Tom Kacich | Both of C-U's statewide-office candidates in good financial shape

Tom Kacich | Both of C-U's statewide-office candidates in good financial shape

Hear more from Kacich Thursday at 7:40 on WDWS.

The two candidates from Champaign County who will be on the statewide ballot this fall — with a chance of holding one-third of the executive offices in Illinois — start the general election campaign in relatively good financial shape.

Urbana Republican Erika Harold, seeking to become the first GOP attorney general since 2003 and only the second since 1983, doesn't have a lot of money in her campaign fund. But neither does her Democratic opponent, state Sen. Kwame Raoul of Chicago.

Raoul reported $99,010 on hand on March 31 to $91,557 for Harold.

While Harold had only one opponent in the GOP primary and reported spending only about $260,000 in the January through March period, Raoul was one of eight candidates for the Democratic nomination and spent more than $2.7 million in the quarter.

The two are seeking to succeed 15-year Democratic attorney general Lisa Madigan, who chose not to run for a fifth term.

Champaign Democrat Mike Frerichs, hoping to become the first Democrat elected to consecutive terms as state treasurer since the late Alan Dixon in 1974, has a healthy fundraising lead on his Republican challenger, Orland Park village trustee Jim Dodge.

Frerichs reported $719,349 in his campaign fund March 31 to $15,353 for Dodge, and out-raised his Republican opponent during the first quarter, $271,108 to $35,207.

Barring some unforeseen development, Frerichs has a clear path to re-election with advantages in name recognition and fundraising, along with Illinois' recent Democratic tendencies.

"Obviously, I think Frerichs is going to win," said University of Illinois-Springfield emeritus Professor Kent Redfield, "and the real question is the attorney general's race."

Harold's chance for success this fall is less clear. While she has Gov. Bruce Rauner's financial support — his campaign paid for $305,000 in media for Harold in the first quarter — she's also linked to him politically, for better or worse. He recruited her to run, has endorsed her and has campaigned with her.

And the Illinois Republican Party is still divided after a tough gubernatorial primary between Rauner and Jeanne Ives. Until the GOP is united and solid behind Rauner, the rest of the ticket is at risk of defeat by apathy.

But Redfield said that Harold has a decent chance to win.

"She's already talked about how we're going to make the office about fighting corruption. She can do that in ways against Raoul," he said. "She may be better able to use Rauner's narrative that we need to have a watchdog to fight corruption than he will. He's certainly a damaged messenger on that point, but she can benefit from the way that he has framed things."

There are a lot of uncertainties, though.

"Everything can get caught up in a blue wave or she can be terribly underfunded if Rauner's campaign is crashing and he's not putting any money into it in the end," Redfield said. "All things being equal, you give the Democrats in a statewide race the advantage on paper but I think that's one that really is winnable.

"And Raoul has some vulnerabilities in terms of who he has taken money from (tobacco companies, utilities companies and a lobbyist who has been accused of 'inappropriate behavior') and those kinds of issue. I would be surprised if it's not competitive, and I would not be surprised if she won."

If he had to be the house, Redfield said, "I'd probably put it on Raoul. But if she runs a smart campaign and he doesn't, that's going to be even more in her factor."

That would boost Champaign County's chance of having two statewide officeholders simultaneously for the first time in Illinois' 200 years of existence.

There have been only a handful of statewide officeholders from the county anyway: Frerichs as treasurer, and three men who held offices that were abolished under the 1970 Constitution — Vernon Nickell, who was superintendent of public instruction in the 1940s and '50s, and James McCullough and Lloyd Morey, both of whom served as auditor of public accounts.

Illinois has never had an attorney general from Champaign County and hasn't had one from downstate Illinois since Democrat Ivan Elliott in 1948. Elliott was from White County in southern Illinois.

County clerk spending

Matt Grandone, who won the Republican primary for Champaign County clerk last month by 670 votes, spent almost $50,000 doing so.

Jon Rector, who spent about a quarter of that amount — $13,803 — came close with more than 47 percent of the vote.

Now Grandone has to do it all over again, with only about $760 in his campaign fund.

His next opponent, Democrat Aaron Ammons, was unopposed in the primary election and reported $14,833 in his campaign fund on March 31.

Most of Grandone's money came from his family — $35,000 from his parents and $3,300 from himself.

Most of Ammons' money came from labor unions, including $5,000 from Service Employees International Union Local 73 in Chicago and $2,500 from the SEIU Healthcare PAC.

County executive money

Gordy Hulten, who has been Champaign County clerk for eight years and has the name identification that comes with the office, also has the early money advantage in the history-making race coming this fall.

Hulten and Urbana Democrat Darlene Kloeppel are the candidates for Champaign County executive, a new, $117,000-a-year salaried position approved by voters in November 2016.

While Kloeppel received $2,000 in campaign contributions in the first quarter of 2018, Hulten collected more than $9,000.

He had $23,055 on hand March 31, while Kloeppel had $562.

Hulten's biggest contribution was $5,000 from the Champaign County Farm Bureau, with whom he worked two years ago to promote the creation of the county executive position.

Kloeppel, who can be seen at just about any community or civic event or meeting, is going to have to rely on hand-shaking and shoe leather to become the first county executive.

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette reporter and columnist. His column appears on Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 217-351-5221 or at kacich@news-gazette.com.

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