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April 9: Election Day
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Candidates face the public nearly one month to the day before voters choose a new District 186 School Board. At the Hoogland Center Thursday night, the candidates appeared together for the first time to talk about the issues plaguing the cash-strapped district. In rising to the challenges ahead, they'll all have their work cut out for them.
Diversity, finances, and policy were all a part of the conversation. WMAY's Jim Leach moderated the event with candidates who come from backgrounds as diverse as the district they each want to represent. Incumbent Lisa Funderburg faces newcomer Teresa Jones in Sub-district 1. Incumbents Judy Johnson from Sub-district 6 and Scott McFarland from Sub-district 3 are running unopposed, as is local business owner Adam Lopez for Sub-district 2.
Current board president Susan White is facing longtime educator Mike Zimmers in Sub-district 4. Katharine Eastvold and Donna Moore both want to replace Candace Mueller, who isn't running for re-election in Sub-district 5. Voters in Sub-district 7 have the most options. Chuck Flamini, Gary Pierce, and Tom Shafer are all vying for the job.
"As business leaders in the community we understand how important it is to have a successful school system in order to grow economic development in our community and so we felt it was our opportunity to step in," Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce Director of Workforce Mikal Sutton said.
Sutton also said the business community is watching. The reputation of our schools and the ability to meet the needs of our students is paramount. It's no secret finances are a huge concern for the district as state funding decreases each year and reserves are dwindling.
Election Day is April 9. This forum is the first of four. The candidates will be back together again on Thursday (March 14) for the next forum at Southeast High School. ABC Newschannel 20's Shantel Middleton and Vince DeMentri will moderate. It starts at 6 p.m.
Those affected by the state's underfunded pension system are speaking up. Springfield Education Association president Dan Ford said Springfield teachers are open to changes to their pensions--within reason.
However, Ford said, teachers are opposed to the proposal suggesting they put 5 percent of their salaries toward their pensions. They are willing to pay more for their retirement funds, as long as they have assurance the state will pay its part.
While teachers are saying they didn't cause the problem, they are willing to work with legislators to get the problem fixed.
"Like any good teacher, teachers work on fixing problems, even if they are not where the problem started," Ford said. "So we are willing to sit down at the table and have a conversation and come up with real solutions that are both constitutional and fair, and make sure both sides feel that pain."
Ford also said raising the retirement age to 67 would be bad for students, because it could be hard for an older teacher to keep up with young children.
A series of proposals to reform the state's underfunded public pension systems failed at the statehouse Thursday.
House Speaker Michael Madigan brought the ideas to the floor, including one that would require employees to contribute 5% of their paychecks to their retirement. But almost half of the lawmakers in the chamber didn't even vote on the proposals. There were so unpopular that the most any of the ideas received was five 'yes' votes.
Speaker Madigan sent four proposals to the floor for vote. Those proposals contained a requirement for employees hired before January 1st, 2011 to contribute 5% of their salaries each year to their pensions. Madigan also proposed a raise of the retirement age to 67, and barring cost of living adjustments in years when the pension system is less than 80% funded.
There was little discussion on the floor about the ideas, but some lawmakers questioned the process.
"You play all the games you want, good luck, try to spin it like this was real, but everybody knows this is anything but real. It's a tragedy," said Representative Tom Cross.
Rep. Jack Franks of Woodstock had concerns as well. "Without solving this problem, everything else is in peril. With our credit rating now being the same as Botswana, there's a real concern we will not be able to carry on the business of the state."
It has been 50 days since the new class of lawmakers were sworn in, and there is still no clear path to pension reform. Representative Franks is asking to suspend all other business before the House until the pension crisis is resolved.
A spokesman for Speaker Madigan says Thursday's action shows where the lawmaker stands on pension reform. This week a bi-partisan group of lawmakers introduced a proposal of their own that would essentially phase the state out of funding pensions for teachers and state university employees.
House lawmakers are scheduled to discuss a number of proposals tomorrow to fix the state's underfunded pension systems. Today new proposals came to light that could change the face of pensions in Illinois.
The pension debate will be structured similar to the more than 7-hour long discussion and vote on concealed carry we watched here on the house floor Tuesday.
It's a rarely-used process the house speaker is setting into motion to allow the proposals to head straight to the floor for debate, in a number of separate parts. Each one will require a separate vote.
Here's what Michael Madigan is proposing for employees hired before January 1, 2011. The state would bar annual cost-of-living adjustments for current retirees if the pension system is less than 80-percent funded in a given year. It would also require workers to contribute 5-percent of their salary each year to their pension.
“The hope is that the core of the retirement benefit can be preserved so some of the nicer things, the wrapping around the core of the retirement benefit, are the things we may have to tinker with,” said Steve Brown, spokesman for Madigan.
Brown went on to say tomorrow's discussion will be the beginning steps to passing pension reform.
Under the plan, employees wouldn't be able to retire until they reach age 67. Workers who are 62 and have put in at least 10 years of service can get reduced benefits until they turn 67.
The coalition of unions representing state employees isn't reacting to the ideas yet. Neither is the house Republican leader. The Senate president's office is reviewing the proposal.
A bi-partisan group of lawmakers also introduced a proposal today that would shift funding for teachers and state university workers to the schools and employees. The plan allows local districts to negotiate their contributions.
A group of bi-partisan lawmakers introduced a new outline to fix the state's underfunded public pension systems, but the changes would have a big impact on our state's educators.
Under this proposal, the state will get out of the business of funding pensions for teachers and state university employees. Workers and employers would be responsible for funding the pensions in two of the 5 public systems - TRS and SURS.
It would only apply to teachers and staff hired after the first of next year. Those employees would be part of a combination defined-contribution similar to a 401k, and defined-benefit plan, or one that promises a specific amount.
House Republican Leader Tom Cross, Democratic Representative Elaine Nekritz and a number of other lawmakers from both chambers introduced the plan today.
Local school districts would also have the ability to negotiate the cost and value of benefits with employees. Under the plan, current employees hired before 2011 would contribute more to their own retirement. The amount would increase by 1-percent this July, and 2-percent starting next year. Employees under the age of 45 would have to work one to five years longer based on their age.
The sponsors say the plan will save 30-billion dollars.
The coalition of unions representing both teachers and state employees calls the plan "a step backwards." The group says this approach focuses on "unfair and unconstitutional benefit cuts."
The bi-partisan proposal introduced today creates a 30-year ramp, or increase in contributions, to achieve 100-percent funding.
House Speaker Michael Madigan has drafted a few ideas of his own that could be called to the floor for action tomorrow.
The conversation about how to fix the state's pension crisis usually starts with state employees, like raising the retirement age or having them contribute more. Now, a proposal at the statehouse would keep the tax increases that went into effect in 2011 in place for an indefinite amount of time.
"I'm not sure government is equipped to handle it, whether they raise taxes or let them go back," PJ Staab with Staab Funeral Home said. "I don't see a fix in place."
State Rep. Lou Lang introduced a bill last week that would keep the individual income tax rate at 5 percent and the corporate tax rate at 7 percent. Both are scheduled to fall in 2015. Lang's plan would keep the tax increases in place until the pension debt went away.
"We have a responsibility to have shared sacrifice," Lang (D-Skoie) said last week. "If the people of the state of Illinois want to have state employees, we are going to have to figure out a way to fix it so we can have state employees."
"When we take care of the indigent, those on public aid, in order to take care of them, we absorb a lot of the cost ourselves," Staab said. "By absorbing that as well as the increase in taxes, it diminishes our ability to take care of people."
