Sunday, February 28, 2010

Giannoulias's Brother Losing Sleep Over Broadway Bank Fallout for Alexi's Senate Campaign

Some friends in high places told me months ago that the Chicago Tribune would be taking a very close look at the Giannoulias family's Broadway Bank, and the impact its problems and checked loan-making history would have on Alexi Giannoulias' U.S. Senate hopes, should be end up being the Dem nominee.

That day has apparently come, with a front-page expose on the troubled bank and what it may mean for Alexi's candidacy, especially if the bank goes under.

Alexi's brother, Demetris Giannoulias, who now runs the bank, knows he and the family are on thin ice when it comes to how this may affect Alexi:

"It's a little delicate with my brother," he told the Tribune. "I stay up at night thinking of what I'd tell someone."

According to the story, the Giannoulias family must raise at least $85 million by the end of April to avoid being taken over by the federal government.

Think of the headlines with THAT story.

My only concern about all of this is peaking too early. Most importantly, we want Alexi to remain a very flawed, weak candidate, but remain the candidate nonetheless. On the other hand, the earlier this story gets and and is ingrained in the minds of voters, it will severely hamper Alexi's fundraising ability as he will be seen as damaged goods and not worth the investment from potential donors.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Bob Dold Wows 'Em on Fox Chicago Sunday

Check out 10th Congressional District GOP candidate Bob Dold on Fox Chicago Sunday:

Friday, February 19, 2010

CQ Politics Moves IL-10 from "Leans Democratic" to "Tossup"; Momentum Favors GOP Candidate Bob Dold

In a rather stunning, but perhaps predictable (given the trend of national politics right now) development, CQ Politics has moved IL-10, which heavily favored President Obama in the prior election, to "Tossup" from "Leans Democratic." As we all know, this is an open seat because 5-term Congressman Mark Kirk is running for the U.S. Senate.

From CQ:

Eighteen races are rated as “Tossups,” meaning that they have no clear favorite. CQ Politics moved three Democratic-held districts into this group: Michigan’s 7th, held by freshman Rep. Mark Schauer ; Mississippi’s 1st, represented by Rep. Travis W. Childers ; and New Hampshire’s 2nd, which Rep. Paul W. Hodes is giving up to run for Senate.

The only Republican-held seat in this grouping is the Illinois district of Rep. Mark Steven Kirk , who is running for Senate. CQ Politics originally gave Democrats a slight edge to win the seat but now sees no clear favorite between businessman Bob Dold (R) and Dan Seals (D), who lost to Kirk in 2006 and 2008.

While Seals may have started out with more name recognition, his poor showing in the Dem primary (he beat out State Rep. Julie Hamos by under 1000 votes) and his lack of appeal as a candidate already appears to be loosing him ground among the prognosticators like CQ Politics who make a living following these sorts of things. Good news for Bob Dold, who knows he's got his work cut out for him, but this will certainly give him and his campaign a shot in the arm. Let's see some polling next!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Another Senate Seat In Play With Retirement of Indiana's Evan Bayh: Good News for Mark Kirk and GOP

The surprise announcement by popular centrist Democrat Evan Bayh of Indiana that he will not run for re-election means yet another U.S. Senate seat that will be in play in 2010.

The timing of this announcement is quite odd, considering that the deadline for filing nomination petitions in Indiana for the May primary is apparently this Friday; which means that if no candidate can gather enough signatures, the Democrats can appoint a candidate. Perhaps this timing was all by design to allow a hand-picked candidate to get the nomination, but we will not dwell on the intricacies of Indiana politics. (We're also scratching our heads given that Bayh, unlike many Dems like Harry Reid, was still in a strong position in his state to win in 2010, despite the tide that seems to be turning against the Democrats in general). Rather, we will simply note that, aside from the nationwide implications of yet another established Dem candidate fleeing the sinking U.S.S. Obama, it means less resources available for the DSCC to defend seats like Roland Burris' seat here in Illinois, where our hero Congressman Mark Kirk stands a good chance to wrest the seat from the Dems by trouncing flawed candidate banker Alexi Giannoulias.

Good times ahead, folks.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Chicago Tribune Joins Growing Chorus of Demands for Alexi Giannoulias to Address Banking Questions

The hits keep on coming on Democratic Senate Candidate Alexi Giannoulias for his failure to address -- no, make that his steadfast avoidance of -- questions regarding his involvement with the checkered history and troubles of his family's bank. But now, it's not just opponent Republican Mark Kirk and the NRSC and ILGOP that are loudly clamoring for Alexi to come clean, it's the Chicago Tribune in an editorial this past week:

Now that Alexi Giannoulias is the Democrats' nominee for U.S. Senate, he's got an answer for everything: Jobs, jobs, jobs. That's not what people are asking about, though, and Giannoulias knows it.

Voters want to know about his role in his family's struggling Broadway Bank, and Giannoulias promised he'd provide those details after the Feb. 2 primary election. "If I'm fortunate enough to make it out of the primary, we can have that conversation," he said. His plan now seems to be to stonewall until November. Or forever.

