Tom Kacich: Not a single petition challenge in the area

Tom Kacich: Not a single petition challenge in the area

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East Central Illinois is an island of political civility this winter, at least when it comes to the political game of "knockout" being practiced in much of the state, particularly the Chicago area.

The State Board of Elections reports 108 objections to various congressional, legislative and judicial candidates in the state, including eight of the 18 congressional districts and in both the Democratic and Republican U.S. Senate races. Every one of those candidates faces the possibility of being booted from the ballot over a minor violation of election law.

But not one local candidate on the March 15 primary election ballot, either on the state level or the county level, is having his or her candidacy challenged by opponents or representatives of opponents.

Not that the statements of candidacy were without flaws, or were beyond being challenged.

Republican congressional Ethan Vandersand, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis in the 13th Congressional District that includes Champaign-Urbana, almost seemed forlorn last week about the chances that he'd be bumped from the ballot.

"I'm not even sure I've got enough signatures to get on the ballot once they invalidate how many they're going to do," the 37-year-old pharmacist from rural Carrollton told The News-Gazette last week. "I've never gone through this before. It might be premature to do any reporting on this."

John Fogarty, a Chicago attorney who often represents Republican candidates in election law disputes, took a look at Vandersand's nominating petitions, but never objected.

And Davis spokeswoman Ashley Phelps said the congressman is fine having a primary opponent. In 2014 he defeated Erika Harold of Urbana in the GOP primary, 55 percent to 41 percent. A third candidate got 4 percent.

"He welcomes a healthy debate on these important issues and thinks that his conservative message and record of governing will prevail," Phelps said. "He welcomes anyone who wants to challenge on these issues."

In Champaign County, one of the Republican candidates for recorder of deeds said he could have challenged the nominating papers of one of his opponents, but opted not to.

Former Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden said he could have filed an objection to the papers of opponent Rob Meister, who didn't file a statement of economic interest by the close of the filing period on Nov. 30.

"He's got supporters and people who want to see Rob Meister and Rob Meister's views expressed, and who want to be part of his campaign, and I think those are valuable people to have as part of the Republican Party moving forward for whoever the candidate is for recorder or for other Republican candidates," Shelden said. Shelden said he realized in plenty of time that Meister didn't file the necessary document, but opted not to call him on it, nor to tell either of the other GOP candidates for recorder.

"In an effort to unify the party I think this helps to keep us unified for the November election," Shelden said.

Meanwhile, although it's not particularly close to Champaign-Urbana, there is a doozy of election challenge south of here in the 110th House District where both Republican candidates — there is no Democratic candidate — are facing candidate objections.

Incumbent state Rep. Reggie Phillips of Charleston and challenger Jonathan Kaye of Toledo — are being challenged. Kaye himself is challenging Phillips' papers while a pair of Robinson voters is challenging Kaye's documents. The details of the objections aren't yet available from the board of elections.

The 110th District extends from just north of Charleston-Mattoon south to Lawrence County, and includes all or parts of Edgar, Coles, Clark, Cumberland, Crawford and Lawrence counties.

Acklin money

Jim Acklin of Ogden, one of three candidates in the 102nd House District Republican primary, Monday reported his third $4,900 individual contribution: this one from Gerald Forsythe of Barrington. Forsythe is described as the CEO of Indeck Companies and is a native of Marshall.

Acklin has raised at least $20,100 in his first two months as a candidate. His opponents are Randy Peterson of Paris and Brad Halbrook of Shelbyville.

McMillan nomination

Last January Gov. Bruce Rauner appointed Greenville businessman Ed McMillan to a second term on the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, but the state Senate still hasn't acted on the appointment.

And it won't at least until it returns to town on Jan. 13 — more than a year after Rauner announced the appointment.

Senate President John Cullerton said that's one of the reasons he met with McMillan Monday in Springfield.

"He hasn't been confirmed yet," Cullerton said, "so we wanted to have a discussion about some of the issues that are confronting the university, primarily the budget. So the governor proposed some dramatic cuts to the University of Illinois. We restored that. (McMillan) is an ally of the governor, he was appointed by the governor, so I wanted to get his thoughts on the budget.

"I wanted to find out how they're able to pay everybody so far with the tuition funds. I asked some questions about foreign students, enrollment increases, vacancies in some positions at the university — athletic director and the like — and we just talked in general about the reputation of the school. It was very productive. I think we have a pretty good understanding of how the university is able to function even though they don't have a budget."

Cullerton added that "I expect that when we come back in January we'll take up his confirmation. I expect that he'll be confirmed."

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

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