Many businesses in Illinois, like Staab's, are taxed at the individual level. In 2015, the rate is scheduled to go from 5 percent to 3.75 percent.
"If the tax rate remains in effect, they will be delaying income, delaying capital expenditures, delaying hiring," Dyanne Ferk from the UIS College of Business said. "If the state of Illinois continues to be 50th in terms of confidence in the Illinois economy, that is also not good for businesses."
Lang's proposal also includes public employees paying more toward their pensions and raising the retirement age to 67. Public unions have generally not been supportive of these measures. Gov. Pat Quinn criticized Lang's proposal, saying more reforms are needed.
A proposal to make the 67 percent income tax increase permanent to fund the state's pensions is getting mixed reactions at the statehouse. Rep. Lou Lang, the Deputy House Majority Leader, introduced the idea as part of a pension reform plan this morning.
Lang said the state would pay back taxpayers for the amount of money collected over the annual pension payment. Lang's proposal includes
With the possibility of a strike looming, Gov. Pat Quinn says he is working hard to reach a compromise.
AFSCME is still threatening to strike if they cannot reach an agreement with the Quinn administration over promised raises. Quinn said they need to use collective bargaining to reach an agreement that is good for the taxpayers and the union members, but it's especially important during these tough economic times.
"All the government workers, I respect," Quinn said. "I understand their need for decent salary and decent benefits. But at the same time, we have to deal with our fiscal reality too. So all these ingredients go into the final decision on what we will move forward with."
The union is meeting with members of the Quinn administration next week. Both sides hope to reach an agreement.
During lengthy, drawn out contract negotiations between the governor and state workers, the union fighting for workers rights has new stakeholders on their side: some small business owners.
Nearly 100 signs are displayed in Springfield storefronts, and more all across the state.
"I felt like we should be invested and support state employees because they support us," Rose Hamilton, who co-owns Joe Rogers Chili Parlor, said. "A lot of our customers are state employees and I believe they're entitled to benefits they're paying for and they've been promised."
AFSCME representatives are asking for shops to keep the signs up, until state workers get a fair contract. Right now, they're working without one. AFSCME representative Chuck Stout said the governor hasn't honored pay raises promised in the last one.
"I think small business owners are much more vulnerable to economic downturns than big box stores and they understand if our members lose thousands of dollars in take home pay, which is what Pat Quinn wants to do with contract bargaining, they're going to lose business that keeps them going, which is local members spending money in their shops," Stout said.
Not all business owners are comfortable publicly taking a stance.
"We support state workers and we're fortunate to have them as customers and have built up a lot of them over the years, but I just don't feel politics plays a part in our business," Studio on 6th owner Sue Schwartz said.
She's not alone. Pease's candy shop's Facebook page has people questioning why the business did not post the sign. One woman said she won't support the business because of it. The owner responded, in part, "We make great candy, not political statements."
AFSCME representatives are heading back to the bargaining table with the governor at the end of the month. They're hoping for what they call a fair contract agreement.
In the meantime, AFSCME is ordering more signs to drum up more support among small business owners.
A majority of Illinoisans voted for the constitutional amendment in Tuesday's election, but it failed. It would have made it tougher to expand public employee retirement benefits. In order for the measure to pass, it needed three-fifths of Illinois residents who voted on the measure or 50 percent of the total number of votes cast in the election.
So why did people vote no? Some were confused by the question. Others felt the amendment would mean current benefits or retirement benefits would be negatively impacted. That, however, was not part of this amendment. The amendment only dealt with pension increase legislation.
"There wasn't any organized support for the amendment," UIS political science professor Kent Redfield said. "People were focused on the legislative races, on the congressional, and presidential. It became a throwaway in afterthought when we got to the election."
Others, like the Illinois Policy Institute, said the amendment was "fake pension reform" and it wouldn't have solved the state's $85 billion pension problem. The amendment, which would have requires a three-fifths vote instead of a simple majority for any pension increase, was intended to help prevent unfunded future liability for pension benefits and it would provide for better accountability and greater consensus among parties.
Illinois Democrats were big winners in Tuesday's election, while Republicans in the state took a serious beatdown thanks to redistricting. When the new General Assembly is sworn in this January, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton will be able to control the Democrat agenda like no other in recent memory.
For the first time since the 1920s, one party will have a veto-proof majority in the Illinois Senate--by four votes. Senate President John Cullerton will have 40 Democrats. Republicans will have just 19 Senators. That means Democrats picked up five senate seats on election day. In the House, it was even worse for Republicans. They are on the verge of losing seven seats. There is one race that is still too close to call, but the Democrat has the lead in that race. If that's how it ends up, Speaker Madigan will have a 71-seat veto-proof majority. So will that lead to more partisan bickering?
"When it comes to difficulty, they really need to look in a mirror, and when they look in the mirror they will see the main reason for difficulty," Steve Brown, Speaker Madigan's spokesman, said. "When they want to sit down and talk about common sense to the state's problems and issues, then it is easy to work with Democrats."
House Republicans will have just 47 members come spring session. The election, in many regards, will make Republicans at the statehouse irrelevant.
"Even on capital projects, bonding, any of those kind of things, we still had to work with both parties," State Rep. Raymond Poe (R-Springfield) said. "That won't happen now. They can do that on their own."
So what does all this mean for pension reform?
"It's really hard to say," Brown said. "The question becomes what plan can be put in place that would meet the test of the constitution, the supreme court, that would do us good."
As for the future for the GOP?
"I think it's going to make us dig in and we will have to work harder for more seats," Poe said. "I know we had an election yesterday, but work hard for the governor's race in two years."
Democrats redrew district lines to favor them, but many are surprised by how well they did. One of the downsides to having such large majority is Democrats will take all the criticism along with the praise for everything that gets done or doesn't get done.
Lawmakers return to the capitol for the fall veto session the last week of November. The lame duck session will be immediately after New Year's. The new general assembly beings January 9.
The election results are in, but the battle for the U.S. House seat in the newly drawn 13th Congressional District is not over--at least not for Democratic challenger David Gill.
Republican Rodney Davis claimed victory last night, with 47 percent of the vote. According to the AP, Gill received 46 percent, leaving a difference of about 1,300 votes. As of this morning, Gill has not conceded. But Davis maintains he's the winner.
This morning, we asked Davis if he thought the race was still too close to call.
"No, we've been declared the winter by numerous outlets," he said. "All the votes are counted. We've talked to every county clerk and every election official in this district. We're very comfortable with our margin of victory, and we look forward to serving this district in Washington."
We reached out to Gill's campaign this morning. So far, our calls have not been returned.
We'll keep you updated on this story.
CHICAGO (AP) -- A proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution that would have made it more difficult to expand public employee retirement benefits has failed.
With about 90 percent of the vote reported on Wednesday morning the proposed amendment had support from 56 percent of Illinoisans who voted on the measure. But that fell short of the two criteria needed for passage.
The measure needed either three-fifths of Illinoisans who voted on the measure, or 50 percent of the total number of votes cast in Tuesday's election. Nearly 5 million people voted in the election.
The amendment would require a three-fifths vote instead of a simple majority for any pension increase. To the consternation of public employee unions, cutting benefits would still require just a simple majority.
Republican Tony Libri will have four more years as Sangamon County Circuit Clerk. Libri has served 16 years in the position and faced tough competition from challenger Kristin DiCenso, a Democrat. Libri takes the win with 53 percent of the vote. DiCenso had 46 percent. We caught up with Libri on election night.
