Monday, August 31, 2009

McCain's Backing for Mark Kirk Sets Endorsement Standard for U.S. Senate Race (UPDATED x2)

By rolling out an early prime endorsement by U.S. Senator John McCain, Congressman Mark Kirk sets the bar pretty high for contenders in either party to make a splash with future endorsements.

McCain, if you recall, was the GOP nominee for president in 2008, but perhaps of more relevance in the IL senate race, is a sitting senator and veteran (not to mention a former POW). So far, none of the wanna-be senators on either side of the aisle have come up with anything nearly as impressive, and we still have months to go before the primary, not to mention the general elections. Unless Obama comes in for a Dem, which is far from certain in the general, and highly doubtful in the primary, this is likely to be the endorsement with the most 'star power' that anyone is going to be able to muster.

The media took notice. In addition to making the local evening news (ABC-7 video here, WGN-9 video here), check out the print coverage in the Sun-Times, Daily Herald, and Tribune.

While some are skeptical that this is any big deal, when you consider that Kirk's first challenge is to familiarize downstate voters with himself, discounting the advantages of having a national hero like McCain (whom everyone knows) in your corner is a bit nearsighted. And by bringing out the big guns early, any endorsements that the other little-known GOP contenders seek to roll out are going to pale in comparison.

Advantage: Kirk.

UPDATED 5:45 p.m.: I saw just now that Congressman Bobby Rush is going to endorse Democratic hopeful Cheryle Jackson for U.S. Senate. As a local Congressman, Rush doesn't have the stature of a former presidential candidate such as McCain, but it ain't bad, and I think trumps anything Alexi or Hoffman have trotted out so far. As far as I'm concerned, I hope the Dem primary is a three-way snipe-fest all the way until February.

UPDATED x2 9/1/09 10:00 a.m.: She also got Meek's endorsement, says Sweet.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Weekend Update: Kirk/McCain; Hamos; Coulson's Seat

Not all that much going politically on this weekend, as I contemplate one of my last sailboat races scheduled for today with 5-7 ft. waves forecasted. Yikes!

Here's what I have:

McCain Returns the Favor to Kirk: Senator and former GOP presidential nominee John McCain is coming to town to stump for Congressman Mark Kirk and his bid for U.S. Senate. There will be a gathering in Glenview on Sunday afternoon, with a fundraiser at a private home in Winnetka later that is projected to raise over half a million dollars, according to the News-Sun. Kirk was an early supporter of McCain's presidential race, and McCain was an early supporter of Kirk back in his race for Congress in 2000, so there is quite a relationship there.

Julie Hamos to Get a Piece of the 10th District: State Rep. Julie Hamos, who has announced a run for the 10th Congressional District, even though she (much like Dan Seals) doesn't live in it, got herself a little piece of the 10th District by opening up a campaign office in Northbrook on Dundee Road. Early reports a while back stated that she intended to move to the 10th, but how aggressively she's doing so is questionable. In this market, it's a fairly safe move to put your condo up for sale and have little concern it's going to move unless priced extremely aggressively; which gives Hamos plenty of time to see how she does in the primary in February.

Speaking of the Dem race for the 10th District: I've heard virtually squat out of our old friend Dan Seals. I assume he's trying to pass petitions in-between getting the kids off to school and hanging out at the gym, or whatever he does. But Hamos isn't messing around, so he better get going. Hamos is no Jay Footlik, so if Seals thinks he's going to waltz through the primary with 85% of the vote again, he's in for a shock.

Beth Coulson's replacement: TA hears that GOP leaders have a bright, fresh face in mind for Beth Coulson's seat in the 17th District, now that she's decided to run for the 10th Congressional District. If he survives vetting this week, we may hear something exciting soon.

That's what I got: what have you all heard?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

IL Senate Race Continues to Develop with Addition of David Hoffman; Other Stories (UPDATED)

It's a busy morning, so for now we will note that a potentially huge development occurred yesterday when Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman announced that he was entering the race for U.S. Senate as a Democrat. Rooting out corruption in Chicago is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel, but clearly Hoffman's crime-fighting creds will be the basis of his platform. We talked about this all day yesterday over at Capitol Fax Blog, but since this could substantially alter the dynamics of the race if Hoffman can either beat up Alexi Giannoulias on ethics (perhaps even beat him), or allow the third Dem candidate, Cheryle Jackson, to slip past, it would change Mark Kirk's likely Dem opponent in the general election, so I at least wanted to mention it here.

More locally, it looks like all of five people (check out the pix in the News-Sun) showed up in Waukegan yesterday to protest Mark Kirk's stance on health care reform, after hundreds turned out (many of whom supported Kirk) at his town hall earlier this week.

Finally, conservative candidate Eric Wallace is not happy as he is claiming that Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has stepped into the IL Senate race and endorsed Mark Kirk. I listened to the recent interview of Steele on the Don Wade and Roma show that Wallace references, and while Steele never actually said he was endorsing Kirk, Steele certainly gushed over him and stated that the RNC would be supporting Kirk financially. Always knew I liked Steele, ever since he came to speak at the Lake County Republican Federation Spring Dinner a few years back.

UPDATED 11:15 a.m.: This was expected, considering Dick Green was making the rounds even before Mark Kirk officially decided not to run again for Congress, but today Green officially announced he's in the IL-10 race. You can download the press release here. See our previous profile on Green here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Green Dragonfly Meth Clinic Debacle May Yet Sting Lake County Coroner Richard Keller

In the latest development of Dr. Richard Keller's involvement with the private Green Dragonfly methadone clinic in Waukegan, the clinic announced that it will voluntarily close... that is, before the heat gets to be too much, apparently.

The clinic, and Keller himself, are under investigation for their involvement in the death by drug overdose of 30 year-old Lindenhurst resident Steven Vaughn. Keller, as readers will recall, abruptly resigned from his position as medical director of the clinic shortly after he announced he would not run again for his elected position of Lake County Coroner. He later admitted that the Green Dragonfly investigation prompted his decision not to run again, after first stating that he was simply tired of the politics involved in the job.

