Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fox News: Former Governor Jim Edgar Dishes on Mark Kirk

As we all know, former Governor Jim Edgar was one of the very first Republicans to come out and endorse Congressman Mark Kirk's U.S. Senate run. You may remember that announcement last summer:

Tuesday will be the first test of the strength of Mark Kirk's candidacy, and Jim Edgar is even more enthusiastic today about the chances for the GOP to regain ground in Illinois than any of us could have hoped to be on that lovely summer day when Mark first announced his candidacy.

Edgar noted, "I think this election is the best opportunity we've had as a party in Illinois in over a decade, and I think we have a real good shot at winning this senate seat that was [once] occupied by President Obama. Mark Kirk is, I think everyone feels that he will be the Republican nominee, he is currently a Congressman and he comes from a predominantly Democratic district, so he has the ability to reach over and get independents and Democrats, which is critical to win Illinois."


I should also mention that Governor Edgar has also endorsed State Rep. Beth Coulson to fill Kirk's old spot in the 10th District.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Team America Endorses Beth Coulson for IL-10: Integrity, Accountability, Electability

I held off for quite a while in deciding whether or not to make an endorsement of this blog as to the Tenth Congressional District race for someone to step into the shoes of outgoing Congressman Mark Kirk, who is running for U.S. Senate.

One big reason was that, as the premier place for online discussion about the merits and detriments of the individual candidates for the GOP nomination for IL-10, I felt that the discussion would be freer and seem less directed if I didn't pick a side. (If you have been following my thoughts on the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate, you can see how my admitted bias comes through in my unabashed and totally committed support for Mark Kirk over his GOP opponents, even my law school classmate Patrick Hughes.) Given the importance of this seat to the GOP, and being a believer (in most cases) of the power of a primary to test and battle-harden primary candidates to (theoretically) produce the best man/woman to compete against the Dems in the general election, I held out for a long while so that this blog could be a forum for free discussion about the candidates -- and I think over the past few months, we've left few, if any, issues unaddressed.

Now that we're almost to the finish line, however, I've decided to take a position and put the official Team America stamp of approval on one of the several fine candidates who are making their bid for the nomination. While I believe that many of the candidates, including Bob Dold, Arie Friedman and Dick Green are all talented, committed Republicans, it's really Beth Coulson who I think is the obvious choice in the GOP primary.

I think Beth's credentials and record of public service pretty much speak for themselves, and I don't really want to rehash those here lest they start to sound like a list of bulleted talking points I read off a Coulson campaign flier. It's enough to say that she is the only candidate with an established record of serving the public and dedicating herself to improving the quality of life for her constituents. She is one of the most hardworking politicians that I've come to know in the course of this election cycle.

The thing that really sealed the deal for me over the course of the last months, and even weeks, of this election, is how she's conducted herself as a candidate. She's simply an honest, genuine, very humble person, and that really comes out in her campaign style. I have seen her attend numerous events for other candidates at which she came to show support for the GOP and the honored candidate, but avoided attracting attention to herself (some have criticized her for not being a more "aggressive" campaigner in that respect, but that's not who she is).

She has also avoided the negative rhetoric of her opponents, which in the last few weeks has become increasingly shrill. It's perfectly fair to attack someone on their record if you don't agree with them. But I find that I don't like the increasingly negative tone and venomous way these "comparisons" are being made. (The old adage about being able to disagree without being disagreeable has been largely cast aside by some of the candidates, it seems).

As I've said often over the years, the voters in IL-10 are, for the most part, highly educated, intelligent and generally like to think of themselves as independent, notwithstanding any party affiliation they may claim overall. Lots of ticket-splitters, and lots of people that liked Mark Kirk's mantra of "vote for the person, not the party," if I recall that one correctly. I don't think voters in the 10th are going to react well to the negativity that I've seen on the trail and arriving in my mailbox. Beth Coulson has taken the high road and stayed above all that.

Finally, I think Beth is the best fit for this district to take on the Dem nominee (and it's not clear at all right now if it will be Julie Hamos or Dan Seals) in November. Beth's opponents have ran to her right, trying to capture the conservative vote, but Beth has stayed true to her principles and ideals, even knowing that they may not be popular with every single Republican. Much as I think a hard-core idealogue can't win overall in Illinois (which is why Mark Kirk's GOP opponents are unelectable against Alexi Giannoulias), a fire-breathing right-winger can't win in IL-10. Not all of Beth's GOP primary opponents fit that description, but their tacts to the right in the course of the campaign cast serious doubt on their abiliy to appeal to a broader base of voters in November, which is necessary to win in this District. That was the secret to Mark Kirk's success, and there is only one candidate in this race that's like Mark Kirk.

So, for TA, the choice is clear: Beth Coulson to accede to Mark Kirk's seat in Congress for the 10th District seat. I hope you'll join me in voting for her on Tuesday.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Two New Polls Good News For U.S. Senate Candidate Mark Kirk: He's Up Over Patrick Hughes 53% to 18%

We've got two recent polls to discuss, both of which have good news for Congressman Mark Kirk, the frontrunner for the GOP nomination in the U.S. Senate race.

First up is a new poll by Rasmussen, showing Kirk crushing his nearest competitor, businessman Patrick Hughes, 53% to 18%. That's a spread of 35 points, just days before the Illinois primary on February 2nd. "Other" gets 12% of the vote, with only 18% undecided. If one takes the Hughes vote, and assumes that everyone voting for "other" switches to Hughes, and ALL the undecided break for Hughes (which obviously isn't going to happen), even if you add all that up, as of today, Kirk still wins. Nice.

And, while Hughes has been painting himself as the heir to the conservative movement in Illinois, according to Rasmussen, "51% of conservative Republicans who plan to vote on Tuesday support Kirk versus 20% who are for Hughes."

Interestingly, if we look at the favorable/unfavorable ratio for both Kirk and Hughes, we see:

Kirk 58% / 22% [positive difference of +36%]
Hughes 34% / 21% [positive difference of +13%]

What does that tell us? Well, two things. First, that despite the rhetoric coming from the Hughes campaign and certain elements of the Republican party in Illinois (just don't call them "fringe," they get very testy), Kirk is an enormously popular politician, despite the fact that some of his policies and votes are not favored by some Republicans. Whatever supposedly troubles them about Kirk, it's not a deal-breaker for most, and the majority is going for Kirk, regardless. And Hughes' attempt to paint Kirk as a horned demon ("RINO, RINO!!!") have miserably failed.

Second, considering that Hughes' unfavorables are within a point of Kirk's, even though Hughes is fresh on the political scene and has no record, and little name recognition, it tells us that to know Hughes is to not necessarily love him; thus, it seems likely that his personality and completely negative campaigning are turning a substantial number of voters away. In a spot like Hughes is in, you can't afford to be pissing off 21% of the likely voters.

Advantage: All Kirk.

The other poll is from Public Policy Polling (PPP), which surveyed 1,062 Illinois voters from January 22nd to 25th. The PPP poll showed that Kirk is behind Democratic frontrunner Alexi Giannoulias, 42-34. Kirk is leading over the other two main Democrats, 37-36 over David Hoffman and 38-36 over Cheryle Jackson.

While at first glance this might seem bad news for Kirk and portend a losing GOP election in November if Kirk is the candidate, we need to first consider that while Alexi and David Hoffman have been spending enormous sums of money on political advertising in the past two months, Kirk has spent very little. He has yet to go on the attack against Alexi, or indeed, even begin to spend down his multi-million dollar war chest. Yet, he's still within striking distance.

Probably more important, though, to those that still doggedly argue that only a hard-core conservative can win the November fight, we see by the PPP poll that:

The reason for Giannoulias' ascent is that where he was winning 60% of the Democratic vote last spring he's now at 72%. As his party's voters have become more familiar with him over the course of the primary campaign his support from them has increased. Right now he leads 72-7 with Dems while Kirk is up 76-5 with Republicans. Kirk also has a 33-27 lead with independents. It's close to impossible for a GOP candidate to win statewide in Illinois without at least a double digit lead among independents and a double digit level of crossover support, and right now Kirk isn't there. (emphasis mine)

It's true that Kirk needs to win over independents and some crossover Democrats, and he has some work to do in order to get those votes. But, the main points are that he will have the time, he will have the money, and most importantly, has the ability to connect with such voters and win those votes. As noted by PPP, you can't win in Illinois with only the Republican vote, much less only the conservative vote. The fire-breathing right-wingers like Pat simply have no plan, and no chance, to attract such voters in November.

