First Lady campaigns for GOP in Schaumburg for Roskam and McSweeney
First Lady Laura Bush is in Schaumburg hoping to gain support for Republican candidates in two critical races that could determine which party controls Congress.
During the appearance, Bush spoke about recent remarks made by Senator John Kerry, who told college students they might get 'stuck in Iraq' if they don't study hard. Kerry apologized for the comment, and said it was a botched joke about President Bush.
"Responsible candidates understand that the men and women of our military are risking their lives for us. And we must conduct our debate here at home in a way that does not jeopardize our troops into harms way," said Laura Bush.
It is not clear if the first lady will meet with Republican gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka.
Rockford Register Star endorses Whitney New poll shows Green candidate at 16 percent - Andy Shaw
http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=politics&id=4715863 (Includes video clip)
ROCKFORD, Ill. - The Green party candidate for Illinois governor, Rich Whitney, received a big boost Wednesday. One of the state's daily newspapers endorsed him.
The Rockford Register Star is the first major newspaper in Illinois to endorse the Green party candidate for governor. In an editorial that begins with a clever reference to our color-coded red-state blue-state scenario, "only in the surreal realm of Illinois politics," the editorial says, "could red and blue combine to produce Green." And, we might add, to produce an endorsement that eviscerates the two major party candidates.
Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich, according to an editorial in Wednesday's Rockford Register Star Newspaper, "has danced as fast as he can in a vain attempt to stay ahead of allegations of personal corruption and fiscal irresponsibility."
"Look, I'm used to that. I get it every day. You make decisions, you do what you think is right and some people don't agree or don't approve of how you got to where you got," said Blagojevich.
The Rockford paper is almost as critical of the governor's Republican opponent, saying that state treasurer "Judy Baar Topinka has conducted a negative and unfocused campaign. Her main qualification is having a lower indictment potential than the incumbent."
"It's not a matter of being less likely to be indicted. I will never be indicted, I have no qualms about that, none," said Judy Baar Topinka, (R)-nominee for governor. "Between the two of us, you've got a guy who's right on the edge, with a lot of friends, who are going far, far away to a very restricted location, and me-- I'll be home at night, not a letter of the alphabet."
The Rockford paper is ignoring the claims of Topinka and Blagojevich, and endorsing Green party candidate Rich Whitney, because, "We believe Whitney could clean up state government while leading Illinois toward school finance reform, job growth, environmental responsibility and social justice."
Whitney, who was campaigning downstate Wednesday, says the endorsement is gratifying but also discouraging.
"If this contest is about which of the other two candidates is most the like the second coming of George Ryan, no wonder they're fed up with it," Whitney said.
Whitney says the endorsement comes on the heels of a new poll that has him at 16 percent, his best showing yet. Another poll, by the Copley newspaper chain, has Blagojevich leading Topinka by only 4 points, the slimmest margin we've seen so far and a dead heat statistically, but also much different than recent polls by ABC7 and The Daily Herald as well as The Chicago Tribune, showing the governor leading the treasurer by 15 or 16 points.
Topinka Says Blagojevich's Campaign Ads 'Sully' Her Governor's Opponent Moves Focus To His Wife's Real Estate Deals
http://www.nbc5.com/politics/10214655/detail.html (Includes video clip)
Republican candidate for governor Judy Baar Topinka began her day Wednesday hopping mad, her voice shaking as she blasted Gov. Rod Blagojevich for an ad taking her to task for her history with veterans.
"He has yet to show up with veterans groups and then he has the gall to sit there and take me on, when my kid's been to Afghanistan and back," she said.
"I think we've formed an opinion this election, that it is a humorless, and rather vicious campaign," said Northwestern University Marketing Professor Clarke Caywood, who believes traditional research suggests negative ads do work.
But even he has been stricken by the vitriol expressed in this campaign.
"We all have to remember this is a first amendment issue. These campaign ads are our version of a stump speech that Abraham Lincoln gave," he said.
Lincoln never spent this kind of money.
In 1858, his whole campaign against Stephen Douglas only cost $500.
Douglas spent $50,000 on that race and won the election.
In this race, Blagojevich raised a boatload of money and spent it. And he sketched a picture on television of the opponent he wanted to run against -- a kind of goofy caricature Topinka, whom he painted as a pal of George Ryan.
"Blagojevich clearly started the campaign earlier than anyone else. Because he had a lot of money and started to define who she was," said Caywood.
Topinka's staffers said they will only spend about a third of an estimated $16 million spent by the governor on television in this race.
Topinka said Wednesday those ads have definitely taken their toll.
"I think you know that Rod's ads have accomplished their purpose of trying to sully me," she said.
Meanwhile, Topinka is taking a jab at Blagojevich and his wife for her real estate deals.
Patti Blagojevich is a broker, and reportedly made over six figures with people who have financial dealings with the administration.
Topinka said if elected, she'll move to restrict the money immediate family members can earn from lobbyists and state contractors.
Dems Do Damage Control After Kerry's Remarks Dean, Durbin Whip Up Enthusiasm For Democrats At DePaul - Mike Parker
http://cbs2chicago.com/politics/local_story_305184956.html (Includes video clip)
The election is days away, and Sen. John Kerry has thrown himself in a political cloud of controversy as an issue on the campaign trail, even though he isn't running for anything.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Kerry issued an apology for remarks about U.S. troops in Iraq.
"I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted to wrongly imply anything negative about those in uniform, and I personally apologize to any service member, family member, or American who was offended," he said in a statement.
CBS 2's Mike Parker reports some top Democrats are speaking to DePaul University students Wednesday and are in damage control mode.
Chairman of the Democratic National Committee Howard Dean and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin are trying to slough off the effects of what Kerry said and admit they are worried about how the comments could affect the party's chances next week.
Dean and Durbin were at DePaul University to whip up student enthusiasm for Democrats in Tuesday's election. But they were dogged by questions about Kerry's "botched joke."
Durbin said regardless of what Kerry meant, what came out was dead wrong.
"You [the media] and the president dwell on this story non-stop for as long as you can and ignore the fact that 104 American soldiers died in Iraq in the month of October," Durbin said.
"I hope you lead the news with 104 American soldiers dying, not because of a chance off-hand maybe insulting comment, but because of a policy that is failing us," he added.
"The president himself said yesterday that if you vote for Democrats, you are helping terrorists win. It seems to me that is a disgraceful thing to say, and I think the President of the United States should apologize," Dean said. "When you start attacking the voters, I think you've made a big mistake."
President Bush was still hammering Kerry on Wednesday's Rush Limbaugh radio show.
"Anybody who is in a position to serve this country ought to understand the consequences of words. And our troops deserve the full support of people in government," Bush said.
Dean called Kerry's comment a "blooper" and said he has talked to Kerry about it but would not disclose what was said in the conversation.
OUTRAGEOUS: Illinois-6 Reuters/Zogby poll: Roskam-40, Duckworth-54
Democrat Tammy Duckworth, a veteran who lost both legs in Iraq, campaigned with actor Michael J. Fox for federal funding for stem cell research. Republican Peter Roskam aired a television ad showing his photo at age 14 in a Speedo to refute "wild" charges about things he would ban. "The only thing we've banned at home is Speedos," he said. The pair are vying in suburban Chicago to replace retiring Republican Rep. Henry Hyde.
FOX NEWS CHANNEL
OUTRAGEOUS: Things Looking Ducky in the Illinois 6th
This district that lies in the shadows of the Windy City must be under the influence of Lake Michigan's famous gusts because Democrat Tammy Duckworth is back in the lead in the vote regatta.
Iraq war veteran Duckworth posted a 14-point lead in the Zogby poll over state Rep. Peter Roskam, Duckworth was up 54 to 40 percent for Roskam with 3.5 percent undecided.
The numbers raise questions, however, since the two candidates appeared to be in the political doldrums throughout October, never getting ahead or falling behind by more than 5 points. The two were even tied once and within the margin of error four times.
• Click here to check the latest Illinois 6th District race polls @ BALANCE OF POWER.
OUTRAGEOUS: Reuters/Zogby poll: Duckworth and Roskam in Times Square - Mark Silva
Tammy Duckworth, the Democrat campaigning for the congressional seat of retiring Republican Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois, has gained a significant lead over Republican Peter Roskam, according to a new poll run by Reuters and Zogby International.
However accurately or inaccurately, this survey has captured the mood of voters in the 6th district of Illinois, Reuters/Zogby has made their work known in New York's Times Square, where a massive electronic bulletin board has broadcast the results of the survey in the Illinois race:
The survey of registered voters found 54 percent supporting Duckworth and 40 percent supporting Roskam. The survey was run Oct. 24-29 and carries a possible margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
Topinka targets elected officials' family connections - Rick Pearson and John Chase
Republican governor candidate Judy Baar Topinka on Wednesday proposed restricting outside income for the families of statewide elected officials, citing the real-estate business of First Lady Patricia Blagojevich.
Topinka's proposal was in response to a recent Tribune report that found Patricia Blagojevich received $113,000 in real estate commissions on behalf of a longtime no-bid state contractor whose husband also had bank regulatory issues pending before the state. The four commissions were the only ones she made so far this year.
Topinka did not specifically allege wrongdoing but said her proposal to ban income from lobbyists or state contractors would "stop the perception of a cause-and-effect that you are making money off of a constitutional office."
The questions about Patricia Blagojevich's business dealings are unusual for a state in which the spouses of governors have typically been known more for fulfilling ceremonial duties or promoting issues aimed at gaining the votes of women.
Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich has defended his wife's business dealings and suggested criticism was "Neanderthal and sexist."
Kent Redfield, a professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Springfield, said it had nothing to do with sexism, but with the appearance of a conflict of interest.
