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Tom Kacich is a columnist and the author of Tom's Mailbag at The News-Gazette. His column appears Sundays. His email is tkacich@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@tkacich).

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Less than a year out from Election Day, the favorite local presidential candidate — based on campaign donations — remains Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Of the more than $60,000 that has been contributed from Champaign, Urbana and Danville this year to 14 presidential candidates, Sanders has close to a third of all the money.

The Vermont senator has received $18,578 from donors in the three cities, led by more than $9,000 from two dozen Urbana residents. He’s also received $8,817 from 22 contributors in Champaign.

Second place now belongs to 37-year-old South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg with $11,886. He narrowly passed Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who had been No. 2 after the last round of fundraising reports in July. Warren reported $11,328 from donors in the three cities.

Each of the three reported about $10,000 in contributions from Champaign-Urbana-Danville residents within the July-September period as presidential candidate fundraising escalated.

After that, it’s a steep dropoff to the other contenders. President Donald Trump reported $5,916 in contributions. Another $1,237 went to a separate pro-Trump group, the Committee to Defend the President.

Former Vice President Joe Biden reported $3,838 in contributions, followed by Andrew Yang ($1,755); Sen. Kamala Harris ($1,180); author Marianne Williamson ($975); Sen. Amy Klobuchar ($930); Julian Castro ($889) and Sen. Cory Booker ($850). Minor amounts went to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and former candidates Beto O’Rourke and Jay Inslee.

That Sanders is in the lead and Trump is in fourth place follows 2016 voting preferences, particularly in Champaign-Urbana. In that year’s Democratic primary, Sanders won Champaign County with more than 66 percent of the vote. (In Vermilion County he finished second to Hillary Clinton, 51.2 percent to 47.1 percent).

In the general election Clinton defeated Trump in Champaign County, 54.7 percent to 36.4 percent. It was a different story, however, in Vermilion County where Trump prevailed with 62 percent. Trump has raised $1,700 in Vermilion County this year. Sanders is second there with $676.

Another area where Trump has done exceedingly well — he got 78 percent of the vote in 2016 — is Effingham County, about 70 miles south of Champaign-Urbana and in the heart of the most conservative region of Illinois. Trump has raised $1,472 there this year to $500 for Yang, $334 for Buttigieg, $200 for Klobuchar and $162 for Sanders.

The man doth protest too much, methinks

Back in July, the Washington Post did a story on how Democrats in the U.S. House had taken an early lead on 2020 campaign fundraising.

Post reporters noted that in Illinois’ 13th Congressional District, Democrat Betsy Londrigan of Springfield outraised incumbent Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, in the second quarter of 2019 by about $100,000. (However, in the third quarter which ended Sept. 30, Davis outraised Londrigan by almost $170,000).

Davis advanced the notion in the Post story that Londrigan got a lot of her campaign money from outside of central Illinois — from people whose values aren’t in sync with his congressional district.

“You’ve got to hand it to the Dems and give them some credit for being able to go out and get donors from throughout the nation to support candidates, but ... when you have cities like New York and San Francisco and Los Angeles supporting candidates in central Illinois, their values may not be the values of the constituents that I serve,” Davis said.

Ironically, the website OpenSecrets.org reports that Davis has received more money from outside ($203,346) the 13th District than Londrigan ($142,647). Nearly 59 percent of his contributions from individuals were from outside the district compared with 33 percent of Londrigan’s. OpenSecrets also noted that a lot of Londrigan’s money — $236,321 — could not be tied to a street address. Only $48,964 of Davis’ contributions had that issue.

Londrigan’s top five metro areas for contributions were Chicago, Springfield, St. Louis, Champaign-Urbana and Washington, D.C. Davis’ were Chicago, Springfield, Washington, D.C., Decatur and Champaign-Urbana.

Anti-Davis TV spots

A group called Defend American Democracy is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on television commercials in central Illinois, urging Davis to hold President Trump “accountable for risking our national security and abusing his office to benefit himself.”

Defend American Democracy said it is targeting 15 Republican congressmen around the country and urging them “to put country over politics.” The group said it is part of the Protect the Investigation organization which describes itself as “a non-partisan initiative to educate the American people about the importance of the inquiry into foreign interference in our democracy.”

Defend American Democracy began running TV spots in the Champaign-Decatur-Springfield market earlier this month and apparently will continue for at least another week.

According to documents available at the Federal Communications Commission website, the group will have spent more than $200,000 on broadcast and cable TV spots by the end of Nov. 20. It has booked more than $24,000 on cable TV spots for Nov. 14-20 and more than $120,000 for spots on WAND, WCIA, WRSP and WICS in the same period. At WAND, for example, it is spending $35,760 for 51 commercials this week.

The ads aren’t influencing Davis. He’s stated repeatedly in recent weeks that he opposes impeachment, supports President Trump and wants Congress to focus on issues such as infrastructure, health care and student debt.

Tom Kacich’s column appears on Sundays in The News-Gazette. He can be reached at kacich@news-gazette.com.

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