"We're excited about leading the country into another great four years at the circuit clerk's office and being very innovative like we have been, and I think the people of Sangamon County will be very happy with the choice they've made," Libri said.
Tonight, we're keeping an eye on the posts currently held by state Rep. Derrick Smith and U.S. Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.
Smith was expelled from the Illinois House after being indicted for taking a bribe. He was able to stay on the ballot because he hasn't been convicted of anything, so he could regain his seat. The Smith camp says it's confident he will.
Jackson is expected to win his race despite being on medical leave since June. He's been suffering from bipolar disorder and gastrointestinal issues. Aside from his health issues, he is also being investigated for his actions in connection with the Blagojevich scandal. Recently, there have also been reports that the feds are looking at his campaign spending. Jackson has represented Chicago's south side since 1995.
Due to technical difficulties, we were unable to get our live shot from David Gill's watch party in Champaign. But supporters are starting to gather at the iHotel tonight in support of Gill.
This is the fourth time he's running, but the first time he faces a different opponent.
The campaign Gill has been running obviously has a different feel, with Tim Johnson, who held the seat since 2001, out of the race.
From the start, it has been very competitive. This a very hotly contested race. People are watching not just locally, but on the national level as well.
We're going to keep a close eye on the numbers and hopefully talk to Gill himself. He's expected to show up shortly after 7:00, when the polls close.
The latest polling shows the battle for the 13th Congressional seat is neck-and-neck while both parties compete for control of the United States House of Representatives.
ABC Newschannel 20's Katie Heinz went live at Krieger's Restaurant in Taylorville with Republican Rodney Davis' campaign.
Signs in the windows and lining the street support the hometown candidate. Davis said he's feeling confident and "cautiously optimistic," but he knows the race is going to be close. That's why he's campaigning until the very end.
Davis has been making phone calls, meeting with supporters, and attending events in Piatt, Sangamon, and Christian counties.
We caught up with him when he voted in Taylorville this morning. He said it has been an opportunity and an honor to meet so many people in the 13th District.
Davis is scheduled to arrive at Krieger's around 7:30 tonight. That's when the watch party and gathering for supporters gets underway.
The Davis campaign is expecting about 200 people. If the numbers remain close, it could be a late night.
The Republican Party--like all of America--is waiting for local, state, and national election results to come in. But no one is feeling the anticipation more than Rosemarie Long. She was elected the Republican county chair in April, and used to be the county board vice-chair.
ABC Newschannel 20's Shantel Middleton caught up with her at the Sangamon County Republican headquarters.
Democrats have been pushing for another four years for President Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates.
ABC Newschannel 20's Andrea Marvin went to the Democratic headquarters in Springfield to check in with Doris Turner, the chairwoman of the Sangamon County Democrats.
American is deciding who will run our country for the next four years, and voters in central Illinois are out in full force. Tonight will likely go down in election history for several reasons.
This has been an especially heated battle for the White House, and with congressional approval ratings at historic lows, it's hard to predict what could happen tonight.
For the first time ever, social media is playing a large role in the candidates' ability to spread their messages.
In the video above, Sangamon County Clerk Joe Aiello joins us to take a look at voting numbers so far.
Thinking about snapping a photo of your completed ballot and posting it to social media? You may want to think again, the Illinois State Board of Elections warns.
According to the board, it's illegal to publicly display a completed ballot. Section 29-9 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes says:
"Except as permitted by this Code, any person who knowingly marks his ballot or casts his vote on a voting machine or voting device so that it can be observed by another person, and any person who knowingly observes another person lawfully marking a ballot or lawfully casting his vote on a voting machine or voting device, shall be guilty of a Class 4 felony."
Monday was the final push from candidates seeking your vote. But many voters have already cast their ballots. Early voting is over throughout Illinois.
In Sangamon County, more than 5,100 people voted early. That number, however, is down from 2008 by 1,900 people.
As for absentee voting, Sangamon County had over 5,200 people. In 2008, the number was 4,300.
Grace period voting also increased compared to 2008, up about 300 voters. So overall, about the same number of people cast their ballot before the election this year, compared to four years ago.
"[At] SangamonCountyClerk.com, we have some new polling place locator features," Stacey Kern from the Sangamon County Clerk's Office said. "Also, prior to the primary election, if voters didn't vote in the primary, they may not be aware their polling place changed. So, I encourage them to look at their most recent voter ID card, check our website, or call us for their polling place location for election day."
The polls will be open Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The boundaries of the newly drawn 13th Congressional District stretch
from Collinsville to Normal, and Greene to Champaign counties.
Six-term Rep. Timothy Johnson's decision to step down left the seat wide open.
"My obligation would be to our country first," Democratic candidate David Gill said.
"I'll walk into a room and ask not what's the Republican or Democrat solution, but what's the best solution," Republican candidate Rodney Davis said.
"Being a person that feels capable of leadership, I feel I need to emerge," independent candidate John Hartman said.
All three candidates in the 13th Congressional District vow to work across party lines to break the stalemate in Washington.
One priority they agree on is lowering the unemployment rate, which is nearing 13 percent in part of the district.
"I speak to the job creators in the 13th district," Davis said. "What they tell me is they need certainty in understanding what their tax bill is going to look like at the end of this year, and also what their health care costs are going to look like."
Republican Rodney Davis is an aide to Congressman John Shimkus and a Taylorville native.
"We need to provide them certainty by extending our current tax rates, not talking about a tax cut or raising taxes at all," Davis said.
Democrat David Gill disagrees. He's an emergency room physician in Bloomington. He supports raising taxes on families making more than $250,000, as well as renegotiating trade agreements with Canada, Mexico and other countries.
"While they've been good for some of the big corporations, they've been terrible for the people who live in the district," Gill said. "People understand those free trade agreements are responsible for the loss of a million jobs or more here in the country and tens of thousands throughout the state."
John Hartman is running as an independent. The Edwardsville native is the chief financial officer at a research and manufacturing company.
"The role of government is to provide an environment where business can thrive," Hartman said. "The principal thing we need to do is avoid a further trajectory of deficits, so that we're really asking for trouble. We've got to avoid worse unemployment and let the private sector create jobs."
When it comes to health care, Hartman supports the Affordable Care Act.
"We cannot go back on that," Hartman said. "What we need to do is address the fact that our health care spending per person in the U.S. is higher than other countries."
Gill supports parts of the law, including access to coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. He'd like to expand Medicare.
"What I would propose is ultimately all American citizens should have the opportunity to be within the Medicare system, rather than have this surtax," Gill said.
If elected, Davis would vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He supports a market-based approach, including the ability to buy insurance across state lines.
"I hope we can put that plan forward to have a system that can work, because the status quo is unacceptable," Davis said.
Voters will have the final say on three very different candidates.
Watch the raw interview with Rodney Davis
Watch the raw interview with David Gill
Watch the raw interview with John Hartman
Watch the 13th Congressional debate hosted by ABC Newschannel 20
Tomorrow, voters in many Illinois communities will see a ballot question on electrical aggregation. It lets communities seek out alternative energy suppliers.
During the spring election, voters in Logan County approved a similar measure, and so far, the results have been good enough that other communities, including Sangamon County, are modeling their efforts on it.
According to Jim Donelan of the Citizens' Efficiency Committee, the average household savings in Logan County is $216 per year.
"We spoke with them extensively--the citizen's efficiency commission--just to learn how they did it," Donelan said. "We passed that information on to the local mayors. I think it's very important to point out, in the interest of efficiency, that the mayors and the county have agreed to work together on this."