"If you want to be treated like everyone else, then don't run for public office," Redfield said. "You hold politicians and their families to higher standards. They're the ones who are supposed to lead by example."
The governor on Wednesday declined to directly answer whether he thought it appropriate that his wife earned money from doing business with a state contractor. He also would not comment on Topinka's proposed regulation.
"My wife is a wonderful wife and she's a wonderful mother, she's a licensed real estate broker and appraiser and she's been doing this before I knew her," the governor said. "She's very professional at what she does. She's a working mother and she juggles all kinds of things, and I'm very proud of her and how she does it."
On Wednesday, Patricia Blagojevich declined to discuss her real estate business. She visited a Champaign public school and, surrounded by kindergartners and 1st graders, read from the latest selection of her children's book club.
It isn't the first time her real estate business has come under scrutiny. The governor's office previously acknowledged she had a business relationship with Antoin "Tony" Rezko.
Rezko, a top Blagojevich fundraiser and adviser, was indicted last month on federal charges of trying to squeeze kickbacks and campaign contributions from firms seeking state business. Rezko has pleaded not guilty.
The governor's office has said Patricia Blagojevich ended her business relationship with Rezko in 2004 after she earned $38,000 through real estate deals with him that year.
Since the indictment, the governor has sought to play down the extent of his family's relationship with Rezko.
But on the Sunday before the election, Patricia Blagojevich is scheduled to serve as an honorary co-chair of a fashion show in Rosemont to benefit the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The chair of the event is Rita Rezko, the wife of Tony Rezko, who is a longtime patron of the charity. Rezko Enterprises is a sponsor of the event.
The wives of several others with ties to Rezko or Blagojevich are serving on the event committee or have donated raffle prizes, including a former business partner, a former Blagojevich Cabinet member whom Rezko recommended to the post, and Blagojevich's former communications director. The Tribune also is a sponsor.
The "special guest" for the event is Michelle Obama, wife of U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). Rezko purchased vacant property next to Obama's South Side home. Obama has said Rezko was an early supporter of his and that he and his wife have dined with Tony and Rita Rezko.
On Wednesday, as she was leaving Stratton Elementary School in Champaign, Patricia Blagojevich said she was unsure if she would attend the Rezko-sponsored charity event.
"I don't really know," she said. "My schedule is kind of up in the air right now."
In the contentious battle over congressional seats in the west and northwest suburbs, the two Democratic candidates were crying foul over the National Republican Congressional Committee's use of automated telephone messages. The messages begin by claiming to provide information about Tammy Duckworth and Melissa Bean, but end up attacking their stances on various issues.
Duckworth is running against Republican Peter Roskam in the 6th District while Bean, the 8th District incumbent, is being challenged by Republican David McSweeney.
Jonathan Collegio, a National Republican Congressional Committee's spokesman, said the calls have disclaimers and are made between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. He denied that they were intended to annoy people into not voting or mislead voters.
Reboletti v. Vosicky: 2 lawyers compete to fill Daniels' seat - Joseph Sjostrom
Lee Daniels' retirement from the Illinois House at the end of this term means his seat will be turned over to a new occupant for the first time in 30 years.
Through the years, Daniels easily won re-election with dependable Republican majorities in the 46th District, which covers northeastern DuPage County.
Vying to replace him are Republican Dennis Reboletti, 38, an Addison Township trustee, former Elmhurst alderman and a felony prosecutor in Will County; and Democrat Joseph Vosicky, 55, an Elmhurst civil lawyer who ran unsuccessfully against Daniels two years ago.
Reboletti was elected as a write-in candidate for the Elmhurst City Council in 1997 and served one term there. He was appointed to the Addison Township Board in 2001 and still serves there. Reboletti ran unsuccessfully for the Illinois Senate in 2004, losing to Carole Pankau (R-Roselle) in a close and hard-fought Republican primary in the 23rd District.
Reboletti said he would either resign his job as an assistant state's attorney in Will County or try to arrange a part-time schedule there if elected to the legislature.
Vosicky has worked with children through the Jaycees and participated with the Illinois Commission on Children to get the voting age lowered to 18. He also traveled to the Czech Republic to teach law through a John Marshall Law School program.
"I was explaining the two-party system to students living in a former Communist country where there was just one person on the ballot, and I thought of the number of times there was only a Republican candidate [for some offices] on my ballot," Vosicky said. "We have a two-party system; we should use it."
He said the state should assume more of the cost of public education and provide low-cost health insurance to people with incomes below the poverty level.
He said the needs of Illinois schools and health-care systems outstrip the currently available revenue, and the state should consider a 1-cent tax on every can of soft drink and bag of "junk food." Vosicky said the state must examine "all the tax streams" but didn't say he backs an increase in any other tax.
Reboletti said he supports additional spending on school construction, teacher salaries and health care, and repayment of the state's borrowing from the public employees pension fund.
He said extra revenue could come from the sale of a casino license for Chicago, which he estimated would bring $500 million to $1 billion, and from the state's take of casino revenue. A "swap" of higher state income tax for lower real estate taxes has been tried and found wanting in other states, he said.
"After a few years, real estate taxes went back up," Reboletti said.
DuPage County typically returns comfortable majorities for Republican candidates, but Reboletti said he is campaigning hard anyway.
"Taking things for granted is how people lose elections," he said.
2 Democrats quit Kane County Board races to keep jobs - William Presecky
Rather than lose their jobs at the Elgin Mental Health Center, two Kane County Board candidates abandoned their Democratic candidacies this week after being warned their status as federal workers bars them from running.
The reluctant withdrawal of Michael Lowery of North Aurora and Willie Clements of Elgin on Tuesday, a week before the Nov. 7 election, will not deter the Kane County Democratic Organization from trying to defeat the Republicans running for the posts, said Chairman Mark Guethle on Wednesday.
"It doesn't mean that people can't still vote for them," Guethle said of former candidates Lowery, 61, and Clements, 54.
Lowery said that although both he and Clements withdrew, they have asked for an opinion from the Federal Office of Special Counsel in Washington.
An opinion is not expected until after the election, he said.
Both Democrats are elected precinct committeemen who have made prior runs for elective office in Kane without an issue being raised about their employment.
They were challenging incumbent Republicans for County Board when they were alerted last week by an ethics officer with their longtime employer, the state Department of Human Services, to either quit their partisan campaigns for office or give up their jobs at the Elgin Mental Health Center.
Because the state-run center is partly funded with federal money, Lowery and Clements are precluded from running for partisan office because they technically are federal employees, Guethle said.
The Hatch Act of 1939, which bars federal employees for running in partisan elections, "has never been an issue here in Illinois," Lowery said. "Others have run for office in the past while employed by the state."
"I'm sorry. I feel bad for them. They've been out there working hard," Guethle said. "I certainly can question the timing of how all of this became unwrapped, but at the end of the day we don't want to break any laws or have anyone be in trouble."
Their names will appear on the ballot, said Deputy County Clerk Jay Bennett. Should either wins, it would fall to the County Board chairman to fill the vacancy with a Democrat.
Lowery is a staff psychologist with the state and has been a vice president, chief steward and political action committee chairman of his union local. Clements is a social worker at the Elgin center.
Lowery said he and Clements were contacted by the ethics officer and were warned that an unnamed person had alerted her to their county campaigns.
At least two other department employees running for office Downstate also received similar alerts regarding their "partisan candidacy for elective office," department spokesman Tom Green said. "The key is if the division that they're in receives federal funds."
When Lowery researched the same issue in 2004 before making an unsuccessful run for Kane treasurer, he said he was told by a state human resources officer that he had no apparent conflict.
"He just assumed that it was OK this year. Apparently he got some bad advice," Guethle said.
Lowery was challenging Republican James Mitchell of North Aurora for County Board. Clements was challenging GOP incumbent Deborah Allan of Elgin.
Will County Democrats target GOP power - Stanley Ziemba
After recapturing the offices of county executive and state's attorney two years ago, Will County Democrats are hoping to make further inroads into Republican domination of county government in Tuesday's election.
Their goals include unseating the GOP sheriff, treasurer and regional schools superintendent. Only County Clerk Nancy Schultz Voots, a Republican, is running unopposed.
Also, for the first time in a dozen years, Democrats are challenging all Republicans running for the County Board. The GOP holds 20 of 27 board seats. By adding as few as four board members, Democrats could prevent the overriding of Democratic County Executive Larry Walsh's vetoes.
The spirited contest between first-term Sheriff Paul Kaupas and Democrat Richard Girot, a longtime deputy, has generated the most interest.
Kaupas, 57, of Mokena, has spent 31 of his 34 years in law enforcement with the Sheriff's Department, while Girot, 53, a former mayor of Braidwood, is a 17-year deputy.
Sheriff banks on experience
Kaupas says his experience as a patrol officer and with the department's violent crime, gang suppression, special operations and narcotics units, as well as years spent in command posts, give him an edge.
He points with pride to meeting goals he set for his first term, including construction of a substation in Crete, beginning the expansion of the County Jail and providing career training for correctional officers.
"We still have much work to do," Kaupas said, including completion of the jail project and adding staff.
Girot defeated two former law enforcement officials, including the party's endorsed candidate, in the March primary.
He hopes to reduce response time to police calls from unincorporated areas by putting more deputies on patrol duty.
"While our county is growing and crime is rising, our protection is not," Girot said, noting that sometimes only 10 deputies are assigned to patrol during a shift, leaving some calls ignored for an hour or more.
Kaupas, he said, places more emphasis on providing manpower for the courthouse and jail than in patrolling the county.
Girot also would replace outdated equipment, increase training for deputies and seek more funding for the department, he said.