The News-Sun reported on this in today's edition, but a much more penetrating article in the Tribune suggests that the clinic operators may end up throwing Keller under the bus:

Keller said Tuesday that he was surprised to learn of the clinic's closing and declined comment. When asked, he said he has no intention of quitting his elected position as coroner, a 4-year term that ends in 2012.

"All along, Green Dragonfly has relied on the medical advice of Dr. Keller, who is also the Lake County coroner," the clinic said in a prepared statement. "As we continue to investigate the tragedy of the death of Mr. Vaughn, we will hold accountable the failure of anyone to follow the law and proper procedures."

Green Dragonfly owners Mary Olloway and Sandra Hay could not be reached Tuesday. Hay and her husband also own On the Border, a Franklin, Wis., strip club -- a connection also being investigated.

It remains to be seen where the investigation leads and whether Keller will do another flip-flop, and end up resigning his post as coroner.

As we all also remember, the Lake County Democrats have sworn that the investigation of Keller is all just political persecution. The more this story develops, the more it becomes clear that such claim is just so much more smokescreen and lack of accountability from the Dems.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Congressman Mark Kirk Gains Momentum and Exposure From Health Care Town Hall; Plus Senate and IL-10 Races

I didn't go to Mark Kirk's townhall myself yesterday, but from what I could see on the evening news, and what I've assembled in the print media reports, it seemed that our Congressman pulled off quite a media coup in the middle of a tough situation.

While many of our national representatives, such as Senator Dick Durbin, are running from health care town halls at the speed of light due to the controversy and contention that some of them have generated, Kirk chose to embrace the format as an opportunity to connect with voters in the district. In contrast, if you're a constituent of Melissa Bean or Bill Foster, you need to host your own town hall outside your congressman's office, since they seem to be in hiding.

Of course, we suspect Kirk ended up connecting with many voters outside the district as well, given that attempted to take over the meeting by recruiting attendees to come, not to listen to Kirk with an open mind, but to lobby for their brand of health care reform. Here's the e-mail, which was passed along to me by Antoinetta "Ant" Simonian at the Lake County Republican Federation:

TAKE NOTICE - has issued a Call To Action to its members to attend the Kirk Town Hall Meeting.

Dear MoveOn member, I'm a MoveOn member like you, and I'm working with the local MoveOn Council to organize an event tomorrow in Arlington Heights to make our voices heard for real health care reform. The event is on Monday, Aug. 24, 2009, at 3:00 PM in Arlington Heights. The location of our event is: Arlington Heights Village Hall.Here's the event description: Rep. Mark Kirk from IL 10th Cong. District is running for the U.S. Senate. He is having a town hall on Mon. Aug. 24 at 3 pm at the Arlington Heights Village Hall. Let's make sure Rep. Kirk knows that Illinois residents support a PUBLIC OPTION. Please arrive early and bring signs supporting the public option. I hope you can join me and other local MoveOn members. Thanks for all you do. - Amy K., MoveOn member

So, I watched the evening news with interest, and from what I could see of the news coverage, the town hall was not only mostly orderly, it was a runaway success, and Kirk's staff ended up extending the meeting so more people could enter and have their say.

Here's the kind of story that was being told at the meeting, the likes of which haven't really been heard too much in the mainstream media:

Linda Camodeca has been battling lung cancer for six years now. Doctors have given her only a 12 percent survival rate, but that doesn't scare her nearly as much as what she's hearing about health care reform.

"I am 67 years old, and if we go to universal health care, I wouldn't be here today," Camodeca said. She says the reason is simple.

"I'm afraid that they would consider me too old to do all they've done for me and save my life," Camodeca said.

Here's a roundup of some of the great news coverage for Kirk. Sun-Times, Tribune, Pioneer Press, Daily Herald, ABC-7 video. Tribune columnist Dennis Byrne also writes about Kirk's compromise health care reform proposal here.

I'd say all of this gives Kirk quite a boost for his already impressive position for his U.S. Senate race, as well.

SPEAKING OF U.S. SENATE: Political newcomer Pat Hughes, my law school chum, didn't have much of a honeymoon after his announcement last week that he intended to run for U.S. Senate as a conservative alternative to Mark Kirk. Serial litigant and fellow Senate candidate Andy Martin has already trained his gun sights on poor Pat, claiming that Hughes is no longer registered as an active attorney with the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) and therefore falsely is representing himself on the campaign trail (and his development firm's website) as an attorney; Martin, who is no stranger to using court action as a campaign tool, said yesterday that he intended to file a complaint with the ARDC against Hughes. They're also duking this out over at conservative blog Illinois Review. Welcome to the cesspool, Pat.

MEANWHILE: In other 10th District news, as we first broke the story here last week (getting some national attention in the process), State Rep. Beth Coulson formally announced her candidacy for the 10th Congressional District. Sadly, I could not make that event either (work, work, work). Video here.

TA also heard that other candidates are continuing to make rounds as well, including attorney Bill Cadigan and businessman Bob Dold, who both showed up to the Libertyville Township Republican meeting last night. We'll have a profile on Dold here soon. Also at the meeting was Green Oaks resident Mohan Manian, who is officially throwing in for Kathy Ryg's 59th District race as a Republican, which means that current front-runner attorney Dan Sugrue has a little local competition for the GOP nomination.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Much Intrigue Behind the Scenes in the 59th District: Will Mark Peterson, Lisa Stone, or Others Step Up?; Plus U.S. Senate Update (UPDATED)

In the wake of the recent announcement by popular State Representative Kathy Ryg that she would resign to take the job of President of Voices for Illinois Children, potential candidates on both sides of the aisle started making moves, some behind the scenes and some a bit more public.

The immediate issue, of course, is that the Lake County Democrats need to appoint a replacement to serve the unexpired portion of Ryg's two year term, which is up for election next November and for which petitions already are being circulated (why does it seem like it's always election season for something in Illinois?). Under the system used by the Dems, State Senator and Lake County Dem Chairman Terry Link can basically make a unilateral decision on a replacement. Link, of course, recently announced that he would be running for Lt. Governor in 2010 (his senate seat is not up for re-election until 2012). [See some State Fair video of Link here, courtesy of Capitol Fax. He didn't look too dynamic to me...]

