Tom Kacich | Londrigan holding town halls; Davis still won't

Tom Kacich | Londrigan holding town halls; Davis still won't

Democratic congressional hopeful Betsy Londrigan is undertaking a series of town hall meetings throughout the 13th Congressional District, creating a bright distinction with incumbent Rep. Rodney Davis, who has refused to conduct town halls.

Londrigan held her first town hall last Wednesday in Macoupin County and will hold the second of 14 — one for each county in the district — Monday in Greene County.

It's uncertain when the Springfield Democrat will get over to Champaign, Macon, Piatt or DeWitt counties, on the eastern side of the sprawling district, said campaign spokeswoman Kate Martucci.

The town halls will take place throughout August and in the first half of September, Martucci said.

Londrigan also has pledged to do a town hall meeting at least once every quarter if she is elected to Congress, Martucci said.

Davis has declined to hold town hall meetings, opting instead for tele-town halls in which constituents can call into a mass event by phone or for meetings with individuals or small groups in his offices around the district.

"I do plenty of tele-town halls and give an opportunity for even more people that don't want to listen to the screaming and shouting from people who obviously don't want me to win or even be in this job," Davis said in February 2017 on WDWS. "We've consistently done what we call open office hours, where we meet with groups who agree and groups who disagree and also meet with constituents who really have problems with the federal bureaucracy. Those are the types of things that I've said I'm going to continue to do in my job and put the politics and the screaming from people who don't want me in my job off to the side."

He reiterated that belief this spring.

"There's nothing more to say except that those who are politically opposed to me and opposed to what we want to do are not conducive to solving the problems that I was talking about trying to actually have a conversation about toning down the hate and vitriol," said the Taylorville Republican.

Martucci said the Londrigan town halls are "more than doing what Congressman Davis refuses to do; she's doing it because she knows that people are tired of not being heard. That's something that we heard throughout the primary.

"We're putting the work in to make sure that people have the opportunity to interact with her. She can only get so much done in one-on-one meetings, especially when it's closed door. You want to see how folks interact in the public, and that's what we're trying to do."

Madison County turnaround

President Trump's enthusiastic, taxpayer-funded trip to Granite City last week — where he openly pushed for the election of Republicans to Congress — highlighted how much the metro East area, and former Democratic stronghold Madison County, has changed in the last 20 years. It's a point that Davis — who represents about 40 percent of Madison County — has made repeatedly about the political evolution of the area.

Madison County now is represented by three Republicans in Congress. In 2016, the three Republican candidates — Davis, John Shimkus and Mike Bost — got 62 percent of the vote, although Shimkus was unopposed.

But even in 2014, when one of the congressional candidates was an incumbent Democrat (Bill Enyart), the three Democratic candidates took only 43 percent of the vote. Twelve years earlier in the 2002 election, Madison County elected two Democrats and one Republican (Shimkus), and Democrats had 62 percent of the vote.

Emanuel on the ballot

Cathy Emanuel, whose petitions to run as an independent candidate for the Champaign County Board were challenged, has won the right to run in the November general election. She will challenge Republican Jim McGire in District 4, which includes parts of southwest Champaign and the rural and suburban parts of southwestern Champaign County.

A challenge to her petitions was withdrawn last week after she presented affidavits proving the validity of 18 signatures.

"The voters signed the affidavits confirming their signatures and so that brought me to the number I needed for the 529 signatures to get on the ballot," Emanuel said.

After having collected the signatures originally, Emanuel said she went back to the voters to ask them to sign the affidavits.

"They were amazingly cooperative and supportive of it," she said. "Some of the voters were pretty indignant. They said, 'Wait a minute. I've been voting at this address for 15 years. Why am I being challenged?'"

Emanuel said she paid about $1,800 for legal representation in her appearance before the county electoral board, which handled the appeal.

"I'm pleased that I'm going to be on the ballot and that there will be one more choice, and now we go forward," she said.

Contributions by ZIP code

Although voters in Champaign have become increasingly Democratic in the last two decades, the Republican Davis is still the top recipient of federal campaign contributions within the six ZIP codes that make up the city.

The 13th Congressional District representative leads all groups and individuals in federal campaign donations so far in this election cycle, according to the website OpenSecrets.org.

Davis has collected $28,350 since the beginning of 2017. The majority, $14,900, has come from the 61822 ZIP code, including $5,400 from Habeeb Habeeb, former head of the Champaign County Republican Party, and $5,200 from Joe Lamb, president of Open Road Paving Co.

Rounding out the rest of the top three in terms of recipients within Champaign are Jon Ebel, who had run in the Democratic Party primary last spring to be Davis' November opponent, with $21,127; and Emily's List, the national pro-choice, pro-Democrat group, with $13,855.

In Urbana, the top three recipients of federal campaign contributions were: the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, $20,114; the Democratic National Committee Services Corp., $10,920; and the Democratic Advancement PAC, $8,725. The top Republican recipient in Urbana was the Republican National Committee, which received $2,604.

In Danville, the top three recipients are: the National Auto Dealers Association, $5,000; the National Association of Broadcasters, $5,000; and Leidos, a Virginia-based defense, aviation and information technology company, $3,500.

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette columnist. His column appears on Sundays.

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