You won't get Illinois independents to vote for you by telling them that all you as a candidate care about is that you are the incarnation of the Republican platform. Either our ultra-conservative friends don't realize this, or they don't care, and think that a win in February is all that matters. It's just the beginning folks. The real prize is in November, and after next Tuesday, the real work for all Republicans starts.

GOP Candidate Cindy Hebda Back on Ballot (for now) in 59th Legislative District (UPDATED)

For those of you who have been following the ups and downs of Vernon Hills Trustee Cindy Hebda's candidacy problems (she was challenged by the Democrats for having signed incumbent Democrat State Representative Carol Sente's nomination petition before Hebda had declared her own candidacy), Hebda was thrown off the ballot by a circuit court judge, whose decision was affirmed by the appellate court. Hebda's attorneys made an emergency appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court asking for a temporary stay of the lower court orders so that she would remain on the ballot while the Illinois Supreme Court reviewed the case. A review is not automatic, however; the Illinois Supremes have to agree to take the case (called "granting Certiorari" or "Cert" for us legal beagles).

In an interesting twist, today the Illinois Supreme Court GRANTED the request for a stay, so for now, Hebda is back on the ballot (she was never removed in Lake County, I'm not sure about Cook; the 59th District includes precincts in both counties). However, they have not decided (yet) whether to accept Certiorari, and they DENIED Hebda's request for an expedited review. That means, according to the court, that since the usual time when then court would convene next to hear such a motion is not until early March, unless the Sup. Ct. changes its mind, we could well have a situation where, if Hebda wins, the actual winner may be in doubt for a month or more, while the Supremes decide whether to even take the case.

Of course, the simplest result is if front-runner GOP opponent Dan Sugrue (who is endorsed by this blog) wins the primary election outright, and then it won't matter. But there's no telling at this point, as no one has any polling data, and it could be anybody's race.

Here's a copy of the Order:

It probably isn't too legible, but it says:

THIS CAUSE, coming to be heard on the motion of the Petitioner, and the Court being fully advised in the premises;

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the motion to expedite consideration of the petition for leave to appeal is denied, but this Court stays the Circuit Court and Appellate Court orders, and reinstates the Illinois State Board of Elections order denying the objection, pending disposition of the petition for leave to appeal in this court.

Order entered by the Court.

UPDATED 1/29/10 12:30 a.m.: The Daily Herald has a story up now.

Patrick Hughes Senate Campaign "Infuriates" Republican Township Chairmen By Misrepresenting Them As Supporters

The Patrick Hughes for Senate Campaign is floundering a week out from the primary election and is looking for a lifeline. This week, the Hughes campaign put up a desperate appeal on the Internet for a "moneybomb," which is essentially a nationwide appeal for a lot of money. Hughes was looking for $50,000; it appears that he fell far short, the last word on his Facebook page being that he was able to raise something over $20,000. To put it bluntly, even Fifty Large wasn't gonna do anything, especially given that as of January 13th, Hughes has little over $22,000 in the bank. And that's just weeks before the election. Not good planning for a state-wide campaign.

Another lifeline that Hughes grasped for was some support from 'regular' Republicans, namely, the support of County or Township chairmen in the Republican organization, since the vast majority of Republican officials, not to mention every single major newspaper in Illinois, have endorsed Congressman Mark Kirk over Hughes and the rest of the Republican primary field.

Hughes has gotten so desperate, however, that his campaign has simply started making stuff up. There's no other way to put it.

Earlier this week, a group called the Will County Tea Party alliance had an event for Hughes, which it touted in an e-mail and a post over at Illinois Review that it was going to unveil anywhere from 11 to 18 Republican "county chairmen" who supported Hughes (depending on what you read, the term "endorsement" was also used). At this event, Hughes campaign representative Charlie Johnston addressed the room (I can't say it was a crowd as the event seemed pretty sparsely attended) and blatantly lied when he said that he had a list of people "that wanted me to mention their names in case they couldn't be there" (you can hear him if you click on the video link and go to the 6:20 minute mark). He repeats the statement that a bunch of the people he listed couldn't be at the event at the 7:20 mark when he introduces them. I watched the video and a few names from Lake County stuck out at me: Nancy Kubalanza from Grant Township (not county, as it stated on the Will. Co. e-mail announcing the event) and David Pfeifer from Waukegan Township (again, he's a township chair, not a county chair). Amusingly, both of their names were misspelled in the e-mail.

Being from Lake County, and having served on the Republican Central Committee for several years with both Nancy and Dave, who are both friends of mine, I called them right away to see if they had actually given permission for Johnston to publicize their names as Pat Hughes supporters in an advertised campaign event like this. Not only did they both tell me they had NOT, they were both pretty upset. Dave e-mailed me to tell me he was "infuriated."

Both Nancy and Dave told me: they had been given NO notification of the event; they had never asked for their names to be put on a list and read because they had told Johnston they could not attend the event; and most importantly, they had NOT given permission to use their names in this fashion.

To me, the whole thing reminded me of when Hughes also botched his so-called major endorsement by former Bears Coach Mike Ditka, when, if you will recall, his campaign announced an endorsement (and a claim that Ditka would be on Hughes' finance committee) without checking with Da Coach. This led the Coach to deny the endorsement, which then made a bit of a stir among the national political circles. After it blew up, Hughes and Ditka's camps circled the wagons and came out with a very terse statement that 'as of that day' Ditka was endorsing Hughes but would not be on the finance committee, and 'they would answer no more questions about it'. Heh. By the way, our review of Hughes' FEC disclosures revealed that Ditka NEVER gave Pat any money, so it seems that the Coach doesn't have a lot of love for Pat. So much for that endorsement.

In any event, we now have shades of the Dikta debacle plaguing Team Hughes, as they have simply misappropriated township chairmens' names without permission and really ticked them off. (Interestingly, the lesson that Hughes did not seem to learn from the Ditka kerfuffle was that when you throw peoples' names around, you can actually call them up and confirm endorsement claims. Thus, ya better get it right). Here is an e-mail from Dave Pfeifer, who only found out about the misappropriation because I called him to tell him:

This is in response to the e-mail titled "GOP Chairman Stand up for the Tea Parties" sent by the Homer-Lockport Tea Party Organization. My name and endorsement was used in this event and e-mail without my knowledge or explicit approval. Additionally, I did not attend this event nor am I a member of any Tea Party organization. I was only aware of this event via a second-hand forwarding of the event notice. (emphasis mine)

As an individual voter, it is irrelevant regarding my views/support for the Tea Party movement or the Patrick Hughes campaign. It is unfortunate that this group extrapolated what they believed to be my personal views, and in essence, applied it to the entire township organization. This infuriates me as we (Waukegan Township Republican Organization) agreed not to endorse any candidates. It was left up to each individual precinct committeeman to make "recommendations" within their own precinct if they chose to do so.

There are many who definitely know where I stand on the political spectrum. However, I consider myself to be a pragmatist and the tone of this e-mail seems to imply that I am an ideologue. I consider this to be very damaging as we (Republicans) can't waste any time after the February primary mending fences amongst ourselves when the November 2nd General Election will be here before you know it.

David Pfeifer
Waukegan Township Republican Organization

Dave is "infuriated" and should be. Nancy told me not only that she's not supporting Hughes, she specifically told me "I don't think he can win."

Hughes doesn't need a black eye like this days before the election. If he and his people can't tell the truth, they don't deserve your vote, friends.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Get On The Bus With Bob Dold in IL-10

This is a little different for a congressional candidate, at least up here in IL-10. From the Bob Dold for Congress Campaign:

Dear Friends,

Today Dold for Congress will embark on a mission that will take us throughout the district to meet face-to-face with thousands of voters over the next six days leading up to Election Day. As part of the Get America Back to Work Tour, Robert and his supporters will ride around the district in a giant Dold-themed tour bus visiting small businesses, restaurants, train stations, senior communities, and anywhere and everywhere voters can be found. We will be making more than 60 stops during the tour, and will be picking up supporters along the way. We would like to extend an invitation for you to join us at any time during the tour for this very special event. To view the bus tour schedule click here.