The front-runner for the Ryg appointment may well be Buffalo Grove mayor Elliot Hartstein, who has already taken the bull by the horns and announced that he will run for Ryg's seat, and would very much like to be appointed by Link. TA doesn't know Hartstein well, but understands that he has a close relationship with Link. While I initially thought that Hartstein's very public and loudly announced move was meant to put Link in a bit of a political box, maybe this has all been worked out in advance. Given the criticism the Dems recently gave Lake County Board Chairwoman and State Senate candidate Suzi Schmidt for supposedly not being open about her recent appointment decisions of two replacement county board members, the Dems will take care to make it at least appear that the fix isn't already in, if they are smart.

While Hartstein is the only new candidate to officially surface, TA hears on the street that several others are seriously considering throwing in. On the Republican side, banker Mark Peterson is supposedly seriously considering a run. Peterson is the son of recently-retired and long time Senator Bill Peterson and has not previously run for office. He is the President of Business Development for Bridgeview Bank Group. Dad Bill Peterson is still Vernon Township Supervisor and the last TA heard, is still sitting on a lot of cash in his campaign account, so if Mark P. decides to enter the race, his father's political ties and money will make him a serious primary contender against current front runner and Green Oaks attorney Dan Sugrue. TA hears that Peterson's talk of running has already caused a few local politicos to hold off on offering endorsements and support to Sugrue, so this is a significant development.

Another name heard on the street is Buffalo Grove trustee Lisa Stone (what is it with Buffalo Grove?). Stone is known as a feisty activist, whom Hartstein has called a "smart, independent thinker," who is "tenacious" and "relentless." Look here for Stone's village trustee website, which is pretty darn impressive for a local candidate. State Rep. Sid Mathias and County Board Member David Stolman were Stone's honorary campaign chairmen and resoundingly endorsed her candidacy for trustee.

Interestingly, a few weeks back, TA seemed to be getting a lot of hits on the Blog by people searching for "Lisa Stone, Congress". A 10th Congressional District candidacy obviously did not evolve (at least not yet, there's still some time left...), but it seems like the 59th District events have opened up a new vista for Stone, perhaps.

The question, though, is whether Stone would run as a Republican or a Democrat. TA hears from a very reliable source that Stone is considering running under the GOP banner, although her voting record suggests a Dem voting history. Given the likelihood that Hartstein will get the nod from Terry Link, and has said he will run regardless, Stone would have a decent chance of having to battle her mayor in either the Dem primary or the general election, should she and Hartstein win the respective nominations of the two parties. On the other hand, maybe this would be an opening for Stone to take over as mayor of Buffalo Grove, but I don't have much of a handle on the local scene down there, so I don't really know if that's where this may be headed. (UPDATED 08/24/09 7:00 a.m.: there were a few political events over the weekend, notably the conservative Republican Assembly of Lake County picnic, but no sign of Mark Peterson making the rounds. That may not be a big shock, however, since #1) the folks at the RALC picnic are Dan Sugrue's bread and butter and about the last place M. Peterson would be expected to make his public debut, and #2), if M. Peterson does get in the race, the initial focus will be on a lot of back-channel maneuvering by dad Bill Peterson to line up support before Mark hits the street.)

U.S. SENATE UPDATE: This week, a poll released by Rasmussen had Mark Kirk leading the front-running Dem contender, Alexi Giannoulias. This apparently spooked the Dems so much that they started casting around for a better candidate (TA hears that this has been going on for some time, actually) and may have identified Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart as a possibility. Just this morning, however, Michael Sneed at the Sun-Times claims that a new Dem poll shows Giannoulias leading Kirk with a bigger lead than what the other poll supposedly showed Kirk having over Alexi. Upshot, there's still a lot of time for polling and forming voter opinions, so don't get too wrapped up in all this too much, too soon, is TA's advice.

Meanwhile, in addition to declared candidates downstate Judge Donald Lowery, minister Eric Wallace, Internet pundit and serial litigator Andy Martin, newcomer and attorney/developer Patrick Hughes threw in for the Senate race.

Hughes' entry could be interesting. I have some inside knowledge of Pat, who was a law school classmate of mine at DePaul Law School in the early 90's. Pat is a smart, articulate guy, and may become the darling of the right-to-life, conservative wing of the party. But with numerous candidates now vying for what faction of anti-Kirk vote exists in the party, whether any of these folks pose a serious threat is questionable.

Pat has no political experience and will be learning as he goes. I already noticed that some of his campaign literature seemed to be lacking the proper funding disclosures, although his website appears to get it right. Pat also apparently failed to kiss the ring of conservative blog Illinois Review before announcing, which they didn't appreciate. So, it seems clear that rookie mistakes will be made along the way.

Neither of us were known as the hardest workers back in law school, so given that Pat isn't in for a cakewalk to first capture the lion's share of the conservative vote (I doubt either Wallace or Martin are going down without a fight), and THEN he must confront Kirk's mainstream popularity (and I expect Kirk will have enough money to be on TV statewide for the Feb. primary), we'll see how long Pat keeps interested in this little flight of fancy.

UPDATED 08/24/09 7:00 a.m.: Here's a note from Dennis Byrne talking about Mark Kirk's planned townhall on healthcare, where he expects the Obama health care program supporters to be bussed in from all over. The secret is, though, that Kirk has faced this kind of artificial campaigning before and should take it in stride.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

GOP Field Begins to Thin for IL-10 in Wake of Beth Coulson Announcement: Renee Thaler Is Out

It appears that the unofficial announcement of State Rep. Beth Coulson for Mark Kirk's 10th Congressional District spot is already starting to thin the GOP primary field somewhat.

