Tom Kacich | Benefit of incumbency on display in 15th race

Tom Kacich | Benefit of incumbency on display in 15th race

Nothing shows the advantage of incumbency in Congress like the latest campaign disclosure reports for the candidates in Illinois' 15th Congressional District: veteran Republican lawmaker John Shimkus of Collinsville and Democratic challenger Kevin Gaither of Charleston.

And it's not just campaign contributions that account for the disparity, although that is impressive.

Shimkus had $1.14 million on hand on June 30 to Gaither's $11,360. Shimkus collected $1.3 million in this election cycle from political action committees that operate in Washington; Gaither reported $3,829 from PACs, although the money actually was from Democratic Party groups in Illinois and not corporations and interest groups that work the halls of Congress.

It's the campaign expenditures that stand out.

While Gaither's major expenses were for in-district travel, parade supplies, banners and signs, Shimkus' were for fundraising events, lodging at exotic locales and a $40,000 contribution to the National Republican Congressional Committee — a sum greater than the $29,622 Gaither has raised in his entire campaign so far.

Shimkus, a member of Congress since 1997, who represents the most Republican congressional district in Illinois, spent nearly $4,700 at the Capitol Hill Club in the last quarter. That's the social club, a block from the Capitol, where Republican congressmen hold meetings and pay for catering for fundraising events.

Shimkus also spent more than $13,250 to the Capital Grille in Washington for catering for fundraisers. Other campaign expenses in the last quarter include $665 to the Cloister at Sea Island (Ga.) for a fundraising event, more than $1,000 to the Ritz Carlton Bacara in Santa Barbara, Calif. for lodging and $645 to the Hilton Seattle.

Gaither's hotel spending during the same period was $535 for the Crowne Plaza in Springfield.

The 15th District includes Danville and Vermilion County and much of Champaign County outside of Champaign-Urbana. It also takes in much of southern Illinois.

Legislative races

Republican candidates in East Central Illinois who have contested legislative races this fall are in significantly better financial shape than their Democratic opponents.

There are only two contested races, both for the Illinois House, in East Central Illinois this November.

In the 104th House District, where incumbent Rep. Chad Hays, R-Catlin, is not running for re-election, Republican Mike Marron of rural Fithian has a more than 15-to-1 lead over Democrat Cindy Cunningham of rural St. Joseph. As of June 30, Marron had $55,541 on hand to $3,393 for Cunningham.

Marron reported about $15,000 in itemized contributions in the last quarter, including $1,000 from Champaign businessman Peter Fox and his wife, Kim, and another $1,000 from the Illinois State Medical Society. He also got $2,000 from the Ford County Republican Central Committee and $250 from Jim Durkin, leader of the Illinois House Republicans.

Cunningham reported about $3,000 in itemized contributions in the last quarter, including $1,000 from the East Central Illinois Building & Construction Trades Council in Champaign.

She's also reported three more substantial contributions since July 1 — $5,000 from New Age Elder Care Inc. in Deerfield and $1,000 each from the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters and from Local 399 of the International Union of Operating Engineers in Chicago.

Overall, though, Marron has collected $62,606 in itemized contributions in the election cycle versus $16,900 for Cunningham.

It's a similar story in the 101st District, where Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, is retiring.

Republican Dan Caukins of Decatur reported $14,741 on hand to $3,556 for Decatur Democrat Jen McMillin.

Caulkins got $1,000 from Mitchell's campaign fund in June, plus $5,000 from Franciscan Properties LLC, which operates an assisted-living facility in West Chicago, and a number of contributions of $1,000 or more from Decatur area businessmen.

He also continues to carry a $35,000 personal debt to himself from the primary election this spring.

McMillin reported only $750 in itemized contributions in the last quarter.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, is on the ballot this fall but has no opposition. He reported more than $157,000 in his campaign fund.

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

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