Smile Politely

Political Outlook: 2014-15

Happy New Year! For those who follow politics, 2014 is sure to be an exciting year with a lot of contested races. Here are the races that I’m really looking forward to:

Rodney Davis/Erika Harold vs. Ann Callis

Republicans and Democrats are very different. Republicans generally fall in line while Democrats are more likely to fall in love. If Erika Harold were a Democrat, she might have been on the presidential fast track. Going into the Republican primary today, she is a huge underdog and is struggling to create momentum against an established incumbent in Rodney Davis (left) who is very likable among the Republican base. I think many Republicans are reluctant to get on the Erika Harold train because she is an outsider. If she loses, is she going to stay and help build the party? Or is she going to move away and get a job on Fox News? Has she even unpacked her bags? Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of Republicans who would love the potential political benefit that would surely come with her celebrity appeal.
The Republicans have a great congressman and a great primary challenger with huge potential. You will not see me complaining about this “problem” any time soon, unless the primary turns ugly. As for the Democrats, they are putting up a strong challenger in the general election with Ann Callis, a Madison County judge. The only prediction I can make for this very important swing district is that we will all be happy when the political ads are finally done on November 5th.  
You can track this race here.
103rd State Rep Race
Naomi Jakobsson announced her retirement and immediately endorsed Michael Richards. Oddly, Michael Richards dropped out and two other candidates will officially square off in a much-anticipated primary. Carol Ammons vs. Sam Rosenberg has the potential for fireworks and it will be interesting to see who the Democratic voters will nominate on March 18th. These candidates appear strong and are both very articulate. It will be interesting to see if either candidate can present any realistic long term solutions and/or speak in any level of detail about a solution (not just the problems) that might help primary voters. Let’s face it, the Democrats have been in strong command of our state for a very long time and the state was turned completely upside down during Jakobsson’s tenure. The Republican primary voters will nominate a strong alternative in Kristin Williamson. Looking at the numbers in the the 103rd district, it might take a miracle for Kristin Williamson to pull off the upset in the general. I haven’t seen such a miracle since the 1980 Winter Olympics, but we just might need that type of miracle to get this state back on the right track. This race will be fun to watch — and for once I will not have to hear people complaining that the Republicans need to recruit and support a strong candidate for the 103rd seat. Thank You, God. 
You can track this race here.
Governors/Treasurer Race
I think the only candidate that can win on the Republican side in the general election is Kirk Dillard (above). Dillard voted against pension reform and will have some crossover appeal in the general as he tells both conservatives and liberals whatever they want to hear. For that to happen, he has to win a primary and catering to the union vote usually doesn’t help you win a Republican primary. If Bruce Rauner wins, I suspect the unions will temporarily forget all about their frustrations with Governor Quinn and will surely wage a full scale war against the anti-union candidate. Here is some interesting analysis explaining how each candidate can win the Republican primary.  
If Bruce Rauner wins the primary, the Treasurer’s race is Frerichs’s (above) to lose. Either way, I expect the Treasurer’s race to be a snooze fest. I don’t expect to hear anything substantive from Frerichs or his opponent, at least relating to the job of Treasurer. I expect Tom Cross will secure the primary nomination for the Republicans and he will regularly point out how poorly our state is performing because of the Dems. If Frerichs decides to explain how we can pay the bills and is willing to go into some detail about the tax hikes and cost cuts that he backs, I just might pass out from shock. I wouldn’t bet on that happening. The only thing exciting about this race is that we have a local guy running who might win a statewide office (that’s very cool) and his victory would certainly shake things up and result in some exciting discussions about the future of the 52nd District.   
You can track the Governor’s race here.
Champaign Mayor/At-Large Race 2015
The Mayor’s race is Gerard’s to lose. The former Mayor and his campaign team did pretty much everything they could to lose. The only thing the Mayor has to do is be a great cheerleader, be positive, and not come off as a racist — or act like a hot-headed idiot when someone disagrees with you. Gerard does many things very well, is dedicated, and clearly loves the job of promoting Champaign. It pretty much goes without saying, but Gerard doesn’t always disagree nicely. We’ll see if Don Gerard can put some negative headlines behind him in 2014 and improve his reputation in certain areas. With three others who have indicated their intentions to run for Mayor (Deb Feinen, Karen Foster, Joe Petry), I just don’t think it is possible for Gerard to alienate that many people, even if he tried. Besides, I have confidence that Don Gerard will learn from his mistakes and will be working hard to build a support network for the upcoming election. It will be interesting to see what kind of support Don Gerard and the rest of these interested candidates generate in 2014 and what kind of momentum they will carry into the 2015 election season. It is important to note that if both Deb Feinen and Karen Foster file their petitions for Mayor, there will be two at-large seats open. When it comes to the Champaign Council, there should be a lot of moving and shaking going on 2014 and I expect candidates to start campaigning aggressively this summer.  
You track the City Council races here
Champaign County Board
The County Board now has 22 board members and the Democrats own control with a 12-10 margin. Al Kurtz pulled off an interesting move to become the County Board Chair after he partnered with Republicans to prevent Michael Richards from becoming Chairman. Now Michael Richards is not running for re-election and (as expected) Alan Kurtz will be facing a primary challenge from former County Board Chairman Pius Weibel. It seems the dems are trying to get the old band back together as Tony Fabri is challenging Pattsi Petrie in the District 6 primary. The Petrie vs. Fabri primary will not have much impact on the big picture, but it will certainly provide entertainment for political junkies as a notoriously lazy democrat takes on one of the hardest working and most dedicated democrats on the county board.  It will be interesting to see how voters turn out in District 9 as the young political union analyst Shana Harrison is challenging long-time Democratic incumbent Ralph Langenheim. Jim Dey provided some quality coverage on the Democratic primaries in this December 7 News-Gazette editorial.
After the new Democrat-backed map was voted in, it assured control of the County Board for the Democrats going forward. It would certainly be a huge upset if the Republicans can capitalize on the drama in District 7 and pick up a seat. In the unlikely event that happens and we have a 11-11 tie, don’t make plans on that evening when the new board is scheduled to elect a new chairman. I will bring the popcorn and will arrive early as that would certainly be entertaining to watch. Ideally, we would have competitive districts and a County Board Chairman who is elected county-wide, but don’t expect that to happen to anytime soon as it would require politicians to put community before party. Putting community before party is not always easy — just ask Al Kurtz.

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