Renee Thaler, a former Edgar administration office whom we profiled here, told Team America this afternoon that she has decided not to pursue the race, given that she and Coulson are almost identical on the issues. Thaler and Coulson have known each other a long time, and interestingly, while Thaler says she wishes Coulson well, Thaler isn't ready to endorse Coulson (or assumedly anyone else) quite yet.

It will probably be a bit before things settle down as to the GOP field, and TA even expects that one or two more fairly serious contenders will present themselves before this is all done. Of course, we also need to wait to see who actually circulates petitions and gets on the primary ballot (and here in the Lake County part of the 10th District, we're certainly not shy about ballot challenges by either Dems or Republicans, so we need to hang on for a few months yet).

Coulson's entry, however, is sure to make a few other folks rethink their plan, either because they believe Coulson is the best candidate for the office, or that she simply is unbeatable in the primary.

National Attention to Beth Coulson Announcement Bodes Well for GOP Chances in IL-10 Race

Anyone who may have thought the Democrats were going to easily swoop in and claim the IL-10 congressional seat from the GOP without a fight after Mark Kirk joins the U.S. Senate must've been sorely disappointed yesterday with the unofficial announcement yesterday by State Representative Beth Coulson that she was planning to enter the race. Her official announcement is expected next Monday.

After we broke the news here, Rich Miller at Capitol Fax Blog confirmed the story (crediting Team America with the "scoop" -- thanks, Rich!), and the news was quickly picked up by the local news media, both new and old, such as Greg Hinz's blog at Crain's. From then, it went on to hit the national level, including Huffington Post (Yikes!) and Congressional Quarterly (both of which credited Team America), Roll Call (which named "two sources" for the info), and others.

Roll Call also noted that over the weekend, National Republican Congressional Committee Recruitment Chairman Kevin McCarthy came to IL-10 to meet with prospective candidates, including businessman Dick Green, attorney Bill Cadigan, and businessman Bob Dold.

If the Dems and DCCC thought that the GOP was just going to walk away from this seat without a fight, considering the blue tint to the district and the high price tag for the Chicago media market, it would seem based on the national attention already being paid to this race that they might want to think again. It's going to be a hot one.

The front running Dem candidates, Julie Hamos and Dan Seals, have plenty of warts on them that we won't go into now, but let's look forward to dissecting them over the next few months.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

State Representative Beth Coulson Ready to Dive Into IL-10 Race

At last night's Lake County Republican Central Committee meeting, State Representative Beth Coulson told the assembled crowd that she's in for the 10th District race to succeed outgoing Congressman Mark Kirk. As we noted a few weeks ago, Coulson has been mulling jumping into the race, and told Team America that she plans to make a formal announcement this coming Monday, somewhere in the northern part of the district--perhaps near Rosalind Franklin University (formerly the Chicago Medical School) where she previously was a professor of physical therapy. Health care, as you might expect, will be a primary focus of her campaign.

As we suggested here earlier, Coulson has a record that would fit well in the 10th, is an established elected official (State Rep. since 1996) and fundraiser, an experienced campaigner, and has good name recognition in parts of the 10th, which overlaps about 65% of her district (the 17th).

Look for more details in a press release later this week, with an announcement as to the venue for the formal campaign kick-off.

The GOP field so far (official and unofficial) for those keeping track are, (by TA's count, and in no particular order):

Dick Green
Bob Dold
Patricia Bird
Hamilton Chang
Beth Coulson

Terry Link Announces for Guv Lite

After floating this balloon (and one for 10th Congressional district) for a few weeks, State Senator and Lake County Chairman Terry "Vote the Graveyard" Link has declared his intent to run for Lt. Governor.

On one hand, the Lt. Guv position is pretty harmless
; until Blagojevich got indicted, one could do little harm in that position. Some Lt. Guv's like Corinne Wood used the position to further good causes, like breast cancer awareness. But generally it's a not a power position, and a vacancy in that office isn't even filled per the state constitution (note that we currently have no Lt. Governor since Pat Quinn was elevated to Governor).

So in one respect, maybe getting Link out of Lake County and into a job where he can do less harm isn't a bad thing
. But in my experience, anything Link wants can't be good for the rest of us. If Link doesn't take the coward's way out like State Senator Michael Bond (who bailed on the 10th Congressional District race when the Dem field got too tough for him) and drop out when it becomes clear which other Dems are interested, at the least, it will take Link's eye off Lake County and keep him busy elsewhere.

As most here in Lake County already know, Link has some questionable
relationships and a checkered (to put it mildly) political history. Among just a few of the issues we've covered are: Link's relationship with the gaming industry (more here and here), the towing business (more here), his refusal to vote to recall Governor Blagojevich (but remember Link was "duped," so it wasn't his fault), questionable campaign finance disclosures, and of course, the capper on it all, the names of deceased individuals appearing on Link's campaign petitions, for which he refused to take responsibility and blamed 'Republican operatives,' even though the two campaign workers ended up pleading guilty to perjury (see here just for starters).

Sure, there's lots of reason to encourage Link to run for Guv Lite and get him into a position where he may do less harm. But let's still hope the GOP puts up a decent candidate against him and sends him packing in 2010.

Related: Last
night at Waukegan's City Council meeting, Link's right hand man, "Sneaky" Pete Couvall, got booted from his position as Chairman of the Waukegan Development Commission by new Mayor Bob Sabonjian. Tough break, Pete.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Dr. Richard Keller Resigns From Green Dragonfly Meth Clinic; Is Resignation As Coroner Not Far Behind? (UPDATED)

My, today is busy politically. Apparently, Dr. Richard Keller is resigning from his position as medical director of the Green Dragonfly Methadone clinic. Background here.

Is Dr. Death's resignation as coroner not far behind?

UPDATED: 8:55 p.m.: Here's a News-Sun story on the Keller clinic resignation and here's one from the Daily Herald. Keller says it had nothing to do with the current scandal over the investigation of the clinic and he's planned this all along. Where have we heard something like that before? Oh, yeah, it was when Keller said he was not going to run again because he hated politics. Right.