If there's one thing that serious media folks like the Chicago Tribune absolutely can't stand, it's being blown off. The Tribune itself recalls in the editorial how it even brought now-President Barack Obama in to explain himself over his associations with Tony Rezko after much hemming and hawing:

Giannoulias needs to borrow a page from his friend Barack Obama, the man whose former Senate seat he hopes to fill. Campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, Obama spent months trying to dismiss questions about his associations with the same Tony Rezko. But the issue wouldn't go away. Finally he sat for a 90-minute Q & A with the Tribune editorial board.

"By the time I leave here today, you may not be happy with all my answers, but at least you can't say that I have not answered your questions," Obama said. "Is that fair?"

It's fair. Giannoulias promised a similar accounting if he survived the primary. It's time.

If Alexi thinks he can ignore Mark Kirk and the Republicans, that's fine. It's all part of political strategy, and that's what partisan campaign ads are for -- to focus on your tightly controlled message and get votes without having to answer the hard questions. No doubt Alexi, though he's crying poor now, will have plenty of money to get his message out.

He can even ignore the calls of his campaign chairman, Senator Dick Durbin, to fess up and get whatever he has to say over with. Who knows if Durbin is really serious anyway, or if his call to Alexi to come clean was just for political show.

But he can't ignore the Trib for long. Alexi has little hope, barring some kind of Kirk implosion, of getting the Trib endorsement this Fall, as they endorsed Kirk in the GOP primary and Alexi's opponent, David Hoffman, in the Dem primary. But the Trib and other career journalists will dog Alexi without mercy until he submits himself to a full interrogation from the media, without stonewalling.

Based on how the Trib handled the Rezko issue with Obama, maybe Alexi shouldn't be too worried, as I thought the newspaper was pretty easy on Obama once they got him in there. But Alexi is no Obama, and the more these newspaper sharks smell chum in the water, the more bloodthirsty they get.

Friday, February 12, 2010

NRSC Continues to Hit Alexi Giannoulias for Banking Woes

From the NRSC, via the IL GOP:

Two Weeks of Silence: What is Alexi Giannoulias Hiding?

“In a statement, the bank said only 9 percent of the $242 million in nonperforming assets currently on its books originated under Mr. Giannoulias. But here is an inconvenient fact about bank failures: They do not happen overnight. A dollop of reckless lending here, a dash of destabilizing hot money there, hide a few troubles over there. Let that simmer for a while and, voila!, an insolvency soufflĂ©.” – New York Times, “As Lender, Senate Candidate Impacted Bank Woes,” January 31, 2010

After promising to answer questions about Broadway Bank if he won the primary, today marks Alexi Giannoulias’ 14th day of silence. Despite pleas from his own campaign chairman, Senator Dick Durbin, to “come clean” about his role in the near-collapse of the bank, we still have no answers.

According to a Broadway Bank statement provided to the New York Times, only 9 percent of the $242 million in nonperforming assets currently on its books originated under Alexi Giannoulias. The only way to know if that’s true is for the Giannoulias family to release the list of nonperforming assets – complete with the dates, amounts and recipients of each loan or lease.

Reporters should ask Alexi Giannoulias if he and his family are willing to release the comprehensive list of $242 million in nonperforming assets currently on its books that led to the recent FDIC consent decree.

As the New York Times reported, Alexi played a direct role in creating the current crisis at Broadway Bank:

Construction-related lending jumped to more than triple the bank’s required regulatory capital during this period, and the loans started to go bad. By the time Mr. Giannoulias departed, Broadway was left with nearly $14 million in real estate on its books, more than 10 times the level when he arrived. Foreclosures take time, though — often about 18 months. And within two years of Mr. Giannoulias’s departure, the bank was left holding $38 million in real estate.

The move into real estate coincided with a headlong push into brokered deposits. This is quintessential hot money — large amounts that jump from bank to bank, each bank offering the lure of high interest , which the banks then must fund by making ever-riskier loans.

During Mr. Giannoulias’s time at the bank, brokered deposits catapulted fourfold, to $640 million. The typical bank at this point was growing brokered deposits at about 9 percent a year. Mr. Giannoulias’s bank was increasing its load by as much as 48 percent in a single year. Broadway Bank’s brokered deposits reached 80 percent of total deposits in 2006.

No one knows for certain how big a role Mr. Giannoulias played in these decisions. As Broadway’s top lending officer, he must have influenced the move into construction lending. As a connected family member, he was probably present during discussions of the hot-money play. Certainly, he took part in the family’s decision to take out some $70 million in dividends from the bank in 2007 and 2008, even as it careened toward a consent decree with the F.D.I.C.

Mr. Giannoulias told reporters that a time would come when he could answer questions about what happened at his family’s bank. Here is hoping there is plenty of time, because questions keep mounting faster than the troubles at Broadway Bank.

Two weeks and counting.

Learn more about Giannoulias’ record by visiting the NRSC’s new Web site

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dick Durbin: Alexi Giannoulias Needs to Come Clean About Banking Past

Only a day after U.S. Senator Dick Durbin announced that he would chair the flailing campaign of former banker Alexi Giannoulias for the junior U.S. Senator slot from Illinois, Durbin is already urging his young charge to fess up and disclose anything damaging about his banking past.

