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June 06, 2006

On to November ...

Andrea Zinga was in a chipper mood this afternoon as she chatted with reporters drifting in and out of her campaign office in the LeClaire Hotel in Moline. It was a "very good day," she said, an hour or so after the Democrats finally ended their tortuous nomination process by picking Phil Hare as her opponent in the 17th Congressional District race.

Her theory: Hare, an aide to outgoing Congressman Lane Evans, isn't particularly well known outside Rock Island County, giving her an edge in a district that sprawls over all or parts of 23 counties from the Quad-Cities to Decatur.

Further, she says, Hare has no significant donor base in the district, leaving him dependent on the national organizations that, in her view, may not back Hare as they have Evans. In the meantime, one of her aides said, she's raised about $100,000 and there's strong interest in her campaign on the part of national groups, now that it's an open seat she's seeking, rather than one held by a long-time and popular incumbent.

She also thinks the fact Hare was selected by party leaders rather than voters in a primary election will tell against him.

Zinga, a former TV news reporter and anchor who lost to Evans in 2004, may or may not be right about any of those things. We'll know come November -- if not before.

For the moment, though, there are sighs of relief among Dems that the strange and bizarre nomination process has ended, apparently without much chance that a lawsuit will add to the torture. Even better, Hare was a clear and unambiguous winner in a five-way contest. He got 63.9 per cent of the votes, with the four others combined getting just 36.1 percent. Only John Sullivan, the state senator from Rushville, with 28 percent, made a significant inroad.

The quick recap: Evans, a 12-term incumbent, decided to seek a 13th term even though the Parkinson's Disease he's been battling for a decade was making obvious gains. Though a good many party people were hoping he'd call it off, he didn't, so no one opposed him in the primary election. Then, barely a week after winning the nomination, he announced that, while he would serve out his term, he was going to decline the nomination.

The announcement was met with equal parts dismay, irritation, consternation and anger. A good many people who would have run in an open primary felt cheated. A good many ordinary Dems felt like they'd been robbed of a voice in picking the candidate.

Vague and never-before-used guidelines for replacing a congressional candidate led to much controversy, but 17th District committeeman Don Johnston and committeewoman Mary Boland, guiding the process, made a series of hotly debated decisions which, in the end, stood.

The critical call was that only those precinct committeepeople elected in this year's primary would have a voice in picking the new nominee, with each committeeperson having a number of votes equal to the number of Democratic ballots cast in their precinct in the primary.

Seven people declared they were candidates; five were formally nominated at a convention that followed a series of candidate forums in various places in the district. Today's vote, by mail-in ballot, produced Hare as the nominee.

Bits and pieces:

-- The official tally sheet used today had the names of 411 committeepeople on it (310 precincts didn't elect a committeeperson this year,so had no voice). The 411 were entitled to cast 30,244 votes.

-- Thirty-seven of the 411 did not send ballots; four who did send ballots had them disallowed because they didn't sign them.

-- In the end, then, 370 committeemen cast a total of 26,621 votes. Hare got 17,011. Sullivan got 7,530. Rock Island Mayor Mark Schwiebert got 1,370; State Rep. Mike Boland of East Moline got 612; and Quincy school teacher Rob Mellon got 98.

-- Of the 37 committeepeople who were eligible to vote but didn't, 11 were from Sangamon County, seven were from Macoupin County, five were from Montgomery County, four were from Macon County, two each were from Adams, Fulton and Jersey counties; and there was one each from Pike, Greene, McDonough and Fayette counties.

-- The pre-vote buzz was that Rock Island County, with three viable candidates, might end up splitting its votes and thus hand the nomination to Sullivan, a popular down-district state legislator. That turned out not to be a danger With Evans' endorsement and strong backing from RICO's Democratic leaders, Hare came close to sweeping the vote here. As the votes were read off today, it soon became apparent that Hare also was the favorite of Macoupin County, which had nearly as many votes as RICO and which also is a union stronghold.
I'll dig around in the votes a little later and see what other interesting bits and pieces may be there to share.