Well, Keller's resignation from the clinic is not enough for the News-Sun. They want his head on a platter (or maybe in a box, considering he's the coroner). Interestingly, the News-Sun noted this:

This isn’t the first time the Democratic coroner has played fast and loose with his official capacity. Last year, Keller testified under subpoena in a sexual assault case for the defense as an expert witness for a $150 fee. It was a trial where a 28-year-old man was accused of assaulting a 5-year-old child. Keller said that was the first time he had testified for the defense. He testified on technical matters concerning an emergency room physician’s examination of the victim.

Which story was originally noted by the Lake County GOP. Just another public service we provide.

At the risk of being accused of being tipped off in advance, I'm wondering if Keller is going to decide soon that a little vacation to Mexico might be in order...

Rasmussen has Kirk Ahead in U.S. Senate Match-ups

We'll talk about this more later, as I'm in the middle of the workday, but Scott Rasmussen has Kirk leading both Alexi Giannoulias (41-38) and Cheryle Jackson (47-30) in the race for U.S. Senate. A few other interesting factoids are Alexi's higher total unfavorables compared to Kirk's (33-28), and Kirk's higher total favorables compared to Alexi (55-51). Full analysis here.

Also note some interesting questions on the guv race, especially the fairly high "not sure" reponses on opinions about the GOP candidates, which means they have a lot of name recognition to build as the race gets underway (Rasmussen polled on Dillard, Brady, Murphy, Schillerstrom and Proft, but not Adam Andrzejewski).

State Rep. Kathy Ryg Leaving 59th District (UPDATED)

State Representative Kathy Ryg will resign her position in the General Assembly to take the position of President of Voices for Illinois Children. Here's the official press release off the organization's website.

That gives GOP front-runner Dan Sugrue quite a boost, but it may also open the floodgates for additional contenders who didn't quite have the guts to enter the race when it looked like Ryg was the opponent.

On the Dem side, wonder who they will appoint to fill the remainder of her term. Whomever it is will have a leg up on the Dem nomination, unless the plan is to nominate a place-holder and let the primary be a free-for-all. Given how things are shaking out in the popular 10th Congressional District race, I would expect plenty of competition on both sides to come in.

However, the smart money is that Ryg has already got someone in mind that Michael Madigan has blessed. Given Ryg's new position is likely to have a heavy lobbying component that will be looking for state support, she's not going to leave Madigan in the lurch without a good candidate who can keep the 59th District in Dem hands. However, someone else told me this morning that Ryg is pretty much taking off from the GA and not giving it much of a look back, so we'll see.

Look for Madigan to spend as much as he needs to in order to keep this seat. Heavy Dem spending on this race may also have a ripple effect in other local races, including the 10th District Congressional race.

I should add that it's nice to see a Democrat resign from office for a reason other than scandal, for a change. We didn't like Kathy's politics, but we liked her as a person, so we wish her the best of luck in her new position.

UPDATED 12:40 p.m.: The Daily Herald has a story up, with a quote from Dan Sugrue.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Richard Keller Methadone Clinic Scandal Attracts MSM Attention; Was a Cover-up Involved?

The investigation of Dr. Richard Keller, the Democratic Lake County Coroner, for alleged misconduct with relation to a death of an individual who was given methadone at a Waukegan clinic by Keller, which death Keller then investigated as coroner, is attracting more scrutiny in the main stream media. Today, the Chicago Tribune ran an interesting story focusing on the recent proliferation of methadone treatment clinics, and gave some more details on his operation of the Green Dragonfly Clinic (how's that for a 60's-era holdover name?).

Among other interesting factoids in the Trib article are the following:

Keller acknowledged that he and the two women who own the clinic have no background in addiction treatment, which is recommended but not required by law. Methadone clinics must be registered and evaluated by the DEA, the U.S. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and the state human services agency's Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, officials said.

The state inspected Green Dragonfly in July, citing staff for violations that are being remedied, Keller said. One violation included the failure to report Vaughn's death as required, officials said.

On Friday, the state declined the Tribune's request for a copy of the report, citing exemptions in Illinois' open records law, including one in which a request can be denied if it "would interfere with pending or actually and reasonably contemplated law enforcement proceedings."

Not a total shock that the state is reluctant to cough up this report (various agencies, as well as former guv Blagojevich, are famous for being cagey when it comes to releasing documents), but the fact that the clinic failed to report the death is extremely interesting. Combined with the fact that Keller did the coroner's investigation, it seems there's plenty to look at here. The Trib is usually pretty good about eventually getting hold of documents it wants, so we'll see how this pans out.

Keller admitted that his decision not to run for re-election in 2012 was influenced by the investigation, and not because of his distaste for political fundraising as he originally claimed publicly (not that anyone--especially me--bought it).

As usual, the Lake County Democrats, led by State Senator Terry Link, are claiming this is all political persecution. Wait, what was the last time the notoriously thin-skinned Link used that excuse? Oh, yeah, it was when his petition scandal broke, and he claimed that the allegations of dead people's signatures appearing on his election petition was all concocted by 'Republican operatives.' We all know how that turned out.

Keller has always had a rather unique outlook on his job.

Not to get ahead of ourselves, but we're wondering if the Republican Leadership Team of Sheriff Mark Curran, County Clerk Willard Helander, Treasurer Bob Skidmore, and Superintendent of Schools Roycelee Wood, should start looking for a potential coroner candidate to add to the team should Keller resign or be forced out prior to the end of the nomination period for the upcoming 2010 elections.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Attorney Dan Sugrue Back for Another Try at 59th District Against Kathy Ryg

My friend Dan Sugrue, a bright young(er) attorney from Green Oaks, is back again for the 2010 election cycle against entrenched Democratic politician Kathy Ryg for the battle for the 59th legislative district, having unsuccessfully challenged her in 2008.

Sugrue ran a spirited campaign with not a lot of resources against Ryg last cycle. Sugrue was appointed as the GOP nominee (along with Keith Gray in the 30th Senate District, which includes the 59th legislative district) and was challenged by the Link political machine (the complainant in the case being Kathy Ryg's mom, former Wheeling mayor Sheila Schultz). Sugrue easily survived the challenge and went on to run a clean campaign focusing on Ryg's subservience to the Springfield/Chicago political godfathers, to the detriment of Ryg's representation of her home district.