His recent approval of a fundraiser staged by the grandparents of a murdered Wilmington girl drew criticism, some from Democrats, including Will County State's Atty. James Glasgow. The family of 3-year-old Riley Fox is among Kaupas' severest critics.
The girl's slaying and sexual assault remain unsolved. Five months after her June 2004 death, Riley's father, Kevin Fox, was charged with her murder, but then cleared a year later when DNA tests did not link him to the crime.
Girot said he saw nothing wrong with giving moral support to the victims of a horrendous crime. Glasgow called his association with people critical of an ongoing sheriff's investigation "a horrific breach of ethics."
In other races, Democrats believe their best chance to pick up a countywide office lies with Pat McGuire, who is seeking to replace Treasurer Karen Callanan. McGuire, 54, of Joliet has been the top vote-getter among Joliet Township High School board members since 1993.
Callanan, 62, of Joliet, spent 12 years on the County Board before being elected treasurer in 2002.
Both candidates have extensive experience managing public budgets and both say they're committed to making the best use of taxpayer money. Callanan is credited with modernizing the treasurer's office and making it more customer friendly.
Meanwhile, experience seems to be the only real difference between the regional schools superintendent candidates.
Republican Richard Duran, 61, of Peotone, who taught junior high school for 28 years, has held the office since 1995.
Challenger Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, 37, of Shorewood, a former junior high school principal, is an adjunct professor at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais. She wants to make the behind-the-scenes post more visible, accessible and user-friendly for teachers and school administrators, she said.
County Board races
Democrats are hoping to unseat incumbents in County Board Districts 2, 3, 4 and 5, while in Districts 8 and 9 Republicans are not challenging incumbent Democrats.
Republicans Tom Weigel and Richard Brandolino of New Lenox and County Board Chairman James Moustis of Frankfort are incumbents in District 2, where Democrats Robert Hennessy of Mokena, H. Ronald Hartman of Tinley Park and Erica Lucik of New Lenox want to replace them. The district encompasses northern New Lenox and Frankfort Townships and a portion of Homer Township.
In District 3, which includes most of DuPage and Wheatland Townships, Michael Wisniewski and Susan Riley of Naperville and Ann Dralle of Lemont face challenges from Bolingbrook Democrats Michael Browne and Ruby Lofton, and Diane Benjamin of Naperville.
In District 4, incumbents Charles Maher of Naperville, Wayne McMillan of Bolingbrook and attorney Edward Kusta Jr. of Bolingbrook are on the GOP ticket, while Bolingbrook residents Jacqueline Traynere, Felix Greco and Kim Aponte are the Democratic field.
And in District 5, incumbent Republicans Jim Blackburn and John Gerl, both of Joliet, and Lee Ann Goodson of Plainfield face challenges from Vanessa Romeo and Colleen McEvilly Kapsch, both of Joliet, and Peter Hurtado of Plainfield. The district takes in Plainfield Township and portions of Wheatland and Troy Townships.
Jackson says Weller mailer plays to racial fears in bid to keep office - Hal Dardick
A political mailer from U.S. Rep. Jerry Weller depicting Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. as a puppeteer manipulating Weller's Democratic opponent is an attempt to exploit racial fear, Jackson said Wednesday.
The mailer, sent out this week by Weller's campaign, depicts a larger-than-life Jackson in front of the Chicago skyline, holding puppet strings attached to John Pavich--Weller's challenger in the 11th District.
"With John Pavich in Congress, Jesse Jackson Jr. will be pulling the strings and controlling the third airport in Will County," it states.
Jackson, a Democrat who represents southern Cook County and a small portion of Will, and Republican Weller, who represents a suburban and rural area stretching from Joliet to Bloomington, back competing plans for a third regional airport near Peotone in Will County.
"Mr. Weller is using deception to exploit racial fear in order to save his political career," Jackson said in a statement. "It's disgusting, but not surprising."
Pavich, a Democrat from Beecher who is trying to unseat six-term incumbent Weller, accused his opponent of "race baiting."
"There is a striking similarity between Mr. Weller's portrayal of my image and the racist propaganda used to negatively portray African-Americans," Pavich said.
Steven Shearer, Weller's campaign manager, said "nothing at all is racial" about the mailer.
"Both of them owe Congressman Weller an apology for introducing race into this issue," he said.
"Congressman Jackson has a long record of trying to meddle in Congressman Weller's district, in Will County on the third airport, so Mr. Weller has stood up to him." He added that the allegations against Weller were "just another desperate attempt" by Pavich to gain political traction.
Pavich said the information in the mailer is wrong, because he backs "Will County control over any Peotone airport that may be built." He also said Weller and Jackson should stop feuding and sit down to discuss the airport.
Will County Executive Larry Walsh, a Democrat who opposes Jackson's airport plan, defended Pavich. Decrying last-minute negative campaigning, he said, "I have the utmost confidence that John Pavich, when elected, will represent Will County in its best interests."
Flogging Judy - Editorial
Credit where it's due: Thanks to Rod Blagojevich, Illinois candidates of every persuasion have a template for how to wage cynical statewide campaigns in future years: Pile up millions of dollars, don't ask where the money came from, and flog your opponent with negative TV advertising for months and months until voters think she's human trash.
That has been Blagojevich's relentless strategy since Judy Baar Topinka emerged as his challenger from a four-way Republican primary last March. We'll learn Tuesday whether Illinois voters who claim to be infuriated by scurrilous campaign ads will endorse Blagojevich's smear of Topinka by ... re-electing him as their governor.
Remember Judy Baar Topinka? Voters elected her state treasurer three times, most recently in 2002. She alone prevailed when post-George Ryan revulsion eviscerated every other statewide GOP candidate. It's fair to like or dislike Topinka's politics, which resemble the moderate worldviews of Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar, whom voters selected to lead Illinois for 22 years.
It's not fair, though, to portray Topinka the way Blagojevich has--as a loathsome consort of criminals. Blagojevich has spent millions of dollars crafting his phony image of Topinka as the kind of little-bit-nutty woman that her own son should be embarrassed to love.
Long after this ugly campaign ends, that is the image of Topinka that many Illinoisans will carry to their graves. Topinka is the same woman she's always been, but a fresh St. Louis Post-Dispatch-KMOV poll finds that 58 percent of Illinois voters now have unfavorable opinions of her. Do you wonder what changed people's minds?
The same poll puts Blagojevich's unfavorable rating at 57 percent. And while 78 percent of respondents were aware that Blagojevich friend and fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko had been indicted on serious charges, only 37 percent said they believed Blagojevich when he says he didn't know about Rezko's allegedly illegal actions.
Yet Blagojevich leads Topinka 47-38 percent in the poll? How so? "They're basically calling [Blagojevich] a liar, but they're still going to vote for him," Research 2000 pollster Del Ali told the Post-Dispatch. So much for pride.
The bottom line: Blagojevich came into office in 2003 determined to scare off potential primary challengers in 2006 (see Madigan, Lisa) by amassing an eight-figure campaign fund. Suspect fundraising tactics gave Blagojevich enough Rezko Bucks to flog Topinka. All he has to do Tuesday is outlive his own sorry reputation with voters. Hey, it's a Democratic year, right? And Blagojevich is a Democrat, right? So ...
If this gutter strategy pays off, get used to it.
The governor, incidentally, says his vile attack ads merely differentiate him from Topinka.
How convenient that Blagojevich is racing to his own defense. He won't have to stand in line.
Emanuel leads charge for Dems - Lynn Sweet
At Manny's, the no-frills corn beef palace off Roosevelt Road, Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who runs the House Democratic political operation, is eating lunch with his top adviser, David Axelrod, the media strategist.
"Are you out of your freaking mind?'' Emanuel says.
This is the way Axelrod relates the story. Axelrod is doing the ads for Tammy Duckworth's high-profile, hotly contested House race, a priority for Emanuel. This was two weeks ago, and Republicans were attacking Duckworth on immigration. Axelrod just shot a rebuttal spot with Sen. Barack Obama, another client.
Emanuel's outburst to his dear friend came when Axelrod, concerned about cost, suggested he might run the Obama commercial on the Web -- and not on television. "You can't be timid,'' said Emanuel, who might as well be describing the operating philosophy of his life.
Emanuel, a 46-year-old Clausewitz of political strategy, invoked a rule of electoral warfare. Emanuel reminded Axelrod, "You have to meet them at the point of contact.''
For the past 22 months, Emanuel, the North Side lawmaker, has been waging combat in a quest to win the House for Democrats, appointed by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to head the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Independent analysts are bullish about Democratic prospects. They need to pick up 15 seats to take back the House. When Emanuel started, only 25 to 30 seats were seen as competitive. Under Emanuel's tenure, almost 60 seats are in play.
Emanuel caught some breaks: President Bush's tanking ratings, the Iraq war, GOP scandals. He also made his own luck. Back in September 2005, after then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was indicted, the Democrats rolled out their "culture of corruption'' campaign and were in a position to leverage it as more Republicans got snagged in various illegal schemes. "The seminal themes of this campaign cycle all came from Rahm directly,'' said John Lapp, hired by Emanuel to be the Dem committee's executive director.
Emanuel has been managing down expectations, but even if the GOP prevails, he will get enormous credit for executing a smart, tough-love plan and leveling the financial playing field in a money game usually dominated by Republicans. He raised $104 million as of Oct. 18. He long ago cultivated the art of creating relationships with major donors.
"He fixates his attention on them,'' said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida lawmaker who is one of Emanuel's top lieutenants on the committee. His brother, Hollywood super-agent Ari Emanuel, has helped him broaden his political fund-raising network. House members of both parties pay dues based on their committee assignments. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, whose district is next to Emanuels', did not want to pay his $250,000 invoice. "What Rahm does is he keeps billing you. I hate it,'' Gutierrez said. After a nudge from Pelosi, he started sending checks, with another $10,000 dispatched Tuesday.
