Illinois Public Media News
The public got a look at many of the candidates hoping to replace U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson (R-Urbana) on the November ballot, even though a final nominee will be selected behind closed doors.
Despite the toxic atmosphere in Washington and a Congressional district that doesn't favor Republicans, representing the newly re-drawn 13th district is still a popular job. At least eight candidates have expressed interest in it. Johnson announced earlier this month that he will retire at the end of his current term.
Six of people vying to replace Johnson on the November ballot tested out their campaign running shoes on Monday in Bloomington at the Doubletree Hotel before an audience of party faithfuls.
"Overnight the 13th became a target on the pathway of Nancy Pelosi returning to power," said Congressional staffer Rodney Davis of Taylorville.
"We know Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats want to recover the House," said Assistant Illinois House Minority Leader Dan Brady (R-Bloomington). "They're opportunist and will invade if they smell there is a chance in a district."
"I'd like to beat Doctor (David) Gill a fourth time to make sure Nancy Pelosi does not become speaker again," said Congressional Chief of Staff Jerry Clarke of Urbana.
Politics is about making connections and most of the aspiring politicians have lot of networks. Three year State Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) said he can appeal to independents as shown by his results in Macon County
"Probably what I think is seen by Republicans as the tougher part of this Congressional District," McCarter said. "I won that area and I won Decatur, the toughest part of it by a thousand votes."
Former State Rep. Mike Tate one-ups McCarter saying he won Decatur five times in ten years before stepping down to raise a family. Tate said his children are grown now and he can pour himself into a Congressional race that will be enhanced by his business connections as CEO of the Independent Insurance Agents of Illinois.
"In terms of a campaign operation, I can tell yah I have small business people, independent agents which are like the backbone of their communities," Tate said. "They live in small towns in Illinois and they're the kind of people that are on their church board, active in the rotary club."
There are about 200 days to go before the November election.
State Rep. Dan Brady (R-Bloomington) said the profile of a great candidate to deal with that short time frame looks a lot like him - an excellent campaigner. Brady said not only has he held office, but he has helped other Republicans, implying it would be their turn to help him if he is selected.
"I'm proud to say I've campaigned for candidates at every level from city council and county board to President of the United States," Brady said. "From my time as a young man helping to rebuild young Republican groups across the state to my present role as Assistant House Republican Leader, I've made service my driving force."
Brady also touted his name recognition, which could be code for having the same last name as a recent GOP candidate for Governor who did well in counties comprising the 13th district. Call it the Brady effect.
Two other candidates focused on the networks they would have if they won the race against Democratic Candidate David Gill in November.
Jerry Clarke is the current Chief of Staff for Congressman Randy Hultgren, former Chief of Staff for Tim Johnson and a longtime GOP staffer in Springfield. He emphasized his ability to navigate Washington.
"So I've seen the, up close the dysfunction of Congress, the endless gridlock, the out of control spending," Clarke said. "I think we can do better than that and I think I am ready to serve."
The threads that bind the system together are also a specialty of Rodney Davis of Taylorville, who for the last sixteen years has served as the special projects director for Congressman John Shimkus.
"I have helped countless constituents work through the bureaucratic red tape of Washington D.C. and the federal bureaucracy," Davis said. "I've been tasked with helping local leaders in 3 counties identify cost effective ways to address their local infrastructure issues."
A candidate with less of a resume chose to emphasize his social conservatism. David Paul Blumenshine of Bloomington mentioned the Trayvon Martin killing, trying to diminish it compared to the abortion issue.
"We're talking about rioting over a young man and another young man who got into an altercation and unfortunately somebody lost their life," Blumenshine said. "Since Roe v Wade was overturned we killed 50 million people."
Blumenshine incorrectly stated that Roe v. Wade had been overturned, when in fact it has not.
At least five of the 14 county party chiefs who will eventually make the call were watching the presentations. Although some may have already committed to an initial candidate, none are likely to go public with support ahead of a private get together late this month.
When the party had to hurriedly replace a candidate in the 11th district a few years ago, county chairs looked over all the resumes, polled each other, and then invited three finalists to make their cases in person before casting ballots weighted by population.
