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12-19-14 Political Roundup

1. If you haven't had the opportunity, take a minute and read the comments in Dec 1 Eva Jehle entry on the Champaign County Democrats FB Page HERE. While the conversation is entertaining, it is a fun example of people standing up to flamethrower activists who always feel the need to harass, shame, and intimidate people who don't do what they say. This bully tactic is nothing new in politics, but there is even a mention of a County Board member being accosted in a parking lot by a flamethrower activist after the meeting.

2. I thought the Scott Redenbaugh topic was going to fade away quickly, but then I read a very interesting quote in the Prussing article HERE. I find the whole handling of this situation baffling. In this article Matt Duco touts his friend's and roommate's skills as a political strategist. I think it goes without saying the way Redenbaugh handled his resignation is an example of how NOT to handle a political situation. I also question the communication strategy by Duco that draws more emphasis to Scott's poor handling of the situation while making it look like that Scott is unwilling and/or unable to issue a simple statement while his roommate is sharing details about his love life in the newspaper. So strange. The comedy of errors continues to generate laughter on both sides of the aisle.

3. I know THIS SP opinion piece by Joe Petry is a little dated, but it is relevant as the school board must now decide what, if anything, to send to the voters this spring. Joe is very critical of the way the School Board has handled the situation and cites "closed door" decisions, a "bunker mentality", etc. He claims the referendum failed because of a failed process. Since no such referendum has ever passed on the first attempt, the fact that the most recent vote was so close doesn't really support Joe's case. It seems to me the reason why the referendum failed was because Unit 4 did not stick to their guns (from the beginning) on the site they had already selected. There was all this talk about Dodds Park and Spalding instead of focusing on the site they already purchased. While so many people were already voting no because of the price tag, it seems there enough who are holding out because they are willing to pay even more for a more central location. It was a smart political move for the School Board to finally stand firm behind their location and I'll be surprised if they don't hold firm since they only have to work on getting that final 4.7% of voters to change their minds. You also have to give Joe Petry credit for his opinion piece. It takes a good politician to write so many words so eloquently without offering a solution.

4. Both Gerard and Petry will remain on the ballot. I expect flamethrower activist Craig Walker to be screaming about the social injustice of how wealthy Joe Petry gets alleged preferential treatments while average folks like Charles Mingee get thrown off that ballot for a similar offense. While the Gerard challenge resulted in a good chuckle, Petry did make a mistake but it was found that he was substantially compliant on his petition where Mingee was not. That mistake cost Petry some money, but Craig will be reminding you over and over that Joe has plenty to spare.

If Tom's Mailbag is interesting later today, I might update this post. Otherwise, we'll be looking forward to learning who Al Klein chooses to replace Frerichs.

It was all in his head.

Conversations in this week's Tom's Mailbag helped us solve the mystery surrounding the hailarious Taste of Champaign political conspiracy this past summer. If you remember, then Campaign Manager for Don Gerard and Voter Protection Coordinator for the Young Democrats Matt Duco went to social media making sensational accusations against local republicans. "So this weekend local republicans stop dem volunteers from registering voters at West Side Park". Even though the Champaign County Clerk's office was at the Taste registering voters, he stated "The lengths that the GOP will go to stop people from registering to vote is mind-boggling to me." After people asked for specifics, Matt responded with, "they attempted to get park district employees to do their dirty work so don't know names. I'm trying to sort it out."

It turns out there is very little truth behind these claims. It seems that some Dem volunteers were approached by park district staff and/or police at the Taste of Champaign for reasons unknown*. It appears that Matt got involved and tried to generate controversy by mongering a rumor that the local GOP was involved. Matt used this "controversy" to point out all the great things he does to protect voters from fake controversies. Matt was finally kind enough to admit in the comment section of the N-G this whole rumor was something he largely made up and was simply his opinion that started with Kyle Harrison offensively suggesting "maybe" the elected County Clerk should register voters at schools. Thankfully, the truth finally came out.