Wasserman Schultz comes up with this analogy when asked to explain how Emanuel approached his campaign committee assignment. "Imagine a surgeon completely submerging their hands in the heart of a patient,'' she said.
Winning starts with recruiting. Aggressively wooing blue-chip candidates across the nation, Emanuel caught flak from the progressive community for courting centrist Democrats -- and taking sides in contested primaries, as he did with Duckworth. In the Duckworth case, Emanuel's bedside manner was brusque -- but the wounded Iraq vet was a better general election bet.
Democrats who needed convincing got daily calls from Emanuel and gifts of Eli's cheesecakes -- baked in his 5th Congressional District. After some 400 orders -- for candidates, congressmen, senators, labor leaders and donors -- Eli's president Marc Schulman proclaimed him his best mail-order customer.
Emanuel, working from a national perspective, decided from the start to devote resources to the most viable candidates. That high bar meant some promising contenders such as Dan Seals were out of luck. Democratic icon Abner Mikva breakfasted with Emanuel last July to plead the case for Seals -- unsuccessfully.
If the Democrats win, Emanuel will be crowned as the country's master political strategist and tactician. Emanuel would rather be known for his big ideas. This year, Emanuel co-wrote a serious policy book titled The Plan. Emanuel may want a leadership post if the Democrats win. He may not. He will have power either way. He may want to write a new chapter. Said Axelrod: "I don't think he wants to be pigeonholed again.''
Radogno v. Giannoulias: VERY SAD: Youth seems to be trumping experience in treasurer race - Chris Fusco
Southwest suburban Republican Christine Radogno, 53, says she's been around the political block, having logged 10 years in the Illinois Senate.
Her main foe in the state treasurer's race, Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, 30, is making his first run for public office.
Heading into Tuesday's election, youth appears to be trumping experience.
Giannoulias -- bolstered by his friendship with Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and more than $3.1 million in campaign loans and donations from his relatives -- is overcoming questions about his family's banking business and is leading Radogno and Green Party candidate Dan Rodriguez Schlorff in the polls.
Radogno this week launched her first statewide television commercial in hopes of narrowing the gap. It highlights her ethical concerns about Giannoulias, who first went on TV during his heated primary campaign against Knox County State's Attorney Paul Mangieri.
Radogno ran unopposed in the GOP primary -- one of the differences between her and her opponent.
Giannoulias, who is single and lives in Downtown Chicago, played pro basketball in Greece before getting a law degree from Tulane University. He joined his family's business, Broadway Bank, where he's worked about four years as a senior vice president.
Radogno is married with three grown daughters and lives in Lemont with her husband, Nunzio, a lawyer. A former LaGrange resident, she cut her political teeth on the suburb's village board before winning her Senate seat in 1996.
Dem's fund-raising edge
Giannoulias has maintained a major fund-raising edge over Radogno. Besides the money he's gotten from family, he boasts $1.7 million in donations from more than 2,500 people.
Radogno has raised nearly $1 million. A good chunk of it is going toward the television ad she hopes will increase her profile.
"I know state government, I know state government finance and I think I can hit the ground running," she recently told 50-plus members of the all-male Chicago Society of the Polish National Alliance. "My opponent has worked less than four years. During that very short work history, he has been peppered with questions regarding a number of loans that his bank made to figures that are involved with organized crime."
Giannoulias counters that his family's business, Broadway Bank, has a spotless record with regulators and is one of the top-performing banks in the country for its size.
Giannoulias also says he's a better fit for the treasurer's office than Radogno, claiming his experience at Broadway gives him financial know-how that Radogno lacks.
"She spends her whole campaign trying to bash me," Giannoulias said. "Apparently, the days of talking about ideas in politics are done."
Giannoulias has generated several ideas in his bid to replace GOP Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, who is giving up her post to challenge Gov. Blagojevich. They include selling unclaimed property online and increasing the availability of ethanol-based fuels.
Ethics questions, however, have hampered Giannoulias' ability to tout those initiatives.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, who chairs the state Democratic Party, has refused to back him. In September, Madigan told Chicago Sun-Times columnist Carol Marin he doesn't think Giannoulias has appropriately responded to "allegations of connections to the mob."
Giannoulias admits he could have done a better job initially responding to reports about Broadway Bank loaning money to Michael Giorango, a convicted bookmaker and known prostitution promoter. Giannoulias described Giorango as a "very nice person" to the Chicago Tribune and questioned "what the charges are that makes him this huge crime figure."
Jeri Ryan: The woman who helped Obama get to Senate - Bill Zwecker
A men's magazine hitting newsstands Tuesday -- on Election Day, 2006 -- very likely will remind some people of scandalous revelations from two years ago, leading former GOP candidate Jack Ryan to drop his bid for the U.S. Senate.
While the December issue of FHM (For Him Magazine) makes no mention of the ex-Republican hopeful, his ex-wife, Jeri Ryan, the former ''Star Trek: Voyager'' actress, graces the cover. Ryan is showcased in an eight-page spread inside -- featuring photos of her in sexy lingerie -- designed to play off her current role on the new CBS legal drama ''Shark.''
After Jack Ryan dropped out of the 2004 Senate race, the Illinois Republican Party surprisingly tapped controversial right-wing talk show host -- and Maryland resident -- Alan Keyes to carry the GOP banner in the fall race that was won handily by Barack Obama.
When details leaked from the Ryans' extremely contentious divorce -- including Jeri Ryan's allegations that her husband wanted her to engage in sex with others in European sex clubs -- the once-fast-rising Republican star was forced to terminate his run for the Senate.
The only reference to Illinois in the new FHM article is a lighthearted comment by Jeri Ryan about her good looks frequently making people forget she has a brain -- and was, in fact, once a National Merit Scholar.
Yet, Ryan says it never has helped her escape a speeding ticket. ''This one cop in Chicago pulled me over and goes, 'Oh, God, this is so cool. I'm a big fan [of Star Trek: Voyager]' . . . I thought I was in the clear. But no -- the cop gave me the damn ticket.''
Along with her acting career, Ryan is co-owner of Ortolon, a hot Los Angeles restaurant. Her partner is her fiance, French-born chef Christopher Eme, whose approach to women -- and their lingerie -- Ryan says rates far superior to his American counterparts.
Ryan says French men notice ''every detail of every piece of lingerie or clothing a woman is wearing.'' According to the actress, that is not the case for American males.
While she mentions no one in particular, this is what Ryan told FHM:
''The American man rips a woman's lingerie off too fast because he wants to get to the sex. Major difference -- way less sexy.''
Nov. 1: Duckworth paying for volunteers - Eric Krol
Democrat Tammy Duckworth's camp has been bragging about her vaunted volunteer corps and field operation for quite a while now in the 6th Congressional District. Turns out she's also paying volunteers to work. An Animal Farm snoop noticed her campaign blanketed cars in the College of DuPage parking lot with fliers telling the students they could make $75-$85 per day working Saturday through Tuesday on get out the vote efforts for Duckworth. We seem to recall a similar move in the primary.
When asked to comment, a Duckworth campaign spokeswoman dismissed the paid help as standard operating procedure for final weekend pushes and offered a snarky observation about the more than 80 GOP volunteers flooding the 6th District from out-of-state to work for Republican Peter Roskam.
If you're keeping score at home, add the paid Duckworth workers to the busloads of Chicago volunteers the city Democrats have been sending out off-and-on during weekends this fall. Add to that however many apparently starry-eyed, college-aged Democratic volunteers answered the Duckworth call. On the Roskam side, there are the national GOP imports, what's left of the DuPage County GOP machine and Roskam's core base of conservative supporters who like his stands on guns, abortion and gay rights.
Turnout, as they say, is key.
Social Security is late issue in 6th and 8th Congressional District races - Eric Krol
The future of Social Security is emerging as a home-stretch issue in two nationally important suburban congressional races, with Republican attack ads driving the debate.
Democrat Tammy Duckworth, running in the 6th Congressional District, complained Wednesday that a new TV ad by Republican foe Peter Roskam distorts her position on Social Security.
The Roskam ad, which accuses Duckworth of wanting to raise Social Security payroll taxes, is similar to one Democratic U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean decried last week when her 8th District Republican opponent, David McSweeney, aired it.
Sort through the charges and counter-charges, however, and what emerges is that none of the four congressional candidates is putting forth a plan that would keep Social Security from going bankrupt after Baby Boomers retire and there aren’t enough workers left to keep the program afloat.
Roskam and McSweeney advocate a half-measure that would allow younger workers to deposit some of their payroll taxes in private accounts. But unlike with the private accounts favored by President Bush, both claim they oppose allowing workers to invest the money in those accounts.
The Roskam and McSweeney plan would prevent Congress from spending the Social Security surpluses, akin to Democrat Al Gore’s “lock box” idea in the 2000 presidential race. But the plan also would do little to make up the looming Social Security shortfall through private investment earnings.
Bean is the most cautious of any of the four, avoiding taking any positions on Social Security cures. She said a bipartisan commission needs to be appointed to study the issue, which has been repeatedly studied in Washington, D.C.
Duckworth has gone the furthest, telling the Daily Herald editorial board that she would consider raising the retirement age for those who have yet to enter the work force.
Roskam’s TV ad cites an AARP candidate survey in which Duckworth is listed as supporting a “balanced Social Security plan for guaranteed benefits.” AARP defines that as including higher taxes on wealthier workers and “modest adjustments in future benefits.”