We’ve come a long way since Robert’s announcement in September of his run for Congress, and Election Day is now less than one week away. We are going to move full-steam ahead through the finish line by taking our strong grassroots campaign further than ever with the Get America Back to Work Tour. The tour is an opportunity to spread Robert’s message of bringing small business common sense change to Washington to thousands of voters across the district. [snip]


Kelley Folino

Dold for Congress

Fiscal Issues a Winner for Mark Kirk in U.S. Senate Bid

Investor's Business Daily takes a look at how fiscal and economic issues, especially spending and the deficit, are likely to play out in the upcoming mid-term elections. As to the Illinois race for the U.S. Senate seat once held by Barack Obama, Investor's had this to say about front-runner Congressman Mark Kirk:

Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., is vying for the Senate seat formerly held by Obama and currently held by Democrat Roland Burris, who isn't running. Kirk's main GOP rival is conservative businessman Patrick Hughes. With less than a week to go before the Feb. 2 primary, polls show Hughes gaining little ground. Money is a key factor. But Kirk also has stressed issues that play well to conservative voters.

"It's all about fiscal responsibility with the (tea party folks)," said Greg Blankenship, president of the conservative Illinois Alliance for Growth. "Kirk has been pounding home that theme. He has signed a pledge to not raise taxes, and he doesn't have a terrible record on those issues. That puts him in good stead with the Republican Party of Illinois."

Yup. It's the economy, stupids.

h/t Illinois Alliance for Growth, which also takes a dig at how and why conservative candidate Patrick Hughes has failed to make any headway against Kirk.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Fox News: Mark Kirk is the Overwhelming Favorite

Fox News reported yesterday that, as we all knew, all public non-partisan polls show Kirk with a double-digit lead over all of his GOP opponents. It's now just a week before the primary.

Unfortunately for Pat Hughes, Kirk's 'closest' primary competitor, with only $22K in the bank as of January 13th, he simply doesn't have the money to challenge Kirk for the undecided vote (which turns out to be not that much, overall). Of course, squandering his campaign funds on consultants rather than direct voter contact has left Hughes in a position where he simply can't compete with Kirk, who is on radio, cable TV and doing direct mail, especially downstate where Kirk, a Congressman from northern Illinois, tends to be less known.

Also, as we noted yesterday, we have learned that President Obama himself is starting to get rather nervous about Kirk becoming the GOP nominee and what that might mean for the Dems' chances to hold on to the seat that was formerly held by Obama. I'd say anything that makes powerhouse political operative David Axelrod nervous is a very good thing for Republicans.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Obama Becoming Concerned About Mark Kirk's Likely GOP Nomination for U.S. Senate

I'd have to say that for Republicans of all stripes, the fact that President Obama himself is becoming concerned about the likely prospect of Congressman Mark Kirk winning the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in Illinois is a pretty darn good reason to vote for Kirk.

Despite having numerous challengers, it appears that no other GOP contender for the nomination is keeping Obama up at night wondering how it's going to look if the Dems lose this seat, especially given the weaknesses of likely Dem nominee Alexi Giannoulias (who, if Obama has forgotten, is a former banker, which is now the latest reviled profession that Obama is seeking to turn into the populist scapegoat for all of our economic problems).

Fox News stated:

Kirk, a social moderate who's recast himself as a fiscal conservative, has been largely unchallenged in the GOP primary set for Feb. 2 and is now viewed as a threat by Democrats.

Even Obama has been asking questions about the race.

"Naturally I won't share the details, but he is following this race closely and talking about November," said Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin.

Yup, it sounds like they are a little worried. What, no mention of Patrick Hughes? Go figure.

Patrick Hughes Senate Campaign Spends Lavishly on Caprio, Consultants, and a Chauffeur; Begins to Pay Himself Back Before Crunch-time

As TA readers know, we reported a few days ago on U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Hughes' campaign finance report, which just became available, and we were shocked not only by the anemic level of funds he actually raised (less than $300,000, not including his personal campaign loan), but also his rock-bottom bank balance of little more than $22,000, only weeks before the primary election.

Having heard talk that Hughes, a first-time and inexperienced candidate, was spending a lot more on pricey consultants than actual voter outreach, we decided to take a look at his financials. What we found would shock anyone who knows anything about how to run a campaign, and further brings into question what kind of a spender Hughes might turn out to be in the Senate, if by some chance he ever got there.

For starters, pro-life activist Paul Caprio, was paid a total of $12,000 as a consulting fee. One payment of $3,000 was listed as being made on 9/15/09; a second, much larger payment of $9,000 was made on 10/1/09. The significance of the date of the second payment is that it was made the day after the Q3 reporting period closed, so that payment was not known publicly until now. There was some controversy back in fall of '09 as to the exact nature of Caprio's involvement with the Hughes campaign, as he was instrumental in obtaining some early endorsements of well known right-to-life activists (and even called on competitors to quit at one point). I'll let anyone more familiar with the internal politics of the right-to-lifers decide if there's any intrigue there or not. For our purposes here, we simply note that it was a nice consulting fee.

Next, local Lake County political consultant Charlie Johnston, who was involved with Dave McSweeney's unsuccessful bid for Melissa Bean's seat in the 8th Congressional district last cycle, has been paid over $26,000. Hughes' campaign manager, Michael Sullivan has been paid $10,000.

More interestingly, Nick Hahn, who is listed as a "driver," was paid $10,000 over the course of the campaign. How many first-time candidates need a driver? (We will note that recent Senate phenomenon Scott Brown of Massachusetts, probably got a lot of votes due to his folksy image of driving himself around in his own pick-up truck. Brown, Hughes is not, on many levels).

Perhaps most startlingly, the Hughes Campaign Treasurer, Bryan Freel, was paid $20,000 over the course of the campaign, for managing less than $300,000 that the campaign has taken in from contributors other than the candidate. On most campaigns that I've been involved with, the treasurer is not an especially challenging position, and is usually a volunteer to boot.

Finally, a host of high-priced consultants have been doing quite well by the Hughes campaign, including Martin E. Janis & Co. ($16,000), Fortis Strategies ($21,000) and Shirley & Banister Public Affairs ($10,000).

As you can imagine, all of these consultants and staffers did not leave a lot left over for actual voter outreach, such as signs, commercials and airtime. It seems likely that such a flawed strategy is now being reflected in Hughes' lack of traction in the latest polling, which according to the Chicago Tribune has Hughes at only 8% just days out from the election.

Oh, I almost forgot -- it's also interesting that of that $250,000 loan that Hughes made to himself at the beginning of his campaign, he's also quietly begun to pay himself some money back ($3,000 so far) even before we get to crunch time. Given that Hughes' only hope now is to somehow reach the undecided voters, and every dime counts, it is a curious strategy to say the least. I would guess that once people take a look at how the Hughes campaign has spent its money, what little there was in donations coming in may dry up even further.

A final word about donations -- we at Team America took a look at those too. We counted way under 200 total individual donors, with many contributions coming from husband and wife couples, and the vast majority of all donations were in the $1000 to $2400 range. That seems to indicate that Hughes has a small base of fairly well-off supporters, but his outreach and campaign has not benefited by the hundreds or thousands of smaller $25, $50 or even $100 contributions (there weren't even more than 10 donations of less than $100) that you would expect from a true "grass roots" campaign. It appears that the people that Hughes has been addressing on the campaign trail, by and large, have just not felt compelled to open their wallets.

It is too late for the cavalry for Hughes? I suggest it is; but I would bet that even if people were planning to contribute at this late date, knowing what we know about how the Hughes campaign spends their money, I would have some serious concerns about whether it was going to be well-spent.

