UPDATE: Ammons on ads: 'I have always been and will continue to be open about my story'

UPDATE: Ammons on ads: 'I have always been and will continue to be open about my story'

CHAMPAIGN — A 75-year-old Urbana man who recorded a controversial radio ad slamming Aaron Ammons, the Democratic candidate for Champaign County clerk, said his issues with Ammons date back to a 5-year-old union dispute.

Lawrence "Bino" Williams said he's never met Ammons' Republican opponent, Matt Grandone — though he still plans to vote for him rather than risk Ammons winning by a single vote.

"I would not know Matt Grandone if I saw him," Williams said Thursday.

In an ad that's run on News-Gazette Media's WDWS 1400-AM, Williams is recorded saying Ammons' past work has consisted of mopping floors and cleaning toilets for the University of Illinois.

Grandone said Thursday he has never met Williams. And, he contended, the Williams ad is just distracting voters from the real issues in the race for county clerk.

"It's unfortunate that this is what this has become," Grandone said.

Ammons countered Williams' ad with a spot of his own that has run this week on WDWS.

In it, he says he is proud of his blue-collar background, among other things.

Ammons, a UI building-service worker, also posted a response to the ad on his Facebook page that included, in part, a long list of his community involvement activities and union work and that he'd written and published two books of poetry and raised three children.

"I have served and protected the jobs of over 350 hard-working 'floor moppers and toilet cleaners' and about 450 hard-working food-service workers who are all wondering, when did it become a negative thing to work hard, provide an essential service and help your family pursue the American dream?" wrote Ammons, who couldn't be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

One of the new ads Williams recorded Thursday refers to Grandone spending years helping people kick their drug habits while referring to Ammons as a convicted drug felon.

Grandone worked for Bloomington-based Chestnut Health Systems before working for the Champaign County Clerk's office. Ammons was pardoned in 2015 on former Gov. Pat Quinn's last day in office, making him eligible to succeed wife Carol on the Urbana City Council after she was elected state representative for the 103rd District.

At the time, Aaron Ammons told The News-Gazette he'd turned his life around after spending seven or eight years addicted to drugs in the 1990s and was thankful for the "window of hope" provided by Quinn's pardon and expungement of his criminal record.

"I hope Mr. Lawrence doesn't think he's breaking any major news with that ad," Ammons wrote late Thursday in an emailed response to questions from The News-Gazette. "I have always been and will continue to be open about my story. In fact, an excellent article about my past and what I have done with my second chance was on the front page of The News-Gazette.

"Nearly 20 years ago, I was caught in the vicious snares of drug addiction, which led me to make poor choices to support that addiction. I have been the quintessential example of what we want our legal system to do. I'm happily married for 18 years, have three wonderful children, an excellent union job and I spend my time working to better my community and help those in need."

Williams, a UI food-service worker for 17 years, said his beef with Ammons dates to an Service Employees International Union Local 73 strike in 2013. Williams said he took issue with the wage dispute behind the strike and crossed a picket line to go to work, and Ammons, the local's vice president at the time, was involved with getting him thrown out of the union for that.

Said Ammons in response: "I would encourage Mr. Williams to bring any concern he has regarding our union to the union hall, where the elected leadership would be glad to talk with him."

Williams said he's paying for the radio ads himself.

"I want to spend my money where I want to spend it," said Williams, who described himself as an Air Force veteran, grandfather, Democrat and former operator of a drywall and painting business.

In responses posted about Williams' initial radio spot by both clerk candidates on Facebook this week, Ammons referred to the ad as the work of his opponent and Grandone insisted he wasn't involved.

"Let's keep this simple," Grandone posted on Facebook. "I didn't run the ad currently being used by my opponent to create controversy, I didn't pay for the ad, I didn't condone the ad, I didn't approve the ad."

Grandone also said he contacted the radio station about removing the ad, but was told that wasn't possible.

Sections (2):News, Local
Tags (1):election 2018
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