Duckworth spokeswoman Christine Glunz says Duckworth doesn’t support those two measures. She pointed out Roskam told the Daily Herald editorial board that Social Security isn’t a pressing issue, but now is running as his final campaign ad a Social Security ad.
Roskam, who has said he doesn’t back Bush’s private accounts plan, has been endorsed by the Free Enterprise Fund, which does back Bush. Private investment accounts have drawn criticism from Democrats because they would drain money from the system.
The Roskam and McSweeney ads each had somewhat of a backfire effect — the AARP mailed out thousands of letters to each district denouncing the ads as misleading.
In other 8th District news, McSweeney dipped into his personal fortune for another $400,000 as he tries to make up a deficit in the polls against Bean. Third-party candidate Bill Scheurer of Lindenhurst also is running in the 8th District.
Hastert wants the job ‘I intend to run for speaker,’ he says - Lisa Smith
U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert on Wednesday reiterated his intentions to seek another term as the House’s top Republican leader if his colleagues support him.
“I intend to run for speaker,” Hastert told reporters during an appearance at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia. “I think we can do some great things in the next session of Congress. I’d be very honored to be speaker, but it’ll be up to the members of Congress.”
His comments come in response to recent news reports saying many Republicans expect Majority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, the next highest ranking House Republican, to move up to Hastert’s spot.
When asked by a reporter if he was worried Boehner would try to fill his shoes, Hastert said he and Boehner plan to work cooperatively in Congress.
“I would expect that we would go in there as a team,” Hastert said.
Republicans hope to retain control of the House come Election Day, now less than a week away. Hastert said he thinks the election is going to be close.
Hastert echoed those statements at other campaign appearances Wednesday. He toured the Association for Individual Development in Elgin, an agency for which he secured federal funds, and the Elgin Health Clinic and West Chicago Family Health Center, two agencies that provide health service to uninsured residents at little or no cost to them.
The speaker has come under fire for his handling of ex-Rep. Mark Foley’s sexually explicit electronic messages to male former House pages. When asked if he expects the House ethics committee to release its findings before Election Day, Hastert said he didn’t know.
“We’ll have to wait and see,” he said.
Hastert also weighed in on Sen. John Kerry’s controversial comment, made Monday, that students who don’t perform well in school “get stuck in Iraq.” The Massachusetts Democrat later explained the comment, made at a political rally in California, was a botched joke.
“John Kerry’s made a lot of statements over the past couple years,” Hastert said. “I didn’t agree with most of them. I think this was a poor choice. You can make explanations but those are just kind of explanations. I just hope he doesn’t do it again.”
Hastert, who is seeking an 11th term representing the 14th congressional district, said he planned to vote later Wednesday to take advantage of the new early voting opportunity. Early voting runs through Friday.
Political newcomer John Laesch, a Democrat from Newark, is challenging Hastert.
10th Congressional District candidates split on Medicare Part D, other health issues - Mike Riopell
Editor's note: This is the last of a weekly series of stories looking at where the 10th Congressional District candidates stand on the issues. The series can be read at dailyherald.com.
Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk says the country should cap pain and suffering awards to medical malpractice victims. He also thinks Medicare’s prescription drug plan for seniors has been a major success.
Democratic candidate Dan Seals thinks lawsuit caps won’t work, and argues the drug program has been muddled and confusing for seniors.
Millions of people across the country don’t have health insurance, making health care a key issue nationally for congressional races.
The candidates in the 10th Congressional District are split on some important health care issues, and those differences could be key as some predict the Nov. 7 vote will be close.
Kirk has criticized Seals for calling for a universal health care to provide for uninsured Americans.
“I don’t think we should have the government take over everyone’s health care,” said Kirk, of Highland Park.
He supports a plan to let small businesses band together and get reduced insurance rates. He says most of the uninsured are relatively young employees working for small businesses.
Seals agrees businesses should be able to pool resources, but says a universal health care system doesn’t have to be one run completely by the government, just supported by it.
“There is no perfect solution,” said Seals, of Wilmette. “We want to look for a better solution.”
As some in Congress touted Medicare Part D as a solution for providing low-cost prescription drugs for seniors, Seals said that system has been too tough for the elderly to understand.
“The system is too complicated,” he said.
Kirk voted for the plan and argues it’s good for seniors to have lots of options under Medicare Part D, so they can shop around if they choose.
On medical malpractice reform, both candidates say high insurance rates for doctors are causing them to leave Illinois for states where its less expensive to practice.
Last year, state lawmakers tried to address the issue by capping the damages victims of malpractice could receive. However, laws vary state to state, and federal legislation could standardize rates.
Kirk wants to cap damages nationally.
“What you’re looking for is to bring some predictability into the system,” he said.
Seals says that won’t work, and is proposing insurance reform that rewards doctors with clean records with lower insurance rates.
“There seems to be something else going on here,” he said. “You’d have to show me caps work.”
Health care was a subject on which the candidates traded jabs at their only public debate last week. With less than a week left in the campaign, Seals pulled out of an invitation-only joint appearance with Kirk Tuesday.
Biggert v. Shannon: Candidates share views on Iraq strategy - Robert Sanchez
“We are there to help provide the stability. But it’s up to them now to take over. When they can do that, then we’ll be able to lessen our activity there.” — U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert, Republican from Hinsdale seeking re-election
“We need to know what the mission is and how we’re going to accomplish it. The present Congress doesn’t ask the tough questions of this administration.” — Joseph Shannon, attorney from Woodridge and Biggert’s Democratic challenger
With the U.S. occupation in Iraq at the 3¨-year mark, neither candidate in the 13th Congressional race is calling for an immediate withdrawal.
But both U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert and her Democratic opponent, Joseph Shannon, say U.S. forces shouldn’t stay in Iraq any longer than necessary.
“We are all weary,” Biggert said. “Every time we lose a soldier, it’s heartbreaking.”
Shannon and Biggert agree that an immediate pull out of U.S. troops would cause chaos in Iraq, where there’s already escalating fighting between the Shiite majority and Sunni minority.
Where Shannon and Biggert differ is on what should be done now.
Shannon says Congress should demand that President Bush provide monthly progress reports and details on the war plan.
“We need to know what the mission is and how we’re going to accomplish it,” 43-year-old attorney from Woodridge said. “The present Congress doesn’t ask the tough questions of this administration.”
Biggert, who has visited Iraq several times, said she believes U.S. troops are succeeding in training Iraqi troops and security forces to secure the country.
The 69-year-old Hinsdale resident cites one general who predicted that Iraqi troops will be able to handle their responsibilities alone, with little support, within the next 12 to 18 months.
“We really are looking at scaling down on the number of (U.S.) troops as the Iraqi troops increase,” Biggert said.
In the meantime, she said there must be “a reconciliation” between the factions in Iraq. That’s going to require greater involvement from the new Iraqi government.
Biggert stressed that the Iraqi leadership must accept the responsibility of finding solutions and bringing parties together to avoid civil war.
“We are there to help provide the stability,” she said. “But it’s up to them now to take over. When they can do that, then we’ll be able to lessen our activity there.”
Shannon said the Iraqis should be “strongly encouraged” to take responsibility for their own security and governance. He said he would push for the development of a government structure “that is widely seen as legitimate among Iraq’s various ethnic groups.”
Most importantly, Shannon said, Democrats and Republicans must work together to help hasten the peace process.
“Whatever happened to us being the best diplomats in the world?” he said. “The time has come to involve the European Union and NATO.
“I think everybody wants peace,” he added. “We need to find a way for a diplomatic resolution to this.”
The 13th District encompasses portions of DuPage, Cook and Will counties, including all or parts of Aurora, Downers Grove, Hinsdale, Lisle, Naperville, Oak Brook, Oakbrook Terrace, Warrenville and Woodridge.
Fortner v. Enger: Money with and without a face in Dist. 95 race - James Fuller
Voters looking for differences between candidates in the race for the Illinois House’s 95th District can turn to the money coming in for Democrat Dirk Enger and Republican Michael Fortner.
The money in the race is fairly even, with both candidates raking in nearly $40,000.
The source of the funds is where the story differs.
Voters will see possibly familiar names in the contribution receipts of Fortner, who is the mayor of West Chicago.
His contributors include the law firm of the West Chicago city attorney, the city’s waste hauler, consulting firms that have done work for West Chicago’s technology park and members of the DuPage Water Commission.
West Chicago is in an ongoing battle with the commission for an estimated $550,000 a year the city wants refunded to it because it doesn’t use Lake Michigan water.
Fortner acknowledged he’s taken money from people who do business with the city in this race and his past mayoral campaign, but said that won’t influence his voting.
“I give no guarantee that it means I’m going to vote a certain way,” Fortner said. “Right now, this is the system we have in place. It’s expensive to get out there. I’m going to accept the money and disclose from whom I take.”
Fortner said he’d support changes to campaign finance laws that would restrict who can contribute to candidates and increase disclosure.
On Enger’s side of the ledger, voters won’t see names they recognize. In fact, they won’t see names of any people at all.
There are no reports of any individual citizen contributing to Enger’s campaign this year. Every cent has come from unions. Not all of them are local. Unions as far away as Trenton, N.J., and Canada have pumped money into his campaign coffer. Enger is a union ironworker by trade.
“I’m not standing up saying ‘union’ on a white horse,” Enger said. “When I get whatever contributions I get, I’m getting it not only from the executive board of that union, but from the (workers) of that local. These are people like me who understand the American middle class is getting crunched.”
Enger, of Winfield, said he also would support election reform so voters can elect truly independent candidates.
95th House District: Fortner v. Enger: Hopefuls differ from parties Candidates for Illinois House seat stray from platform on some issues - James Fuller
Dirk Enger is the Democrat and Michael Fortner the Republican in the race for the vacant seat in the Illinois House’s 95th District.