Sugrue's status as a political newcomer, the 2008 Obama wave, and the lack of the electorate's understanding of what kind of mess Springfield was really in (the state budget crisis and Blago's indictment had yet to really hit the fan), all contributed to a decisive loss against Ryg. Ryg had a few terms under her belt, and had a deserved reputation for good constituent services and attention to the district, at least facially.

The tables may be somewhat turned this time around, however, as Sugrue has more name recognition and a political base, knows the district better, and the electorate is keenly attuned to the Blagojevich/Springfield disaster of our current state government, controlled completely by the Democratic Party.

Sugure summed up the dynamics of the race pretty well to the Daily Herald:

"You can't expect the same people who were there during the mess to be the ones to get you out of the mess," he said of the General Assembly before and after the indictment and impeachment of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. [snip]

He stresses continuing ineffectiveness in a Democrat-controlled Springfield. Sugrue said "very little" has changed since Pat Quinn assumed the governor's post and the Chicago machine rules Springfield.

"She's a nice lady (but) I think she's too nice to stand up to the Chicago machine down there," he said of Ryg. "She more closely represents the agenda of the Chicago machine than she represents the people of the 59th District."

Kathy Ryg IS a nice lady on a personal level (she won't hesitate to castrate you politically, but she'll smile while she's doing it), and I've even had coffee with her to chat about local politics (off the record, of course, so I can't tell you what she thinks about some of her fellow local Dems, but it's fascinating).

In addition, to be honest, the resources of the local GOP party were also attuned more to other races, especially Keith Gray's battle against State Senator Terry Link. I would look for a lot more attention and resources being poured into the Ryg contest by the local party this time around, especially tying Ryg into her unquestioning allegiance to Blago, Madigan and Link (yuck, what a trio!)

With the tide of the state and the nation perhaps turning away from Democrats, as the troubles of Springfield are now really sinking in, and even President Obama's rising star starting to fall, local pols like Sugrue are well-positioned to take back some blue territory from the local Dems in 2010.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Will "Teflon" Terry Link Escape Serious Tarnish in Wake of Petition Scandal?

Yesterday, the saga of State Senator Terry Link's forged nomination petitions appears to have drawn to a fairly quiet close with the second indicted campaign worker, Jerry Knight, pleading guilty to perjury charges and being sentenced to probation for forging the signatures of registered voters (some of whom were deceased) on Link's nominating petitions. Knight, now safely ensconced in Minnesota, where he now lives, will probably serve his probation there, reports the News-Sun, and will be prohibited from engaging in election activities except for voting.

Kenneth Davison, the other indicted campaign worker, pleaded guilty back in January.

We're assuming that Knight didn't officially roll over on anyone higher up in the Link campaign, such as "Sneaky" Pete Couvall (who hired the two workers) or we would have heard about it by now. I've heard lots of stories on the street about the 'real' story behind Knight and Davison's involvement, but it's not worth going into. The take-away is that these two basically took the fall, and Link and Couvall skate.

Will there be justice at the ballot box, someday? Only time will tell.

I should mention that there is one more possible aspect to this scandal, which is that Lake County GOP Chairman Dan Venturi filed a complaint with the State Board of Elections claiming that Link's Campaign failed to properly disclose and itemize the money paid to Knight and Davison. Instead, Link's campaign funneled the money through Couvall, showing it as 'staff salary' to Couvall, who then paid Knight and Davison.

The State Board of Elections determined on a partisan vote that this was not improper, and an appeal is pending. Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office filed a brief in the matter defending Link's position. It should not be too long before the Appellate Court renders a decision and we see if the "dead" will rise again, or if Link's petition troubles are truly 'dead and buried'.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Congressman Mark Kirk to Take Leading Role In GOP Alternative to ObamaCare (UPDATED)

As we reported some time ago, 10th District Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk will take a leading role in crafting and presenting the GOP alternative to the Democrats' radical re-working of the healthcare system.

A significant article in Roll Call outlined Kirk's involvement (usually Roll Call is subscription-only, but I was able to access this article, at least for now):

The moderate plan has been proposed by Reps. Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Charlie Dent (Pa.) and reportedly will form the basis of a full-blown GOP alternative developed by the GOP Health Care Solutions Group headed by Rep. Roy Blunt (Mo.), but not yet unveiled. [snip]

Kirk and Dent’s Medical Rights and Reform Act is designed to lower the cost of insurance policies through legal reform — which will reduce the expensive practice of “defensive medicine” — and also create interstate pools.

According to Kirk, the average cost of insurance in states like California, which have limits on medical malpractice awards and allow large-scale pooling, is less than half that in lawyer-friendly states like New Jersey.

Other Republicans are also crafting other plans, which is good to hear, as the message so far has been very negative on Obama's plan without offering any concrete alternative proposals. This strategy seems to be working thus far, as the Roll Call article notes, but it won't be long before voters want to hear some positive plans out of the GOP, as almost everyone seems to agree that the health care system does need some serious care itself.

That being said, the DSCC is sure concerned about Kirk and has already started the smear campaign.

UPDATED 8/13/09 7:25 a.m.: Here's some coverage of a forum on healthcare conducted by Congresscritters Kirk and Judy Biggert yesterday in Naperville:

One Wheaton businessman, Richard Godwin of Collector's Guide Publishing, said he thinks it shouldn't be an employer's responsibility to provide health insurance. Hailing from London, Godwin said he has found it easier to start companies in countries with government-run health care because of the reduced cost to employee workers. "The people of the country should be able to count on government," he said.

Kirk rebutted by pointing out one proposal would levy an 8 percent payroll tax on employers to fund the plan. Kirk also said patrons of Canada's system continually cross into the U.S. for better, faster treatment.

"If we have government take control of our health care ... where are we going to drive?" Kirk asked to laughter.