A few things to keep in mind about electrical aggregation:
The 2012 presidential and congressional elections will be the most expensive to date, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The organization estimates the federal races will cost close to $6 billion.
Pancakes are paired with a side of politics at a crowded capital city diner. Charlie Parker's has played host to a number of political events over the years, including a recent visit from presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The event contributed to the $389 million the Republican nominee has raised for his campaign.
It's less than President Barack Obama's campaign chest, which includes about $632 million.
Voters disagree on how money affects the election.
"I don't see you getting your message across without money," Springfield resident Anthony Coleman said.
"I think that if you have too much of it, it goes in the wrong direction," Springfield resident Melody McLoughan said.
According to UIS Political Studies Professor Michael Miller, money alone doesn't determine the election.
"The way we know that is just looking at the people who self-finance their campaigns, and we see there's not really an association there," Miller said.
He said the best candidates tend to raise the most money.
In Illinois, they can raise more per person. The contribution limits are higher than the federal level.
"Illinois has traditionally been behind the federal government in regulating money in politics," Miller said.
For state races, individuals can donate up to $5,000 a year to a particular candidate. Corporations, unions and other organizations are limited to $10,000. Political action committees, or PACs, can spend up to $50,000.
"Whether or not these are realistic contribution limits we won't know until you get through this election itself and we have a chance to evaluate the data themselves," Rupert Borgsmiller, executive director of the Illinois State Board of Elections, said.
For congressional and other federal races, donors are limited to giving less. Individuals can't contribute more than $2,500 per candidate in a year. Corporations and labor unions aren't allowed to donate unless they form a PAC. The groups can contribute money if it's independent of a candidate or party. Political party committees can give up to $5,000. Single-candidate PACs can give up to $2,500.
One voter said you can't be a candidate if you're not a recipient.
"I don't think just anybody could run," Coleman said.
State law limits how people can spend the money they raise. Candidates can't spend their funds to repay personal debts, finance their car or clothing, or take a vacation. They're allowed to spend money for "customary and reasonable" expenses of an office-holder performing public duties.
Candidates and committees in Illinois are required to report all of the money they receive or spend every three months. The same is required for federal races, in addition to a final report to the FEC in the weeks before the election.
Visit OpenSecrets.org to find out who's donating to political campaigns.
The 18th Congressional District stretches from Quincy to Mt. Pulaski and Pawnee to Broadmoor. Democrats drew the new boundaries to exclude most of the cities of Peoria and Springfield. The next congressman will represent many new constituents.
Democrat Steve Waterworth is a retired master sergeant in the Illinois Air National Guard.
"I enjoy serving," he said. "That's what it's all about to me. Serving people in my area."
That's why the Easton resident is challenging Republican Aaron Schock for the chance to represent Illinois' 18th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
"I think the wealth in this country should be spread out among all Americans, and not just concentrated in the hands of the few," Waterworth said.
Schock is seeking his third term in Congress. The Peoria native serves on the House Ways and Means committee--in charge of writing taxes.
"My goal would be to push back on those regulations and to keep the tax rates competitive so people can get jobs and go to work." he said.
Schock supports simplifying the tax code and getting rid of most deductions.
"If you know that only 25 cents of your dollar is going to be taxed, then you can invest more freely because you're not spending time looking for the favored investment or the favored purchase or this kind of company to invest in versus that company," Schock said.
Waterworth said putting people back to work will require looking beyond the borders of the U.S. He points to the country's multi-billion dollar trade deficits with China and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC.
"That represents jobs," Waterworth said. "We need to work on that. Energy independence creates jobs in America: wind turbines, grain ethanol, cellulosic ethanol. We use that wealth we're losing to China and OPECs to create jobs."
Schock agreed on energy independence, but has a different idea on how to achieve it.
"We need to radically increase the number of drilling rigs offshore as well as onshore to reduce our trade deficit on oil," Schock said. "We need more natural gas exploration."
The two candidates agree change is needed on entitlements.
"I've been part of a majority in the House that's laid forward a program to fix Social Security and Medicare and make them solvent," Schock said.
For Waterworth, it all comes back to the trade deficit.
"I look at things from a macro point of view," Waterworth said. "If you solve the big problem, all the little things will take care of themselves."
Waterworth supports the Affordable Care Act, while Schock is committed to repealing it.
This race will appear on the ballot for all residents of the 18th Congressional District. Enter your information here to find out if you'll be voting on the race.
Watch the raw interview with Aaron Schock
Watch the raw interview with Steve Waterworth
Four days before the general election, a candidate for Sangamon County State's Attorney has apologized for embarrassing a woman whose case he has used during his campaign.
Throughout his campaign, Democratic candidate Ron Stradt has accused the county's current top prosecutor, John Milhiser, of "cherry picking" which cases to prosecute.
His example has been the case of Andrea Pryor, who was arrested in 2010 for domestic battery, and had a bag with suspected cocaine residue, according to a police report. Pryor works as a court reporter in the county building.
Milhiser has said all along he asked for a special prosecutor because of a conflict of interest.
"So any decision about filing charges or the ultimate outcome of the case was not with my office," the Republican candidate said.
Stradt questioned that and accused Milhiser of "sweeping cases under a rug."
"I searched for any criminal case filed for her and I found none," Stradt said. "I did my due diligence."
After one phone call to the circuit court clerk's office, we found out that two days after Pryor was arrested, Milhiser filed a motion for a special prosecutor. A subsequent order was signed by a judge.
However, the documents don't show Andrea Pryor's name, only the police report number--which Stradt says is "special treatment."
"When you file for a special prosecutor naming the police report, you're concealing the identity of the defendant," Stradt said. "Had this motion for the special prosecutor had her name, those records would have been searchable and this would have never become an issue."
"He does not understand the way the court system works," Milhiser said. "The proper procedure is to file an miscellaneous remedy case, which is what I did."
We checked with special prosecutor Ed Parkinson for the proper procedure. He said the way Milhiser handled the case was "appropriate and immediate."
"This is another example of the reckless, untrue statements that my opponent has made to further his political agenda," Milhiser said. "The arguments he made in this case further demonstrate he has no experience and absolutely no qualifications needed to be Sangamon County State's Attorney."
We asked Andrea Pryor's attorney for comment. He gave us this statement:
"If Mr. Stradt had done his homework and knew how the criminal justice system works, he wouldn't have falsely accused John Milhiser of doing something unethical or inappropriate. The end result is he is soiling the reputation of a good, well-respected person."
When Sangamon County voters hit the polls, they will see 10 judicial candidates. This includes the appellate court, circuit court, and Illinois Supreme Court.
For some voters, casting a vote for judicial candidates is tough because they aren't as well-known. Judicial candidates are different than legislative or executive candidates. That's because they can't talk about issues. Typically, they will run off their record. But what about party affiliation? Does it matter? That depends on who you ask.
"A lot of the issues, especially at the trial court, are less philosophical than people expect," Springfield attorney Jim Ackerman said. "If you are deciding a divorce case, not a lot of politics goes into that. If you are deciding a criminal case, usually that is not much of a political issue."
All judges running for retention, as well as candidates for Illinois judicial offices who won the March 20 primary, have been rated by the Illinois State Bar Association. You can find these ratings here.
The new 48th state Senate district includes central and southeast Springfield, most of Decatur, Pana, Hillsboro, Litchfield, and Carlinville. The race puts Decatur mayor Mike McElroy, a Republican, against Macoupin County Board Chairman Andy Manar, a Democrat.