Matt keeps on reminding people that he wants to meet with me. I invited Big Debbie to debate me eye to eye and that created some drama and the site was shut down shortly thereafter, so I'm obviously happy to meet. I'd like to extend an open invite to Matt do join me on a Google Hangout in later January after the holidays. There will be at least one other political enthusiast participating and I think it would be fun to discuss local political topics. I look forward to chatting with Matt!

* - A local dem shared with me that people allegedly complained because the people registering voters were being "obnoxious and harassing". 'Joan' also says something to that effect on Capitol Fax here, but I suspect she's a republican. :-) Of course, nobody would be talking or speculating about the topic if the Young Dems Voter Protection Coordinator wasn't trying to generate some controversy to generate attention.

Deb Feinen jumps into fundraising lead

Deb Feinen jumps into fundraising lead among mayoral contenders with a $5000 donation from local developer William Peifer of Signature Homes. Before this donation, Feinen had a cash balance of $26,814.34 as of 12/31/14 after receiving many smaller donations from a large number of contributors. After Joe Petry and his family members dumped $15k into his mayoral campaign, the other candidates were forced to step up their fundraising efforts. Don Gerard is at the back of the pack with only $1840 reported in his bank account. The Gerard campaign started fundraising immediately after his election victory and immediately responded to the Petry family donations with a highly-publicized fundraiser at Boltinis, yet has little to show for it. Gerard continues to struggle with fundraising and raised $0.00 in Q4 2014. Karen Foster is not raising as much money as Feinen and Petry, but has a very respectable $8968.35 in her bank account as of 12/31/14.

Updated: School Board Member John Bambenek calls out Joe Petry, forms special committee to defeat Petry with $27,000

After the N-G received a proposal to rehab the existing Central site by what a N-G reporter referred to as "a community group led by Neil Strack, David Sholem and Joe Petry", a frustrated John Bambenek sounded off and ultimate created a special political expenditure-only PAC with sole intention to defeat Joe Petry. Have a comment? You can share it on the Halfway Interesting FB Page:

Updated: John makes contribution to pack of $27,306.52!

I would appreciate you qualify this comment as me speaking for myself and not the board or Unit 4 and I would prefer you use the quote in its entirety.

"I have not, nor anyone to my knowledge with Unit 4, received any proposal from Joe Petry. I have been made to understand a 20 page outline was provided, however, to the News-Gazette. As it was not provided to us, accordingly, I'm in no position to discuss it in any detail. If Joe Petry's intent was what was best for the students and community, he would have given us this proposal so we could discuss it. However, by choosing to present it to the media only I am left with no other alternative explanation than this is yet another political ploy by a politician who is more interested in pimping his political career on
the backs of school children than finding a solution. It once again shows the community that Joe Petry is a liar, charlatan and a fraud who is wholly unsuited for office, much less to be Mayor of the City of Champaign. We will evaluate his proposal when and if it is actually given to us. I am quite sure he has my phone number."

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Eric B: Welcome to the new and improved Halfway!
Enjoy the new and improved Halfway Interesting.  Halfway Interesting will be aggregating the most interesting political news content for state and local policy and elections.   Of course, I will be providing the occasional supplement from time and time when the situation requires.   Be sure to check out our BlogTalk page for in-depth interviews with C-U's political movers and shakers.  If you have any suggestions on news stories, please DM me on Twitter or FB.  Enjoy!
Just 1 Question
We asked Champaign's four mayoral candidates: Do you like Unit 4's new $144 million school facilities proposal more or less than you did the $149 million package that was voted down in November?
Senate contender?
Al Klein and Frank Wright, the Democratic Party chairmen of Champaign and Vermilion counties, are staying mum about whom they're considering for appointment to the Illinois Senate seat being vacated by Mike Frerichs.But one name has popped up.
Bambenek puts Petry in sights
About three months out from Election Day, Deb Feinen has the fundraising lead in the four-way race for mayor of Champaign, with about $32,000 on hand.But the most intriguing news may be that Champaign school board member John Bambenek says he's willing to devote big money to defeating another mayoral contender, Joe Petry.
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