Tom's Mailbag March 21, 2014
The pre-spring break edition of the mailbag includes questions and comments about the primary election, Illinois basketball, a surprise resignation and spring break. Here we go ...
“I don’t think it’s fair to toss around the term ‘weak’ with candidates that faced stronger than expected opponents in a primary. In some cases it may be accurate, but overall shouldn’t voters want more competitive primaries with strong candidates to choose from varying along the issues they care most about? I’m sure candidates would rather have easy landslide victories, but I think representative democracy works best when people come out and have a competitive race.
“Wouldn’t we all, as voters, want to fight for someone who best represents us as opposed to yet another victory by the guy they disagree with on some things that are important to them, skirting by because he’s the shoo-in? In the general election we have to rally behind a candidate that makes the strongest coalition happy, but primaries are for getting the best guy to build that coalition. Strong competition isn’t a sign of weakness in and of itself. Winning over stiff competition can often be the best sign of strength.
Just my two cents.”
I agree, and if I criticized a candidate — especially an underdog — for running a weak campaign, I apologize.
Generally I like the underdog in sports and politics and I especially respect those candidates who run issues-based, underfunded campaigns that rely on knocking on doors, meeting with groups and individuals and wearing out shoe leather. They’re the ones who deserve special consideration on Election Day, if not our votes.
That being said there are candidates who just put their names on the ballot and leave it at that. Generally they lose.
Finally, props to all the candidates who ran Tuesday, especially those who lost. It’s got to sting to be rejected by voters, no matter how many or what office you’re running for. Thanks for making the effort, for giving the people in your political party a choice and for making a great contribution to better government.
Election Day winners and losers
“Besides the actual candidates, who were the other winners and losers from Election Day this past week?”
Big winners: the TV and radio ad sales departments at stations throughout Illinois.
The candidates with the deep pockets won all the big races — Bruce Rauner and Pat Quinn, Dick Durbin and Jim Oberweis, Rodney Davis and Ann Callis. They already have millions of dollars or soon will have that sum, and they’ll be spending it in prodigious amounts soon after Labor Day. Quinn already has begun a limited media buy.
Channel 3 got a nice new set after the 2012 election. Maybe it can get a new building with proceeds from this one.
Other winners: the local Democratic Party’s unusual decision (along with the newly formed Champaign County Young Democrats) to endorse in two county board races (the Al Kurtz/Pius Weibel showdown and Ralph Langenheim/Shana Harrison) paid off since both Weibel and Harrison defeated the incumbents. We won’t know until November whether there is any fallout in those districts from allies of Kurtz and Langenheim, but I’d doubt it.
Losers: The labor unions that poured millions into anti-Bruce Rauner advertising and didn’t derail the Republican gubernatorial candidate. They came close (about 23,000 votes) which makes the investment even more painful. They’ll long be asking themselves if an earlier entry into the race, or more money or some other maneuver would have helped Dillard finish first. The state senator from Hinsdale ended up a lot closer than expected, with wins in nearly every downstate county, including Champaign where he got 40 percent to Rauner’s 33 percent. Dillard also won Piatt, Douglas, Edgar, Coles, DeWitt, Vermilion, Iroquois, Ford, Moultrie and Shelby counties. He had an enormous advantage in Sangamon County, home to so many state employees, where he got 62 percent to Rauner’s 17 percent. But Rauner won all the big suburban counties where the biggest bloc of GOP votes are, Rauner’s 27,000-vote advantage in Cook County, for example, made up for numerous smaller losses like Champaign County’s 1,000-vote gap.
House Speaker Michael Madigan’s vaunted political operation: whoever was calling the shots in Champaign-Urbana’s 103rd House District race between Carol Ammons and Sam Rosenberg (Madigan’s candidate) badly misread the district and wasted thousands of dollars on bad radio ads and mail pieces. Ammons’ superior ground game neutralized the Madigan money. And this wasn’t the only race the Speaker’s organization lost on Tuesday.
Late spring break?
“Why Is Spring Break so late this year?”
This may be late, but get used to it. Next year’s spring break starts on the same weekend, with classes resuming March 30.
Last year spring break started March 16.
In 2015-16 it starts March 19. Looking ahead to 2018-19 it begins again on March 16.
“Do you think the Illini men’s basketball team have a shot at winning the NIT?”
Illinois definitely has a shot, but I don’t expect it to happen. If they can get past Clemson — a big if, since Clemson will be home and the Orphans, I mean Illini, are on the road in an unfamiliar setting at a ridiculously early time (10 a.m.) — they certainly can get into the NIT’s Final Four.
I haven’t seen odds yet but I believe Clemson’s probably at least a 5-point favorite over Illinois, which was only a “pick-em” against Boston University.
If Illinois beats Clemson they get either Robert Morris or Belmont. Both entered the tournament as lower seeds with much longer odds (Robert Morris was 250-1), so Illinois would be a favorite although they’d be on the road again.
The NIT’s Final Four would be a much different story, however, as Illinois would be destined to play a host of superior teams, including SMU, Florida State and Georgetown. But anything can happen in sports — well, almost anything except the Cubs winning the World Series in my lifetime.
Lisa Geren resignation
“Hmmm. Something is not right with the Lisa Geren departure. Between Schlarman and Centennial, she was an awesome dean at Urbana High School. Great person. Might mention that (I’m pretty sure) she worked with Laura Taylor at Urbana High School and was Judy Wiegand’s assistant at Centennial. Hmmm, I wish her well in life beyond Unit 4.”
“I’m not sure why Ms. Geren is being paid for the remainder of the school year. I do happen to think principals in Champaign County are underpaid, in my opinion. I come from Jasper County, IL and the principals in that district make well over $99,000 per year.”
I know nothing more about this situation than was reported in The News-Gazette this week (http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2014-03-18/kenwood-elementary-pri...).
I’m told it is not a health issue, but that’s about all. Perhaps the full story will come out in the future.
Thanks again for your questions and comments. Enjoy your weekend, go Illini and, best of all, Opening Day is just 10 days away. That’s good news, even if the Cubs’ outlook this year is rotten.