The biggest issue at the statehouse right now is solving the state's growing pension liability. So how would the candidates for the 48th Senate district handle it? Neither McElroy nor Manar has a specific plan.
"Everybody has to be at the table," McElroy said. "Every representative has to be there. There cannot be things being done in the back rooms. Everybody has to see daylight when this is discussed."
"People have to come to the table," Manar said. "There has to be an honest conversation about the growing cost of the pension crisis in the state budget before any steps can be taken to changes in the system. That has to happen."
In some areas, the two candidates share similar views. They are both pro-life and support concealed carry and gaming expansion.
But as for gay marriage, McElroy said the current civil union law in Illinois is sufficient. Manar said he would have to see the bill first.
"We make people jump through hoops to do business in Illinois," McElroy said. "Those advantages, we have to start offering. We have to get it back. That's the main problem with the state of Illinois right now."
"The legislature should pass the Tenaska bill," Manar said. "It would provide for the Taylorville Energy Center. The governor should sign it. That would create thousands of construction jobs, not just for our area here, but across downstate."
McElroy said if he were elected, he would vote to repeal the tax increase that went into effect in 2011. Manar said he would have never voted for it if he were in office them. So how would these two create jobs in Illinois?
As for the key issues the candidates want to address? McElroy points to jobs and the pension crisis. Manar points to education funding and jobs.
Fiscally, each points to the job they have done in their community: McElroy as mayor of Decatur and Manar as Macoupin County Board Chairman.
"The funds have been balanced for four years, and we have a $5 million rainy day fund," McElroy said.
"We have balanced our budget year after year," Manar said. "We have not raised taxes."
This race will be on the ballot for all residents of the 48th state Senate district. Enter your address here to find out if you live in the 48th district.
Watch the raw interview with Mike McElroy
Watch the raw interview with Andy Manar
On November 6, voters in almost 18,000 homes in Sangamon County will see a question concerning municipal electrical aggregation on their ballots. It's a big word, and it's a complex issue that involves changing the electrical supplier for Ameren customers.
Basically, it boils down to whether voters want more choices for who supplies their electricity.
Ameren Illinois is in the business of delivering power to homes and businesses. The electricity itself comes from companies that make it through contracts.
"The Illinois Power Agency actually negotiates the contracts," Ameren's Leigh Morris said. "Those contracts are approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission. Then, once those two steps are taken, Ameren signs those contracts. We simply collect from the customer what we have paid for the electricity. Nothing more, nothing less."
That represents the largest part of the average power bill.
"About 60 percent of the bill," Illinois Commerce Commission Chairman Doug Scott said. "About 30 percent is the distribution--the actual wires company. And then about 10 percent is transmission--the larger lines that bring it from the power sources to the distribution companies."
Aggregation deals with the first 60 percent.
"The theory behind it is, like you would have in other purchasing decisions, if a bunch of us can get together and buy all of our services at one time, theoretically that might mea the price would go down for doing that," Scott said.
There's a reason communities are exploring this option.
"In aggregated communities, we've seen anywhere from 20 [percent] to as high as over 40 percent discount off of the price that the incumbent is offering," Scott said.
That potential is why the question will be offered to Ameren customers in 15 Sangamon County municipalities and the unincorporated areas.
"Ameren will still send the bills to the customers," Jim Donelan of the Citizens' Efficiency Commission said. "The bill would have an additional line that would show the company that's providing the power. Ameren would still service the lines. If you have a problem, you still call Ameren. Those kind of things don't change."
Sangamon County's plan includes the ability to opt out at no charge to the individual customer.
"What that means is that the residents never--if this is pursued--never lose their ability to go back to Ameren," Donelan said. "Whether they think Ameren has a better rate, or they just decided that they want Ameren to be their electrical supplier, they still retain that right."
Voters living in certain parts of Sangamon County will see this issue on their ballot. To find out if you'll be voting on electrical aggregation, enter your information here to view a sample ballot.
There's a large amount of information about electrical aggregation available online. Some links:
Citizens' Efficiency Commission of Sangamon County proposal on municipal electrical aggregation
Ameren information on municipal electrical aggregation
Illinois Commerce Commission answers questions about municipal electrical aggregation (Microsoft Word Document)
Illinois Municipal Aggregation of Electric website
Pensions, gambling, and guns are just three of the issues facing the person who wins the new 96th House District in the state legislature.
The newly formed district includes Springfield's east and north sides, Rochester, Edinburg, and most of Decatur. There are three candidates vying for your vote.
Democrat Sue Scherer, Republican Dennis Shackelford, and write-in Andrew Dambrauskas are the candidates for the 96th House District.
The biggest issue at the statehouse is pensions. The system is more than $80 billion in the red. So what are their solutions?
"It has got to be line by line," Scherer said. "We didn't get into it overnight. We're not going to solve it overnight."
"We need to continue to have the pension system funded," Shackelford said. "We need to possibly have a 401(k)-type of program out there."
"I would not vote yes on pension reform unless it had some input from the public sector union," Dambrauskas said.
Gaming expansion has also been a big issue. Lawmakers sent Gov. Pat Quinn a bill that called for five new casinos and slots at racetracks, but not at the state fairgrounds. He vetoed it.
"We have gaming in Illinois, and the amount that we have now, it's not worth the risk and negative effects, with more home foreclosures could come from people who have gambling problems," Scherer said.
"A person can go any place, on any street corner, and spend $100 in lottery tickets," Shackelford said. "I don't see a big problem with gaming expansion right at this point in time."
"I wouldn't want to see restrictions on the expansion of gambling," Dambrauskas said. "Simply put, if for no other reason, it's a form of generating revenue that doesn't increase taxes on people."
As for guns? Scherer and Schackelford are both for concealed carry. Dambrauskas said he would have to see the gun bill drafted in order to support it or not.
Scherer and Shackelford are both pro-life. Dambrauskas is pro-choice.
Illinois already has civil unions. Gay marriage could be next. Scherer said the state should allow the civil union law to be in effect for a longer time before we add something like gay marriage. Shackelford believes marriage is between a man and woman. Dambrauskas is in favor of gay marriage.
What about taxes, specifically the tax increase that went into effect in 2011?
"If we don't repeal it, then it is really not a temporary thing," Scherer said. "It's permanent thing, and that's raising taxes on middle class, which I simply don't believe in."
"I would like to repeal the 67 percent tax increase and the corporate tax increase," Shackelford said.
"I would not want to see the tax increase extended," Dambrauskas said.
This race will be on the ballot for all residents of the 96th House district. Enter your address here to find out if you live in the 96th district.
Watch the raw interview with Sue Scherer
Watch the raw interview with Dennis Shackelford
Watch the raw interview with Andrew Dambrauskas
The Illinois Farm Bureau today presented its annual ACTIVATOR award to four Illinois lawmakers.
Sen. Bill Brady and Reps. Rich Brauer, Bill Mitchell, and Raymond Poe were all recognized for supporting key legislative issues impacting agriculture.
In the video above, Sangamon County Farm Bureau president Allen Emtwistle explains what the award means and why these lawmakers were chosen.
A recent count found more than 4,000 people in Sangamon County have already voted early.
Early voting is being encouraged as an alternative for people who can't make it out to the polls on election day.
In some cases, it's a simple as folks voting in the privacy of their homes.
With one foot in front of another, there's a mission for one Springfield woman that seems to know everyone in this neighborhood.
