BUNKER HILL - Just how tough do you think it would be for a typical first time candidate for State Senate to raise $340,000 to have on hand at the end of the second quarter? Nearly impossible, you'd say, unless he or she were a millionaire and viewed being in the Illinois Senate a worthwhile investment.
What if that same candidate raised $25k from the SEIU last week and another $20k from the Illinois Democratic Victory Fund in mid-July? It's very possible and it's fact for Democratic Senate candidate Andy Manar, hailing from central Illinois' new 48th Senate district:
Back in September 2011, Manar and his wife Trish wrote a check for $5000 to get his campaign account opened. Manar's a former mayor of Bunker Hill, IL and he's currently the Macoupin County Board Chairman. While those two are powerful positions to boost one up the political ladder, they're nothing compared to the job from which Manar just resigned - chief of staff for Illinois Senate President John Cullerton.
Manar's $400k war chest list of contributors is impressive. There are law firms, businesses, and numerous lobbyists who've bought tickets to Manar's fundraisers over the past few months.
But what would you do if you were a lobbyist? Turn down an invite to the Senate President's Chief of Staff's campaign funder? Even former Republican senators - now lobbyists - Al Ronan and Cheryl Axley wrote checks to the Democratic Leadership's guy. And no one's surprised to see former Senator Denny Jacobs' name on the lobbyist list, either. How else does Smart Grid legislation pass the Senate without investments like that?
Manar's $72,000 in transfers from political action committees include trial lawyer PACs, unions PACs, Democrat lawmakers' campaign coffers. What would you do if you, as a union repor trial lawyer, wanted legislation passed or reform legislation stopped, or as a lawmaker, needed help from the Senate Democrat campaign coffers in gut-wrenching campaigns? Giving to a guy with built in clout like Andy Manar would make sense if you're used to the Chicago Way.
Manar's Republican challenger in the newly-drawn district is Mike McElroy. Minority Leader Christine Radogno's (Lemont) Republican Senate Campaign Committee sees McElroy as enough of a possibility to win to pay for his staff. It's likely Minority Whip Senator Dale Righter (R-Mattoon), who has also donated to McElroy, won the help from the RSCC. But even with the RSCC's help, McElroy is being left in Manar's fundraising dust with a respectable $70,000 raised. It's nowhere near enough to ward off Manar and local party thugs.
Besides, the Constitution Party added to McElroy's challenges by running a Senate candidate in the 48th, who is likely to conveniently peel off the most conservative voters in the district. McElroy's would be a pretty distressing scenario if not for the Republicans' luck to have in Macoupin County a smart, hard-working, energetic and shrewd county chairman - Terri Koyne. Terri was key in winning more votes Macoupin County for Senator Sam McCann in 2010, and is the only hope of pushing the conservative district further red for McElroy.
Perhaps Koyne could simply run a message in Macoupin County, "You're voting for Chicago Democrat John Cullerton if you vote for Andy Manar," in the 48th. But it's likely Koyne's already been hitting the district with that message for weeks now.
Putting Manar into an elected position the way they're doing it is nothing more than Chicago Way 101. Watch and learn.