Fox News reported that Durbin said this yesterday:

"I believe he(Alexi) will be more forthcoming. There are some things we do know and should acknowledge. He (Alexi) has not been involved with his family bank for four years.The current portfolio of that bank, only 9 % of those loans reflect loans that were on the books when he(Alexi) left the bank 4 years ago, so the loan package out there now at that bank is substantially different. I think he should come forward. He's talked to me about it what happened there, he's very proud his father started this bank and built it up from nothing. The controversy there whether it reflects on Alexi himself personally or the banking practices remains to be seen, but I've encouraged him to answer all the questions."

I wonder if Durbin is now thinking he might have moved a little fast in accepting that campaign chairmanship.

Alexi has been ducking questions about his banking past ever since he ran for State Treasurer. The NRSC outlines it all here. You can bet that in the wake of the Scott Lee Cohen debacle, local news media (who were embarrassed by flubbing the Cohen story) will not rest until they wring the entire truth out of Giannoulias.

I just hope they don't beat Giannoulias up so badly that the Dems wake up and get a smarter, less damaged opponent against Congressman Mark Kirk for the November election.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Consummate "Insider" Dick Durbin to Bail Out Alexi Giannoulias Senate Campaign

In an fairly unsurprising development, the senior U.S. Senator from Illinois, Dick Durbin, will be taking the reins of the campaign of Democratic Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias, which has already gotten off to a poor start. Giannoulias faced a surprisingly strong primary challenge from former Asst. U.S. Attorney and Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman, taking hits with respect to Giannoulias' purported ethical lapses and shady banking connections, and having to spend down a good deal of his campaign war chest that he had built up in expectation of battling Republican Congressman Mark Kirk in the November general election. As of the latest polling, Mark Kirk leads Giannoulias 46% to 40%. It's clear that it's not just the Republicans who recognize that Alexi is already in trouble, says HuffPo:

The addition of a heavyweight such as Durbin shows just how serious the Democrats are about the threat posed by Rep. Mark Kirk, a fifth-term congressman from Chicago's north suburbs and the Republican candidate for the seat. It also shows where the focus of the race will be, geographically speaking. Durbin is very popular downstate, and with Kirk and Giannoulias both coming from Chicagoland, the two will be fighting hard to win voters in central and southern Illinois.

Contrary to what HuffPo would have us believe, I'm not sure if I agree that Durbin is all that popular in Illinois, although he's been pretty politically bulletproof over the past few years as the GOP has run ineffective candidates and allowed him to built up a warchest of over $5 million the last time I checked. How effective Durbin will be as the figurehead for Giannoulias remains to be seen. Durbin has pulled a few boner moves in his career, including asking President Bush to pardon former Governor George Ryan, comparing American servicemen to Nazis, and strongly supporting the sale of Thomson prison to the Feds as a jobs-creation measure, which seemed to be fairly unpopular and may be a bust, if in fact it never happens.

Durbin has long since showed his preference for and support of Giannoulias to take the junior Senate seat, ever since Durbin invited Alexi along to carry his briefcase on a trip to Greece this same time last year, for no other apparent purpose than to try to burnish Alexi's nonexistent foreign policy credentials.

The Giannoulias camp is already trying to downplay expectations and even trying to take on the mantle of underdog, at least with respect to fundraising:

"We know we're going to be outspent," Durbin told The Associated Press. He noted that the National Republican Senatorial Campaign began running negative advertising the day after Giannoulias won Tuesday's primary. "We realize we're the underdogs to this onslaught of money."

As we've pointed out before, the notion that Alexi is any kind of underdog, in a blue state like Illinois, where the Dems have a lock on every constitutional office, plus close to absolute control of the General Assembly, is a bit laughable.

Moreover, the Giannoulias campaign has already been testing a general election campaign theme of running against Kirk as a "Washington Insider," based on Kirk's 10 years as a Congressman. One wonders if that message, should Giannoulias try to stick with it, will fall flat when people look at the fact that Durbin, who if anything is even more of an "insider" (being the #2 man in the Senate) than Kirk, is now chairing the Giannoulias campaign.

The good news for us is that the Dems really think they are in trouble with Alexi as their candidate, and he's not likely to go the way of Scott Lee Cohen.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

So Much for Scott Lee Cohen

Apparently the heavy hand of Michael Madigan has convinced Scott Lee Cohen, who won the Dem primary for Lt. Governor, that he ought to withdraw.

It'll be interesting to see as this story unfolds to see exactly what lever MMadigan applied.

It'll also be interesting to see who's appointed to fill his spot on the Dem ballot.

It also means my plans to copyright the "Adlai Option" probably won't be very profitable.

Ah, well. Tomorrow, Durbin and Alexi.

We now return you to the Super Bowl, which is all of a sudden becoming a decent game (as of Q3, 1:55 to go).

Grant Township Lincoln Day Dinner Features IL GOP Chairman Pat Brady

Last night, the Grant Township GOP organization hosted its annual Lincoln Day dinner, which was a big success. I'm just estimating, but I think there had to be at least 300 people in attendance. In fact, I was having so much fun, I forgot to take any pictures, so I am hopeful that my friend Grant Township GOP Chairman Nancy Kubalanza will send me a few.