"Aw, did I wake you up?," Alderman Doris Turner said to a Springfield man at home.
Turner has been going door to door in her ward to make sure every vote counts. One way is encouraging a method where voters don't have to go far.
"It's so easy," Turner said. "I'm coming to your house. You can take the form and sign it and you get your mail-in ballot."
Turner said over the last few elections, mail-in ballots have changed the way people can vote.
"Before you had to have a reason -- you had to have an affidavite as to why you'd be out of the county," Turner said.
Now you just have to fill out a request for a mail-in ballot and turn it in to the elections office.
In the April 2011 election, only 34 percent of Springfield registered voters turned out to the polls. The hope is an easier method will increase that number.
"It's your right and people have worked hard to make sure you have the opportunity to vote," Turner said. "I would just encourage everybody to get out and vote."
Click here for more information on early voting in Sangamon County.
Visit the Vote 2012 section of our website for more information on early voting.
Tuning out politics is one thing. But tuning out the price at the pump? University of Illinois - Springfield political science professor Chris Mooney says it's impossible.
“It's up in your face all the time," he said. "You see it. Drive down the road there's a big number. $3.33, $4.98…”
Whatever it happens to be, it changes a lot. AAA says the average price of gas in Illinois is $3.58. That's up 12 cents since last year but down 16 cents from just last week and more than 40 cents down since September.
“People vote a lot with their wallet," Mooney said.
And since people open their wallets a lot for gas, we asked whether the price at the pump has any effect on the box you check on the ballot.
“Of course. Budgets are tight, everybody's watching every penny they spend,” Precinct Committeeman William Garrett said.
But others aren’t convinced.
“Well if you look at the whole overall movement, foreign policy is really messed up right now and there's a lot of chaos overseas,” James Hooper of Springfield said.
Mooney said the economy is perhaps the most forceful driver behind a political choice. While gas prices are an economic indicator, whatever price change we see in the next few weeks probably won't affect the election much.
“We're not going to see, you know, gas drops 50 cents and suddenly happy days are here again I'm going out and vote for the incumbent,” Mooney said.
That's because most people's minds are already made up.
"Some argue that the unemployment rate in May or June is what will determine people's economic outlook for the election and so even changes after that in that big number won't really effect the influence of the economy on the presidential election,” Mooney said.
Two men are vying to be Sangamon County's top prosecutor. One has the job now. One is calling for change.
The most violent crimes in Sangamon County are prosecuted by the state's attorney. Right now, that's John Milhiser. The Republican has held various roles in the Sangamon County State's Attorney's office, as well as working in a private firm.
After re-joining the county team, he was appointed to the top position in 2010, and is now running in the general election to keep the seat.
"It's a necessary qualification that the state's attorney be somebody who prosecutes cases and is in the courtroom, who is a trial attorney and a prosecutor," Milhiser said. "That's what I am. My opponent is not a trial attorney and not a prosecutor."
Ron Stradt is the Democractic candidate on the ballot. The Quad Cities native and Marine Corps veteran is an attorney for the Illinois Education Association. He has previous experience in the Rock Island County State's Attorney's office and the Illinois Attorney General's Office.
"I've been in numerous state courts throughout the state and numerous federal courts, so I have the trial experience to do cases," Stradt said.
In his campaign, Stradt is touting that if elected, he would not prosecute someone who carries a concealed weapon and uses it for self-defense.
Milhiser said Stradt is using that stance to shift the focus from who's more qualified as the county's top prosecutor.
"I support concealed carry," Milhiser said. "I've publicly said that, and I do, but I also understand the duty imposed upon me to follow the law as state's attorney. Every case is looked at on its own individual facts, and it's very difficult and hypothetical to say whether charges will or won't be filed."
Stradt accuses Milhiser of "cherry picking" which cases to prosecute, and not doing it fairly. His example is the case of Andrea Pryor, who was arrested in 2010 for domestic battery and had a bag with suspected cocaine residue, according to a police report. Prior works as a court reporter in the county building.
"I'm not going to sweep under the rug somebody's criminal offense because of who they know," Stradt said.
"That's an individual who works in the county building," Milhiser said. "There was a conflict with my office. I forwarded that case to the appellate prosecutor's office. Therefore, I have no decision on whether or not that case is prosecuted, what the charges are, or what the outcome is."
In closing arguments, each candidate wraps up why he's the better man for the job.
"I'd be a more aggressive prosecutor than our state's attorney," Stradt said.
"Every effort is going to be made to make sure justice is served, and I want to continue to do that," Milhiser said.
If elected, Ron Stradt wants to select a panel to investigate legislative misconduct.
If John Milhiser remains state's attorney, he wants to continue to add specialized courts for mental health patients and veterans to help re-integrate them into the community after low-level offenses. A drug treatment court started in 2010.
The Sangamon County State's Attorney's race will be on the ballot for all Sangamon County voters November 6.
Watch the raw interview with John Milhiser.
Watch the raw interview with Ron Stradt.
When a loved one passes away, especially when it's not from a natural cause, you want the best person possible to investigate the death. That's the job of a coroner. And in Sangamon County, voters have two candidates vying for the job.
Since June 1, 2011, Cinda Edwards has been the Sangamon County coroner. She was appointed by the county board after coroner Susan Boone retired amidst controversy.
"We've moved the office forward greatly and have pretty much restored the faith [in the office]," Edwards said.
Edwards, who has a medical background, is the Republican candidate for coroner in the November election. Her challenger is Democrat Jerry Curry. He's currently the executive director of the Mary Bryant Home for the Blind. He also own a funeral home in Pawnee and has been a licensed funeral director and embalmer for 32 years.
"I deal with families on a daily basis dealing with death," Curry said.
Edwards had only been in office a few weeks when a study by an outside company found the coroner's office had no specific policy or procedure to investigate deaths, inconsistent documentation of findings, a lack of quality control, and other problems.
At the time, the coroner's office kept all records on paper. Now, the office uses a web-based program to track cases.
"I think there's always room for improvement," Edwards said. "What Cinda has done has been the minimum. She created policies and procedures she basically copied from Google."
The Sangamon County coroner's office handles an average of 170 autopsies a year. As of now, all are done in Bloomington, because Edwards says there is not a qualified forensic pathologist in Springfield right now. But she says she's working to find one.
While it may cost more in gas to take bodies to Bloomington for an autopsy, Edwards said x-rays and photography costs are cheaper there.
"It all evens out to be about the same amount of money," Edwards said. "It's just not as convenient."
However, Curry has a different idea.
"I don't believe in outsourcing," he said. "We're trying to build up a medical district in Springfield and Sangamon County, yet we're sending lab work, our loved ones, 75 miles away."
"I would rather get a quality job done, and we'll do what we have to do to see that happen," Edwards said.
When Edwards first took office, there was a local pathologist who performed autopsies, but she said he did not return reports on time. So Edwards outsources that work to Bloomington until she can get a qualified pathologist here.
The Sangamon County corner's race will be on the ballot for all Sangamon County voters November 6.
Watch the raw interview with Cinda Edwards.
Watch the raw interview with Jerry Curry.
One of the most highly-contested local races is that for Sangamon County Circuit Clerk. Since 1996, Republican Toni Libri has held the position.
Over the years, he's had a fair share of challengers. Stepping up to the plate this year is Kristin DiCenso, a Democrat and adviser to the Chief Operating Officer at the state Department of Transportation.
The candidates don't mince words.
"His own party doesn't even want him to lead them," DiCenso said.