Posted by jcb at June 6, 2006 06:11 PM


I apologize to all - I thought that RICO Dem's would split opening the door for Sullivan. I am shocked and surprised that Sullivan was not able to generate an anti-RICO position.

What a pathetic pair to draw to - an unemployed newscaster and the weakest of the Democrat contenders (who required a tap-dance by Evans to circumvent the proper process).

We, the people, lose regardless of the outcome. Iowa, here I come!

Posted by: havinfun at June 6, 2006 09:40 PM

You have to tip your hat to the candidate who works the hardest -- that was clearly Phil Hare.
Now the key will be whether he can appeal to the middle and can dramatically increase his name ID.
Let's hope the campaign stays positive and issue-oriented. This district needs that type of campaign.

Posted by: grillmaster at June 6, 2006 11:07 PM

I agree gm. I think Phil Hare outworked the other candidates by a long shot.

I think Andrea Zinga is sorely mistaken in her belief that Hare will not be able to raise money. Hare showed in the primary he can garner district-wide support. Those same precinct committeemen who just voted for Hare now have some real skin in the game.

I do hope we have an issues based campaign. Based on Zinga's past and lack of substance, I wouldn't hold my breath.

Posted by: illinidem at June 7, 2006 08:28 AM

Illinidem, thanks for your good comments.

Based on some early "out of the gate" comments by the Zinga backers, it's clear their message will be more negative than positive, issue-oriented. It's clear both candidates have the proverbial "skeletons" in the closet. But who among us doesn't? Maybe those who live in "glass houses"?

If Hare agrees not to challenge Zinga on her unemployment over the past three years and her checkered job background, Zinga should agree not to waste time talking about past campaign finance irregulaties. We've all heard that ad nauseum.

Let's get these candidates and, most importantly their supporters, to challenge the whole process.
The whole process should be elevated to jobs, jobs, jobs, health care, health care, health care, Iraq, Iraq, Iraq, deficits, deficits, deficits, taxes, taxes, taxes, education, education, education.

I think you get my point.

Posted by: grillmaster at June 7, 2006 11:49 AM

illinidem: It was Evans who refused to debate Zinga in '04. He was either unwilling, or more likely, unable. So don't blast Zinga for "lack of substance". Even though Evans said he could "do the job" if elected, he wasn't even capable of debating Zinga.

And please be intellectually honest and admit that Zinga had legitimate concerns (as did many of us---including Democrats) about Evans' ability to do the job. We now know he did not have the ability to complete his '04 term. You just look silly when you join the Democrat Smear Machine against Zinga, when she was right all along.

Posted by: paladin at June 7, 2006 04:59 PM

So Paladin, I take it by your comments that the only place you believe you can raise substantive issues is during a debate? At the time of the 2004 election Evans was capable of doing his job. He had an excellent voting record until his health took a down-turn, but frankly that is neither here nor there. When Zinga had a chance to discuss where she stands after Hare’s victory, she chose not to speak about the issues that matter to this district. Instead she brought up personal attacks and innuendo. I would think that an unemployed news reader would want to stay far away from personal issues and focus on what really matters.

Posted by: illinidem at June 8, 2006 09:04 AM

We'll just have to disagree about this, illinidem. Zinga brought up Evans' health one time (and she was right) and the Democrat Smear Machine launched negative attacks against her. I assume they knew the truth about Evans' health and chose to go negative, rather than offer proof that Evans was up to the job----which he wasn't. To listen to how some Dems go on, you would think that all Zinga talked about was Evans' poor health. It just ain't so.

I'd like some proof for your claim that Zinga didn't talk about "issues that matter to the district". I just don't remember it that way. It was Evans who wasn't talking. But whatever.

For the record, my least favorite GOP candidate is Zinga; my least favorite Dem candidate is Hare. I would have preferred Mowen, Schweibert or Sullivan. Which just proves that you can't always get what you want.

Posted by: paladin at June 8, 2006 09:38 AM