Among the many attendees were Pat Brady, IL GOP Chairman, who gave the keynote address; Joe Walsh, the GOP nominee for the 8th Congressional District (who will challenge the entrenched, but still potentially vulnerable Melissa Bean); Mark Curran, Lake County Sheriff, Michael Waller, Lake County State's Attorney, Bob Skidmore, Lake County Treasurer, Roycealee Wood, Superintendent of Schools; Suzi Schmidt, County Board Chairman and candidate for State Senate, 31st District; State Senator Dan Duffy; county board members Steve Carlson and Bonnie Thompson Carter; State Representatives Sandy Cole, Mark Beaubein, and JoAnne Osmond; candidates for State Representative Dan Sugrue and Lauren Turelli, a couple of mayors such as Bruce Sauer of North Barrington, lots and lots of judges, a few justices like Mary Schostok and Ann Jorgensen, Lake County GOP Chairman Dan Venturi, and the list goes on and on.

Pat Brady gave a great address and touched on the recent troubles of the Dems, such as the Scott Lee Cohen fiasco, but emphasized that his focus will be to help return the Republican party back to the "Party of Ideas," since it is clearly not enough to simply take potshots at the Dems. We need to reach out to independents and voters of all stripes, and explain to them why we are the better party with ideas and the right way to govern, rather than simply cutting up the Dems. Brady also emphasized the incredible opportunity we have with Congressman Mark Kirk as our U.S. Senate candidate to take back what some like to call the "Barack Obama seat," and really show the Dems and the White House that the country is fed up with their style of governance and we're not going to take it anymore. Brady also emphasized the great diversity and quality of the GOP ticket, and mentioned candidates like Steve Kim, who is running for attorney general, and Robert Enriquez, who is running for Secretary of State. Unlike the Dems, where it seems you have to be a Daley, a Lipinski, a Madigan, a Jones, or a Jackson (and the list goes on and on), the GOP nominates its candidates based on quality and ability, not birthright.

All in all, it was a great evening, and TA won $100 in the raffle, so it was all pretty cool. Based on the energy in the room, it's going to be a great election cycle, and we're all looking for great things to happen in November.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

New Dem Campaign Slogan: "Alexi Giannoulias -- At Least He's Not Scott Lee Cohen"; The "Adlai Option"; Plus Local Updates

Wow, the whole Scott Lee Cohen thing shows no signs of dying down, and every day it goes on, the more it will be ingrained in the minds of Illinois voters. If Governor Quinn has to exercise the "Adlai Option" and form a third party to run for gov in November, he's going to get trounced. That's not even taking into consideration the Blago trial, where Quinn is going to get labeled as Blago's Lt. Guv and his enabler (wait for videos with Quinn's statements of support of Blago to show up as the trial begins, and into November).

Meanwhile, it looks like the National Republican Senatorial Committee didn't waste any time trying to define Alexi Giannoulias as a mobbed-up banker. This video has been making the Internet rounds ever since Mark Kirk won the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate this week:

10th District Update: Meanwhile in local races, I talked on the phone with GOP nominee for the 10th District Bob Dold yesterday, and he is really excited about the upcoming election and the prospect of keeping the 10th District in GOP hands. This race is definitely going to have a national profile.

Many Dems probably thought with glee that with the departure of Mark Kirk to run for the U.S. Senate, the Dem nominee was going to be a shoo-in in this District. Dold makes it looks like they may have to wait another few cycles. That being said, the DCCC is already coming in to make a push for Dan Seals, with a fundraiser headlined by DCCC chairman Chris Van Hollen scheduled for mid-February.

59th Legislative District: My pal Dan Sugrue, who won an overwhelming primary victory last week, is not letting any grass grow under his feet, recognizing that new Dem appointee Carol Sente is going to have the full faith and credit of Michael Madigan behind her leading up to the November election (anyone out there got any pics of Sente and Scott Lee Cohen together that they want to send me???). Visit Dan's new fan page on Facebook and sign up. Dan's former opponent Cindy Hebda, a Vernon Hills trustee, is being an awfully good sport about all this and has pledged her support to Dan so the GOP can win in November. In fact, they are appearing this morning at some community meeting dealing with Route 45 issues, as I understand, where Sente is also scheduled to be.

Grant Township Lincoln Day Dinner: Tonight my good friend Grant Township Chairman Nancy Kubalanza is hosting the very popular Lincoln Day Dinner at Maravela's Restaurant in Fox Lake. Patrick Brady, the IL GOP Chairman, will be the keynote speaker. TA will attend with Dan Sugrue, as well as Keith Gray, who is contemplating another run at Dem State Senator Terry Link in the 30th Senate District.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Scott Lee Cohen Bombshell a Major Embarrassment For IL Dems; "Who Am I?" to Have Denounced Him, Asks State Senator Terry Link

As you have probably heard by now, the shocking revelations into the past of Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor Scott Lee Cohen, including domestic abuse allegations, use of steroids, and failure to pay child support, threaten to derail the entire Democratic election campaign strategy, and may even force Governor Quinn to form a third party in order to escape the taint of Cohen as his running mate. Wow. Even in the State of Illinois, where we thought we'd seen it all politically (did we mention that yesterday, former Governor Blagojevich also was re-indicted (mostly a technical formality, but still)), this one is a whopper.