"When you're running for office you'll say--some people will say just about anything to get elected," Libri said.
They're both graduates of local high schools--Lanphier and Springfield--who got bachelor's degrees from UIS.
"This is one of the most technologically advanced circuit clerk's offices in the state of Illinois," Libri said.
Libri boasted about his staff reduction of 10, and said he saved taxpayers $7.5 million.
"We actually do more paperwork now, more work per file than we did when I first started, and we're also putting all of these services online," Libri said.
"Technologically, Tony says that office is very advanced, and there are other circuit clerk offices across the state that are more advanced," DiCenso said.
Projects like the Department of Transportation's high-speed rail are on DiCenso's resume. Before that, she worked at the Department of Natural Resources, managing its large, multimillion-dollar site contract.
"He likes to tout that his website is this fabulous website," DiCenso said. "It's not. I've visited other circuit clerks that say this system is 15 years behind."
And here's one of her main issues with the website.
"The database administrator is a company called Janosystems who's also a large contributor to Tony over the years," DiCenso said. "There doesn't appear to be any contract. I'd like to go in and see what else is out there. I'd like to put this out for bid."
The man whose experience is in doing that job insists otherwise.
"We're better off than we were four years ago," Libri said. "We're better off than we were last year, but not as good as we'll be next year."
"He said he wants to move forward," Kristin said. "Well, why haven't you moved forward on all of this already? You've had 16 years in that office to get a lot done."
Here's some additional background information. Before being elected clerk, Libri worked as county auditor. He was also the Sangamon County Republican Party Chairman until he was voted out last April.
DiCenso worked for the Downstate Democratic County Chairman's Associates, then the DNR for nine years. She took the job at the Department of Transportation in February, allowing her to enter this race.
All Sangamon County residents will vote in this race in November.
This year, central Illinois voters will vote in one of the biggest congressional races in the country. Because of the race for the 13th Congressional District, the balance of power in Congress is potentially up for grabs.
Last night, the three candidates vying for the newly drawn district faced off in a debate hosted by ABC Newschannel 20 and our sponsors.
Republican Rodney Davis, Democrat David Gill, and independent John Hartmam discussed everything from healthcare to taxes and jobs.
It's an ugly race. You've probably seen the mud slinging and negative campaign ads. Davis and Gill called each other out numerous times, while Hartman was literally stuck in the middle. Some of the biggest fireworks came when the questions turned to healthcare and taxes.
"My way, I'd have millionaires and billionaires start paying their fair share again," Gill said. "I'm running against a Republican who thinks they should keep their tax cuts forever, into infinity. They've had their way for a long time now, and I think that it's time to have them pay their fair share. As I indicated earlier, I would never vote to raise taxes on those people making less than a quarter million dollars."
"When you have said numerous times you want all Bush-era tax cuts and Obama tax cuts to expire, that would be an increase in income taxes on every single American," Davis said. "You say you want to pay for your healthcare plan--a government takeover that would end Medicare as we know it. His own words. That will take a 2 percent income tax increase on all Americans."
"We need more revenue," Hartman said. "I support the Simpson-Bolls Commission plan. The highlight of the plan from a tax standpoint is to eliminate nearly all tax credits, tax deductions, and tax loopholes. They also take on all aspects of the budget deficit and get us on a responsible trajectory."
There is no incumbent running in this race. Republican Tim Johnson won the February primary, but then announced he would no longer seek re-election.
If you missed the debate, you can watch it here.
Watch Part 1 of the 13th Congressional Debate between David Gill, Rodney Davis, and John Huntsman.
Click here to watch Part 2 of the debate.
Watch Part 2 of the 13th Congressional Debate between David Gill, Rodney Davis, and John Huntsman.
Click here to watch Part 1 of the debate.
This coming election, voters will weigh in on whether to bring back a residency requirement that was previously in place for Springfield employees. This time, the proposal would only affect new employees.
It's getting close to that time. The November election is only a short distance away, and the Dunns want to make sure voters are informed. They're handing pamphlets out, one household at a time.
"I just think there is some misinformation out there that they could clear up," residency requirement committee chairman Jon Dunn said.
Their cause is for a controversial Springfield issue: canvassing for a "yes" vote on a residency requirement referendum.
"This is something we can all do to help Springfield, and it won't cost us any money," Dunn said.
The brochure states 35 percent of city employees do not live in the city limits. Their average income is $70,000 a year.
The argument? Money is leaving Springfield.
But not everyone at city hall is on board.
"We have four solid yes votes and three maybe votes," Ward 7 Alderman Joe McMenamin said.
McMenamin, who sponsored the referendum, said it will help aldermen grasp public opinion.
"Aldermen listen to the voters," McMenamin said. "Aldermen pay attention to how people in their ward vote."
But CWLP employee Josh Witkowski said it's bad news.
"You're going to have to recruit from outside the city," Witkowski said. "And when you add in a residency requirement, shrinking down the area they can live, that becomes a turn-off for some people."
It's been argued that negotiations with the city's 23 unions would be costly, while sales tax and property taxes continue to increase, despite where employees live.
"I think this is a distraction," Witkowski said. "I think the more you talk about residency, the less we're talking about trash and fly dumping and urban blight."
But educating these households with the pamphlets will only go so far, because it's ultimately the city council who will have the final say.
As of now, aldermen Edwards, Simpson, Turner, and McMenamin are all in support of the residency requirement, while aldermen Jobe, Theilen, and Griffin are opposed. Aldermen Lesko, Cahnman, and Dove remain undecided. They are waiting to hear from the voters.
Voters who live within Springfield city limits will be voting on the referendum. Enter your information here to find out if the measure will be on your ballot.
When voters in the Ball-Chatham school district head to the polls two weeks from today, they'll see a bond referendum proposal for education. The Ball-Chatham School District wants to extend a current bond issue through 2030 to help pay for explosive growth in the area.
The district is growing at a rate school officials say they cannot keep up with.
"Our children are bursting out of their classrooms," Kemia Sarraf of the referendum committee said. "Our classroms are at capacity. Some of the classrooms are just right at the point where we don't want to put one more student in there."
The district built the Glenwood Middle School using reserves. Now that the school has expanded, they need even more room. District officials said they cannot use the money saved up any more. They are looking to the community for help by voting on Election Day to extend bonds in the amount of $35 million.
"It became quickly clear that extending these bonds that we have, extending the life of these bonds and selling these bonds, will allows up to meet all of the needs for growth and building without increasing the burden to the taxpayers," Sarraf said.
School officials say the bonds will not create a tax increase for Chatham residents. They are looking to keep the current bond rate equivalent to 71 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property tax.
"It's kind of like refinancing your home, I think is one of the simplest ways to look at it," Sarraf said. "Right now, our bonds are set to expire in 2017. This will extend the life of the bonds for another 10 years."
The money collected will go towards fixing issues around the school district. Not only are the schools becoming overcrowded, but Ball-Chatham is facing health risk issues, like leaky roofs and crumbling infrastructure. The state says this is a problem the school district must fix on its own.
"Unfortunately the state has cut our funding levels, and so this is a local district issue," Ball-Chatham superintendent Carrie Vanalstine said. "We need to step in and make sure our district facilities are maintained and upgraded as needed."
But some longtime residents aren't sold on the proposal.
"The kids are what counts, but I hope they're not pricing some of us older people out of Chatham," resident Francine Jordan said.
Jordan moved back to Chatham with her husband. She worries about the cost of living increase in the city.