New Commercial From Coulson For Congress, Plus Bob Churchill on the Stump For Coulson

Here's a brand-new commercial from Coulson for Congress:

Also, here's Bob Churchill, former State Rep and long-time Lake County politico (and a staunch conservative, interestingly), introducing Coulson at a recent campaign event in Libertyville:

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Mark Kirk Continues To Increase Lead Over GOP Primary Opponents in U.S. Senate Race

A hot-off-the-press Chicago Tribune poll shows 10th District Congressman Mark Kirk with a growing lead over the crowded field of GOP contenders, with 47% of likely Republican primary voters choosing Kirk. Businessman Patrick Hughes continues to lag far behind, at 8%, with several other candidates, including downstate former judge Donald Lowery, school board member Kathleen Thomas, businessman John Arrington and self-described muckraker Andy Martin all coming in at 3% each. There are only nine days left until the February 2nd primary.

The last Tribune poll in December showed Kirk with 41% of the vote, with Hughes and Thomas at 3%, so Kirk continues to increase the distance from his competitors.

Hughes has been trying desperately to gain momentum and traction in this campaign, largely through outreach to the "Tea Party" movement. So far, it doesn't seem to have gotten him anywhere:

Hughes has sought to cultivate support from disaffected Republicans and others through the "tea party" movement critical of higher taxes and spending and big government, citing Kirk's initial support for cap-and-trade legislation to limit carbon emissions. Kirk, a social moderate, has since said he would not vote for such legislation in representing the entire state.

More than half of GOP voters said they agreed with the tea party movement, including nearly 70 percent of those who describe themselves as very conservative. But that hasn't translated into support for Hughes. The survey found Kirk being supported by 48 percent of Republicans who said they backed the tea party movement while Hughes got only 10 percent support.

This bad news for Hughes comes on the heels of the disclosure that his campaign is nearly broke -- despite desperate appeals for money from supporters, Hughes reported only $22,561.34 in the bank as of January 13th, 2010.

The Tribune article also indicates that former banker Alexi Giannoulias is clearly maintaining his lead, despite a spirited challenge from former U.S. Attorney David Hoffman. Giannoulias has raised over $3.5 million in this campaign cycle. He has spent heavily to guard his flank against Hoffman.

As of January 13th, Mark Kirk reported raising almost $5 million for this campaign to date, and has over $3 million in the bank.

The Chicago Tribune said:

U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk is the favorite in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, and for very good reason. He has been an extraordinarily effective representative of the independent-minded 10th Congressional District for a decade. His track record shows he has conservative principles and he has the instincts to succeed in Washington, no matter which party is in control.

Kirk is universally regarded as the GOP's best chance to win against Giannoulias and pick up the U.S. Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama. His major media endorsements include the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, the Daily Herald, the Northwest Herald, the Kane County Chronicle, the State Journal Register, the Peoria Journal Star Earlier and earlier today, the Champaign News-Gazette.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Hughes for Senate Campaign Stalls Out In Fundraising; Only $135,000 Raised Since October 2009, $22K Cash Left (UPDATED x4, WITH REPORT)

Back in August 2009, when staunch conservative Patrick Hughes appeared out of nowhere to challenge Congressman Mark Kirk for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate, one of the immediate questions he was asked was, how do you expect to compete with Kirk, who is one of the most successful fundraisers in Congress? Hughes brushed off that concern, claiming when he announced his candidacy that he had over $400,000 in commitments. He also implied that, as a successful real estate developer, he had the ability to self-fund.

Fast forward to the end of the Q3 reporting period, when we found out that Hughes had raised only $132,205. He then made a $250,000 loan (not a contribution) to himself. So much for those commitments he talked up to attract supporters and media attention. (For comparison, for the same Q3 period last year, Kirk raised more than $1.6 million)

But, never fear, Hughes said he understood that a candidate needs money to run a legitimate and competitive campaign, and he would be able to raise $1.5 million for the primary. It seems many people who thought about supporting a guy like former Judge Don Lowery were attracted to Hughes at least in part because they believed his claims that he could raise enough money to run a competitive race.

Well, fast forward once more to less than two weeks before the primary. Did Hughes meet that fundraising goal?

Um, no. Based on his pre-primary filing with the FEC, which covers the period from October 1, 2009 to January 13, 2010 (in other words, all of the 4th Quarter plus the first two weeks of January), he raised a grand total of only $135,488.68. He also paid himself back $3,000 out of his campaign fund, according to his FEC filing, so that reduced his outstanding loan balance to himself. Starting to pay himself back from his fund before the campaign is even over, coupled with his overall anemic fundraising, left Hughes with only $22,561.34 cash in the bank.

Well, you're not going to buy a lot of campaign ads with $22K.

Getting back to that $1.5 million he said he'd raise, it turns out he's raised a grand total of only $267,694.01 for the entire campaign cycle, after excluding his $250K loan. That leaves him a little shy of $1.2 million more needed to reach his goal.

Leaving aside the issue of whether we can believe Pat when he makes his grandiose claims of fundraising prowess and how he is the "only" candidate who can beat Mark Kirk, anyone considering a vote for Hughes needs to take serious measure of whether anyone realistically can believe that he has a chance to win in November against the Democratic nominee. (Just for comparison's sake, Dem front-runner Alexi Giannoulias has raised over $3.5 million so far).

As most regular Team America readers know, I went to law school with Pat; we were friends, and spent many an hour studying together. But I told him candidly that I was a Kirk supporter, and that I felt that Mark was far more qualified than Pat to be a U.S. Senator. Pat would have been a great candidate for state rep. or some other office where he could have learned the ropes of campaigning and fundraising. But, he is clearly in over his head and his lackluster fundraising shows it. As Republicans, we can't afford to make a wrong choice when the chance to retake this seat is so good, IF we have the right candidate for this electorate.

Let's make an intelligent choice and vote for Mark Kirk, so we can get a win in November and another R seat in the U.S. Senate.

UPDATED: Hughes Supporters Still Trying to Clear Conservative Field: This is rich. Pat Hughes' supporters continue to try to make the case that their guy Pat is the only conservative with a chance to defeat Mark Kirk, and the rest (Arrington, Lowery, etc.) should bail. Why? Well, because only he can raise the money it takes!

Maybe they should read Team America. Or at least ask Pat what his fundraising success REALLY is.

This nothing new, of course. Hughes and his minions have been trying to make this a two-person race between he and Kirk for months now. Amazingly, however, the other candidates were not convinced by Pat that he was the only man for the job. Hmm, wonder why.

UPDATED x2: Here's a link to the full Hughes report on the website.

UPDATED x3: Here's a link to an interesting post collecting a number of links that seem to suggest that Hughes is letting the "best of the rest" race slip into the hands of Judge Donald Lowery from downstate. Hmm, wonder if the Hughes supporters will take their own advice and coalesce behind Lowery... NOT.

UPDATED x4: HUGHES BLASTS KIRK EXTREMISM: Doug Finke of the Gatehouse News Service had this to say about Pat Hughes:

In the Republican race for U.S. Senate, Patrick Hughes recently blasted U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Highland Park for being "extraordinarily moderate to liberal." Ouch, that's gotta hurt. In today's political climate the last thing you want is to be known as an extreme moderate.

Ha Ha Ha Ha!

Serafin: Mark Kirk is in a Preeminent Position in U.S. Senate Race

Political analyst and consultant Thom Serafin says whoever the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate turns out to be, he or she will be the underdog to Mark Kirk, who is in a "preeminent" position.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"Tea Party Nation" Group Comes Under Scrutiny; What Does Patrick Hughes Think of That Endorsement Now?

The Tea Party movement, as originally envisioned, was a group of people who were united by their common belief that less government was better government, that individual liberties should not be infringed by the government, and perhaps above all, that government should be accountable to the people, not the other way around. Laudable principles all, as far as they go.

While many people who got involved in this movement were conservative Republicans or libertarians, many were non-partisan, and some were even Democrats; and all of them felt a strong sense of disenfranchisement by the government, which probably had been brought to a boiling point by the radical Obama agenda as manifested over the past year.

As with a lot of populist movements (or just about anything, actually), however, there always seem to be people who are going to try to twist it for their own ends and profit.

