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"At Issue" December 2009 -- NTDO Primary endorsements
"At Issue" November 2009 -- Campaign Finance Reform results
"At Issue" October 2009 -- Is Campaign Finanace Reform possible?
"At Issue" Summer/Fall 2010 -- Timeless Advice for Campaign Wins
"At Issue" Winter 2010 -- Some hard won victories and hard fought dissappintments
At Issue - Winter 2010.
The Mid-term Election is over, with mixed results for New Trier and for our state.
In a close contest, Illinois chose to elect our local military hero, self-described "combat veteran" Mark Kirk, to represent our state in the U.S. Senate for the next six years. That should give Illinoisians plenty of time to observe Republican Senator Kirk as he displays his firm-jawed independence, standing up to his new boss, Senator Mitch McConnell, and new House Speaker John Boehner whenever they go too far in trying to dismantle health care reforms, slowing down or reversing environmental protections and cutting off administration funding to stimulate small businesses and help America's middle class. Senator Kirk's "independence" should be closely scrutinized every day he is in office (much more closely than his heroic military record).
Another disappointing election result was in the race for the10th District Congressional seat between Dan Seals and Robert Dold. Dold's margin of victory was razor thin - but enough. The excitement and loyalty that Dan Seals inspired among his supporters and army of campaign volunteers is a tribute to Dan's honest words, his personal warmth and his sincere dedication toward making America a better place, now and for future generations. Dan's hard-fought campaigns have attracted hundreds of people across the 10th District and introduced many new volunteers to the importance of grassroots politics. We all owe him our gratitude and a huge "thank you" for all he has done to further vigorous, local political involvement.
The victory of Daniel Biss in his race to become StateLegislator for Illinois' 17th district has made some of the disappointments in yesterday's voting, a bit easier to take among New Trier volunteers. Daniel's win will give our region another very smart, energetic, creative and independent voice in Springfield. Daniel worked unbelievably hard to attain the voter recognition and confidence in him that was needed to win. Now he will be arriving in Springfield at a time when his abilities are needed more than ever. Everyone who worked to help Daniel win on November 2 should feel proud that they played a role in introducing Illinois, and the United States, to a young man with the potential to make many important contributions, far into the future, for the betterment of our region, state and country.
Daniel will be joining New Trier's other exceptional State Representatives, the 18th District's Robyn Gable, reelected to her first full term after her very effective completion of Julie Hamos' term, and the 58th District's Karen May, already an established voice in Springfield. Other victories for the people of New Trier included the reelection of Jan Schakowsky as 9th Congressional District Congresswoman with voters overwhelmingly rejecting a right-wing challenger, the election of reform-minded Toni Preckwinkle as the new County Board President and the reelection of Commissioner Larry Suffredin to the County Board. (It's a shame Jennifer Bishop Jenkins won't be joining them.)
The delayed announcement of the election of Governor Pat Quinn, after absentee votes were counted, was another bright spot in the Mid-terms. Quinn, a decent and honest man, will be Illinois' Governor for 4 more years. He was, definitely, the right choice. He faces many huge challenges, starting with Illinois' crippling deficits, and will need the encouragement and support of us all.
At Issue - Summer/Fall 2010. The 2010 Mid-term Elections were hard fought, with ridiculous amounts of money being pumped into the campaigns of many candidates. Much of the advertising grew quite negative, distorting issues and obscuring what the better candidates stood for. Nevertheless, New Trier helped elect an exceptional Democratic candidate, Daniel Biss, to represent the 17th Illinois Legislative District and played a meaningful role in the campaign victories of the New Cook County Board President and Pat Quinn, Illinois' reelected Governor. And the advice in this summer article continues to apply to any campaign that hopes to be successful.
Mid-term Election Day is almost here and, in fact, early and absentee voting is going on right now. Our candidates are smart, articulate and support progressive values. Their Republican opponents, with virtually no exceptions, hope to win so they can halt, and reverse, any initiatives that might further the rights of women and minorities, the protection of our environment, the control of reckless financial sector schemes, the right to quality, affordable healthcare for every American.
So what can we do to help make sure the Republican strategy of negative energy and self-centered solutions fails their candidates in November? First, we can all decide to do everything we can to support the Democratic candidates we've chosen. Even though only days remain before voting ends, any amount of your time or financial support to help any of the campaigns will make a critical difference.
