It’s been a crazy, exhausting election year but it should all come to an end next Tuesday night, Nov. 3 — or will it? Considering everything that has happened in the Presidential campaign this year, it is almost too much to expect the controversy surrounding both candidates and their parties, to end once the votes are counted — regardless of which candidate wins. In fact, right here in our own county, the winner of the 2018 Macon County Sheriff’s race is still not totally settled — two years later!
I do know a lot of Americans are voting early this year and, locally, there’s been days when the early voting line of people at the Macon County Clerk’s office has stretched out the door of the Macon County Office Building and down the sidewalk on West Wood Street! A lot of citizens want to make sure their votes are counted. Many do not trust the mail-in ballots and others wonder if they will even be able to vote because of potential COVID-19 restrictions on election day.
• MAYBE it is just me, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many television commercials, for and against, a candidate as I have in the race for Congress in the 13th Congressional District, which includes Decatur. Incumbent Republican Rodney Davis and Democrat Challenger Betsy Dirksen Londrigan have almost continuous running television commercials on about any channel I watch. They often go one after another, for and against each other, endlessly. It will be interesting to see the total amount spent on television advertising alone, when the campaign is over. That’s not even counting all of the mailers I’ve received at my home — sometimes two a day! The total advertising expense in this campaign will be staggering when the candidates file their required financial reports — along with organizations that have supported them. Obviously, the Democrats believe they have a real shot at defeating Davis. Certainly, by the way they have demeaned him, and tried to destroy his reputation, I expect to see horns growing out of his head any minute now! Of course, Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, is also taking an advertising beating — especially in connecting her to Illinois Speaker of the House Mike Madigan.
All I can write, is what I’ve written before, from the time Davis ran for Congress the first time, he has always maintained contact with me and we’ve had numerous one-on-one conversations in my office as he has kept me updated on the issues impacting our district. Anytime I have a question or need to talk to him, he has always been available —and I like him as a person.
• IN ALL fairness, I barely know Betsy Dirksen Londrigan — and a lot of that has been because of the COVID-19 pandemic and not being able to sit down one-on-one and interview candidates as I have in the past. I do receive her news releases from staff, but there really isn’t a lot to learn from news releases about the candidate as a person. Londrigan, in my opinion, has kept her distance from Decatur, not only in this campaign (which has limited events) but in her last campaign. Hopefully, this will be the only campaign where candidates for all offices will be so limited, on what they can do and where they can go, to reach the voters and tell their stories. I miss that and feel impressions of candidates that come from face-to-face conversations just aren’t there this time around because of COVID-19.
• DO YOU ever wonder where advertising and public relations firms dig out ugly photos of a candidate’s opponent to use in commercials, not only touting how awful a person he or she is, but implying how ugly they are, too? I guess they want to make an opponent look as bad as they possibly can — both in words and photos. Maybe they get some of those photos off of an opponent’s picture on his or her driver’s license. I don’t think I’ve ever had a photo taken of me for my driver’s license that I didn’t hope that no one else would see. It’s not the fault of the employee at the Driver’s License facility. In my case, it is the person being photographed. I just don’t take a good driver’s license photo, or maybe I don’t want to admit that I look that bad. I wonder, if, one of these days, a law enforcement officer asks to see my driver’s license, if he will look at the photo and then me, and have a puzzled look on his face — like that isn’t me!
• ACTUALLY, I have to give kudos to Democrat Rep. Sue Scherer’s opponent, Republican Charlie McGorray, in the 96th District. Charlie’s ad in our print edition, which points out the differences between Scherer’s record and what he believes, actually shows photos of each of them and both candidates look great! Regardless of which candidate you are for, it is refreshing to see an opponent whose photo is “normal” in comparing reasons to elect the person running the ad.
• THE frustration that community and state health leaders are experiencing, in constantly having many people ignore their pleas to wear a mask and practice other recommended safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, is becoming apparent. That frustration surfaced during a recent news conference when, through tears, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike once again called for widespread use of face coverings after warning of increasing COVID-19 hospitalization numbers that could surpass the peaks of April and May. Ezike said “I mean it’s sad to see the numbers going up again, People have worked really hard to get us through the first phase, … and as we see the numbers go up in the hospital, people are bringing more beds, trying to prepare for the COVID units again, and the staff that went through all that pain to try to save as many people as they can are seeing history repeat itself.”
There was also a press conference held at the Decatur Civic Center on Friday to address Macon County’s increasing COVID-19 infection numbers and to urge residents to adhere to recommended infection prevention measures. 300+ newly-confirmed cases were reported among Macon County residents in a three day period — an alarming number considering the low number for most of the pandemic.
• AS I’VE written so many times in this column since last March, our positivity rate goes up or down based on the preventative measures taken by Macon County residents — and the local impact from people ignoring the pleas of community leaders and health experts is not only in increased infections, hospitalizations and even death, but in serious economic impact from which many will never recover. It seems that mentioning that reality in this column, and leaders begging the public to comply, including wearing a mask and keeping a distance from other people, now only makes some people mad and they lash out and call such utterances “fake news” or claim “the mask” is propaganda to defeat President Trump.
That’s too bad because the more we make COVID-19 a political issue, instead of a health emergency, the more people that will become infected and the longer communities, like Decatur, will grind to a near halt — and those high infection numbers don’t need to exist if we look out for each other.
• I WAS walking back from the downtown post office last week, when a man who crossed my path didn’t pause or miss a step but, in the few seconds it took to walk by, he looked at me and said: “Mayor, I need a job!!!”
Of course, I am no longer the mayor, but the message was clear. The sadness in his eyes in that brief encounter has stayed with me. He wasn’t asking for money. He was just venting the frustration he was feeling about his circumstances. He wanted a job! We have a lot of people in this community who are struggling more than ever right now. We need to continue to help others who are battling a lot more than a virus — including the economic fallout from the pandemic.
• STAY safe everyone and keep looking out for the welfare of others and help protect them from the virus. We’ll get through this together and we will be stronger on the other side.
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Decatur Tribune Editor Paul Osborne joins Brian Byers on WSOY’s Byers & Co. every Thursday morning at 7:00, for the City Hall Insider.