Now, we are learning that a for-profit group calling itself the "Tea Party Nation," whose claim to fame seems to be that it's organized a convention featuring conservative hero Sarah Palin, is coming under intense scrutiny for its questionable organizational issues and attempts to appropriate the "Tea Party" moniker to make a buck.

Politico has an exposé on the Tea Party Nation and its man behind the scenes. The lede to the Politico story begins:

The convention is being held at a fancy resort, features $550 ticket prices, a steak and lobster dinner and a guest speaker with a $100,000 speaking fee. It’s sponsored by a for-profit company with a mysterious wealthy benefactor, and its organizers, who have been accused of secrecy and corruption, have threatened lawsuits against dissenters and clamped down on news coverage.

Sounds like just the kind of thing that tea party activists, whose populist outrage is directed at the Washington and Wall Street establishments, would be up in arms over.

Except it’s a tea party convention.

Already, you know there's a problem. The article goes on to explain the problems the group is having with its marquee convention that it planned for this weekend in Nashville, with sponsors pulling out, questions being raised about the $100,000 speaker's fee being charged by Palin, and the possibility that some tea party activists will gather outside the convention to protest the convention that is supposed to be the big come-together meeting for all such groups. Sound fishy?

Of the convention leader, Politico said:

It was the brainchild of Judson Phillips, a Tennessee lawyer who — as first reported by POLITICO — is running the event through a for-profit Tennessee corporation he controls called Tea Party Nation. Most political conventions are conducted by nonprofits. Yet Phillips originally intended to turn a profit from the endeavor, with the cash going to fund a so-called 527 group that would air ads praising conservative candidates or criticizing their opponents.

Moreover, as the story goes on to indicate, several of the convention organizers were eventually revealed to have interests in a private business venture that they sought to pitch to Sarah Palin. Really, you need to read the whole story. More background here.

Even conservative super-blogger Erick Erickson of has raised the alarm, saying:

I think the tea party movement has largely descended into ego and quest for purpose for individuals at the expense of what the tea party movement started out to be.

That’s not to say it is in every case. I have much good to say about groups like Tea Party Patriots, but I think this national tea party convention smells scammy.

Let me be blunt: charging people $500.00 plus the costs of travel and lodging to go to a “National Tea Party Convention” run by a for profit group no one has ever heard of sounds as credible as an email from Nigeria promising me a million bucks if I fork over my bank account number.


So, has anyone noticed by now that this is the primary 'Tea Party' group that is promoting conservative candidate for U.S. Senate Patrick Hughes? Any politician ought to be wary of claiming the endorsement of this group, which Politico stated "is not considered a leading group in the tea party movement." Pat, however, can't afford to be picky, considering he badly trails front-runner Mark Kirk in polling, fundraising and name ID (oh, yeah, and not to mention experience).

Interestingly, Eagle Forum, owned by rabid Pat Hughes supporter and pro-lifer Phyllis Schlafly, is listed as a "strategic partner" of Tea Party Nation, so maybe we should not be surprised that Pat received this group's endorsement. I bet there are more dots there to be connected if anyone cared to look.

But even on this one, Pat might want to consider taking a pass before he goes down with his supporters. Based on the scant chances of the Tea Party Nation convention to actually turn a profit, as reported by Politico, they may not have any money to throw Pat Hughes' way anyway.

Robert Dold Out with New Commerical in IL-10

Bob Dold is out with an new campaign commercial. I think it's pretty good - the name Dold is repeated over and over (voters aren't going to forget it, after this). I especially like the old guy who says if he was from Chicago, he'd vote twice (is that all?). Notice the Chicago Tribune endorsement tag at the end - it's subtle and I missed it the first time around. I'm sure, though, that he'll be trumpeting that more, soon.

They like to play the "rate it" game over at Capitol Fax Blog (which is fine if you want to comment, and I'd be foolish to try to stop you...) but I'm more interested in people's thoughts on the strategic use of cable and network TV ads in this race, for either the Dems or the GOP. So far, I have not heard of anyone in the IL-10 race doing network ad buys for the primary - it's all been cable. Is cable effective? Should candidates try to blow their wad on real TV? Does anyone ever watch real TV anymore? Doesn't Bob have great teeth?


Congressman Mark Kirk Joins Senator John McCain in Washington to Welcome Senator-Elect Scott Brown

I thought you'd all enjoy seeing some pictures of this morning's meeting between Senator John McCain, Congressman Mark Kirk, and Massachusetts Senator-elect Scott Brown:

Here's Brown and Kirk together at the meeting:

Politico has a story up about Brown's first day in D.C.:

Moments before Brown walked into McCain's second floor Russell office, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) — the GOP front-runner for President Barack Obama's old Senate seat — came through the crowd of reporters booming, "Illinois is next!" and entered the Arizona senator's reception room.

Kirk's presence in Brown's first official meeting on the Hill is yet another sign of the Republican's excitement over Tuesday's results, which they hope they can parlay into larger gains in 2010.

ALSO- Larry Sabato at the Center for Politics lists Illinois as a pick-up for the Republicans.

AND MORE KIRK/BROWN NEWS - From Blake Dvorak at The Voting Booth: "Who Benefits From Brown Victory? Rep. Kirk"

So now let's look at Republican Senate race. There is not an insignificant number of conservative voters who will not vote for Kirk in the primary, due to things like cap-and-trade. If Kirk wins anyway, as he probably will, the news will be full of commentary on how Kirk needs to win over these voters while at the same time appeal to the independent base. If the base stays home, they'll write, then Kirk's shot of winning Obama's old seat will be over.

Not to rain on the parade, but nothing of the sort will happen. Those conservatives who loath Kirk now will come home, precisely because of what happened last night in Massachusetts. Winning brings its own momentum, and, whatever their disagreements with Kirk, conservatives will want Obama's old seat. Massachusetts has shown that it is indeed up for grabs.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Confessions of An Ultra-Conservative: 'I Would Have Opposed Scott Brown In A Primary'

We're all still pretty darn excited that Scott Brown won the Massachusetts election for the U.S. Senate and, among other things, became the magic "41st vote" that already has Obama and his Dem cohorts retrenching on their radical makeover of healthcare, when only days ago it seemed a done deal.

Now, imagine we could have a Massachusetts-like victory in the race for U.S. Senate right here in Illinois. Got that thought? Feels good, don't it?

Now imagine that neither victory is reality. Imagine we're on our way to socialized medicine just like Obama, Pelosi and Reid wanted with a GOP loss in Massachusetts. Imagine we are swearing in Senator Alexi Giannoulias next January as the new Senator from Illinois.

It's not a pleasant set of thoughts, especially now that we've had a nice taste of victory.

But while the Brown victory has stopped the march of ObamaCare for now, the war is far from won. We need every Senate seat we can get, and that's where Illinois comes in. We have a great opportunity to elect someone who can appeal to independents and maybe even some Dems, just like Scott Brown did. His name is Congressman Mark Kirk, and he is simply the only one of the many GOP candidates who has a chance (dare I say, I great chance) to pull off a Republican win in a Democratic state, just like Brown did in Massachusetts.

However, some conservative members of the Republican party don't seem to get it. Somehow, they got the idea that the Brown victory in Massachusetts was a "conservative" victory and the harbinger of a right-wing wave that will overwhelm the country. (As the old saying goes, success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan).

I got involved in a chat on Facebook tonight with a fellow who is a self-proclaimed "ultra-conservative" who admitted that, even as conservatives seem to want to claim Brown's victory as their own, he would have voted against Brown in a primary if he had a more conservative challenger. This is in spite of what would appear to be a clear case that if a conservative candidate that could not appeal to independent voters in Massachusetts (which made up about half the electorate) was nominated, we'd be on our way to socialized medicine, because that conservative would have gotten creamed in the election.

Sadly, that revelation did not seem to make a difference to Mr. Ultra-Conservative. And he probably won't learn that lesson in time to have him make the right decision in the Illinois Senate race.