But both Enger, a 45-year-old ironworker from Winfield, and Fortner, a 46-year-old associate physics professor and mayor of West Chicago, have shown they transcend their respective parties’ national platforms on certain issues.
The district includes all or part of Aurora, Batavia, Geneva, Naperville, North Aurora, Warrenville, West Chicago, Wheaton, Winfield and unincorporated parts of DuPage County.
Here’s a look at the candidates’ stances on several issues:
•Fortner does not believe in gay marriage, but does believe gay couples should have access to some of the rights same-sex married couples do. Those include the ability to confer power of attorney to a partner and hospital visitation rights.
“Those are legitimate rights,” he said. “They are individual rights that an individual should be able to grant to another person on their behalf. They’re humans, and they’re individuals. It’s not because one’s a member of a group, be it heterosexual or homosexual.”
Fortner does not favor forcing private companies to offer benefit packages that a gay spouse would be eligible for, nor giving government employees that option.
“A benefit is different than a right,” Fortner said. “They don’t have the right to insist on benefits from other people.”
•Enger opposes legalized gay marriage. He does favor extending certain rights to gay couples such as power of attorney and wills that ensure a partner will not be left without input during sickness or destitute if the other partner dies.
“There are times when families step in and tear apart what those two individuals have built,” he said. “These people have been partners for many years. They get nothing. Is that fair?”
Enger said gay couples should be entitled to insurance coverage, but he favors the private sector regulating itself on the issue.
“I’m in no way sanctioning gay marriage,” he said, “but the laws have to start somewhere.”
Stem cell research
•Fortner supports using state funds to kick-start stem cell research in Illinois. He favors using techniques that create new lines of embryonic stem cells without requiring the destruction of an embryo.
“State funding is necessary to kick start research where not enough research being done,” Fortner said.
Fortner favors reducing, but not eliminating, funding for other research in Illinois to get stem cell research moving faster.
•Enger supports state funding of stem cell research in areas federal funding doesn’t cover to further medical research and explore new cures.
“We owe it those suffering and those holding onto hope,” Enger said.
•Fortner believes Illinois should tax Internet sales to create a new income for the state. He doesn’t believe voters, Internet shoppers or e-commerce businesses in the state will be turned off by his stance.
“It’s an existing tax that we don’t collect,” he said. “Taxes should be on a level playing field. Products you buy at the store around the corner, or the big box down the road, you should pay the same sales taxes you pay there when you shop on the Internet. You should not be able to dodge a tax simply because of where you bought it.”
•Enger supports finding alternative income sources, especially for education funding, but has not voiced a view on whether or not Internet sales should be taxed. He believes the spending habits of counties and local communities should be investigated to lower property taxes in the district.
•Fortner favors the death penalty but doesn’t believe the state legislature has done enough to prevent wrongful convictions. He wants to see more research on proposed reforms before lifting the moratorium.
•Enger favors the death penalty. He would vote to lift the moratorium if all recommendations made by the state’s special commission reviewing the issue are implemented and funding is increased for crime labs and police departments to collect the best evidence possible and process it.
“After exhausting all appeal, if that’s the sentence received, the criminal should be punished,” he said. “We can’t just sit on this issue and not act.”
•Fortner believes current immigration laws should be enforced, but supports providing basic services such as education and emergency response services for illegal immigrants when they are here.
•Enger believes the current laws on the books should be enforced, including the deportation of illegal immigrants.
He met with marchers in West Chicago who advocated amnesty and said he found many of them already received amnesty from President Reagan with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.
“I also would not allow the Illinois National Guard to be sent down to the border for security,” he said. “And they should definitely not be used to build a fence that American labor should be building instead.”
Mathias v. MacDonald: Candidates for 53rd District weigh in on tollway sale - Steve Zalusky
As the state copes with its budgetary woes, suggestions to boost its coffers, like selling or leasing the tollway system, have emerged.
The candidates for 53rd House District said they are generally against selling the tollway system. However, incumbent Republican Sidney Mathias said there is one case where he might make an exception.
“When it comes to the tollway, the only way I would consider leasing or selling the tollway is if the extension of Route 53 into Lake County is part of the sale or the lease,” he said.
Mathias has been a long-standing proponent of the extension, even when he was the representative of the 51st District, which included one community, Long Grove, adamantly opposed to it.
The reason he might consider a sale or lease in connection with construction of the road is that an opportunity to raise the funds for it might not appear for some time.
He said that before he approved any sale or lease, he would want to make sure the agreement contained provisions to limit future toll increases.
“We certainly do not want to give carte blanche” to the company that purchases or leases, he said.
In addition, he said, one would have to watch for any provisions limiting the state from building competing roads.
Mathias’ opponent, Democrat Michael MacDonald, said he is entirely against the idea of selling.
“If you want to actually raise money through the tollway, raise the tolls and take the political heat, rather than getting a private company to do it for you,” he said.
MacDonald said estimates of a tollway sale have been in the range of $14 billion to $20 billion.
On his Web site, he writes, “This is for an entity with a total revenue of $624 million and $0 profit. Even if whoever bought the authority were able to convert the total revenue to profit through some miracle it would only yield 4.16 percent annual return on a $15 billion price tag. And this could only be done with no employees and no maintenance or improvements. I can’t take this too seriously.”
MacDonald said no one would want to buy or lease the roads without raising toll rates.
He added that since the tollways have no effect on the budget, any dollars from a sale or lease would act as a temptation for elected officials to use them to ease a cash-strapped situation.
“If legislators want tollway users to make up for budget shortfalls, they should do so by directing the authority to increase rates and putting the increase into the general funds,” he said.
Money going back Pankau says she’ll return donations from fire districts - Stacy St. Clair
State Sen. Carole Pankau will return the more than $1,100 in campaign contributions she received from local taxing bodies, a spokesman said Wednesday.
The Itasca Republican, who is running for state comptroller, accepted donations from the Bloomingdale and Glenside fire protection districts in 2001 and 2002. Her campaign said she didn’t know the agencies had contributed to her re-election coffers until it was brought to her attention last week.
“To avoid any suggestion of impropriety, she will be returning the money back to the districts,” Pankau spokesman David Curtin said.
Pankau, however, is not the only suburban politician or partisan organization to accept money from a local government agency. A Daily Herald analysis published Sunday found more than a half dozen taxing bodies in DuPage, Will and suburban Cook counties listed as campaign contributors with the Illinois State Board of Elections.
In every local case, the money and in-kind donations went to Republicans.
State law expressly prohibits the use of tax dollars to influence elections. The statute is less clear, however, on the expenditure of money gleaned through outside revenue.
DuPage County State’s Attorney Joe Birkett — who is running for lieutenant governor on the same GOP ticket as Pankau — said his office is reviewing the contributions mentioned in the Daily Herald report to see if any laws had been broken.
“I can’t comment on the investigation,” he said. “But I was shocked when I read the story.”
Glenside officials say they used money earned through ambulance billing and income interest — not tax dollars — to attend Pankau fund-raising events in 2001 and 2002. The contributions were intended as tokens of gratitude for the legislator’s work on securing money for an expensive system that controls traffic signals as emergency vehicles approach.
A Pankau spokesman defended the donations last week, saying they were legal and not unexpected given all the money she has sent back to her district during her 14 years in the General Assembly.
Critics, however, decried the contributions as an abuse of the public trust. On Wednesday, the Bloomingdale Township Democratic Organization called on Pankau to return the $1,104.26 she received from the two fire districts.
“This money should not have been used for political purposes,” party chairman Pete Null said. “That’s not why people pay taxes.”
Campaign disclosures also show the municipal-owned Bloomingdale Golf Club had donated $480 in free rounds of golf to the local GOP for fund-raising efforts. On Wednesday, Village President Robert Iden said the course operator gave the Republicans gift certificates after they spent $24,000 to hold their annual tournament at the club.
Iden said it was mistake that won’t be repeated.
“I was very upset when I heard about this,” he said. “Basically, we had an employee doing what he shouldn’t have been doing, and it won’t happen again.”
Iden said he understands why taxpayers would object to such political expenditures.
“We got the exact same traffic devices from Pankau and (then-state Sen. Doris) Karpiel,” he said. “We didn’t give them anything but a verbal ‘thank you for your efforts’ and that’s the way it should be.”
DuPage County District 4: Formento v. Grimston: Open space, finances on agenda for hopefuls
Republican Michael Formento and Democrat Tom Grimston are running for a four-year position as DuPage County Forest Preserve District commissioner representing District 4.
District 4 includes areas in Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Lisle, Glendale Heights, Addison, Carol Stream, Winfield, Bloomingdale and Lombard.
Following is an edited transcript of their answers to questions posed by the Daily Herald.
Q. If you are an incumbent, describe your main contributions. Tell us of important initiatives you’ve led. If you are not an incumbent, tell us what contributions you would make.
Formento. Although I am not an incumbent, I have served on the DuPage County board and DuPage County Forest Preserve District previously. I spearheaded the tax reduction and assessment consolidation processes that have served the commission well for many years now.
More directly related to preservation, I am particularly pleased to have been instrumental in saving the Special 8 acres to maintain the Prairie Path right of way. I also chaired the initial development committee responsible for the location of the present Forest Preserve headquarters at Danada. I plan to continue this high level of involvement and achievement as commissioner for District 4.
Grimston. I would push for an open, accessible forest preserve commission through meetings scheduled during hours when regular working residents can attend.
I would facilitate active environmental dialogue between city leaders, residents and the forest preserve with a hopeful vision to create a coordinated countywide mission that reaches beyond the forest preserve.