Also, the Tribune editorial staff weighs in on the healthcare debate, and suggests that the Democrats stop blaming people for having questions and concerns, and do a better job of explaining their plan... maybe even consider taking the complex issue of health care reform one step at a time instead of trying to do everything at once:

There's a lot of fear and misinformation about the Democrats' plan. So how about stepping back, Democrats?

Stop blaming people for being angry or confused. You've undertaken to reshape one-sixth of the U.S. economy under a hasty, self-imposed deadline. You're channeling those late-night commercials that urge viewers to buy now, while supplies last!It's the classic hard sell. Who can blame Americans for being suspicious?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran Announces for Re-Election as a Republican; Bill Cadigan Scores CQ Article

While most eyes have been on the U.S. Senate and 10th District races, there is a lot more fun to be had this coming election cycle. One race not to be missed will be the re-election bid of Sheriff Mark Curran, who switched parties from Democrat to Republican in response to what he saw as rampant corruption in the Lake County Democratic Party, headed by State Senator Terry "Dead Guys on My Petitions" Link, and his henchman, "Sneaky" Pete Couvall.

Curran will no doubt have a big target on his back by Dems seeking revenge for daring to expose their inter-party strife, as will crack County Clerk Willard Helander. Rounding out the slate of "Republican Leaders" are County Treasurer Bob Skidmore and Superintendent of Schools, Roycelee Wood. Their press release is below.

Meanwhile, in the 10th Congressional District race, likely candidate Bill Cadigan scores a nice mention in Congressional Quarterly (CQ), which focuses on Cadigan's ties to his political mentor former Congressman John Porter. Read the article here.

Press Release
For Immediate Release

August 10, 2009

Republican Leadership Team Seeks Re-election

Today Sheriff Mark Curran, County Clerk Willard Helander, Treasurer Robert Skidmore and Regional Superintendent of Schools Roycealee Wood announced they will seek re-election in the February 2, 2010 primary election. The four officials are running as a team called the Republican Leadership Team citing their mutual respect for one another and belief in integrity and commitment to serving the people of Lake County.

Sheriff Curran outlined his commitment to combating recidivism through numerous innovative programs in the jail. He also pointed to rising health care costs and the impact on the jail system.

“I am 100% committed to keeping county residents safe by enforcing the rule of law,” Curran stated. Curran has plans to launch a suicide prevention program to address the staggering increases.

Clerk Helander successfully pointed to implementing new mandates nearly every year since 1995. Lake County has been among the top jurisdictions for the percentages of early voters, and the County Clerk’s web applications have empowered voters virtually 24-7.

“At the same time the number of registered voters increased by more than 50%, we’ve introduced efficiencies in annual audits so they are feasible and cost-effective tools to ensure accurate voter lists,” Helander noted.

Treasurer Skidmore has successfully spearheaded technology applications to speed service to his customers both in person and on the website. Payments that formerly took weeks to post and balance are handled in minutes.

The Treasurer credits his staff, noting “We can process more parcels than ever in record time and with greater accuracy.”

Regional Superintendent of Schools Wood is keenly aware of the pressure of the challenging economic times. Wood has been a leader and mentor in education in Lake County for decades.

Wood emphasized, “We must preserve the integrity and quality of the public education our county.”

The Republican Leadership Team looks forward to hitting the campaign trail and working together to build an even better Lake County. For details on coming events or to volunteer, contact Lake County Republican Headquarters at 320 Peterson Road in Libertyville or call (847) 680-6680.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Schakowsky Endorses Hamos (UPDATED); Mark Kirk on Downstate Tour; Keller Grudgingly Admits Investigation Caused Him Not to Seek Re-election

Light blogging today, so let's contemplate last Friday's endorsement from ultra-liberal Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of candidate State Rep. Julie Hamos to be the Democratic nominee to take on whichever GOP candidate emerges from the wide field to try to replace outgoing Congressman Mark Kirk. Video here, if you can stomach it. Telling that the endorsement was in downtown Chicago rather than the 10th District.

Where does that leave Dan Seals? Maybe he ought to run against Jan in the primary, in the 9th District where he lives. (UPDATED: Serial commentor FOKLAES brought to our attention a new poll released by Seals showing him crushing Julie Hamos, and also this analysis of the Kirk senate race from Real Clear Politics.)

Meanwhile, Kirk is downstate trying to expand his reach beyond northern Illinois in his bid to win the U.S Senate seat currently held by Blagojevich-appointee Roland Burris.

Finally, I missed this piece from last Friday's News-Sun, but LakeCountyEye noted that Dr. "Death" Keller, Lake County Coroner (for now) grudgingly admitted that his lame-ass excuse of being tired of politicking and therefore would not run for reelection, was just a dodge for the fact that the Lake County State's Attorney is investigating Keller's involvement in a drug-overdose death that Keller was involved with, and then conduced the coroner's investigation.

On Thursday, the day that a five-month Lake County State's Attorney's investigation into Keller and Green Dragonfly Methadone Treatment Center was made public, Keller said he's confident that he and his staff did nothing wrong, while acknowledging that the investigation did somewhat prompt him to announce last month that he will not seek a third term as coroner.

"Yea, this may have something to do with it," Keller told The News-Sun.

Ya think?

Of course, LakeCountyEye implies that Team America was tipped off about the investigation when he wrote this post, and knew then that there was more to Keller's announcement than met the eye. While TA's sources are many, I will also say that it was a pretty darn obvious conclusion from the circumstances and TA's research into Keller's fundraising record that raising money was never something that he spent a lot of time on, which LakeCountyEye fails to mention.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Lake County Coroner Richard Keller Under Investigation

Well, that vacation idea didn't last long. Reader Jim Moran led me to this Tribune article about Lake County Coroner Richard Keller being under investigation for a recent death due to a drug prescribed by Keller, who then subsequently investigated the death:

The Lake County state's attorney's office is investigating a methadone-related death after learning that the county's coroner, Dr. Richard Keller, prescribed the drug to the victim at a Waukegan clinic, where Keller is medical director.

