There’s little question about who the most passionate Republicans and Democrats in East Central Illinois — those who are willing to write a check — support for governor in the primary election this March.
For the Democrats, it’s state Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston. And Republicans want Gov. Bruce Rauner for another round.
Biss has picked up a pile of local endorsements in the six-way Democratic primary for governor: state Rep. Carol Ammons, former state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson and her husband, Eric, former Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing, the Champaign County Young Democrats, Champaign City Council member Alicia Beck and county board members Josh Hartke and Kyle Patterson.
And when it comes to campaign contributions, he’s the runaway winner among Democrats with $7,275 from Champaign, Urbana and Danville, although none of it is from Danville. His biggest local donor is Drora Shalev of Champaign, with a $2,500 contribution.
Chris Kennedy has raised only $525 locally.
And Democratic frontrunner J.B. Pritzker — with a $42.2 million campaign so far — doesn’t have any other donors, let alone local ones. His campaign is 100 percent self-funded.
Rauner’s team hasn’t compiled a list of endorsements although a couple of area legislators, including Reps. Tom Bennett and Bill Mitchell, have gone on the record for Rauner over his challenger, state Rep. Jeanne Ives of Wheaton.
The governor so far has collected about $7,282 in itemized contributions — $7 more than Biss — from supporters in Champaign, Urbana and Danville. The biggest donation is $1,500 from Daniel Wells of Champaign.
Ives, who hasn’t campaigned any closer than Charleston-Mattoon, is still looking for her first itemized contribution from the area.
It’s another indication of how the late start to her gubernatorial campaign — she didn’t announce until around Halloween and didn’t raise any money until Nov. 11 — has hurt her.
Ives raised $438,579 in November and December, an impressive amount that could be viewed as more than Rauner collected in the quarter. The governor reported $2.755 million in the three-month period, but $2.5 million was from Ken Griffin, Illinois’ wealthiest man and a longtime Rauner pal.
But a poll last week of likely Republican voters by the firm We Ask America found that about 65.5 percent favored Rauner and 20.5 percent sided with Ives.
Most telling, though, was that 68 percent of the likely GOP voters said they hadn’t heard of Ives, a conservative lawmaker who is running to the right of the governor. Even in the Chicago collars counties, where Ives is best known, 65 percent of the Republican voters said they had never head of her. Downstate almost 70 percent said they weren’t familiar with Ives.
The news wasn’t all good for Rauner either. A quarter of the GOP voters said they had an unfavorable opinion of him. His unfavorables were highest among women (26.5 percent), voters ages 35-44 (35 percent) and those in the collar counties (30 percent). His favorables were highest among men (68 percent), those ages 18-24 (71.5 percent) and those living in suburban Cook County (67 percent).
Judicial races seldom draw a lot of intense interest from voters, much less judicial primaries. But the Republican circuit judge contest between Judge Randy Rosenbaum, who was appointed in 2016 to replace retiring Judge Harry Clem, and challenger Sami Anderson is intriguing.
Anderson is in a coordinated campaign with a group of other young Republicans — Gordy Hulten for county executive, John Farney for county treasurer, Allen Jones for sheriff and Matt Grandone for county clerk — while Rosenbaum is backed by judges and former judges.
“I’m certainly supporting her,” Hulten said of Anderson. “I believe that the others are too.”
But those supporting Rosenbaum include Appellate Court Justice Robert Steigannn and his wife, Sherry, who gave Rosenbaum’s campaign $300, and Circuit Judge Tom Difanis, who contributed $266.72. Developer Peter Fox donated $500 to the Rosenbaum campaign.
Further, former Judge Jack DeLaMar has cut an effective radio commercial on Rosenbaum’s behalf.
“We shouldn’t elect judges based on politics,” DeLaMar says in the spot. “We elect them based on experience and qualifications. And there’s nobody more qualified to serve as circuit judge than Randy Rosenbaum.”
The commercial then cuts to a female voice who improbably links Rosenbaum with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, a favorite of political conservatives.
“Like new Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch, Judge Randy Rosenbaum believes judges should interpret the law, not rewrite it,” says the announcer.
In terms of fundraising, Rosenbaum has a big advantage with $35,849 on hand versus $4,423 in Anderson’s fund. But of the $43,566 that Rosenbaum has raised, $40,000 is from a loan he made to his campaign.
Oakland Republican Chris Miller, seeking to replace Charleston Republican Reggie Phillips in the Illinois House, is picking up financial support and endorsements from quite an array of Republicans.
Miller is running against Charleston Republican Terry Davis in the 110th District, which includes all of Coles County plus all or parts of Edgar, Cumberland, Clark, Crawford and Lawrence counties.
Last week he announced the endorsement of former U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson of Urbana, who also gave Miller a $1,000 campaign contribution through his federal Middle Ground PAC.
Miller also got $2,000 from state Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville.
And he’s been the recipient of almost $5,550 in “independent expenditures” (for mail pieces and video) from Chicago conservative Dan Proft’s Liberty Principles PAC.
I asked him how he was able to win favor from such a variety of politicians and groups.
“I’m a farmer. Everybody loves farmers,” he joked. “Well, the biggest thing is that over the years, you meet a lot of people.”
He said he knows Johnson through the former congressman’s son, Buzz, who works for the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
He’s “had both a social and business relationship” with Halbrook for more than 30 years, he said.
Miller said he has never talked to Proft, although before he announced his candidacy, he was interviewed by Proft associates including Pat Hughes of the Illinois Opportunity Project.
“Basically the interview was to see if I was a moral and fiscal conservative. And apparently they determined that I was somebody they wanted to support,” Miller said.
“Most of these people are conservatives and they want to see conservatives going to Springfield and they know that that’s how I live my life. I don’t make it up,” he said.
Miller said he’s staying neutral in the Rauner-Ives race.
“Oh heavens no. That would be a landmine,” he said. “I have no desire to get involved in that mess. I have enough problems running my own campaign.”
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette reporter and columnist. His column appears on Sundays and Wednesdays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.