City Beat: Some Final Observations On A Few Campaigns Before Tuesday’s Primary Election
Next Tuesday (June 28) is Primary Election Day and after the polls close we will finally have some lingering questions answered. We’ll find out, once all the votes are counted, which candidates are moving on to the General Election November 8, which candidates have already won the office they seek because they will have no opponent in the general election — and what influence former President Donald Trump had in the races for Congress in the IL 13 and IL 15 Districts that include Macon County residents.
It feels to me that the 2022 Primary Election campaign has been going on forever. That feeling is probably because, this time, the primary election is being held during the second week of summer instead of much earlier in the year when snow and ice are usually concerns involving voter turnout. Redistricting has ground up our county and residents have three state senate races and five state representative races to assess. As I mentioned in this column last week, be sure and look at your voter registration card before you make any decisions about your vote (if you haven’t already early voted) because you may be in for a surprise at what state senate and state representative races involve where you live in the county.
• AS YOU have probably noticed if you subscribe to our print or online editions, our “Letters to the Editor” section had to be expanded this week due to the number of letters supporting candidates that I received by Friday’s deadline. (Scott Reeder’s column will return next week.) I can’t ever remember using this much space for our “letters” during a political campaign or any other time. In fact, there were several “non-election” letters that had to be delayed until next week because of getting the candidate support letters in this last edition before the election.
• ALTHOUGH I don’t endorse candidates in primary elections I do have some observations on a few of the races involving Macon County, which I have found especially interesting.
• MOST OF the candidate-endorsing letters received involved the office of Judge of the Circuit Court, Sixth Judical District, Macon County, between Republicans Rodney Forbes and Shane Mendenhall. The winner will face Democrat Andrew R. Weatherford in the General Election on Nov. 8. Weatherford is unopposed in the primary. I’ve been publisher of this newspaper since 1969 and I don’t remember any area judicial race being this high-profile. As the letters to the editor the past few weeks reflect, both men have strong support and deep roots in Macon County. There’s no doubt that both men are solid individuals and have campaigned to inform the public of their background and experience.
Forbes has been an associate judge since 2017, meaning he has five years of experience on the bench, and many more years of trying cases in the courtroom. Forbes is also the only candidate in the race, Republican and Democrat, that has been recommended by the Illinois State Bar Association poll, which is conducted anonymously among attorneys.
Mendenhall has strong support in the county from those who have known him for many years and respect his perspective and handling of cases as an attorney. While Forbes has experience as a judge, in today’s law and order climate, there is a feeling that more should be done to keep those who break the law locked up. Those voters may see Mendenhall as a fresh perspective on being tough on crime and that’s understandable.
However, it is well to remember that judges do not make the laws but make their decisions based on the confines of what has been established in the law.
• WHILE the Republican Primary race for Judge of the Circuit Court, Sixth Judical District, is pretty high profile, and is generating a lot of letters to the editor, a normally high-profile race, the one for Macon County Sheriff, has been fairly low-key. Unlike the judicial race Republicans Jim Root (who is running for re-election) and Cody Moore, who is the challenger, will know when the primary votes are counted (I hope) who has won the four-year term as sheriff — because there will not be a Democrat opponent in November. The candidate who wins the primary will, essentially, be elected sheriff.
Both candidates have been in my office (at separate times) and, in my conversations with them, neither candidate took any “political shots” at the other, choosing instead to focus on the reasons they are seeking to be sheriff for the next four years. I’ve known both men for a long time and like them. Both are devoted to law enforcement and making and keeping the county a safe place.
I’m getting more than a little feedback from some of our readers who believe that Root, who has only been able to be sheriff for the last year of the four-year term, deserves to have a full term. As most of you know, four years ago, Root and Democrat Tony Brown were involved in the race where the results were almost a dead heat, but Brown by a slim margin was declared the winner and sworn in as sheriff. When other votes were found that changed the election in Root’s favor, it took three years to right the wrong and there was one year left in the four-year term when Root was finally sworn into office.