Volunteer. The New Trier Dems will be focusing on a fall victory with plenty of ways to get involved. In the coming months NTDO News (and the NT Dems website - click on the "Get Involved" drop-down) will be highlighting these volunteer opportunities.
Financial help is the lifeblood of every campaign and always welcome. So throughout this election year, this eNewsletter will be letting you know about key candidate fund-raisers.
Know your candidates' positions. Get to know where your
candidates stand on the issues and how they plan to deal with them. Visit their websites. The NTDO News will also be presenting their positions.
Know your candidates' opponents. Understanding the true positions of Republican Party candidates will not only make us better informed in political conversations, it should give us plenty of motivation to make sure they don't get elected! Mark Kirk, Bob Dold, Roger Keats, Hamilton Chang, Bill Brady... some names are new to us in New Trier, and some are all too familiar. Learn where they really stand on the key issues affecting our lives such as environment, choice, health care, financial reforms. Then remember that your involvement can help keep them from achieving their vision of America.
"At Issue" December 2009. The general membership of the NTDO met in December 2009 to hear presentations from Democratic Party candidates for certain key offices. Because of the number of candidates competing, time contraints limited the number of offices that could be considered at the meeting.
NTDO membership endorses Quinn, Hoffman, Seals, Keenan-Devlin, Preckwinkle and Brandt
On Sunday, December 6 the general membership of the New Trier Dems gathered at the Winnetka Community House to hear presentatations from Democratic Party candidates for Illinois Governor, the U.S. Senate, the 10th Congressional District seat, the Illinois 18th Legislative District seat, Cook County Board President and 10th Congressional District Committeeman. The candidates were seeking the endorsement of the NTDO. A super-majority of 60% was required for endorsement. In two contests, the 10th Congressional District seat and the 18th Legislative District seat, a 60% endorsement was not reached on the first ballot. A runoff vote between candidates Dan Seals and Julie Hamos and candidates Patrick Keenan-Devlin and Eamon Kelly resulted in Seals and Keenan-Devlin then receiving enough votes for an endorsement. Among all the speakers, the candidates receiving the highest percentage of votes was Preckwinkle with 83.9% and Hoffman with 79.4%.
Democratic Primary candidates endorsed by the NTDO:
Pat Quinn: Governor
David Hoffman: U. S. Senator
Dan Seals: 10th Congressional District
Patrick Keenan-Devlin: 18th Legislative District
Toni Preckwinkle: Cook County Board President
Bill Brandt: State Central Committeeman
Unfortunately, the time required to hear the candidates vying for these important offices (22 speakers plus comments from the floor) made it impossible to include more races in the endorsement meeting. However, a motion was made and approved by the membership to endorse a number of unopposed Democratic candidates whose names will be on the February Primary ballot:
Unopposed Democratic candidates endorsed by the NTDO for the general election:
Janice D. Schakowsky, 9th U.S. Congressional District
Lisa Madigan, State of Illinois, Attorney General
Jesse White, State of Illinois Secretary of State
Daniel K. Biss, 17th State Representative District
Karen May, 58th State Representative District
David D. Orr, Cook County Clerk
Maria Pappas, Cook County Treasurer
Jennifer Bishop Jenkins, County Board Commissioner 14th District
Dean Maragos, New Trier Township Committeeman
Lauren Beth Gash, State Central Committeewoman
"At Issue" November 2009. And Illinois campaign finance reform bill was passed by the Legislature on October 30, 2009 and signed by Governor Quinn in December. This article was written shortly before the signing.
The Public's Demand for Campaign Finance Reform Has Finally Achieved Some Results.
The Illinois Legislature has now passed a Campaign Finance Reform bill -- SB 1466 -- that has the endorsement of the state’s major campaign reform organizations. One year ago, few people would have predicted this was possible. The new bill includes reforms in many areas recommended by a number of reformers, including our own NTDO Reform Committee.
Although specifics in the bill are not identical to what our organization and others urged, the areas of control over campaign financing have been radically improved, and in some cases now exist where there were previously no controls at all.
