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With the November 2020 general election 13 months away, Illinois Democrats and Republicans are taking some time off from their on-again, off-again political battles.

But just because the Ds and Rs aren’t rumbling, don’t think there’s not a lot of nasty politicking going on.

Consider two congressional races in northern Illinois, where rival Republicans are competing for the right to take on Democratic incumbents who were elected in the 2018 election.

The two Dems — U.S. Reps. Sean Casten and Lauren Underwood — represent the 6th and 14th districts near Chicago, respectively. Given their status as first-termers who won narrow victories in a big Democratic year, GOP officials believe they are vulnerable.

So far, at least five ambitious Republicans in both districts have lined up to challenge Casten and Underwood. But before they can do that, they have to win the March primary election.

That inevitably has degenerated into insults, name-calling and — shocking as it may be — dirty politics.

Recently, two of the GOP candidates — state Sens. Jim Oberweis and Sue Rezin — got into a fracas over which of the two is the most electable against Underwood in the 14th district.

Whoever wrote Rezin’s press release got a little carried away with the venom.

In response to Oberweis’ claims that he is the stronger candidate, the Rezin campaign went ballistic.

“Oberweis has run for Congress, U.S. Senate and governor six times and lost six times. He has a virtual Ph.D. in losing elections. ... the fact is Sue Rezin needs no lessons from Oberweis about how to win elections.

“Oberweis can watch, wait and learn about how Rezin’s effective campaign will surge past him because Sue Rezin has done so again and again and again and again in highly competitive legislative campaigns. ...

“Jim Oberweis can dream about the 7th time being the charm, but Republican voters would be reckless to bestow a nomination for Congress that is critical to earning back the U.S. House majority on a candidate who has blown more elections for high office than anyone in the state of Illinois.”

While not dominating on the election front, Oberweis had been hugely successful in private business. He has built a successful mutual fund business, resurrected a struggling family dairy business and overseen the construction of a chain of ice cream stores and restaurants specializing in hamburgers and pizza.

Meanwhile, in the 6th district, former state Rep. Jeanne Ives and former Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti are competing to run against Democrat Casten.

Sanguinetti recently made — by Republican standards — a despicable accusation against Ives, charging — falsely — that Ives is friendly with Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, the evil genius who has succeeded in marginalizing Illinois Republicans.

Sanguinetti used what is known as a “push poll” against Ives.

That’s a method by which one candidate pushes negative information about a rival candidate under the guise of conducting a public opinion poll. Questions are phrased in a way that puts one candidate in a favorable light and the other in a negative light.

Here’s an exaggerated example: Would it affect your vote if you knew that Candidate A is a serial child molester while Candidate B has devoted her entire life to helping children and puppies?

The Sanguinetti campaign push poll told voters that Sanguitti “spent 10 years fighting Michael Madigan” while Ives is “Mike Madigan’s favorite Republican.”

Former Gov. Bruce Rauner used the same dishonest attack against Ives when they ran against each other in the 2018 Republican primary, which Rauner barely survived. It’s a clear effort to mislead voters.

Equally false is Sanguinetti’s claim that she has spent “10 years” fighting Madigan. A lawyer, Sanguinetti was a member of the Wheaton City Council, an assistant attorney general and a law professor before being elected lieutenant governor. None of those positions afforded her an opportunity to oppose Madigan in any meaningful way.

Judicial race update

The heretofore-mysterious Republican candidate weighing a bid for a circuit judge post in Champaign County has announced that she’s running.

“I think it’s an opportunity. I just don’t see why I should not run,” said Cherie Kesler, who oversees a general law practice in Savoy.

Other Republican lawyers have shied away from the post since Democrats swept every county office in the 2018 election.

Kesler will be running for the post of resident judge in Champaign County to succeed the retired Michael Jones. She’s the first — and probably will be the only — Republican candidate to announce that she’ll be seeking her party’s nomination in the March 17 primary.

Three Democrats — Ruth Wyman, Ramona Sullivan and Troy Lozar — are seeking their party’s nomination. A fourth — David Moore — said he also may run.

There are two circuit judge posts up for election.

The resident judge post will be elected solely by county residents while the other will be elected by voters in all six counties (Champaign, DeWitt, Douglas, Moultrie, Macon and Piatt) in the Sixth Judicial Circuit.

The multicounty post is occupied by retiring Circuit Judge Thomas Difanis. The Illinois Supreme Court appointed former assistant U.S. attorney Jason Bohm to fill the resident judge post after Jones retired.

Rather than run for the office he currently holds — resident judge — Bohm has opted to run for the multicounty post. He’s opposed in the GOP primary by local lawyer Sami Anderson.

Kesler, who is married and the mother of three school-age children, grew up in Champaign County. She’s a 1999 graduate of Eureka College and a 2001 graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law.

Kesler said she is aware the county post is considered to be more friendly to Democrats following the results of the 2018 election. But Kesler said she’s confident she can win the election, and she plans to aggressively campaign.

“It’s not time to run for cover,” she said.

Jim Dey is a staff writer for The News-Gazette. His email is jdey@news-gazette.com.

Opinions Editor

Jim Dey is a staff writer for The News-Gazette. His email is jdey@news-gazette.com.