The Drug Enforcement Administration is participating in the county investigation, which includes a review of whether Keller and clinic staff followed proper procedures in administering methadone, commonly used to treat heroin addiction, DEA Special Agent Will Taylor said.And a state agency has faulted the clinic for not reporting the death, as required.

Steve Vaughn, 30, of Lindenhurst died Dec. 3, hours after he was administered 70 milligrams of methadone at the Green Dragonfly clinic during his second day of treatment, Keller said.

"We are looking at all of the facts and circumstances regarding Steve Vaughn's situation ... and whether or not the rules and regulations that deal with methadone clinics were followed," State's Atty. Michael Waller said Wednesday.

Waller questioned why Keller as coroner investigated his own patient's death, a potential conflict of interest because the coroner typically determines if any foul play was involved with an unnatural death.

That was probably a bigger snip than I should have used, but the Trib will forgive me since I'm posting from my secret vacation location today.

TA readers will recall that we strongly suspected that there was more to Keller's recent announcement that he would not run for re-election than his stated reason that he didn't want to put up with fundraising and was tired of the political nature of the coroner's office. Well, if you were wondering who the 'dead man' was whom we referred to in that post, as Paul Harvey would say, now you know the rest of the story...

Keller, of course, claims this is all a political put-up job:

Keller said he thought the state's attorney's inquiry was politically motivated.

"Certainly when you look at the facts in the case, there certainly was no crime that occurred," he said. "Unfortunately, a young man died. Unfortunately, these things happen."

Luckily, Keller has Dem hatchet man "Sneaky" Pete Couvall in his corner to defend him:

"A lot of people happen to think he's doing a damn good job, and I hate to see him abandon that post," said Pete Couvall, his former campaign manager.

Keller=Toast. Done. Next.

On Vacation Without an Intern...

TA is on vacation at an undislosed location. Unlike Rich Miller at Capitol Fax Blog, I don't have an intern to cover for me, so use this post as an open thread to talk about whatever y'all like... Kirk for Senate, the 10th District race (please no more about Thaler, FOKLAES, I think we figured out it's one of your hot buttons), whatever.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Excitement Builds in IL-10 Race With Possible Addition of Former Edgar Administration Official Renee Thaler

Well, if you didn't like Beth Coulson, Jim Koch, Dick Green or Bill Cadigan, it appears that GOP voters in the 10th District may have another choice soon, as former Edgar administration official Renee Thaler is considering throwing her hat into the ring for the chance to replace Congressman Mark Kirk, who is running for the U.S. Senate. Here's Thaler's press release, which I got hold of a little early:

August 4, 2009

Former Edgar Official Looking at 10th District Congressional Seat

NORTHBROOK, IL – Former Edgar Administration official Renee Thaler today announced that she will form an exploratory committee to consider entering the GOP primary for the 2010 election to replace Congressman Mark Kirk in Illinois’ 10th District.

Thaler, a life long resident of the district, served in Governor Jim Edgar’s first administration as Assistant Director of the Illinois Department of Revenue. The owner of a small business in Northfield, IL, Thaler also has been a political activist in the 10th District and, for the last 15 years, a public health care advocate for patients of new emerging diseases.

“I am considering this race because the time has come to end the reckless spending in Washington. The Federal debt continues to climb to an estimated $11 trillion dollars, and if that isn’t bad enough, together with our nation’s unfunded liabilities, we owe nearly $62 trillion dollars,” said Thaler. “That’s more than $200,000 for every man, woman and child in America and it’s growing every day. As a small business owner, I know we cannot afford to continue burdening government with so much debt. It’s time to cut up the government’s credit card and throw it away for good.”

Thaler also expressed concern about the current state of health care in the U.S., including recently proposed legislation to give government more control.

“I support reasonable health care reform. However, we cannot let government take over one-sixth of our current economy and add another trillion dollars to our national debt,” said Thaler. “As a health care advocate, I have worked for common sense changes in the past, and will strongly support legislation to ensure we protect the doctor-patient relationship, achieve meaningful lawsuit reform, and promote health care insurance pooling programs to make it cheaper for small businesses to purchase insurance.”

“As I consider this race, I promise to represent the same tradition of moderate, thoughtful and independent leadership that has served the 10th District so well.”


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Weekend Update: Cadigan, Bond, Tweets, Tenth

Cadigan and Collins: Health care attorney Bill Cadigan, who is a former John Porter staffer and who may jump into the IL-10 race on the GOP side, may have snagged an endorsement from prosecutor Patrick Collins, reports the Daily Herald.

Bond and Schmidt: As we reported yesterday, Michael Bond will drop his congressional bid in the 10th and came slinking back to his senate district with his tail between his legs. Except this time, he'll have pit bull Suzi Schmidt, Lake County Board Chairwoman, as a challenger. As we suspected, Laura Tomsky was merely a placeholder, and instantly capitulated when Bond announced he was coming back to his senate district. Schmidt's county board race is not up in 2010, so she gets a free run at Bond, who has damaged his political reputation by allowing himself to be intimidated by State Rep. Julie Hamos, after much bragging about how Bond didn't care who else was in the congressional race. Bond's lackluster fundraising success probably was also a factor.

Kirk and Tweets: As one might expect, the News-Sun jumped on the questions regarding Congressman Mark Kirk's "tweeting" while on active duty with the naval reserves, where he is a commander, and threw up a story on the front page. I wonder if most Dems realize that every time they bring up this issue, they remind everyone that Kirk is a veteran. It won't be long before public opinion rises to Kirk's defense if the Dems keep pushing this 'story.' UPDATED: I knew it wouldn't take long for Ellen of the Tenth to jump on this story. The funny part is that she labels Capitol Fax Blog as "right-wing, Kirk-leaning." That's a hoot.

Another Tenth District Candidate: TA hears that another GOP candidate with strong ties to Congressman Kirk and a lot of energy is poised to jump into the increasingly-crowded tenth district race. Watch this space for more details soon.

What else is going on this weekend? I'm going sailing.