"I don't think it's an issue for that if it stays the same as long as they don't raise," Jordan said. "But what would be the issue is milk, bread, potatoes. Things like that you know are going to go up, but it's just going to be extending for a longer time, and honestly i think they think that once we get used to it we'll just keep it."
But others believe this is something that needs to be done.
"My kids have been here since kindergarten, and the schools are so cramped," resident Melanie Jarvis said. "And we really do need to update some of our services."
Ball-Chatham school district will use the money to expand the high school and middle school. Officials say if the referendum is not passed, they will be forced to increase taxes.
This referendum will be on the ballot for all Sangamon County residents who live in the Ball-Chatham school district. Enter your information here to find out if you'll be voting on the measure.
We've learned GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his supporters plan to party in Boston on election night. The Romney campaign announced today it will gather at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. The facility has 2.1 million square feet and several halls and ballrooms. It's billed as the largest convention center in New England.
The Obama campaign has announced the president will spend the night of November 6 at Chicago's McCormick Place.
With election day about two weeks away, we're taking a closer look at some of the area's biggest races. Once all the ballots are counted, there will be a new top prosecutor in Christian County.
Current state's attorney Tom Finks was defeated in the February primary. Now, the two candidates still standing in the race for Christian County State's Attorney want you to know what they're all about.
Mike Havera is currently the county's public defender. He's held the job for the last four years, and lived in the county all his life.
"I know every law enforcement officer in the county," he said. "I've dealt with them. I've dealt with every agency."
Havera is currently balancing more than 380 active cases.
"It's similar to the case load that would be asked of the Christian County State's Attorney to handle," he said.
While Havera now sits with the defense, he's been on both sides of the courtroom.
"My background, I believe, is more diverse," he said. "I've done civil litigation. I was an assistant attorney general for the state of Illinois. I've also been a prosecutor. Before I was public defender, I was first assistant state's attorney of Montgomery County."
Meanwhile, across the street, people are shaking hands with Lorina Lamken. McDonald's was the first place she worked, and Taylorville was the first place she called home. She has since moved out of Christian County, and her job takes her throughout the state.
"I've been able to see how things work in a variety of counties," Lamken said. "I believe I can bring that experience back to Christian County."
If elected, Lamken would like to open a child advocacy center in Christian County.
"I specialize in child sexual assault cases, also complex domestic violence cases," she said.
While the Democratic candidate says politics shouldn't be on the ballot, the Republican candidate said she's holding on to her roots.
"I have very conservative values," Lamken said. "That's how I was raised. I think that's consistent with many people in Christian County, and I want to bring those values back to Christian County."
One thing both candidates agree on is a need for more communication between the county's top prosecutor and all the people who make Christian County tick.
Havera has always lived in Christian County, but Lamken moved to Sangamon County for family reasons. According to the Christian County Clerk, the Christian County State's Attorney is a position that does not have residency requirements. However, Lamken vows that if elected, she will move back.
The Christian County State's Attorney race will be on the ballot for all Christian County voters. Click here for more information about voting in Christian County.
Gov. Pat Quinn is endorsing third-party candidate Lance Tyson for the Illinois House of Representatives. Tyson is the man running against indicted former state Rep. Derrick Smith. Quinn called Tyson a hard worker who will serve with integrity.
Tyson's challenger is Democrat Derrick Smith, who was indicted on federal bribery charges, then expelled form the House. Smith is able to run because he hasn't been convicted on the bribery charges and Illinois state law states if he is elected he can't be expelled a second time.
For those who want to get ahead of the pack and pencil in their ballot, early voting started Monday.
There are about 132,000 registered votes in Sangamon County and 76,000 registered in Springfield. Some followed the signs Monday to get their ballots in early.
"Everyone complains no matter what -- and I figure you can't complain if you don't vote," early voter Marraine Rogers said.
But many skip the lines and don't make it to the polls. In 2011 election, only 34 percent of registered voters cast their vote. Ward 2 had the lowest turnout, followed by Ward 5 and Ward 3. Ward 10 had the highest voter turnout, followed by Ward 7.
"There is a sense of desinfranchisement among electorates," Springfield Alderman Doris Turner said.
To encourage voters, Turner has been going door to door.
"So now we're circulating back around with voters we did register and trying to encourage as many people as we can to voter early," Turner said.
It's a trend the election office has seen grow.
"I think its important we come out because our vote counts, even though Chicago counts more," one voter said.
Even those late in the process still have a chance to step in line.
"If they are not currently registered or if they've moved and need to update their address, there is still a time period for that called grace period for registration and voting," Stacey Kern with the Sangamon County Elections office said.
For more information on early and grace period voting, visit the Vote 2012 section of our website.
Do you post your political opinions on Facebook? Do you comment on the debates and the candidates? A new survey shows if you do, you might lose some friends. According to a study from the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project, 18 percent of social networking site users admit to blocking, unfriending, or hiding someone if they do not agree with that person's politics or if that person is posting too much about politics.
"The negativity," UIS student Katie Grider said. "I am not about negative things. Whenever I see that I have to defriend them."
Pew also found 38 percent of social networking users discovered one of their friend's political beliefs were different that what they thought, thanks to their friend's posts.
Wednesday, October 24, ABC Newschannel 20 is teaming up with the Citizens Club of Springfield and the Springfield Chamber of Commerce to host a debate between U.S. 13th Congressional District candidates Republican Rodney Davis of Taylorville, Democrat David Gill of Bloomington, and Independent John Hartman of Edwardsville.
The debate will be held at the Hoogland Center in Springfield from 7-8 p.m. It's free and open to the public. Seating is first-come, first-served and doors open at 6:15.
If you can't make it to the debate, we'll be live-streaming it on ABC Newschannel 20 and WICS.com. Unfortunately, due to technical limitations, the stream will not be available to mobile or tablet users.
In case you miss it, video of the full debate will be available on WICS.com after 9 p.m. Wednesday.
The 13th Congressional District includes parts of Bloomington, Normal, Champaign, Urbana, Decatur, and Taylorville. Visit this website to find out if you're part of the 13th Congressional District.
RELATED: 13th Congressional District Race: Fact Checking the Ads
A recent change in campaign finance law allows certain organizations to spend unlimited amounts of money in elections.
Political Action Committees, or PACs, that aren't tied to a candidate or cause are not limited in how much they can donate.
They're called super PACs, and they've contributed more than $1 million already in Illinois.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled two years ago government can't limit independent donations. The decision allows corporations and unions to participate in politics.
Five newly-created super PACs are already spending more than $1 million.
"This opened up a new avenue of expenditures for groups that wanted to influence elections," Kent Redfield, campaign finance expert at the University of Illinois Springfield, said.
Super PACs are allowed to raise money from corporations, unions and other groups, then spend as much as they want to support whomever or whatever they choose.
The organizations can't donate directly to candidates or causes, and the candidates can't have any communication with the PACs.
"We can limit the money that goes to the PAC," Redfield said. "We can limit the money that comes to candidates. We can't limit independent expenditures. It's a very broad term that refers to groups that aggregate money and spend it independently for the candidates."
The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform says the groups could have a "huge" impact on state races.
"If the same kind of money gets spent that would've been spent anyway, then you really haven't changed things much," Redfield said. "If it's a lot of new money coming from outside, it'll have a big impact."
Redfield says super PACs will have a big impact on the governor's race in two years.
The groups aren't limited in how much they donate. But they're still required to disclose where their money is coming from and how they're spending it.
"Fire Madigan" is the message from state Republicans as voters head to the polls. For decades, