Pamella Gronemeyer, who is running for the low-profile position of Democratic state central committeewoman in the 13th Congressional District, hasn’t promised to try to unseat longtime Democratic Party Chairman Michael Madigan.
But one of Madigan’s campaign committees, Friends of Michael J. Madigan, has paid for robocalls by Sen. Dick Durbin and AFL-CIO President Mike Carrigan that endorse Gronemeyer’s opponent, Jayne Mazzotti of Taylorville.
And Madigan spent thousands of dollars on mail pieces against two other state central committee members endorsed by Our Revolution, a group of Bernie Sanders supporters like Gronemeyer who want to reform the Democratic Party of Illinois.
That might include toppling Madigan, who has headed the party since 1998.
“I think it’s been a very tough fight with him and Rauner. Certainly, I’m opposed to Rauner,” said Gronemeyer, a pathologist who lives in Glen Carbon and owns SEMC Pathology in Highland. “But I think that maybe it might be time to contemplate a change. I think (Madigan) should want to embrace some of the people who are running on the slate with me.
“We are good Democrats. We went to the convention. We supported things. We got out the vote. I think he should embrace us rather than run ads against us. Or come and talk to us even.”
Our Revolution includes 13 candidates from around the state running for either state central committeeman or committeewoman. Even if all were elected next Tuesday, they probably couldn’t transform the 36-member state central committee.
But Gronemeyer said she “would like to make the party more progressive. The idea is that it’s sort of staid. We had a lot of progressive activity during the Bernie campaign, and we’d just like to expand the progressive part of it.
“The party doesn’t reach everybody. There are a lot of young people and other people who sort of feel left out. I think the Illinois Democratic Party could use some new blood, not that I’m new, but I think I’m a young 65.”
Gronemeyer said she doesn’t know why the head of the Democratic Party is using robocalls against her or mailers against some of her colleagues.
“I don’t know why Madigan would be afraid of us. We don’t want to throw everything away. Gosh darn it, I supported a tax increase because we have to do something with our budget,” she said of the state income tax increase last year. “They shouldn’t be afraid of us. They should want people to be involved, and that’s what our goal is.
“Do I want to declare war on him? No, I want to see if we can work together. I want to see how we can work. I don’t think that declaring war is necessarily a good tactic. But I’m not saying I wouldn’t like to see someone else in there either. We need to see who is available and what they offer.”
Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said the robocalls for Mazzotti are simply “in support of incumbent members of the committee who have been longtime Democratic activists.”
He said that recorded calls from U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth also have been used on behalf of incumbent state central committee members.
“I don’t think anyone is afraid of them,” Brown said. “But you run campaigns to win, and in the case of Sen. Durbin’s calls and the Carrigan calls and the Duckworth calls we made, it is to support party activists who are running to win. We’re not afraid of anybody.”
Mazzotti declined to return messages seeking a comment.
Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, whose 15th Congressional District includes Danville, Rantoul, Tuscola, Paris and points south, continues to pile up campaign cash. And to disburse it.
Shimkus’ campaign fund reported $84,772 in contributions during January and February — $81,000 of it from political action committee like the NRA ($2,000); and Speaker Paul Ryan’s Prosperity Action Inc., the Action Committee for Rural Electrification, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, Select Medical Corp. and Southern Companies, $5,000 each.
And he passed those contributions on to other Republicans and party committees: $50,000 to the Illinois Republican Party, $15,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, and $2,000 donations to Illinois congressional colleagues Rodney Davis, Mike Bost, Randy Hultgren, Adam Kinzinger, Darin LaHood and Peter Roskam.
After all that, Shimkus had a little more than $1 million in his campaign fund on Feb. 28.
Former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar has endorsed Randy Keith for state representative in the 101st House District. Keith, the chairman of the Piatt County Board, is running against Dan Caulkins and Todd Henricks in the Republican Party primary.
Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, is not running for re-election in the 101st.
“Today, we’re seeing more screaming, shouting and blame and not nearly enough cooperation,” Edgar said. “Randy Keith is someone I’m confident can get things done in Springfield. He’ll work for common-sense policies and reform and focus on results, not partisanship.”
County board endorsements
The Champaign County AFL-CIO has made endorsements in two county board Democratic primary races: Mike Ingram in District 6 and Tanisha King-Taylor in District 10.
King-Taylor also was endorsed by the Champaign County Young Democrats.
— U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, reported $28,900 in campaign contributions on Tuesday, including $1,000 from the office of the commissioner of Major League Baseball. He also got $4,900 from ABATE Illinois, an advocacy group for motorcyclists; $2,500 from the Asian-American Hotel Owner Association; and $2,000 from Old Dominion Freight Line, International Paper and the Union Pacific Corp.
— Mary Henson, the wife of basketball coaching legend Lou Henson, has contributed $1,000 to Citizens for Rauner.
— Retired Champaign County Judge Harold Jensen gave $1,000 to the campaign of Judge Randy Rosenbaum. And another retired judge, Chase Leonhard, gave $1,000 to the campaign of Rosenbaum’s opponent, Sami Anderson.
— The Monticello Area Education Foundation has given $1,000 to the campaign to approve a $29.8 million building bonds tax increase next week. The Students First for Monticello pro-bond issue group has received $4,000 in itemized contributions.
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette reporter and columnist. His column appears on Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at email@example.com.