We always try to give the local angle on political stories, so one thing we find very interesting about the Scott Lee Cohen debacle is the involvement of State Sentator and Lake County Democratic Chairman Terry Link. Link, like Cohen, also ran for Lt. Governor, but Link finished 6th out of 6 Democratic candidates, and was crushed in campaign spending by Cohen, who largely spent his own money. Now Link has come forward to say that he warned both of the Democratic candidates for governor (Quinn and State Comptroller Dan Hynes) of Cohen's past, which had been referenced in an article by Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown almost a year ago, but got little notice, because Cohen was not considered a serious candidate.

So why didn't Link simply make this a campaign issue on his own? After all, he was running for the same office, Lt. Governor. You would think this would be great campaign fodder for an opposing candidate. The Daily Herald looked at this confusing situation and said this:

State Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat who also sought the lieutenant governor's nomination, said he warned newspaper editorial boards and both Democratic campaigns for governor that danger lurked if Cohen won. He pointed to a months-old Chicago Sun-Times column that made mention of Cohen's past troubles.

He said he never considered running negative ads because he didn't have enough money to pick on one candidate in a six-candidate field, especially when Cohen had said he was prepared to spend upward of $3 million, nearly 10 times Link's campaign bankroll.

"A guy like him should be denounced from the beginning. But who am I to say that? I tried warning people about this guy from Day One, but it's up to the people to do something about it," Link said, insisting it's not "sour grapes."

Wow. "Who am I," Link wants to know.

Link, a calculating politician, but not an especially brave one, may have stepped in it this time. Perhaps he thought he was helping the Dems by speaking up now and saying, essentially, 'I told you so, but you wouldn't listen,' but it's more likely he thought he was helping himself.

Link clearly did not have the political guts to make an issue of Cohen's past on his own, even though he was running for the same spot. He probably figured that by making Cohen a target, he could draw the ire of Cohen, despite the crowded field, and was deathly afraid of having Cohen's deep pockets (stuffed with profits from his pawnbroker operations) invested in negative campaign ads against Link. There's certainly plenty of stuff in Link's own past to dredge up.

Well, if Link thought he was going to ingratiate himself with party leadership and have a chance to be appointed into the spot that he campaigned for (if Cohen were to be forced out), I suspect he's pretty much blown that. Link managed in one fell swoop to embarrass Governor Quinn by making him appear inept, and also took away any chance of claiming 'plausible deniability' that Quinn (or at least his handlers) never knew about Cohen's past.

Looks like we're stuck with Link here in Lake County for a few more years, until he comes up for relection and my friend Keith Gray can take care of him in the election once and for all.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

New Rasmussen Poll Shows Mark Kirk Over Alexi Giannoulias, 46% to 40%

The first Rasmussen poll taken after the primary election results were in shows Congressman Mark Kirk with a nice six point lead over Democrat banker Alexi Giannoulias:

The first post-primary Rasmussen Reports Election 2010 telephone survey of the Kirk-Giannoulias race finds just four percent (4%) of likely voters in the state prefer some other candidate, while another 10% are undecided.

Among voters not affiliated with either of the major parties, the Republican holds a sizable 59% to 22% lead.

In December, Giannoulias was up by three points over Kirk. In October, the two men were tied at 41% each. In mid-August, Kirk held a modest 41% to 38% lead over Giannoulias.

The two men, as projected in previous Rasmussen Reports surveys, defeated several challengers to win their respective party primaries on Tuesday. But while Kirk holds a six-point lead for now in the race for the Senate seat held by Barack Obama, he may still face an uphill struggle in a state that trends Democratic.

Kirk, a U.S. congressman, leads Giannoulias, Illinois’ current state treasurer, by a wide margin among male voters but trails his Democratic rival by 13 points among female voters.

What is it with Sexi Lexi, anyway? He doesn't do it for TA, that's for sure.

The Dems' concern over Alexi's weakness as a candidate was worrying even the White House weeks before the election results were in. Right now, the local Dems are more concerned about revelations regarding their new Lt. Governor candidate Scott Lee Cohen to put a lot of energy into the Kirk-Alexi race. That'll come as soon as their current crisis is dealt with. And let's not forget that the next big story will be the Blago trial this Spring (Capitol Fax Blog is reporting that Balgo was just re-indicted this afternoon (I believe to clean up the statutory basis for his indictment)) .

I actually read some Dem spin the other day that labeled Alexi as the "underdog" in this race. Ah, folks, this is still Illinois, a blue state will all constiutional offices held by the Dems, who also have a lock on the General Assembly. (And the prior Rasmussen poll had Alexi up by three points, so we have a long way to go, yet.) But please don't embarrass yourselves by trying to get pity points (or is it managing expectations for a Dem loss so that Obama isn't shamed by the failure of the Dems to hold this seat?) by calling Alexi an underdog. Gag me.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Bob Dold Will Have the Right Message in IL-10

Businessman Bob Dold knows he has his work cut out for him in the race to succeed outgoing Congressman Mark Kirk, who is the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate.