I asked Cody Moore about the feeling that some voters have that Root was short-changed and should be elected to serve a full term this time around. Moore said that he cannot change the past and certainly understands the feelings of some people about the previous election, but we can’t live in the past. He said the concentration now should be about who can best serve as sheriff.
While that certainly is true, that past election that Root won and was unable to take office until his term was three-fourths over, will be on the minds of more than a few voters when they make their choice. Moore, who has an extensive history in law enforcement, including a strong career with the Decatur Police Department, is certainly more than qualified for the office through his experience and training. Root, who has the support of former Macon County Sheriff Jerry Dawson and many others who served in the sheriff’s office, has not spent the last year watching the days pass by until the next election. He has already renegotiated a contract that eliminated tens of millions dollars in overtime pay by going to 12-hour shifts which, he told me, raised the morale of many of his employees.
Moore is running on a platform of managing the sheriff’s department with transparency and common sense, building public trust and increasing interagency training and cooperation, plus cultivating positive interactions with young people. The race involves two men with extensive training and experience. The voters will decide which one will wear the sheriff’s badge for the next term.
• THE CONGRESSIONAL races in the Illinois 13th and 15th Districts, which include parts of Decatur and Macon County, have received more attention than most. Republicans Regan Deering, Matt Hausman, Jesse Reising and Terry Martin are running to see who will face the winner of the Democratic Primary between Nikki Budzinski and David Palmer. Budzinski is expected to win that primary because the Democrat majority drew the district to favor her.
Regan Deering and Jesse Reising are from Decatur and both have sat down with me to discuss their campaigns. Both are solid candidates and certainly capable of raising needed funds to move on to the General Election. They have also received some impressive endorsements. Matt Hausman and Terry Martin may be running strong in other parts of the district, but they do not have a strong presence in Macon County and their fundraising results are far behind those of Deering and Reising. It appears that the race for the Republicans in next week’s primary will come down to Deering or Reising.
• THE RACE in the Illinois 15th Congressional District, between Mary Miller of Oakland and Rodney Davis of Taylorville, has attracted a lot of attention and an enormous amount of negative advertising. Both presently serve in Congress, so it is a race between two incumbents. Davis has been representing the 13th District for the past decade and Miller was appointed to fill out a remaining term in the 15th District. With redistricting, both incumbents are running in the 15th District, which cuts through some of Macon County — and is the district where I live. The winner of Tuesday’s Republican Primary Election will essentially be the winner in the November General Election because the Democrat opponent, Paul Lange, is not expected to put up much of a fight.
The major figure in the Republican Primary for the IL 15 is former President Donald Trump, who has endorsed Miller and, as I’m writing this column, is expected to be in the Quincy area to hold a campaign rally for her later this week. Miller has essentially based her campaign on her relationship with Donald Trump and believes the last presidential election was stolen from him. That is a position she has reiterated in campaign materials, commercials and the few interviews that she has granted.
While Davis has talked with me one-on-one numerous times during his years in office, and always been available to answer any question, I tried to get an interview with Mary Miller and never got a reply. It’s undoubtedly the first time in my career that a candidate for Congress ignored this newspaper. Fellow journalists from other communities have posed the question: “Have you been able to talk to Mary Miller?”, meaning, they had not been able to interview her. So, I guess it’s not just me.
• WHAT IMPACT the appearance of former President Donald Trump in Illinois on behalf of Mary Miller will have on the IL 15th election result a few days later will tell us a lot, not only about the strength of Mary Miller, but of former President Donald Trump and the amount of support that Trump has, or does not have, in this part of the nation.
• FRANKLY, I AM so glad the 2022 Primary Election campaign is about over. There has been a steady flow of political sewage flowing into our mailboxes nearly every day, dominating our broadcast media and demeaning others in a very offensive way. Hopefully, in the future, campaigns will be based on why I should vote for a candidate, instead of why I should not vote for his or her opponent. That’s probably too much to expect in this day and age, but I can only hope and pray it will happen.
•I JOIN Brian Byers on WSOY’s Byers & Co. every Thursday morning at 7:00 for the City Hall Insider.