is huge."

Both Peterson and Acklin said they were disappointed with Rauner's decision, but would press on.

"We worked very hard for Bruce and I agree with his message. I think they all need to be in a room right now, working on the budget but I obviously still support the governor and what he's trying to do," said Peterson. "But from a campaign standpoint we're going to keep doing what we're doing, working for the middle class and the working class that are paying all the bills."

Acklin said "it's not going to discourage me from moving forward."

"Without saying too much I guess I would say that I'm disappointed. I've never even been contacted by Rauner's people and would have liked to have the opportunity to sit down and visit with them. I'm not sure what went behind that thought process," he said. "I'm a competitor and an old marathoner and I know that this isn't a sprint but a marathon and I'm just going to put my head down and work harder."

Racial justice task force

When Champaign County Board Chair Pattsi Petrie left Thursday night's board meeting her plan for appointing a racial justice task force called for no more than 11 members with perhaps one elected official on it, some University of Illinois faculty experts and a lot of regular folks, "people who are the boots on the ground," as she put it.

By Friday morning things had changed quite a bit, she admitted.

Now she was talking about a 21-member task force, focused on particular subsets such as justice, housing, and jobs and the economy. And she said she had "no obligation" to choose anyone from the county board or the Champaign or Urbana city councils to sit on the panel. There would still be UI faculty members and "community people," she said.

"I'm brilliant in the morning," Petrie quipped of her revised plan.

"I think this is the way to go. If we go with the same old, same old, we're going to get the same results," she said. "We've got to do something different."

After Thursday night's sometimes-contentious meeting Petrie voiced the hope that the task force — whose only stated charge is to report to the county board "a list of recommended actions to address issues of racial disparity" — could be a "precipitator" for real progress.

"That's the way I would like to see this or otherwise it's just one more report on the shelf. I would hope to see that when we're done there will be real inroads on this issue," she said.

The task force has 18 months to issue its report, and Petrie said she envisions the subsets issuing a "formative report" within six months.

Delegate slates

The Republican presidential campaign groups in Illinois are busy assembling their slates of delegates and alternate delegates to next summer's convention in Cleveland.

GOP voters will choose most of the state's delegates by congressional district in the March 15 primary election.

So far, only former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have announced their 13th Congressional District slates.

But a number of Champaign County Republicans say they're on slates committed to particular presidential candidates. For example, former county board members Joan Dykstra of Savoy (Carly Fiorina) and Stephanie Holderfield of Mahomet (Dr. Ben Carson) are part of full slates that haven't been announced.

Former U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson of Urbana is on a delegate slate committed to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

Here are the full slates disclosed so far:

Jeb Bush: state Rep. Adam Brown of Champaign, Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten and Martin Davis (father of U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis) of Taylorville, delegates; Heidy Carruthers of Edwardsville, Bruce Kettelkamp of Taylorville and Jerrold Stocks of Mt. Zion, alternate delegates.

Rand Paul: former Champaign school board member and state Senate candidate John Bambenek of Champaign, Fred Floreth of Springfield and Stanley Evan Drainer of Jerseyville, delegates; Brett Jackson of Urbana and Trevor Ferguson of Jerseyville, alternate delegates.

John Kasich: Champaign County Auditor John Farney, Springfield Alderman Cory Jobe and Kevin Breheny of Fairview Heights; Champaign County Board member Jim McGuire, Seth McMillan of Taylorville and Michael P. Murphy of Hillsboro, alternate delegates.

Young Democrats poll

The Champaign County Young Democrats conducted a presidential straw poll at their 2014 awards dinner last week and the winner was Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. He got 25 votes to 17 for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and two for former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley. The dinner honored State Treasure Mike Frerichs of Champaign and state Rep. Carol Ammons of Urbana as the Democrats of the Year.

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette reporter and columnist. His column appears on Sundays and Wednesdays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at

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