Governor Bruce Rauner at 2015 State Fair's Republican Day | Daily Herald
SPRINGFIELD – $991,790 on one candidate and $184,202 on the other.
That's what the Illinois Republican Party has spent thus far since the first of the year on legislative campaigns to protect two – and only two – GOP House members in the primary, both which were appointed to complete their predecessor's two-year terms.
"The ILGOP does not publicly discuss campaign strategy," IL GOP's Executive Director Nick Klitzing told Illinois Review this week when we asked how the IL GOP picked which candidates they support in primary races.
When asked if members of the State Central Committee or IL GOP county chairmen advised on how the funds were spent, Klitzing dodged again, but emphasized the party's goal is to win seats from the Democrats, which hold super-majorities in both state legislature chambers.
"The only thing I will say is that we don't publicly discuss campaign strategy. Our sole focus is to win back seats from the Democrats, and we don't want to inadvertently open up our playbook to them by discussing strategy publicly," he said.
But someone at the Illinois Republican Party made the decision to spend $1,075,992 since January on two State House races – both protecting newly-appointed Republicans against intra-party challenges.
$184,202 thus far for the First Lady's former chief of staff
The ILGOP's latest check was written Tuesday for $2448 worth of live calls to elect State Rep. Sara Wojcicki Jimenez, 36, of Leland Grove, whose district is centered at the Capitol. Since the first of the year, the Illinois Republican Party has spent $184,202 on television and radio ads, polling and live calls for Jimenez.
Jimenez's appointment late in November to fill former State Rep. Raymond Poe's vacancy stirred controversy among Republicans outside Sangamon County. Before serving as former Democrat State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias' spokesperson, Jimenez anchored at the WUIS Springfield news station. Then, after working for the late State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka and for former GOP House Minority Leader Tom Cross, she served as First Lady Diana Rauner's chief of staff, with a $100,000 per year salary.
And even though Jimenez pulled a Democrat primary ballot to vote for either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton in 2008, she's now a state House member, appointed by local GOP committeemen and jealously guarded by Governor Rauner. Her early votes indicate that on public sector union votes, she'll line up with Governor Rauner's Turnaround Agenda much easier than former State Rep. Raymond Poe did.
Jimenez is being challenged in the primary by longtime Republican Kent Gray, a Springfield attorney. Gray, who endorsed Bruce Rauner in the 2014 GOP primary and raised funds for his gubernatorial campaign, said he's disappointed the party is intervening in the race.
"I've been a Republican since college, and even before that," Gray said.
Gray confirmed that it has been tough to raise funds for the race, especially since the governor himself has donated through the IL GOP much of what is being spent to protect Jimenez.
$991,790 to protect 23-year old law student, one-year lawmaker
State Rep. Avery Bourne of Raymond was sworn into office in February 2015, just after Governor Rauner offered her predecessor, State Rep Wayne Rosenthal, a job directing the Department of Natural Resources.
Bourne is said to be the youngest member sworn into the Illinois House at age 22. Before being tapped for office, she studied law at St. Louis' Washington University. She had volunteered for Rosenthal's, Congressman Rodney Davis' and Governor Bruce Rauner's campaigns prior to her appointment.
Thus far, the Illinois GOP has reporting writing 19 checks for Bourne's campaign – from $62,300 for television ads in the expensive Metro East market to this week's $2448 for live calls.
In the March 15th GOP primary she is being challenged by two Republicans from her 95th district, who are criticizing Bourne's youth and lack of experience as weaknesses: Christopher Hicks of Sawyerville and Dennis Scobbie of Litchfield.
The seat could be threatened by Democrats in the General Election.
Rep. Rosenthal had supported public sector unions over the years, and Bourne has shown no ties to the unions, despite representing a district with a sizable number of state workers. Bourne has voted as Governor Rauner advised and backed his Turnaround Agenda during her first year as state legislator.
Over $1 Million from Citizens for Rauner
And while it the IL GOP is not willing to describe how they decide where and how much to spend the IL GOP's funds, the $1 million plus Governor Rauner has transferred into the state party leaves little question who is calling the shots.
While Ameren, Exelon, Comcast and other companies have written checks up to $10,000 to the party in 2016, few individuals have donated enough in the past quarter to demand A-1 filings, which require a minimum of $1000 donated.
Except for the governor.
This week he wrote a check for $150,000 to add to the $900,000 he put into the state party account thus far in 2016.
Observers tell Illinois Review there's little doubt who is directing the IL GOP's expenditures this primary season – it's the governor himself and his staff.
Apparently, Republican rank and file have little influence in the IL GOP's direction this primary campaign season.
Maybe it’s tough for Kent Gray to raise funds because he has run for multiple offices and lost, hasn’t filed taxes for at least 5 years according to court records, is being sued for custodial support according to the newspaper, is being sued for unpaid debts, and is facing zoning violations and fines from his hometown.
Other than that, he’s a peach.
Why is it the job of the IL GOP to defend Jimenez against Gray? And why isn’t the party defending Sam McCann against attacks?
Let’s face it, this isn’t the Republican Party of Illinois. It’s wholly owned by Governor Rauner.
Remember – he’s self-funded and we don’t need to raise money anymore with him as the party head. The party is now Bruce Rauner’s – watch the IL GOP PLatform to dramatically change in May.
The old Illinois Republican Party was accomplishing NOTHING, time for a change.
(This is not written in defense of Mr. Gray) However, once again we see the “Good Ol’ Boy” Illinois GOP Incumbent Protection Racket in play in these two elections.
The state party should always be neutral, for primaries. All party employees, who approved that spending, should be fired.