Illinois Republican Party Chair Pat Brady is charing the panel that will oversee the process of selecting a nominee. He has yet to announce the selection process.
Champaign and Macon Counties have the two largest chunks of the weighted vote in the selection for the 13th Congressional district race.
Champaign County Acting Republican chair Habeeb Habeeb has said that it is possible that a similar forum - like the one held in Bloomington - will be held locally.
The winner of that vote will face presumptive Democratic nominee and three-time candidate, Doctor David Gill in November.
(Photo by Charlie Schlenker/IPR)
A full set of links to county GOP chairmen in the 13th District is listed below.
Research at the University of Illinois suggests physical activity can boost cognitive health. To test that theory, Jefferson Middle School in Champaign recently added exercise equipment for its students. Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers reports.
Illinois education officials say cases of cheating on state exams by teachers and principals are on the rise.
Those cases add to a pile of about 300 other cases of misconduct that range from cheating to inappropriate relationships with students.
That's why this year the Illinois State Board of Education wants to double the amount of money dedicated to investigations.
Darren Reisberg, deputy superintendent at the state Board of Education, said the money would help his department speed up the process or hire an investigator to help with the caseload.
Misconduct investigations are timely and cost a significant amount of money, Reisberg said.
The state is also still investigating suspicious patterns on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT), which is taken by every third through eighth grade student.
That analysis would look for high number of answers changed from wrong to right, unlikely large gains from one year to the next and classrooms where a significant number of students answered a difficult question correctly, but missed an easy one.
State board spokeswoman Mary Fergus said that analysis is not complete.
In the past, the state has relied on districts to report allegations of misconduct. According to those reports, there have been 33 cases of possible cheating since 2005.
But the likelihood the state will grant the board the money it's requesting is unlikely.
Gov. Pat Quinn's proposed budget does not increase funding for investigations. Two House resolutions passed last month also limit the state's education budget to $6.5 billion, $523 million less than what the state board is proposing.
Four area lawmakers say it took the approval of the DeWitt County Board to send a controversial proposal to store PCB's at the Clinton landfill to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But those lawmakers say that under their proposal, one county's OK would not be enough.
Under their legislation (House Bill 6153), any hazardous waste facility located over an aquifer would need the approval of county boards of all the counties with land over that aquifer. The Clinton Landfill lies over the Mahomet Aquifer, which spreads out over 15 different counties.
That includes Champaign County, where the county board has already gone on record opposing the storage of PCB's at the Clinton Landfill. However, the Champaign County Board vote has no legal effect, because the landfill addition would be built in DeWitt County, not Champaign County.
State Sen. Mike Frerichs (D-Champaign) said requiring all 15 counties in the Mahomet Aquifer area to approve the storage of PCB's is a good way to avoid what he calls "pollution without representation."
'There are communities throughout east-central Illinois that are going to potentially have grave harm to their drinking source, their aquifer, and not have some say in the siting of this landfill. And that's the problem we're hoping to rectify," Frerichs said.
Besides Frerichs, the measure also has the backing of State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, (D-Urbana), Bill Mitchell (R-Forsyth) and Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet).
Rose drafted the legislation, working with Piatt County State's Attorney Dana Rhoades. Rose said he hopes he can win approval for the measure in the General Assembly, before the EPA makes a ruling on the Clinton Landfill proposal.
"There's a race to beat the clock here," Rose said. "If the federal EPA issues a permit, then we have a problem. So we're trying to do this as quickly as possible."
The EPA has delayed making a ruling on the Clinton Landfill PCB proposal, pending further study.
Fracking" Comes to Southern Illinois
The controversial drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing could be coming to Southern Illinois as soon as next month.
The authenticity of an iconic stovepipe hat believed to have been worn by Abraham Lincoln is being called into question.
In a story Sunday, the Chicago-Sun Times reported (http://bit.ly/HFo58o) that the leaders of the Springfield-based Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum cannot explain how a farmer acquired the stovepipe hat more than 150 years ago.
