My thoughts about the Vermilion County (IL) Clerk race

Once again, there’s a hotly-contested race in Vermilion County for county clerk. Despite being a heavily-Republican county, Vermilion County has a Democratic county clerk, Lynn Foster. Foster is running for re-election against Republican challenger Cathy Jenkins, one of three people (the other two being Democrats Edwin Barney, Jr. (who is my cousin) and Terry Stal) who represent me on the Vermilion County Board.

One of Jenkins’s ideas is that she wants hook up voting machines in Vermilion County to phone modems in order to transfer election results to the county clerk’s office electronically:

Jenkins, a county board member beginning in 2012, said she wants to make things more hands-off on election night for the county.

“With regard to counting and transmitting election results from the polling places in a timely and safe manner, using phone modems on the machines in the polls can provide numbers much more quickly and accurately so that counts are turned in to the county clerk with less manual handling,” she said.

That’s actually a terrible idea, and I’ll tell you why. Hooking up voting machines to phone modems would make it considerably easier for someone to hack into the voting system in Vermilion County and change the results, potentially allowing a candidate who didn’t actually receive the most votes to win an election. With Republicans being responsible for election snafus in Florida, Wisconsin, and other parts of Illinois in recent years, we can’t afford a major election debacle in Vermilion County.

Lynn Foster, on the other hand, has an actual track record of using new technology to make the Vermilion County Clerk’s office run better, including implementing online training for election judges who manage the polling places in Vermilion County. Foster wants to continue that track record by upgrading the technology that the county’s property tax collection system uses in order to eliminate delays in property tax bills.

Lynn Foster is perhaps the only actual public servant in Illinois, and she deserves four more years as Vermilion County Clerk


The rise of the far-right in Douglas County

Douglas County, Illinois, a mostly rural county with numerous small towns and about 20,000 residents, is one of the most Republican counties in all of Illinois. For example, Mitt Romney won nearly 69% of the vote that was cast for the two major-party presidential candidates in Douglas County two years ago.

However, something even more sinister than your typical Republicans are gaining traction in Douglas County: far-right reactionaries.

Three weeks ago, WAND-TV, the NBC affiliate in Decatur, ran this report about Nazi flags flying in Arcola, a community of nearly 3,000 people located in the south central part of Douglas County:

While the individual who is flying the Nazi flags has the legal right, per the free speech protections in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to fly them, I find it downright disgusting that someone would fly a flag associated with a group of people that, among other things, killed millions of people in a mass genocide known as the Holocaust. Worse, the individual flying the flag appears to be a true believer in the Nazis’ racist ideology, as his truck features a sticker with the abbreviation “W.P.W.W.”, which refers to the “White Pride World Wide” motto of the neo-Nazi hate group Stormfront. Just like the Blues Brothers, I hate Illinois Nazis!

On November 4, voters in Garrett, a small village in the western part of Douglas County which has 162 residents and only 90 registered voters, will vote on whether or not to completely get rid of the municipal government in Garrett. The movement to deincorporate the Village of Garrett began by a man by the name of Mike Gray, who got nearly half of the 90 registered voters in Garrett to sign a petition to put a dissolution referendum on the November ballot. The reason why Gray went around Garrett trying to get people to get rid of the village government was because he threw a royal fit over the village board increasing fines for violating local ordinances. I’m not sure what kind of ordinances Gray was referring to, but local ordinances in Illinois villages typically involve things like requiring lawns to be mowed after grass reaches a certain height and parking restrictions on village streets. Additionally, I’m not sure what Gray’s actual political ideology is, trying to get rid of a municipal government over something like increasing fines for violating ordinances sounds like something a member of the far-right Tea Party would do. Should the Garrett dissolution referendum be approved, Garrett streets would no longer be plowed when snow falls, the local water system would be completely shut off, and streetlights would be shut off. I strongly encourage Garrett voters to vote NO on the village dissolution referendum.

Republican Illinois House candidate Mark Batinick mocks Democratic challenger Moira Dunn for surviving brain tumor and stroke

In the race to succeed Republican Illinois State Rep. Tom Cross of the 97th Representative District, who is not running for re-election in order to run for Illinois Treasurer, far-right Republican candidate Mark Batinick sent out a disgusting mailer depicting Democratic challenger Moira Dunn, who survived a stroke and a brain tumor, as a bobblehead with a metal clamp over her head.

