Kacich col Houser

Ginny Holder, who ran as a Republican for Champaign County Board in 2018, is supporting Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg in 2020.

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There’s a new top Democratic presidential candidate in the Champaign-Urbana-Danville area, based on campaign contributions reported to the Federal Election Commission through Dec. 31, 2019.

Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg has taken the lead from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who had been No. 1 and who won the 2016 Democratic primary election in Champaign County with 66 percent of the vote.

Buttigieg has raised $20,885 in the area (including the Champaign, Urbana, Savoy, Danville, Mahomet, St. Joseph and Rantoul ZIP codes) to $20,834 for Sanders.

But that’s not the most fascinating thing about the Buttigieg surge.

How about this? His biggest supporters locally are a one-time alternate delegate candidate to the Republican National Convention committed to Ronald Reagan who ran two years ago as a GOP candidate for the Champaign County Board, and her retired Marine husband.

Dan and Ginny Holder have donated $10,164 — almost half of what he has raised locally — to the Buttigieg campaign: $5,600 from Dan and $4,564 from Ginny.

Ginny Holder said she met Buttigieg at a function last July in Michigan and was immediately impressed.

“I came back from it and I told Dan, ‘This guy is amazing. He listens to me. He gave me a hug,’” she recounted. “He was for real.”

“I’ve been to two Republican nominating conventions. Nothing has impacted me more — and maybe it’s my life journey — than Pete Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten. Nothing,” she said. “I drove to Iowa last weekend and canvassed for him.”

She said she was blown away by the Buttigieg campaign operation in Davenport, Iowa.

“It is truly the most well-organized, positive-speaking campaign,” Ginny Holder said. “We walked to 85 houses, and the campaign staff tells you that Pete wants this to be positive, don’t argue, don’t say ‘Go caucus for Pete.’ They want you to encourage people to caucus, and then at the end, they want you to ask, ‘Is Pete one of the top three that you might look at?’ That is how gentle they are. It’s a persuasion that I’ve never seen before.”

Holder, who said she now considers herself “a former Republican,” added, “You’d be surprised the people who are Pete people. A lot of them are Republicans who can’t handle (Donald) Trump.”

“You can’t believe the positive stuff. I got a little garbage yesterday when I pulled into the Champaign Country Club, but for the most part, people are really interested in him. They say, ‘Can you give me information about him?’ My journey has been very genuine and very organic, to be truthful.”

She’s attached a Buttigieg yard sign to her car and said she would be making phone calls to New Hampshire voters from her home this weekend.

“It’s going to be an uphill battle, but I’ve got faith,” she said. “Anybody who runs against Trump is going to have a hard battle.”

Locally, the other Democratic contenders are far behind Buttigieg and Sanders. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has raised $12,618, former Vice President Joe Biden has brought in $3,710 and businessman Andrew Yang reported $1,755 in contributions. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota had just $1,280.

Powerful PACs

On the Republican side, President Donald Trump, who faces token opposition for his renomination and hasn’t begun aggressively fundraising, has collected $4,154 from area donors.

Most donors to both Republican and Democratic campaigns are giving small-dollar contributions made through fundraising platforms like ActBlue for Democrats and WinRed for Republicans. One Champaign woman, for example, made several separate $5 contributions to the campaign of former Democratic candidate Sen. Kamala Harris of California.

And while presidential candidates attract most of the attention, the vast majority of federal campaign contributions go to political action committees and other candidates.

In the 61820 ZIP code, for example, money went to EMILY’s List, the AT&T PAC, the Caterpillar Employees PAC, the National Republican Congressional Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, the Republican National Committee and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union.

All told, Urbana ZIP codes reported $88,389 in federal election contributions in 2019, Champaign had $178,543 and Danville had $22,534.

In other large area communities, federal election contributions amounted to $300,623 in Decatur, $27,971 in Charleston and $11,362 in Mattoon.

In perhaps the most conservative community in downstate Illinois — Effingham — federal contributions amounted to $36,372 last year. While the Trump campaign yielded $910 from the 62401 ZIP code, the biggest recipients there were the National Beer Wholesalers Association Political Action Committee ($7,750); the Republican National Committee ($5,370); and the Political Action Committee of the American Association Of Orthopedic Surgeons ($5,000).

Miller TV spots

The House Freedom Action Fund has purchased $29,900 in advertising on WICS-TV, scheduled to begin running next week. The beneficiary presumably is Mary Miller, the Oakland woman who is running for the open congressional seat in the 15th Congressional District. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, has opted not to run again.

Miller, the wife of state Rep. Chris Miller, has been endorsed by the Washington-based House Freedom Fund, which says she is “a full-spectrum conservative who will fight for less government and more freedom.”

Tom Kacich’s column appears Sundays in The News-Gazette.