The Daily Herald caught up with Dold at this morning's Republican Unity Breakfast, which was a standing-room-only event that featured many, many GOP nominees and primary candidates for offices from U.S. Senate to State Representative.

"We're going to have to work very hard and that means go, go, go," he told the Daily Herald today.

The DH also asked Team America to help analyze the Dold matchup with two-time loser Dan Seals, given that Mark Kirk is no longer the incumbent in this seat.

Though perhaps not as moderate as Kirk, Dold, a Kenilworth resident and president of a pest control company, has the values that will be important to voters in November, observers say.

"He knows what it's like to sign the front of the check, not just the back of the check," said Larry Falbe, a Mettawa trustee and author of the Team America's 10th District blog.

"He's got the right message. He'll be all about lowering taxes and creating jobs."

I also gave the DH my take on Dan Seals as the Dem candidate, although it didn't make it into the story. Basically, I told the DH that the GOP was pleased that Seals was the candidate, as opposed to Julie Hamos. Seals has a thin resume, which he has tried to puff up in the past (but was caught in the act), and few accomplishments. His primary credential for running for Congress is that he ran for Congress twice before (never the mind the fact that he's a lousy campaigner). Despite his third try for this seat, he's never even bothered to move into the 10th District. And we could go on and on, as we've done in the past, but we'll save the tedium for right now.

In sum, not only is Seals a known quantity, who could not prevail even while trying to ride the coattails of now-President Barack Obama, he hasn't seemingly done anything else of note since we last looked at Seals in November 2008, when Kirk whooped him last time.

Certainly, we'll have a lot less research to do on Seals than we would have with Hamos. Frankly, there's just not much to look at with Seals -- he really is the epitome of an 'empty suit.'

I think Dold is correct that IL-10 is going to be a national race, so fasten your seatbelts, campers. This one will be wild.

New Poll Shows Mark Kirk Beating Alexi Giannoulias 47-35

From the Kirk for Senate Campaign:

Kirk 47%, Giannoulias 35%

Kirk campaign releases new poll showing double-digit lead over “deeply flawed” Democratic nominee in Illinois Senate race

Broadway Bank Woes, Bright Start Troubles Sink Alexi Giannoulias

Northbrook, IL – Just hours after winning the Republican nomination in a landslide election, five-term Congressman and Navy veteran Mark Kirk today released a new survey showing his campaign out to an early double-digit lead over Democratic nominee Alexi Giannoulias, 47% to 35%.

The survey of 885 Illinois voters, conducted by Magellan Data and Mapping Strategies between February 1-2, 2010 with a 3.3% margin of error, showed Kirk holding a net positive favorable/unfavorable rating of +5% while Giannoulias held a net negative favorable/unfavorable rating -15%.

“Alexi Giannoulias is a damaged candidate plagued by his mismanagement of family education savings, criminal ties and questions surrounding his family’s failing Broadway Bank,” Kirk spokesman Eric Elk said. “David Hoffman, an honorable corruption fighter, was right to question Alexi’s character and it’s clear that the voters of Illinois question it as well.”

Before his election as State Treasurer, Giannoulias served as Vice President and Chief Loan Officer of his family’s Broadway Bank. On July 27, 2009, the Chicago Tribune reported: “Before his election, Giannoulias faced scrutiny over his family bank's loans to convicted felons with alleged mob ties. Giannoulias oversaw the loans at the bank.”

The Sun-Times reported that Giannoulias loaned $12 million to a convicted bookmaker and pimp and loaned another $15 million to a convicted mob money launderer. More recently, Chicago and national media reported that the FDIC ordered the Giannoulias family to raise millions in capital for the bank. According to news reports, the Giannoulias family had taken millions out of the bank just before real-estate backed investments collapsed.

Last week, David Hoffman told the Chicago Sun-Times: "Broadway Bank acted in a very different fashion than just about every other community bank in Illinois. It is simply not true that many other community banks were handing out loans in a high-risk way to Tony Rezko and convicted mobsters.” Hoffman told the Associated Press: “The reason that this Broadway Bank story and revelation is of such significance now is because it goes to the heart of matters of job performance and character.”

In November, Democratic pollster Geoff Garin wrote, “Alexi Giannoulias' own vulnerabilities are so significant, and far more damning than Kirk's among the electorate. ... His nomination would put Barack Obama's former Senate seat in extreme jeopardy for the Democrats.”

A November 21st report in the New York Times cited White House concerns about a Giannoulias-Kirk matchup: “White House qualms about the Democratic frontrunner, Alexi Giannoulias, the Illinois treasurer, are self-evident, with worry that the Republican challenger, Representative Mark Kirk, will be needlessly formidable.”

In his acceptance speech, Congressman Kirk spoke about the need to clean up Illinois and restore integrity to the Land of Lincoln.

“For true reform, we must choose leaders who do not become criminals – men and women unafraid to stand alone to fight corruption, back prosecutors and pass the toughest ethics laws in America,” Kirk said. “The election before us offers voters a clear choice: will we continue with leaders raised in the tradition of Rod Blagojevich – or will we elect a reformer who can make our state proud?”