The above environmental dialogue, on perhaps the colossal waste of our natural resources in just about everything we do, could lead to more diligent oversight of all recycling in DuPage County especially larger work places like local government. People presented with the facts, I believe would certainly grow as a community to expect responsible recycling action, etching reuse, reduce and recycle in their future and their children’s future.
Q. The forest preserve commission has decided to put a referendum on the November ballot that will ask for $68 million to buy more open space. Do you agree with this decision or not? Be specific. If a tax increase in support of more open space is approved, how would you like to see this money spent?
Formento. I have been contending for some time that a master plan regarding the usage and location of land to be acquired by the commission should precede any funding referendum. This plan is now in place, proposing the acquisition of some 400-500 acres to “improve, preserve and restore forests, wetlands and prairies, including natural areas and wildlife habitats; and construct and improve trails, recreational areas and other facilities.” So, I can endorse placing the referendum on the ballot because the taxpayers can now make clear choices of how, and if, they want to spend money on executing the commission’s plan.
Grimston. I believe DuPage and most communities must do more to protect and less to develop. The earth is in trouble. The greatest example of course is global warming. The Arctic is suffering a record loss of ice sheets. Alarmed scientists have reached some disturbing conclusions: “global warming has reached the point of no return.”
This isn’t the end, the crisis exists in multiple ecological systems and years of accumulation are reaching a tipping point. Depleted ozone, degraded oceans, fouled fresh water supplies, dangerous toxins, soil erosion, etc. SHALL WE LIVE or GO EXTINCT? I say nearly any land we can save is worth saving and one step closer to a truly secure and safe world.
Q. The forest preserve commission recently agreed to demolish two 1930s Works Progress Administration buildings at Churchill Woods Forest Preserve in Glen Ellyn. Historic preservationists think this was a bad decision. Do you agree with the decision to tear the buildings down? If so, explain why. If you disagree with the decision, explain why and what you might do as a commissioner to try to reverse this decision.
Formento. The demolition decision was properly based on trying to allocate the commission’s financial resources in the best manner possible. However, it seems to me that alternate and practical uses could be found for the buildings, with costs being borne by other governmental agencies.
Within the 30-day demolition delay granted by the commission, I am exploring an approach with the DuPage Housing Authority that would not only save the buildings at no cost to the commission but would also provide housing for DuPage veterans. So I think that demolition should be further delayed until this and other possible uses can be more thoroughly explored. I think that a six-month deferral of demolition for this purpose is reasonable. After all, the buildings have been vacant for four years without placing any meaningful financial burden on the commission.
Grimston. I believe the home at Churchill Woods should be saved. The forest preserve, though, should reach out to acquire and preserve open spaces first. I think there should be no hurry to demolish the home, and believe we should help the preservation leaders to find a way to preserve it. Perhaps it could be a museum. I would also put it to the voters in the form of a non-binding question on the ballot on Nov. 7.
I must say though that converting the home into a shelter for homeless veterans as Mr. Formento has suggested is not a properly developed idea without the assistance of veterans advocates Dirk Enger and Bob Adams, who have led the way in this cause for a long time. I believe a coalition by Formento with them in a bipartisan effort would have been the proper path to take on the veterans’ behalf.
Q. What are your thoughts on the budget recently enacted by the forest preserve commission? Do you think it’s a good plan for financing forest preserve operations? If so, why? If not, please share your thoughts on how the budget should have been crafted.
Formento. I believe the new budget meets the prudent guidelines issued early in 2005. For instance, it allows for the establishment of only two new full-time staff positions. But, it does reflect diminished revenue and to counterbalance this shortfall, it proposes transferring $2.5 million of the interest earned on landfill funds to the general operating budget.
This has been done before and seems a practical short-term solution. But, these funds will not be available in five years and, in fact, are in real danger of drying up much sooner. I think that financial planning requires the identification of new revenue streams and improving the yield of existing revenue generators.
Grimston. I haven’t seen the budget, but the fear of Commissioner Roger Kotecki in that regard makes me think the budget needs close looking at, but balancing it would have no connection with laying off or the loss of jobs for lower-end employees by me as a forest preserve commissioner.
Q. A committee has been established to examine the district's finances and new income options for the next 10 years. What are some of the recommendations you would like to see come forth from this committee?
Formento. I serve on the commission’s long-term Financial Committee with President Dewey Pierotti and Commissioner Gwen Henry and am well aware of the challenges we face.
As stated above, commission revenues from traditional sources and approaches are declining. So, we’re looking for some innovation. Could we become a not-for-profit — 501-3 (C) foundation and become eligible for new grants from new sources? Should we look into new sponsorship relations with the corporate sector? Should we change the commission’s investment strategy from a long-term conservative mode to a more aggressive higher-yield policy?
These questions are only indicative of the many varying choices confronting the committee and the commission. Choice is the key word here. We must develop viable choices for the commission and the community to react to and we need to develop them soon.
Grimston. NO LAY-OFFS. Maybe a larger piece of whatever gas tax existed in the county, seeing that stewardship of the forest is our first line of defense against global warming.
Q. Some residents in an area west of Carol Stream have filed a class-action lawsuit against the forest preserve commission and BFI Waste Systems, respectively, the owners and operators of the Mallard Lake landfill. The lawsuit alleges both entities failed to keep an eye on pollution emanating from the site in Hanover Park. Do you believe the forest preserve has done everything it should to keep any possible contamination from leeching from the Mallard Lake landfill? If yes, explain why. If no, explain why not and what further actions should be taken.
Formento. I want it to be clear that in answering this question I am in no way taking sides in the pending lawsuits. That being said, I am aware that the forest preserve district requested that the Illinois EPA test the vinyl chloride levels of private wells in the Mallard Lake area. Random testing was performed on approximately one half of the private wells in the neighborhood. No evidence of dangerous vinyl chloride levels was found in drinking water from even the deepest wells. And, the physics of the groundwater movement from the landfills indicate little danger of contamination.
Nevertheless, the Forest Preserve District has set up a permanent monitoring system to detect any emerging problems and a remediation program to handle any problems. These steps seem appropriate.
Grimston. Homes should not be built near landfills.
Q. Are you satisfied with both the level of land acquisition funding and the number of acres of forest preserve in your particular district? If not, what changes do you propose?
Formento. District 4 has an adequate supply of dedicated preserve lands. There is relatively little land available for acquisition in District 4.
However, the commission’s master plan for land acquisition might well identify some acreage that would support the purposes described in the referendum question: “improve, preserve and restore forests, wetlands and prairies, including natural areas and wildlife habitats; and construct and improve trails, recreational areas and other facilities.” I would support such acquisition.
Grimston. There was a beautiful parcel on Geneva Road in Carol Stream between President Street and Main Street, Wheaton on the north side of Geneva Road that got turned in a nursing home. That was a crying shame.
Election polls are fun to watch — but we also have to watch out - Jim Slusher
Polls can go beyond giving a glimpse of the future to potentially manipulating it. We all should consider them heedfully.
People have never liked having to deal with the uncertainty of the future.
They’ve been willing to do almost anything to get a peek at it. They have studied the stars, interpreted dreams, devised elaborate card games, studied arrangements of tea leaves, looked into the palms of their hands, stared into orbs of crystal, even slaughtered sheep to paw around in their steaming entrails.
And, lest these measures alone are not enough to prove people will try anything for a look at what lies ahead, they’ve developed the public opinion poll.
Public opinion polling has become the incorporeal spine around which all serious politics forms and operates. Candidates use it to identify where they have to work harder to get their message across to voters, to better focus their campaign spending and even to determine what messages have a chance of resonating.
Newspapers use them for …
Well, for fun, sort of.
Not that polls aren’t serious business. They are indeed. And to the extent that they allow voters to track the developments of a political campaign, they can provide important insights into what political candidates are saying and why they are saying it.
If nothing else, this political season, they seem to be confirming that the best way candidates can get elected is to carpet bomb the electorate with negative distortions about their opponents.
But polls also can go beyond giving a glimpse at the future to potentially manipulating it. On that score, we in the media have to be very careful and you as readers and viewers should keep them in perspective.
“Beyond the danger of undermining voting and thus the democracy by predicting outcomes, polls also carry the danger of focusing us on ‘horse race’ coverage rather than problems-and-solutions coverage,” warns Daily Herald Editor John Lampinen.
As Deputy Managing Editor Madeleine Doubek, political writer Eric Krol and I discussed how to present the results of the poll commissioned by the Daily Herald and our media partner, ABC 7 Chicago, we concentrated on two key themes to stress regardless of the poll results: one, that it’s important to remind readers that the poll was a snapshot of public opinion taken during a specific point in time, not necessarily a predictor of what will happen next Tuesday; and two, because of that, our reporting should concentrate more on the issues driving — or emerging from — the poll numbers than on the comparative numbers themselves.
Above all, we wanted to avoid giving the impression that the outcome of a given race is a foregone conclusion so people needn’t bother to vote on it.
We were significantly assisted in that aim when, on the same day that we reported Tony Peraica 9 points ahead of Todd Stroger in the race for Cook County Board president, the Chicago Tribune reported Stroger in front by 15 points in the race.
No doubt, one of us — and to be sure, one of the polling companies we each hired — will feel a sense of relief on Tuesday, when the election appears to affirm one poll or the other. But the more pertinent message in our divergent results was the importance of the election itself, in every race.
Candidates who are losing in the polls are fond of saying that the only one that counts is on Election Day. They are right. Polls unquestionably are more reliable than Tarot cards, tea leaves or crystal balls, and they are a lot kinder to the sheep. But consider them heedfully.
You should not change your course of action because of them; unless it is to reaffirm a commitment to making sure that your voice is among those heard on the only day that matters.
