So here I am grumbling about the disappointing start to the most intense part of election season while thinking that maybe Republicans were right when they said that Clint Eastwood is an Obama Democrat. That goofy speech Thursday night smelled of sabotage more than substance.
Here's what has me a gloomy Gus ...
— The first television ad out on behalf of the generally genial Democratic congressional candidate, David Gill, does not bode well for the next two months of campaigning. Gill can claim that he had nothing to do with the spot produced and paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, but he also could distance himself from the misleading attack ad and even ask that it be pulled. So far he hasn't done either.
Gill, for his part, says someone is running an equally nasty ad on behalf of his Republican opponent, Rodney Davis.
The DCCC began what it says is a $320,000 television buy on behalf of Gill on Thursday. The theme of the ad is to link Davis with "corruption" and "scandal" during George Ryan's gubernatorial administration. Davis "was right in the middle of it," claims the ad.
The truth is that Davis never worked for Ryan while he was governor. The DCCC's own opposition research (still available online last week) said that Davis worked for Secretary of State Ryan from June 1, 1993, to Jan. 2, 1997. Ryan, now in federal prison, became governor in 1999.
Davis said last week he had worked in the secretary of state's personnel office. At the time he left the position, he was making $28,752 a year.
"I doubt he'd even know who I was," Davis said of Ryan.
The ad also says that Davis was on Ryan's infamous "clout list" of political favors. But there's nothing to tie Davis to any favors granted by Ryan.
Finally the ad says that Davis has "taken nearly $1 million in taxpayer-funded salaries." It's public record that Davis was paid about $835,000 over 15 years as an aide to U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville. His highest salary was $104,583 in calendar year 2009, when he was listed as Shimkus' district aide and budget director.
Gill has had a hate/like relationship with the DCCC.
Earlier this year, when the committee supported Gill's opponent in the Democratic primary election, he said, "They don't like me. They like corporate funding. This party, a generation ago, decided to drink that corporate cash. They don't like someone like me to speak out against them, and it results in so many bad decisions for the American people."
But when asked if he would take DCCC money, Gill replied, "My druthers would be no, but I can't promise you."
In 2006, when the group didn't give him any money in his race against U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, he said, "I view it as a positive thing. I tell people that I'm an independent-minded Democrat and I wouldn't be able to make that claim if I was receiving money from the national Democrats."
Gill is taking the help now, but look what it gets him.
— The Illinois Republican Party is getting great publicity from its "Save Illinois. Fire Madigan" campaign, but it's really nothing more than a way to make money and sell merchandise (including $14.99 yard signs, $29.99 sweatshirts and $32.99 iPad cases).
If Republicans were serious about firing Madigan, they would have run an authentic — and well-funded — candidate against him in his 22nd House District on Chicago's southwest side. Instead, voters there can vote either for Democrat Madigan or Democrat Robert Handzik (who although he has voted in every Democratic primary election for 20 years is running as a Republican).
Or how about this? Republicans could have run House candidates in the 36 districts (out of 118 statewide) where Democrats are unopposed this fall. Those 36 districts give Democrats a great head start toward the 60 seats they need to retain House control and rehire Madigan.
Illinois Republicans can only blame themselves for this predicament.
— Finally, how about the Chicago Tribune's war against incumbents in the Illinois Legislature?
The mighty Tribune editorial page roared last week that all incumbent lawmakers are to blame for Illinois' pension mess and said it will keep that in mind when it makes editorial endorsements.
Good luck with that.
"It's the incumbents, voters. The Nov. 6 election is almost here. Your move," screamed the Tribune. "You have the power to find and support challengers who will holler for pension reform. That's what we'll be looking for as we roll out our endorsements for legislative races."
It's kind of an empty threat. In 65 of 118 House districts there is no race. That includes most of the contests in East Central Illinois, where Republican are unopposed in four of six races. In Cook County, most Democrats are unopposed. And then there are the "races" like Madigan's.
In the Senate, 29 of 59 races are uncontested, including three of four in East Central Illinois. In 24 of those 29 races, only incumbents are on the ballot.
If the Trib wants pension reform, it's going to have to try another strategy. Maybe Clint Eastwood is available. "Go ahead, incumbents, make my day."
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears in print on Sunday and Wednesdays. This column appeared in print on Sept. 2. Kacich can be reached at 351-5221 or at email@example.com.