I suspect this won't be the last time I say this, but the Brown victory was a victory of moderate, common-sense, fiscal policy and a rejection of the socialization of healthcare as foisted on the American people, as Obama tried to do. It was not a right-wing affirmation. I suspect that, based on Scott Brown's speeches over the past 24 hours, he would be somewhat amused by the large number of conservatives who are trying to hijack his victory as a clarion call to flock to the conservative banner. Brown credited the 'independent majority' for his victory, and told supporters that he was not beholden to his party, and that he was going to Washington to be a new kind of Republican, a "Scott Brown" Republican.

How long will it be before conservative candidates like Pat Hughes decide that they ought to stop trying to adopt Scott Brown for risk of alienating their own conservative supporters, as Brown will likely continue to assert his independence as he goes forward to be seated in the Senate.

Folks, there's nothing wrong with supporting conservative candidates in my book, but you have to consider the electorate. Mark Kirk is the most conservative candidate that can get elected to the U.S. Senate in Illinois. And he's the most electable candidate from the standpoint of fundraising ability, name ID, etc. Kirk is the only Republican who can attract the independent voters that we need to win this race in November.

The key to winning the November election for both sides will be to win the independents -- for the GOP, to win back the independents who flocked to Obama. It's not a race to win over the hard right. Let's hope the GOP primary voters are smart enough to realize this and make the right choice, for Mark Kirk.

In the Wake of Scott Brown Victory, Mark Kirk Could Be Next In Illinois

Breaking News... GOP Candidate Cindy Hebda Off Ballot in 59th Legislative District Says Illinois Appellate Court

This just in... Vernon Hills Trustee Cindy Hebda, who was removed from the 59th Legislative District ballot by a circuit court judge (after successfully fending off a Democratic challenge to her candidacy at the State Board of Elections level), has now had that adverse court decision confirmed by an Illinois Appellate Court panel. That means she's off the ballot for good, and the GOP contenders will be down to Green Oaks Attorney Dan Sugrue and Green Oaks businessman Mohan Mahnian, unless Hebda appeals to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Hebda could also move to have the panel reconsider their decision, but that usually isn't too successful. An appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court would not be automatic, either, as far as I know; the Supreme Court can decide not to take an appeal of this kind of case, as they please.

Regardless of how the Hebda situation turns out, the GOP is fortunate to have a choice of contenders who are all great candidates; this blog supports Dan Sugrue and we hope that he will be victorious in the primary, and in the general against whichever Dem wins the primary (Carol Senate or Elliot Hartstein).

More later as I get some additional details.

Sun-Times Goes With Beth Coulson, Julie Hamos in IL-10

I'm still somewhat glazed in wonder at the great Scott Brown win from last night, but I should not neglect the latest round of endorsements in IL-10, this time from the Sun-Times.

Given that the Tribune gave the nod to Bob Dold in an endorsement that raised eyebrows with many political insiders, the question now is, has the pendulum swung back for State Rep. Beth Coulson? The Sun-Times says:

A physical therapist, Coulson has focused on health-care issues in Springfield, working on legislation ranging from providing a safe haven for abandoned babies to extending the time that young adults, a key group among the uninsured, can stay covered under their parents' insurance policies. That record, combined with her intelligence, work ethic and ability to reach across the aisle, would make Coulson, if ultimately elected, a player as Congress continues to reshape the nation's medical delivery system. Coulson sees the health-care legislation pending in Congress as flawed and prefers free-market solutions such as letting Americans buy insurance across state lines.

The Sun-Times also went with Julie Hamos, who, despite her liberal philosophy and many other flaws (that I'm sure we'll be getting into if she wins the primary), she's at least held a job and made some accomplishments in her years as a state rep, unlike two-time loser Dan Seals. The Sun-Times seems to agree:

You'd think Democrat party leaders might appreciate Seals' valiant effort against long odds.

And maybe they do -- but not enough to stick with him this time.

Now that Kirk is running for the Senate, throwing his seat in Congress up for grabs, Seals is being bigfooted in the Democratic primary by a contender with far more party backing, funding and experience -- state Rep. Julie Hamos.

We look forward to a long day of the Coulson and Dold folks shooting at each other here. Just remember that we're all Republicans, kids, and we still have to play with each other in the GOP sandbox on February 3rd.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Victory Is Sweet in Massachusetts; But, the GOP Must Be Careful Not To Overplay Scott Brown Victory (UPDATED)

Tonight, we have seen what I think is a sea-change in America politics, the first glimpse of which we got in the governor's races in Virginia and New Jersey a few months ago, which is a direct repudiation of the Obama plan to socialize not just healthcare, but the entire country. It's a lovely message to dear Mr. President that we do not like the direction that he, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, have dragged the country, kicking and screaming, completely ignoring the will of the majority of the people who elected them. The Brown victory in Massachusetts will send shockwaves through the Democratic establishment, and they are already scurrying like the rats they are to doggedly foist a healthcare bill that almost no one wants upon the American people.

The good -- heck, the GREAT -- news is that, with the victory of Scott Brown, the new Senator from Massachusetts, who will be sitting in Ted Kennedy's old seat (the "People's Seat," thank you Senator Brown), it's a clear message not only to Obama/Pelosi/Reid, but a whole lot of Democrats in iffy districts (think Melissa Bean) that we're mad as hell, and we're not going to take it any more (!).

But, at the risk of throwing water on this whole party only a few scant hours after Brown's opponent conceded, there is a danger here, and the bad news is that some in the GOP will take the wrong message from the Brown victory, which is the misguided notion that Brown represents a nationwide lurch to the hard-core right, and the Brown victory is a mandate for right-wingers to come out and lead us all to a revolution against Obama's radical left.

While it's a nice fantasy, it's simply not true.

Months ago, the tea partiers were the ones calling Scott Brown a RINO ("Republican In Name Only"). Hungry for a victory, they then came into Massachusetts and adopted Brown, despite his rather thin credentials as a conservative, once they realized that he could be the tipping point on healthcare.

There is no doubt that conservatives helped Brown to victory, and they deserve credit. But, certainly not all of it, and Brown's victory is not a message that every hard-right conservative that is now running for office has a national mandate for victory.

If that is the message that the GOP, especially in Illinois, takes from the Brown victory, guaranteed our giddy celebration of victory over the Dems will be VERY short-lived. That's not what they did in Massachusetts, and that's what we need to avoid doing in Illinois.

Brown's victory was, first and foremost, a direct rejection of Obama's attempt to nationalize healthcare, because the main issue was that Scott would be the "41st" vote that would enable Republicans to maintain a filibuster in the Senate. In other words, this was basically the first chance that the American people (at least as represented by our friends in Massachusetts) got a chance to essentially vote directly on Obama's heathcare plan, rather than having to let the Democrats steer the ship off the bring whether or not the majority of Americans seemed to agree with the direction that Captain Obama wanted to take us.

If you doubt it, here's the man himself:

Brown: "Tonight the INDEPENDENT voice of Massachsetts has spoken... This seat belongs to no one political party. This is the people's seat."

It was not an endorsement of ultra-conservative values, and certainly not a show of support for the "my-way-or-the-highway" attitude that many ultra-conservatives seem to espouse. Let's just remember the words of Scott Brown, as quoted by the Cape Cod Times:

"I would not have been overwhelmingly re-elected if I didn't know how to work across party lines. If the Democrats have a good idea, I'd be happy to vote with them."

The lesson here is that when the GOP espouses principles that most of us can agree on, like smaller government, fiscal responsibility, lower taxes, etc., and we open the "big tent" to all those who may be attracted to a Republican candidate (especially so-called independents, but even some Dems, as the Mass. election showed), we fare much better politically, and have the ability to affect great change in this nation.

But if you can't get elected, you can't do anything, except gripe about how things in this country are so terrible, and "if only" we could get good Republicans elected, we'd turn this country around.

Well, as many people (even conservatives) seem to be realizing, you can't take an ultra-conservative candidate and win in a left-leaning state, like Illinois. "We must simply go with the most conservative candidate offered, that remains electorally competitive," as one conservative blog put it. Clearly, the more conservative the electorate, the more conservative a candidate can be and still have a reasonable chance of winning. Again, "electorally competitive" is the key phrase here.

Our choice for U.S. Senate is Congressman Mark Kirk, who is the only Republican with statewide appeal that can give us the hope to get as fulfilling a victory in Illinois come November 2010, as they did in Massachusetts tonight.