The news comes on the heels of a significant historical gaffe revealing that a famous portrait of Abraham Lincoln's wife that hung in the governor's mansion in Springfield for more than threedecades was a fake.
No one has been able to refute the hat's authenticity with certainty. Museum officials say the hat belonged to Lincoln.
The heirloom is valued at $6.5 million.
The chairman of the Vermilion County Board says a presentation from a potential management agency is just one option they're exploring for the beleaguered Vermilion Manor Nursing Home. Jim McMahon says the county might also explore leasing or even selling the facility. But on Tuesday night, officials with Provena Life Connections will talk about their proposal at the Vermilion County Board meeting in Danville.
McMahon says he's looking for any viable option that can keep the nursing home going, at a time when the state is regularly late in delivering Medicaid and Medicare funding.
"What we're looking for is, how can we keep a county-owned nursing home running with 42% of the income coming from the state of Illinois, and they pay that when they feel like it, " says Durbin.
Provena Life Connections operates facilities and services for the elderly in several cities. In Champaign, they provide both home health services and hospice care.
McMahon says Provena Life Connections could bring additional services to residents at the county-owned nursing home that would help bring in additional organization>
"So a management firm can come in and say, we'll add this type of specialist," says Mamahon, "or they could bring dialysis on location. There's lots of things they can do that we can't as a county-run organization."
McMahon says he was referred to Provena Life Connections by officials at Provena United Samaritan Hospital in Danville.
The Provena Life Connections presentation is scheduled for the Vermilion County Board meeting set for Tuesday, April 17th at 6 PM at the Courthouse Annex in Danville. McMahon says no action will be taken that night, but the proposal will be considered by the county board's Nursing Home Committee on April 24th..
The State Employees Retirement System says many government workers in Illinois are rushing to retire.
SERS Executive Secretary Tim Blair says more than 4,000 state workers will retire in the fiscal year that ends June 30. That's up more than 40 percent from last year's roughly 2,750.
The Mattoon Journal-Gazette reports (http://bit.ly/IDEucf ) that the push to retire is being driven in part by concerns about state government's multibillion-dollar budget deficit.
But discussions about changing Illinois' pension systems are a factor, too. Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to soon announce a plan to deal with underfunded pension systems.
But the state won't be able to simply leave the jobs open and save money.
Quinn spokeswoman Kelly Kraft said at least some of the retiring workers will have to be replaced.
Chicago Sun-Times editor-in-chief Don Hayner has announced he is retiring after nearly 30 years at the newspaper.
The Sun-Times reports Hayner made the announcement Thursday afternoon. He will be succeeded by John Barron, who will be executive editor after three years as publisher. Hayner led the Sun-Times when it won a Pulitzer Prize for local reporting in 2011.
Hayner told staffers he decided to retire and it is "time to hand off the baton."
The 60-year-old Hayner started at the newspaper as a general assignment reporter. He was named editor in February 2009. He also served as city editor, metro editor and managing editor. He also was a lawyer who represented criminal defendants at the Cook County courthouse before working for the City News Bureau and the Chicago Tribune.
McLean County's Republican Party chair calls next week's interviews with potential Congressional candidates 'unprecedented.'
John Parrot said the intent of Monday's interviews with eight people seeing the GOP nomination for the 13th Congressional district was to generate feedback from the public on the process. Parrot admits a lot of voters are upset about Urbana Congressman Tim Johnson's decision to announce his retirement after the primary.
"They have reiterated that we need to make sure that whoever the county chairmen appoint to this position is a rock-solid individual who has got some experience, and will have the opportunity to build the organization that they're going to need to build in record time," Parrot said.
He said members of the state legislature have an advantage since they already have an organization in place following the March 20th primary. The interviews will run from 11-30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday at the Doubletree Hotel in Bloomington.
Champaign County Acting Republican chair Habeeb Habeeb said it is possible that a similar event will be held locally, after it holds a convention next week. GOP county chairmen in 14 counties will meet in a few weeks and hold a weighted vote for a 13th district candidate to replace Johnson.
A full set of links to county GOP chairmen in the 13th District is listed below.
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