In addition to Giannoulias’ Broadway Bank woes, on December 22, 2009, the Chicago Tribune revealed Giannoulias lost $150 million in Illinois Bright Start family college savings – nearly twice what the State Treasurer had previously disclosed – due to his risky mortgage-backed investments. Despite promises to recover public funds, Giannoulias settled with Oppenheimer Funds for only half of the state’s losses. Previously, on May 3, 2009, the Chicago Tribune reported that Giannoulias used the Bright Start fund to buy himself an SUV before the investment collapsed.

Republicans Rev Up For November Mid-Term Elections With Unity Breakfast

This morning, many of us Illinois Republicans will attend the Unity Breakfast in downtown Chicago, which was a fabulous idea, I think. I believe it's being sponsored by the State GOP.

We will all need to pull together to defeat the Democrats in the November mid-term elections, especially in key races like Governor and U.S. Senate. While the winner in the Senate race was clear, with Congressman Mark winning almost 60% of the vote in a crowded field (who will face banker Alexi Giannoulias in the fall), the Governor race is still hanging in the balance on both sides. Given that we seem to expect a lot of rancor on the Dem side, with Comptroller Dan Hynes vowing to fight to the fullest to ensure that every last vote is counted (twice? after all, this is Chicago) to see if he can somehow eke out a win from Governor Quinn, I am hopeful we will be able to avoid a cantankerous battle between state senators Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady, who are also quite close in the vote totals. It would have been great if the GOP had a clear winner to rally behind while the Dems continue to snipe at each other, primary style, but again, we need to keep in mind who are we united against, and the importance of getting back the governor's mansion (especially considering the prospect of redistricting looming on the horizon).

With Dan Seals being the Dem winner in IL-10 (by a very slim margin over Julie Hamos), we're going to have to pull out all the stops to get Bob Dold elected to the House so the GOP doesn't lose this seat, but I'm sure we, and he, are up to the task.

I hope to see many of you at the breakfast, and we'll try to snap some pictures.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Congratulations to Our GOP Winners: Kirk, Dold, Sugrue, Cole; Gov Still Uncertain

As I sit here watching the late returns after making the rounds of some of the North Shore victory parties, it is quite clear that Congressman Mark Kirk has handily beat his competition and will go on to face banker Alexi Giannoulias in the U.S. Senate race.

Here's video of Kirk's victory speech at the Westin Hotel in Wheeling. (You can pick out TA on the platform at the far left hand side waaaay in the back, but heck, I was up there).

Businessman Bob Dold beat out State Rep. Beth Coulson and will face two-time loser Dan Seals in the 10th Congressional District. Dold is going to need everyone's support against Seals in a Dem-leaning district, so we will need to get to work. The good news is that Seals is an enemy we know, plus his main credential for running for Congress is the fact he's run before. Not very impressive. And he can't claim the "outsider" mantle against Dold.

My friend Dan Sugrue won a big victory in the 59th Legislative District and will face Madigan tool Carol Sente in November.

Sandy Cole easily beat ideologue Paul Mitchell in the 62nd District.

But as of right now, Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard are neck and neck for guv.

It could be a long night for some, but I'm cashing it in. More tomorrow. Plus, the Republican Unity Breakfast!

It's Off to the Polls In Illinois: Predictions (and Surprises?)

It's primary election day in Illinois, and we have a dusting of snow in Chicago -- at least on the far north side where Team America HQ is. Not too cold for February, though, so it's nothing that should not keep people from the polls. But everyone seems to be predicting a low turnout since the GA never moved the primary back to something rational after they jiggered it to benefit Barack Obama's presidential bid (which they weren't even ashamed about).

The election in Illinois is getting a lot of national attention thanks in part to the fact that it's the first primary of 2010, and everyone is looking for a clue as to how the 2010 midterm elections are going to pan out, and what that may mean to the Dems stranglehold on power in Washington. Especially the U.S. Senate election, where people have now woken up to the fact that a likely win on the GOP side by the popular and experienced candidate Congressman Mark Kirk, the White House top aides are panicking that the story going into November 2010 is that Barack Obama's 'old seat' is going to be lost to the GOP for the first time in 12 years.

The Hill reported:

Should [Democrat Alexi] Giannoulias hang on for the win, observers will look closely at his margin of victory for hints as to how strong a general-election candidate he will be against the presumptive GOP nominee, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). The good news for Giannoulias is that even if he doesn’t come out of Tuesday looking strong, he has nine months to put together the kind of campaign Democrats hoped for from the young former basketball buddy of President Barack Obama. The bad news is, he’s got plenty more of what’s happened in the past week ahead of him.

Kirk is a heavy favorite on the GOP side, despite some early questions about just how much the GOP base would support someone with a centrist record in the House. Developer Patrick Hughes hasn’t been able to put together the kind of funds needed to give Kirk a real scare, and a crowded field should benefit the congressman on Tuesday. Kirk doesn’t appear terribly concerned with the primary, as he had $3.2 million in unspent campaign funds in the bank as of Jan. 13.

