Yesterday, Illinois Veterans Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth tried her best to make a media splash for 10th District Dem Challenger Dan Seals, who is running against incumbent Congressman Mark Kirk, but the event was overshadowed by her use of a state-owned van to drive to event, a clear violation of state law. The mistake was admitted by Duckworth's office, according to the Chicago Tribune. "She will reimburse the state for the use of the state vehicle, and will not make this mistake again," Jessica Woodward, a Veterans Affairs spokeswoman, told the Tribune. The Tribune also noted that by the time the event was over, someone had quietly moved the van out of sight of reporters.
This marks at least the second time a Seals media event has blown up in his face. Aside from the very questionable wisdom in making support of veterans an issue with a guy like Mark Kirk, who is a naval intelligence reservist, and is credited with saving and greatly expanding the North Chicago VA hospital, the Duckworth mistake was the story of the event, not Seals' criticisms of Kirk's records on veterans. As to Seals' criticisms, a quote from Dan didn't even make it into the Trib story.
NBC-5's coverage of the event quoted Seals as stating that "We don't want somebody who just supports veterans some of the time. We want someone who is going to support them all of the time." So, what Seals is really saying that his criticism of Kirk is that he has not voted in favor of every single bill that had some purported benefit for veterans in it. Well, that might make for a political sound bite, but I think Kirk has explanations that make a great deal of sense for why he sometimes has to vote against a bill that contains some benefits for veterans, but otherwise is ill-drafted, has provisions that would actually harm veterans, or has other flaws. No doubt when Seals brings this up at the upcoming debates, Kirk will fry him.
Getting back to Duckworth, even though she took pains to make clear she had taken off from work and was appearing as a 'private citizen,' for someone in her position as the appointed director of a state agency, this appropriately was met with criticism. It's pretty hard to have a position like hers and then claim you are stepping away from that to campaign as a blatant partisan. Of course, we're pretty used to that kind of stuff in Illinois; after all, this is the state that basically gave Barack Obama an official state-wide endorsement when we moved the primary up to February 5th to give him an advantage against Hillary Clinton. But this also gives Kirk a pretty good hook to paint Seals as a Blagojevich-supported Chicago-style politician--which is a death knell to a candidate in the 10th, if it sticks.
Duckworth, who herself is a failed Congressional candidate, might want to think twice about the company she keeps, in campaigning for another failed congressional candidate who can't seem to gain any media attention without getting egg all over his face.
UPDATED: Just saw that the Daily Herald has a pair of articles, the first on 'van-gate', and the second on the meat of the event. Interesting that in the second article, Duckworth pooh-poohs the endorsement of the Veterans of Foreign Wars PAC that Mark Kirk just received. "We all know what that is worth," she said. Imagine- a so-called representative of veterans that doesn't care what veterans think. Nice.
TERRY LINK'S PETITION CIRCULATORS BACK IN COURT: In other news, Jerry Knight and Kenneth Davison were back in court in Lake County yesterday, this time to plead not guilty to multiple charges of forgery and perjury. Background on the story here. Jerry Knight's story is apparently going to be that people claimed to be someone they were not when they signed the false signatures. This will be a little tough to argue as a defense, though, when it can be easily shown that many of the signatures were names that were copied right out of the phone book, with errors in the addresses that were one line above, or one line below, the entry for the person in the phone book. Unless Knight didn't notice that people signing his petitions had a phone book in their hand when they were writing in names, this is going to be a hard sell.
Better get a good lawyer, Mr. Knight. You are certainly not going to get any help from Pete Couvall and Terry Link, who immediately threw you and your partner under the bus when the scandal broke.