Informed citizenry vital to democracy - Jim Ryan
Justice Louis Brandeis said that the most important political office in a democracy was that of private citizen.
Informed, involved citizens are knowledgeable about their government, are involved in their community and work with their elected officials to formulate policy that can strengthen our nation and sustain our quality of life.
That’s why I believe it is critical for our students to understand the benefits and responsibilities of being a citizen in the world’s leading democracy.
On Friday and Saturday, Nov. 3 and 4, the DuPage Regional Office of Education will host the first annual Regional Summit on Civic Education and Responsibility.
This summit will promote awareness and partnerships between our schools and our communities in order to develop curriculums that will make civic education a priority.
The summit brings community leaders, teachers, school officials and parents together to implement strategies that will support citizen education and responsibility.
The summit will be held at the DuPage County Government Complex in Wheaton, 421 North County Farm Road, in the atrium of the Jack T. Knuepfer Building.
The Friday evening session, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., is open to the public. I encourage everyone to attend. Together we can encourage our children to be better citizens, to cherish our democracy and to protect our liberties.
DuPage GOP has cut size of county board - State Sen. Kirk W. Dillard
I write about ideas by candidates to reduce the number of seats on the DuPage County Board.
In the mid 1990s, at the urging of former Republican DuPage County Board Chairman Gayle Franzen, I passed a bill — signed into law by Republican Gov. Jim Edgar — to reduce the size of the county board from 24 to today’s current 18 members. DuPage Republicans have reduced the size of the county board by 25 percent. However, I would be happy to explore reducing the size of the county board again, if it does not hurt my long-term plan to add diversity to county government. Importantly, DuPage has one-third the number of county employees per capita as Democratic-controlled Cook County. And under Chairmen Franzen and Bob Schillerstrom, the Republican-controlled county board reduced the DuPage County real estate tax levy 10 straight years too!
DuPage County Board Chairman backs open space ballot - Robert Schillerstrom
One of the most cost-effective methods of protecting our water resources, controlling flooding and reducing traffic congestion is by preserving lands along our creeks, streams and rivers. Some of these critical parcels are adjacent to Salt Creek, the east and west branches of the DuPage River, and other county waterways.
The DuPage County Forest Preserve District has placed an open space and preserve improvement bond referendum on Tuesday’s ballot. This $68 million will allow us to permanently protect an additional 500 to 600 acres of our natural areas and watersheds, restore wildlife habitats in our forest preserves, and to continue constructing and improving trails, recreational areas and other public use facilities.
This referendum offers DuPage County residents an opportunity to pay a little now for “an ounce of prevention.” As we build new homes, roads and parking lots, we create more impervious surfaces that lead to increases in storm water runoff. DuPage County has diligently preserved more than 25,000 acres of open space. Had that land been available for development, we would have experienced even more high-density development and vastly increased traffic congestion.
Preserving open space now prepares us for the future, and will allow storm water to soak into the ground and help prevent flooding. Our forest preserves not only provide recreational opportunities they also help ensure a clean water supply and control the effects of flooding. I urge voters to vote “yes” on Tuesday to help our forest preserve district acquire more critical open space and keep our water clean in DuPage County.
Go vote to prevent Democratic control - Eleanor Hesse, Buffalo Grove
You may wake up on Wednesday and find that the Democrats have won both the House and Senate. Nothing could harm America more!
Unlike Republicans, Democrats oppose a missile defense system. Yet, our enemies, North Korea and Iran, are testing missiles and developing nuclear warheads.
The Democrats have also made success in Iraq much more difficult; politics used to “end at the water’s edge.” Democrats have emboldened the enemy by continually sniping at, and ridiculing the president, our commander-in-chief. Don’t reward them.
Serious doubts about integrity apply to Democrat Harry Reid, who would be the new leader of the Senate. Regarding the war on terror, he bragged about trying to “kill” the Patriot Act. Yet, this act has kept the homeland safe from attack for five years.
It gets worse. The House leadership would go to Democrat Nancy Pelosi, representing the far left. Do you think Pelosi holds your values? She opposed Clinton’s welfare reform, refused to side with homeowners in the eminent domain issue; she voted against a security wall for the border, against parental notification when a minor child is taken across state lines for an abortion.
Get ready for a hefty tax increase! The Bush tax cuts are set to expire. Pelosi and a new Democrat chair of the powerful Ways and Means committee, Charlie Rangel, have both promised to let the cuts expire.
Taxes can only depress a booming economy. Say goodbye to record-low unemployment (4.6 percent), and a historic stock-market high (Dow 12,000). Watch your 401(k) pension plan slide down with the market. Jobs will disappear, and the poor will be hurt most.
Democrats are moving toward big government, socialized medicine (Hillary care). Do you really want to wait six months to see a doctor or dentist?
Most harmful, if Democrats win the Senate, they also “win” the Supreme Court. Bush’s judges will not be confirmed. Instead, liberal, activist judges will continue to remove prayer from the public square, and to abolish the biblical definition of marriage. Please don’t “sit out” the election on Tuesday!
PEORIA JOURNAL STAR
SPRINGFIELD: Copley poll shows a horse race for Illinois governor - Doug Finke
The campaign for Illinois governor is a horse race after all, a new Copley poll shows.
With less than a week remaining before the election, Gov. Rod Blagojevich was supported by 44 percent of those responding, while his Republican opponent, state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, was backed by 40 percent of those polled.
Green Party candidate Rich Whitney had the support of 7 percent of likely voters, according to the poll. Fully 9 percent of respondents said they still had not made up their minds.
The gap between Blagojevich and Topinka is within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. That means Topinka and Blagojevich could be tied, or Blagojevich could have a lead of as many as 8 percentage points.
Other recent polls had indicated Blagojevich had a lead of 15 to 16 percentage points.
Mason-Dixon Polling and Research conducted the Copley poll of 625 likely voters Monday and Tuesday.
"The overall trend is the numbers got a little bit worse for Blagojevich," said Brad Coker, managing director at Mason-Dixon. "I'm not saying he's going to lose, but I don't think he's safe by any means."
Topinka campaign spokesman John McGovern said Wednesday the poll "reflects our analysis of the campaign, which is that Judy Baar Topinka is closing fast."
"It's our sense that voters are tired of the scandals surrounding Rod Blagojevich, as well as the misleading, negative tone of this campaign," McGovern said.
Blagojevich campaign spokeswoman Sheila Nix questioned the Copley poll results.
"These poll results are vastly different from three public polls released this week ... and our own internal polling that shows us with leads of as much as 16 points," Nix said in a statement. "Based on these large leads in virtually every recent poll, we are encouraged by the voters' response to Governor Blagojevich's plans to keep Illinois moving forward."
Whitney spokesman Tim Tacker denied the poll showed dwindling support for Whitney. Some other recent polls put his support as high as 13 percent.
"If someone were to assume the true number is somewhere between, it still shows growth for Whitney," Tacker said. "It's pretty impressive for a new-party candidate to be polling so high, even though nearly two-thirds of voters are unaware of the existence of the candidate."
University of Illinois at Springfield political scientist Chris Mooney said the Copley poll could boost Topinka's campaign by convincing some people to vote who might otherwise have thought the race was over.
"This (the Topinka figure) isn't up much, but it's a little up, and it's down for Blagojevich," Mooney said. "The only thing that matters is the vote on Election Day. This could have an impact on getting out the vote and energizing (Topinka's supporters)."
Mooney added that the 9 percent of voters who said they have not made up their minds is "pretty high" for this late in the campaign.
Among independents who have made up their minds, 41 percent prefer Topinka, 37 percent Blagojevich and 12 percent Whitney.
Both Blagojevich and Topinka continue to be dogged by the fact that more voters have unfavorable opinions of them than favorable ones. For Blagojevich, 44 percent of respondents said they have an unfavorable opinion of him, versus 37 percent with positive opinions. When Topinka's name is mentioned, 43 percent have an unfavorable opinion and 31 percent view her favorably.
In the past two weeks, Blagojevich friend and fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko has been indicted on federal charges of trying to extort money from companies trying to do business with the state. And Stuart Levine, whom Blagojevich reappointed to two state boards, pleaded guilty to corruption charges stemming from his service on those boards. In addition, there are ongoing federal investigations into hiring practices by the Blagojevich administration. Blagojevich has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
Still, the poll showed publicity about those scandals may be having an impact on Blagojevich's support. Asked how the ongoing federal investigations might affect their decision, 28 percent of respondents said the investigations will make them less likely to vote for Blagojevich. When the same question was asked by Mason-Dixon in September, 19 percent gave that answer.
Eleven percent said the investigations would make them less likely to vote for Topinka, and 19 percent said they are less likely to support either candidate as a result.
Forty-one percent of respondents said they think Blagojevich has conducted himself ethically in office; 43 percent said he has not. When the same question was asked about Topinka, 48 percent said she's conducted herself ethically in office and 30 percent said she has not.
Neither of the two is inspiring voters with their ability to improve the ethical climate of the state. Asked who would do the better job of that, both registered 31 percent. Whitney was the choice of 17 percent.
Although ethics has been a major issue in the campaign, it is not the main concern of voters, according to the poll. When asked what they thought was the single most important issue facing Illinois today, only 12 percent cited ethics, putting the issue fourth on a list of voter concerns. The economy and jobs ranked first with 21 percent, followed by education at 20 percent and taxes/the state budget at 19 percent.
Thirty-two percent of the respondents rated Blagojevich's job performance as good or excellent, while 35 percent called it fair, and 31 percent said he is doing a poor job.
Voters also said the Illinois economy is in the doldrums, with 33 percent saying the economy is on the right track and 48 percent saying it is not. Less than half of those identifying themselves as Democrats (46 percent) said the economy is on the right track.