There are now limits on campaign contributions to all candidates (not just legislative and statewide) from individuals, organizations and party leadership in primary election campaigns. These limits continue for individuals and organizations in general elections. This is a major step in the reform of our state’s campaign finance laws. It should be remembered that until now Illinois had no limits at all on contributions at any time from any source.
In addition, contribution limits will be tied to election cycles (not the calendar year) and in-kind donations will now count toward those limits. Candidates and incumbents will be limited to one fundraising committee. Transparency of contributions will now increase. Contributions of $1000 or more must now be reported electronically within 5 days. More detailed quarterly (rather than semi-annual) reports of contributions and expenditures from campaign committees will now be required. The authority of an election oversight agency will be strengthened with random audits conducted by the State Board of Elections to ensure compliance with the laws and with enhanced penalties enforced for violations. A complaint database of SBE actions/fines will be created. Also, a reform commission will continue to review the status of Illinois’ campaign finance reform efforts including further review of the possibilities for public campaign funding.
The absence of certain contribution limits remains controversial.
The one area where contribution limits do not apply is for the party leadership of both parties in general elections. The Chicago Tribune and other conservative commentators have implied that this contribution exemption for party leaders will surely lead to an abuse of power held over the candidates being supported. But there is a flaw in this argument: A primary election is the time when a candidate favored by party leaders can often gain an advantage over his or her same-party opponents. When there are no contribution limits in a primary, a party leader’s financial support may gain him or her tremendous influence over the party’s eventual nominee. But now a limit has been place on leadership in these elections. A candidate with campaigning and fund-raising skills has the possibility of competing on a more equal playing field, independent from party leaders.
In general elections there will still be no limits on party leader contributions to candidates. But it is highly unlikely that any party leader would deny their candidate funding at the expense of losing a seat in the Legislature. In a general election, the sole focus of a party leader’s funding power is to defeat the opposing party’s candidate. And this is what the Tribune and Illinois Republicans want to diminish -- the political power of the incumbent Democratic Party, strategically using its funds to continue winning elections in closely contested districts. As a political organization opposed to the Right Wing’s agenda, the New Trier Democrats are certainly not opposed to this outcome.
With the new legislation now being put in place, the ethics of Illinois’ campaign financing have been greatly improved. This is not to say that opportunities for corruption have been erased in our state. There are still many areas that need to be further addressed, such as overly long campaign periods and constant fund-raising demands on incumbents. And yes, the amount of power that party leaders wield in both parties should always be under scrutiny. If we see power being used for personal gain or cronyism, we must speak out against it, quickly and firmly.
Nearly one year ago, the public’s outcry inspired the creation of our own NTDO Reform Committee and spurred reform organizations, commissions and reform minded legislators into action. After several false starts, the Legislature has finally passed a reform bill that has substantial regulations promising positive change. Now it’s up to us, the voters of Illinois, to stay interested in how our state’s elections are conducted, and to seek ever better ways to strengthen the democratic process.
"At Issue" October 2009. The subsequent campaign finance reform bill passed by the Legislature on October 30, 2009 addressed a number of the reforms mentioned in this article.
Is campaign reform possible in Illinois?
Five things Illinois lawmakers must include in any real campaign finance reform law.
In August, when governor Quinn announcedhe was vetoing HB 7 -- the Illinois Legislature's summer-session attempt at reform -- he said, "We can do better." The New Trier Democrats agree. At the start of the year, when Illinois' "pay to play" politics was becoming a national joke, the NTDO formed a Reform Committee to determine what reforms we should urge our legislators to enact.
We met with reform commission leaders, hosted a town hall meeting chaired by the Hon. Abner Mikva, developed our position on reform, and traveled to Springfield to present the Governor and Legislative leaders with a petition for reform signed by 2000 Illinois citizens. We hoped to see meaningful reform laws written. HB 7 fell far short of the reforms Illinois needs. The NTDO believes that effective reforms must include these five features:
* follow the federal guidelines for contribution limits
* count in-kind donations toward those contribution limits
* tie contribution limits to the election cycle rather than the calendar
* limit a candidate or incumbent to one fundraising committee
* support a strengthened oversight agency with sufficient authority and resources to enforce the law, conduct random audits and investigte and impose penalties for violations
Real campaign finance reform can be achieved if Illinois legislators and their leaders hear from enough voters. Your voice and your vote have the power to bring reform to our state. "We can do better."