Batinick’s disgusting attack against Dunn is one of the worst I’ve seen in this state in my lifetime. To attack a candidate over the fact that she survived a brain tumor and a stroke and depict her as a bobblehead in a metal clamp is way out of line. Additionally, depicting a female candidate for public office as a bobblehead is downright sexist and way out of line. Even worse, Batinick, who associates himself with the far-right Tea Party that wants to implement a far-right agenda here in Illinois, has refused to apologize for his downright disgusting attack against Dunn.

Several Plainfield-area cancer, stroke, and brain tumor survivors wrote a letter blasting Batinick for sending out a campaign mailer that mocked a brain tumor and stroke survivor, and Illinois Observer quoted part of it:

Mark Batinick recently littered our mailboxes with a political attack depicting Moira Dunn, a stroke and brain tumor survivor, as a “bobble head” toy with a metal clamp over her head,” says the letter. “Mr. Batinick insulted tumor and stroke survivors with his outrageous and insensitive advertisement […] [he] should be ashamed of the way that he openly mocking his opponent’s past health circumstances…

While the 97th Representative District, which includes western portions of Will County and parts of northeastern Kendall County in the outer western and southwestern portions of the Chicago suburbs, is usually thought of as a Republican stronghold, Mark Batinick’s far-right views and his offensive attacks against Moira Dunn have made the 97th Representative District one of the top Democratic pickup opportunities in the state. I strongly encourage voters in the 97th Representative District of Illinois to vote for Moira Dunn.

ENDORSEMENT: Bob Fioretti for Mayor of Chicago

Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis has decided not to run for Mayor of Chicago next year after becoming ill recently. Needless to say, this is a huge disappointment for progressives Chicago and elsewhere.

Unless another candidate were to enter the race, this leaves Bob Fioretti, the alderman of Chicago’s 2nd Ward, as the main left-wing opposition candidate to incumbent Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. I am endorsing Fioretti’s campaign against Rahm.

When Fioretti launched his campaign for mayor of our state’s largest city, he produced this fantastic web video in which Fioretti talks about his background, touts endorsements that he’s received, and outlines the main theme of his campaign:

Fioretti supports a $15/hour minimum wage, which is a higher minimum wage than what Rahm supports and would lift even more Chicagoans out of poverty than Rahm’s plan would. Additionally, Fioretti supports creating a directly-elected Chicago school board, because it’s absurd that places like Westville, a small community in the east central part of Illinois, has a directly-elected school board, but Chicago has a school board consisting of political appointees. More importantly, Fioretti will fight to stop the expansion of charter schools that are draining taxpayer money from public education and, in most cases, aren’t providing a better education for children. When it comes to crime, Fioretti supports creating after-school and youth job training programs designed to keep young Chicagoans off the streets.

Rahm Emanuel has failed Chicago on many levels. As Mayor of Chicago, Rahm has enacted a corporate agenda that has benefited the wealthiest Chicagoans at the expense of teachers, public employees, and poor, working-class, and middle-class Chicagoans. Under Rahm’s failed leadership, Chicago has become the “crime capital of America”, dozens of neighborhood public schools have been closed, and Chicago are worse off than they were four years ago. More importantly, Rahm has demonized the progressive base of the Democratic Party, even publicly comparing progressives to people with intellectual disabilities. Additionally, Rahm is a personal friend of ultra-wealthy Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, who wants to dismantle what is left of the middle class here in Illinois.

Chicago needs a new mayor who will lead our state’s largest city in a new direction. That’s why I endorse Bob Fioretti, and I strongly encourage Chicagoans to vote for Fioretti in next spring’s elections.

Bizarre College Republicans ad campaign compares Pat Quinn to a bad wedding dress

The College Republican National Committee (CRNC), a federation of Republican organizations on college campuses across the country, is running one of the most bizarre ad campaigns I’ve ever seen. The CRNC’s ad campaign compares voting to picking wedding dresses and Democratic Governor Pat Quinn to a bad wedding dress:

The CRNC is either running or intends to run similar ad campaigns in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, and other states on behalf of Republican gubernatorial candidates.

I found the CRNC’s ad campaign downright distasteful for a couple of reasons.