Politico had this to say:

For all the talk about a challenge from the right to Rep. Mark Kirk’s Republican primary campaign, there’s little doubt this morning about who the GOP’s Senate nominee will be. With Kirk polling close to 50 percent, challenger Patrick Hughes lagging 30-plus points behind him and no other opponent even really registering, all the Senate action this evening is on the Democratic side.

But boy, is there action there. Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias remains the favorite to run for the seat left vacant by the president’s 2008 election, but former Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman has been closing hard. Giannoulias has taken a beating from state and national media – and from Hoffman – over his family bank’s recent financial troubles, and Republicans feel confident of their general-election odds against a candidate tarnished both by his record as state treasurer and by his association with a failed financial institution. One sample attack, courtesy of the Hoffman campaign’s ads: Giannoulias “was chief loan officer when his family’s bank gave a million dollars to Blagojevich crony and convicted felon Tony Rezko, then let Rezko bounce a half million dollars in checks.

Kirk is already taking a page out of the playbook of fellow moderate and Senator-elect Scott Brown of Massachusetts, and is resisting attempts by the media to label this the "Obama" seat. It's the people's seat, stupid.

So with that, here are some morning thoughts on some key races (key to me, anyway):

U.S. Senate: Mark Kirk wallops the GOP competition. If Hughes breaks 20%, I will be surprised. Alexi wins but not by much and excitement will build as we begin to realize just how weak a candidate he will be against Mark Kirk in November. But that won't stop the Dems from throwing everything they have against us.

Governor/Guv Lite: I think McKenna will squeak out a small plurality if his "no taxes" message resonates. Murphy will win as well, and may well do better than McKenna. If not McKenna, then Ryan based on his name ID, followed somewhere (not too far behind) by Dillard. The rest split the "fringe" vote (they hate that term). Dem side, Quinn by only a little. Guv Lite, who knows. Art Turner? If it's Terry Link, at least we would have the prospect of getting him out of Lake County.

10th District Congress: Beth Coulson will win, Bob Dold will be a respectable close second, with Dick Green coming in third. If Friedman's lucky, he'll tie Green. We have endorsed Coulson, but whoever wins, we'll be behind the GOP nominee 100% and we look forward to a great race against the Dem nominee, which will be either Dan Seals or Julie Hamos. That one is just too close to call.

59th State Rep. District: The HGOPs have been pushing candidate and Vernon Hills Trustee Cindy Hebda for all they are worth, but I still think attorney Dan Sugrue, whom we have endorsed, will pull it out. Again, we are excited about this race and we'll be backing the winner 100%. It represents a definite pick-up opportunity for the Republicans. If Elliot Harstein, Buffalo Grove mayor, beats appointed incumbent Carol Sente, all bets are off.

62nd State Rep. Dist: Sandy Cole is fending off a challenge from ideologue Paul Mitchell. Should be no problem here for Cole to hang on.

I didn't even realize until the other day that JoAnne Osmond up in the 61st District even had a primary opponent, so no concerns here.

Appellate Justices Mary Schostok and Mary Ann Jorgensen will sail to easy victory.

I look forward to making the rounds of the election night parties -- hope to see many of you out there, and go vote!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Illinois Primary Now A Sprint to the Finish Line

Well, in about another 36 hours, this will all be over. We'll be watching the results very carefully in the U.S. Senate race (I plan to be at Mark Kirk's election night party, although the real drama will be watching to see who the Dem nominee is, as everyone expects a commanding victory for Kirk), the Tenth Congressional Race on both the GOP and Dem sides, and a slew of local races up here in Lake County like the 59th and 62nd legislative districts.

In the IL-10 race to succeed Congressman Mark Kirk, the Daily Herald took a look at the way the race has evolved, with a little help from some friends:

A relatively mild - but pricey - campaign has seen some attacks in recent weeks, though the barbs are not in the same ballpark as those in some high-profile statewide races.

Will going negative make a difference?

"By and large, on the North Shore where we have highly educated, independent voters, people don't respond well to negative campaigning because they feel they're being manipulated," said Larry Falbe, a Mettawa trustee and author of Team America's 10th District blog.

The DH also noted:

Because it is considered a moderate district where voters tout independence, candidates on both sides have had to tread carefully to be more inclusive.

"In this particular district, you're going to win it in the middle," said Kent Redfield, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Candidates, for example, uniformly have said creating jobs and cutting federal spending are priorities, and agree health care should be more accessible and affordable, though they differed on whether a public option should be part of a national reform plan.

As the only candidates with experience in office, [Democrat Julie] Hamos and [Republican Beth] Coulson have been pegged by opponents as insiders within a dysfunctional state government.

Both dismiss those connections, saying they have been independent and willing to buck the system.

This blog endorsed Beth Coulson for the GOP nomination for IL-10. We're not quite sure who would be the candidate we'd like to face on the Dem side: We know Dan Seals, and know where his many vulnerable points are. Hamos has a record to run against, and she's part of the Madigan machine that may finally take some of the well-deserved blame this year for the State's financial crisis. Those of us who were around in 1994 remember that Madigan suffered a round of ingracious defeats that year. We'll have to wait till the general is up and running, however, before we can make any useful predictions.

They are predicting low turnout, so get out there and vote tomorrow, if you have not done so already!