It's starting to be a great a time to be a Republican again. I truly hope we don't blow it.

UPDATED 1/20/10 6:45 a.m.: Now that the dust is just starting to settle and we can see how the media and the public are reacting to the Brown win, we'll see if I'm right on how this thing will go in Illinois. Carol Marin of the Sun-Times seems to agree with me that Mark Kirk is the moderate who can appeal to the independent voters that the GOP needs to win back from camp Obama.

Also, it's interesting to see how the Dems will spin this. They sure don't agree that the GOP brand is what carried the day for Brown:

"People made the race about health care, about Ted Kennedy," said Ryan Rudominer, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "I think folks also want to know, what are you going to do for jobs? The contrast wasn't made, it seems."

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., pointed out to reporters Monday that GOP Washington establishment leaders like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader John Boehner were largely quarantined from Brown's campaign, indication that the GOP brand in Massachusetts and nationwide is still in doubt. Yet Democrats say Coakley didn't effectively exploit this fact.

"Scott Brown did not run as a Republican. The Republican label was not used in Browns' paid media or messaging," Rudominer said. "Brown did not have Republican surrogates campaign for him. Brown event kept former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney off the campaign trail."

Campers, winning back INDEPENDENTS, not solidifying the far right-wing of the GOP, is the ball that we have to keep our eye on, if we want to turn Illinois into the next Massachusetts in November.

Hey, one of the Dem trolls ought to drop by Ellen's house and check on her. I'd be a bit concerned about her after the Mass. drubbing last night.

Then again, she hated the health care bill, too (although clearly for different reason), so maybe she's not as devastated as you might think.

Daily Herald Endorses Republican Dan Sugrue in 59th District, But Favors BG Mayor Elliot Hartstein Over Appointee Carol Sente

The 59th Legislative District winds from south of Lake Cook Road in Wheeling all the way up to parts of Waukegan. One could say it was gerrymandered ("Terry-mandered?") to benefit the State Senator who designed it (being one half of the 30th Senate District), Terry Link, by diluting the imapct of some GOP-favored areas in the 59th like Lincolnshire, Riverwoods and Mettawa, with more Democratic strongholds like Waukegan.

Today, the Daily Herald came out for Green Oaks attorney Dan Sugrue, who ran for this seat in 2008, when popular incumbent State Rep. Kathy Ryg made this quite a challenge.

Sugrue wins the Daily Herald endorsement for his plan to attack Illinois' financial mess by cutting most state spending by 10 percent, eliminating commissions like the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board, reforming the state employee pension and Medicaid systems, and reining in education and correctional spending.

Now the battlefield is a little different, with Ryg having resigned this year to take an executive director position with a public interest organization, and the Dems nominating businesswoman Carol Sente to the post. Buffalo Grove Mayor Elliot Hartstien, who had indicated his desire to be apppointedm wasn't taking that lying down, so he is running against Sente in the Dem primary.

Hartstein, not Sente, was endorsed by the Herald on the Dem side, and a Hartstein win would make Sente a lame duck, which would set up a battle for a truly open seat.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Chicago Tribune Goes With Bob Dold (with a "d", not an "e") Over Beth Coulson In IL-10; Dem Julie Hamos Gets Nod Over Dan Seals

The GOP race to succeed outgoing Congressman Mark Kirk (who is running for the U.S. Senate) in Illinois' 10th Congressional District has been quite a roller-coaster ride, with candidates jockeying for position, money and support.

Some, like Bill Cadigan and Patricia Bird, have dropped out altogether, and some, like Dr. Arie Friedman, have come on surprisingly strong from seemingly out of nowhere.

Businessman Dick Green, who basically announced for the race even before Congressman Kirk decided to run for the U.S. Senate instead of a sixth term in Congress, seems to have been somewhat invisible on the campaign trail, but is now papering households with direct mail (TA got THREE on Saturday alone, although I think that was a timing error and Team Green meant for them to arrive over a period of days). "This race is far from over," Green told Team America the other evening in a chat on Facebook.

But, frankly, the race seems to have been boiling down for some time now between two front-running candidates, State Representative Beth Coulson, and businessman Bob Dold. Coulson recently got a strong endorsement from the Daily Herald, and also from the Pioneer Press, but today the tables were turned a bit, as Bob Dold got the upper hand with the Chicago Tribune endorsement, likely the most important of the three newspapers mentioned.

Coulson got an honorable mention:

We greatly admire state Rep. Beth Coulson, the Glenview Republican who has the endorsements of Porter and former Gov. Jim Edgar. We give her credit for her solid work in Springfield on health care.

But Dold came away with the top prize:

We think, though, that Republicans have an even better candidate: Kenilworth businessman Robert Dold, who is making his first run for office.

Dold served as an investigative counsel for the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, has an MBA from Northwestern and runs a small business. Congress needs more people who genuinely understand what it takes to put people to work — and how government puts up roadblocks to employment. Dold makes a convincing argument that he does.

He's not a political neophyte: He has been active in local and national Republican politics for years. But he is making his first run for office and he would bring a fresh, common-sense perspective to government. Dold is endorsed.

If anyone cares, the Tribune picked State Rep. Julie Hamos over two-time loser Dan Seals. But, at least we can take comfort that the Tribune has paid attention to one drum we have been beating, that Dan Seals seems to care little about his community, except perhaps when he's running for office:

Wilmette business consultant Dan Seals is making his third run for the seat. We endorsed Seals in his two previous primary campaigns (but supported Kirk in the general elections). We like Seals, but we also hear 10th District residents asking why he hasn't been more involved in community efforts in the district. His primary focus seems to have been on asking for their votes. Our endorsement goes to state Rep. Julie Hamos of Wilmette. She has a fine record on ethics reform, domestic violence laws and early childhood education. She patiently and quite skillfully engineered new law that shored up the finances and instituted critical pension reforms for Chicago-area mass transit.

As one commentor recently queried, we have not had anyone release any polling data for quite some time, nor has anyone released any Q4 fundraising results. So, it's not clear how this all is playing with the electorate.

Will newspaper endorsements (which are essentially split) make the case for either Dold or Coulson? Will Dick Green's carpetbombing direct mail strategy for the 10th District win the day or just annoy 10th District environmentalists with the waste of paper? Will Arie Friedman come in with enough votes to encourage him to remain involved in politics?

These questions and more will be answered in the weeks ahead, so stay tuned...

More Bad News For Pat Hughes on ISRA Endorsement

We understand that Pat Hughes, who has claimed to be the "only" candidate that can defeat Congressman Mark Kirk in the primary battle for the Illinois U.S. Senate seat, has not convinced an important conservative constituency, the Illinois State Rifle Association, that he is "The One." The ISRA is reportedly going with downstate retired Judge Don Lowery.


Daily Herald Comes In For Sandy Cole; 59th District Hopefuls Debate

The Daily Herald has endorsed State Representative Sandy Cole, a favorite of this blog, for another term, based on her impressive level of experience:

Cole, 56, has 20 years of decision making on the Lake County Board and other agencies.

She has spent the three years since taking the district seat learning the ropes of governance at the state legislative level.

True, she has not written any important legislation, but that's not surprising given her party battles a large Democratic majority.

She has shown support for transparency laws and ethics legislation, and that's important given the current climate in Springfield.

Go Sandy!

In other local legislative news, both the Democratic and Republican candidates in the 59th District race appeared before the League of Women Voters in a forum in Vernon Hills this past Sunday.

Competing for the Dem nomination are appointee and incumbent Carol Sente, and Buffalo Grove Mayor Elliot Hartstein. The GOP contenders are Green Oaks attorney Dan Sugrue, Green Oaks businessman Mohan Mahnian, and Vernon Hills Trustee Cindy Hebda. All of the GOP contenders are worthy candidates; this blog has endorsed Dan Sugrue.

The Daily Herald reported:

Sugrue, 46, an attorney, said the public employee pensions are an example of what's wrong with Illinois government. He said there should be two-tiered systems with employee contributions similar to a private-sector 401(k) plan.