First off, comparing candidates for the office of Governor of Illinois, the highest office in our state, to wedding dresses is downright insulting to Illinois voters. Voting for our state’s chief executive is far more important than picking a wedding dress. That’s because the governor holds considerable political power, being responsible for signing or vetoing legislation passed by the General Assembly, appointing top officials of numerous state government departments and agencies, and proposing a state budget, among other things.

Additionally, while Pat Quinn has done some things that I’ve disagreed with (such as signing legislation to gerrymander our state’s congressional and state legislative districts and legalizing fracking in our state), to compare him to a bad wedding dress is absolutely absurd. Quinn has made Illinois a marriage equality state, has legalized medical marijuana in Illinois, and supports raising the minimum wage in order to lift thousands of Illinoisans out of poverty. More importantly, I wouldn’t want to be “married” to a crook like ultra-wealthy Bruce Rauner, who wants to bust unions, drive down wages, and put more Illinoisans in poverty, for the next four years.

Bruce Rauner’s “Kwame Kilpatrick” problem

Republican gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner has a “Kwame Kilpatrick” problem.

You see, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Kwame Kilpatrick, the disgraced former mayor of Detroit, Michigan, took bribes from Synagro Technologies, a company owned by GTCR, Rauner’s venture capital firm:

You probably heard about the case that brought down Detroit’s young Democratic Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, sentenced last year to 28 years in federal prison.

Getting a far shorter term after cooperating with the feds was an executive for Synagro Technologies Inc., a company based in Houston. The executive, James Rosendall, pleaded guilty to bribery in 2009 and testified in Kilpatrick’s trial last year, describing his role in what he called “the pay-to-play thing going on in the city of Detroit.”

Rosendall’s push on Synagro’s behalf intensified in 2007. That was shortly before the company won a billion-dollar sludge contract from Detroit officials — and not long after GTCR had divested its majority stake in Synagro.

But court records show Rosendall’s efforts to sway Kilpatrick and other Detroit leaders dated back several years, to the middle of the period when GTCR controlled Synagro.

Last year, Kilpatrick was convicted on 24 federal felony corruption counts, including mail fraud, wire fraud, and racketeering, and was sentenced to 28 years in prison. While Rauner himself hasn’t been charged with any crimes (yet), Illinois can’t afford yet another governor with ties to some of the worst corruption in American political history.

Mike Bost: Unfit for Public Office

As we approach the final month of the 2014 campaign here in Illinois, it’s been revealed that Republican congressional candidate Mike Bost, who is running in the 12th Congressional District, once shot a dog and refused to report a stolen firearm to the police.

In 1986, after a dog named Rusty bit his then-four-year-old daughter so severely that she needed 19 stitches on her face, Bost drove to the home of Rusty’s owner and shot Rusty while it was in a penned enclosure:

The earliest episode dates back to 1986, when a neighborhood beagle named Rusty bit Bost’s 4-year-old daughter. The report filed by animal control officials indicates that the girl provoked the attack by chasing the dog. She ultimately had to get 19 stitches on her face.

According to court records, Bost was displeased that authorities would not be able to deal with the 10-year-old dog immediately. So he got his handgun, drove to Rusty’s owner’s home, and shot the dog to death while it was penned in an enclosure.

Bost’s track record of being an irresponsible gun owner doesn’t stop there. Two years before voting against legislation to require stolen guns to be reported to law enforcement, Bost once allowed a thief to steal his handgun and use it to threaten another man’s life without reporting the theft to the police:

The documents also detail another alarming, more mysterious incident. Bost, a gun-rights defender who in 2008 voted against a bill to require the prompt reporting of stolen guns, did not report a gun that was stolen from his own home.

In 2006, Bost’s nickel-plated special edition .357 Rossi revolver was stolen from his gun safe. According to police records, Bost did not know about the theft until police showed up at his door to inform him that the gun had been used to threaten another man’s life. Bost led investigators to the safe, and the firearm was indeed missing.

It is unclear who stole the weapon and how it was removed from the safe, but Bost and family members suspected that the thief may have been connected to a 17-year-old girl who had stayed briefly in Bost’s house. Bost told police that he usually did not lock the side door to the room that contained the safe.

Mike Bost’s temper issues go beyond statehouse rants that have made him a YouTube sensation with the Tea Party crowd. He’s also an irresponsible gun owner who shot a dog while it was in a penned enclosure and allowed a thief to steal his handgun and use it to threaten someone’s life. I don’t say this too often about political candidates, but Bost is unfit for public office.


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