Dems' best bet is Rosenberg
Champaign-Urbana Democrats are witnessing a hotly contested race to fill a rare open seat in the Illinois House of Representatives.
When Democratic state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson of Urbana announced last year that she would not seek another term in office, it guaranteed a political brouhaha over who would succeed her.
Ultimately, only two Democrats stepped forward — Urbana Alderwoman Carol Ammons and Champaign lawyer Sam Rosenberg. They've waged a spirited and sometimes acrimonious battle for the hearts and minds of their party members in the 103rd House District.
These two Democrats represent the two wings of their party. Rosenberg is backed by the Democratic establishment exemplified by Rep. Jakobsson, Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing and other prominent local party members who are used to calling the shots — even Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. Despite her political history that includes election to the city council and the county board, Ammons represents party outsiders who are extremely discontent with, even hostile to, the party and political status quo.
But whatever their party pedigree, the question facing voters in next week's primary election is which of the two would be a better, more effective advocate for their district. In our view, the choice is clear. For that reason, The News-Gazette endorses Rosenberg for the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Kristin Williamson in the November general election.
Just 29, Rosenberg, a lawyer, offers voters little more than ambition and promise. But it's our view that he shows great promise, and he could become an important factor in Springfield once he gets some experience under his belt. A former assistant state's attorney and now a lawyer with a prominent Champaign firm, Rosenberg has demonstrated that he's a quick learner and a high achiever.
The News-Gazette makes those observations with the clear understanding that we do not share Rosenberg's liberal views. He supports a graduated income tax that in our view will raise taxes on almost everyone; he supports a minimum-wage increase that in our view will cause a loss of jobs and make it harder for the unemployed, particularly minorities, to secure employment; he supports organized labor down the line and is obviously unconcerned that the state's hostility to business creates a serious disincentive for job creators to locate or expand here.
Having said that, Rosenberg is in the mainstream of Democratic Party thinking as articulated by Gov. Pat Quinn and House and Senate legislative leaders.
If elected, Rosenberg will fit right in with the Democratic House caucus.
As for Ammons, she is an obviously intelligent, determined person who brings great energy to her campaign. For the most part, she and Rosenberg agree on the issues, so it's less a matter of policy for voters than political personality.
That's where Ammons' problems lie. From here, she looks like a corner-cutter. Ammons claimed an apparent mail-order college degree as proof of educational accomplishment. She was elected to and resigned from the Urbana school board because she was not legally qualified by virtue of residency to run. Her affiliation with the Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice shows a devotion to political causes that are out of step even with the community's liberal establishment.
Ammons is running for a legislative position, but she does not appear to have the kind of patient, consensus-building personality that the position requires.
There's an excellent chance, by virtue of how the 103rd House District map was drawn, that the winner of the Democratic primary will be the winner of the fall election. That was Speaker Madigan's intention when he gerrymandered the district lines, and he usually achieves his goals. Further, if either Ammons or Rosenberg is elected in the fall, they will have no choice but to accept conscription in Madigan's army. It's either that or political oblivion and, after some incredible hemming and hawing on the issue, both candidates reluctantly acknowledged he'll be the boss.
Whatever those realities may portend, Rosenberg is the far better choice in the Democratic primary.