"We have teachers unions that contribute huge amounts of money to candidates," said Sugrue. "Those candidates who get elected turn around protecting these same public-sector unions with generous pensions. The only person that gets shafted is the taxpayer."

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Patrick Hughes Sacrifices Conservative Principles for Political Expediency In Trying to Adopt U.S. Senate Hopeful Scott Brown (UPDATED)

My old law school chum Patrick Hughes is nothing if not an opportunist. When Pat figured out last year that Congressman Mark Kirk might be vulnerable as the presumed GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate race in Illinois due to his independent streak, Pat figured it was a prime opportunity to jump into politics and start at the top, even though he'd never been involved in politics before, and now we are learning, hardly ever even voted. Certainly not a chap who, as we like to say at GOP HQ, spent years "carrying water for the elephant" before trying for high public office (in fact, one of the highest).

Unfortunately for Pat, what he didn't realize is that a few other conservatives had already figured out the same thing, and when he jumped into the race, he found "his space" already occupied by a number of other candidates, none of whom (including Don Lowery and John Arrington ) show any sign of backing down and leaving the conservative vote all to Pat.

Given Kirk's popularity, record of achievement, and fundraising prowess, and the crowded primary field, Pat has not been able to gain much traction, either in locking up the conservative vote, or in raising the mega-bucks needed to be truly competitive in such a high-profile race. With only weeks to go before the February 2nd primary, Pat's starting to sweat more than a bit.

Now, just in the last few days, as we close in on a scant two weeks or so before the Illinois primary, Pat has sensed an opportunity with the surprising race that is unfolding in Massachusetts between Republican State Senator Scott Brown and the Democratic Attorney General, Martha Coakley. Although even President Barack Obama himself parachuted in to Massachusetts on Sunday to stump for Coakley, save his "rockstar" reputation, and most importantly, try to save that critical 60th vote to pass his radical healthcare overhaul, it still appears that Brown has a good chance to pull this out and eke out a win for the GOP in that bluest of blue states, "Taxachusetts."

In a previous post, I cautioned readers not to take the wrong message from a Brown win in Massachusetts. As much as we all are hoping desperately that Brown can win this, it should be recognized that Brown has deep national (as well as local) support from a broad base of the GOP (conservatives and moderates), and many independents, and a Brown win is not a win only for "conservatives" (including the self-proclaimed tea partiers) but rather a victory for "big tent" Republicans. Not to mention the fact that Brown himself is not a platform Republican, or even a politician that might be considered "conservative" in many states outside of Massachusetts.

Nevertheless, Pat Hughes has jumped on the Scott Brown bandwagon and hopes to leverage a Brown victory on Tuesday into jumpstarting his own moribund campaign. In order to do so, of course, Hughes needs to cast Brown as a platform conservative and new, anti-establishment face, like he fancies himself, in order to project a Brown victory into a reason that Illinois Republicans should vote for him, rather than the vastly more qualified and moderate Republican Mark Kirk.

Interestingly, Pat says, on a post today at the Hughes for Senate website:

We continue to see the same names on the ballots, elected officials hold positions for an excessive number of years, and new voters remain disengaged. The Conservative movement has re-engaged voters, engaged new voters, and brought new names to the ballot. I am one of those instances. As I saw our government grow at an incredible rate in just a single year and Republicans in Washington become part of the problem and not part of the solution, I decided to be more than just a voter, I decided to run for office.

It is time we see candidates who actually want to represent the people and not their own interests in Washington. It is time we see elected officials who hold themselves accountable to the people, but more importantly it is time we see a change in the political machine. All voters should feel engaged by our political process and truly believe their voices are heard. It is time for establishment leaders to stop making our political decisions for us and let us choose our candidates and choose our issues.

What Pat doesn't seem to realize, of course, is that Scott Brown IS the "establishment" candidate, having served as a Republican state representative and then a senator. He's anything but like Hughes, who has never run for office and only showed up on the Republican scene this past fall.

More importantly, Brown is not a "platform Republican," and in fact, bears a striking resemblance to the kind of Pol that Pat and his supporters would most likely label a "RINO" if he were a state senator here in Illinois. Among other non-orthodox views, Brown is pro-choice, and he failed the conservative litmus test of Senator Jim DeMint's Senate Conservatives Fund, which endorsement Hughes pursued desperately, but never achieved. Yet, Hughes suggests that on Tuesday, "we will see a chain of events set into motion that will result in a Conservative revolution by the time the polls close in November." Indeed, Hughes wants to take credit on behalf of all conservatives for a Brown win, and says, "I honestly believe that the size and scope of the Conservative movement has been underestimated up to this point, but when the polls close and the votes are tallied in Massachusetts, the impossible win will become a reality."

Well, sorry, Pat, but a hoped-for Brown victory is not a harbinger of a conservative revolution that will sweep you into office in Illinois. As I suggested previously, and even your hero Jim DeMint seems to recognize, the hunger of people to stop ObamaCare in its tracks and return some sanity to Washington trumps the conservative litmus test that you have been campaigning on for the last several months (UPDATED: 1/18/10 7:50 a.m.: The latest polling has Brown up over Coakley, 51% to 46%). A Brown victory is going to be a referendum on socialized medicine and a protest against a bill so blatantly unfair, that the only people that will vote for it represent the constituencies that will not be affected by it, and/or will be bribed. There's just no other way to put it.

That doesn't mean that a state like Illinois is going to usher in a guy that campaigns on a promise to strictly adhere to the Republican platform... and even conservatives may think twice when they discover that Pat is the kind of politician that says one thing (i.e., I'm a rock-solid vote for the Republican platform) and then turns around and gives accolades to a candidate that looks like a winner (for now) but in fact doesn't measure up to Hughes' conservative ideals.

I gave money to Brown and I truly hope he wins. I'm curious if Pat really supports Brown as well, or if Pat simply knows a good thing when he sees it, and is trying to hijack a Brown victory for his own political purposes. I guess supporting so-called "RINOs," who Pat claims to despise, is OK, IF they don't happen to be your opponent.

Earlier, I quoted from the endorsement of Scott Brown from the Cape Cod Times:

It is no surprise that Brown has been gaining momentum in a state, even though Democrats outnumber Republicans three to one. He has run an energetic campaign and has been outspoken on the issues. More importantly, however, we believe he is less likely of the two candidates to toe the party line. For example, in an editorial board meeting with the Cape Cod Times earlier this week, Brown was critical of President Bush and defended President Obama regarding the current financial crisis.

In his last re-election to the state Senate in 2008, Brown won by a 59-41 percent margin. Part of his success comes from his willingness to work with Democrats on important issues.

"I would not have been overwhelmingly re-elected if I didn't know how to work across party lines," Brown said in the primary. "If the Democrats have a good idea, I'd be happy to vote with them."

Sounds like Brown is a politician much closer philosophically to Mark Kirk than the my-way-or-the-highway Pat Hughes.

I think a Brown victory speaks a lot more to a rationale for voting for moderate Mark Kirk than a Pat Hughes. But if Brown wins, we'll see if Illinois conservatives are hungry enough for a victory over ObamaCare that they will forgive Hughes for supporting a non-platform Republican like Brown.

UPDATED 1/18/10 7:30 a.m.: Interestingly, this morning our friends at conservative blog Illinois Review offer a tip of the hat the Scott Brown race due to its importance on the healthcare vote, but you can tell it rankles them somewhat, since Brown does not meet their conservative standards:

Scott Brown's appeal is that he's not a Democrat, and despite his not-so-conservative positions, focus group voters seem to like his "family man" image.

Well, if even Jim DeMint can support Brown simply because of his importance on the healthcare vote, you would think local conservatives would not be so begrudging in their praise.

I think all Illinois Republicans should get behind Brown with enthusiasm but they should do it recognizing that Brown is not a conservative and does not represent, as Pat Hughes would have you believe, the forefront of a nationwide lurch to the far right that bolsters his bid for the U.S. Senate seat in Illinois. Brown is a lot more like Mark Kirk than Pat Hughes, as Illinois Review may be subliminally acknowledging. Well, they need to get over it if the GOP in Illinois has any chance of making headway this coming November. Kirk, not Hughes, is the future of this party, campers.