CHAMPAIGN — Champaign Republican Alan Nudo charged Friday that two other candidates — incumbent Democrat Mike Frerichs and Republican challenger John Bambenek — are working together to defeat him in the Republican Party primary.
He made the accusation after Frerichs last week released copies of two campaign donation checks that Nudo signed more than five years ago.
He signed checks for $2,000 and $3,000 in 2006 to "Friends of Frerichs," the campaign fund of Frerichs, the man Nudo hopes to unseat in the November general election.
Frerichs released copies of the checks last week to Chicago-area political blogger Warner Todd Huston. The web site Huston uses, called "The Prairie State Report," is hosted by John Bambenek, the third contender in the 52nd Senate district race.
"I'm very surprised that the two of them are working together," Nudo said. "I've got to ask both of them, 'How badly do you want to win this?'"
Frerichs said he revealed copies of the checks to Huston because "he contacted me and asked about them."
"Now that person is probably friendly with John Bambenek because he's a blogger and John's a blogger. They probably know each other. But I did not give copies of those checks to John."
Bambenek admitted, however, that he hosts the web site that Huston uses. And he said he had talked to Frerichs about the checks.
"I got information regarding this donation and of course I consulted with Mike Frerichs regarding the facts of the matter. I am not about to lay inaccurate or wrongheaded criticism against my opponent without getting the facts first," said Bambenek, a Champaign Republican. "That said, I find it ridiculous for (Nudo) to assert that the conservative candidate is working with a Democrat, when Nudo is the one who has hiked taxes five times and is a social moderate who prides himself on reaching across the aisle."
Bambenek said that as a Champaign County Board member, Nudo has voted to increase the county's property tax levy four times and also voted and worked for a countywide 1-cent sales tax for school construction.
The two checks became an issue after Nudo said last week that he had nothing to do with the contributions to Frerichs' campaign; that they were arranged by the three partners in Triple R Development, Kyle Robeson and Lawrence and Kenneth Roessler, the latter two of whom are Frerichs' uncles.
"Maybe it is not his money, maybe he was ordered to sign, but it is inaccurate to say that he had nothing to do with the contributions," said Frerichs, who also claimed that Nudo personally handed him the first check, an assertion Nudo denied.
Nudo said he signs all Triple R Development checks, but is not an officer or an employee of the company.
"I sign every check there is for Triple R Development because our company (Robeson's Inc.) does their accounting. Our company handles all the day-to-day operations," he said. "But what does any of this have to do with this race?
"If Frerichs wants to debate me now I would love to debate Mike on the issues. I want to talk about his (income) tax hikes that cost 60,000 jobs, I want to talk about his willpower and fortitude to do reforms in this state. I had a boss a long time ago who said 'Don't major in minors.' And this is what both of them are doing. It's strange bedfellows."
Nudo said Frerichs is "meddling in my primary" and that Frerichs and Bambenek "have a common goal. John wants to get to the general (election) and Frerichs wants to run against John."
Frerichs admitted that "John and I have a similar interest but from a different perspective," but denied that he and Bambenek were colluding against Nudo.
"If anything, Nudo's really more in line with my way of thinking than Bambenek," he said.
Frerichs said that if Nudo has nothing to do with Triple R Development, he shouldn't take credit for projects the firm undertook at the old Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, which Nudo did last August when he announced his candidacy.
"I don't see how he can have it both ways," Frerichs said.
Meanwhile, Bambenek accused Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno of secretly backing Nudo by paying for his website development.
"Senator Radogno has repeatedly committed to stay out of Republican primaries and this provides clear evidence on not only picking a side but spending funds on behalf of that candidate," he said, adding that neither Nudo nor Radogno's committee had reported the expenditure as an in-kind contribution to Nudo's campaign.
Patty Schuh, Radogno's spokeswoman, could not be reached for comment.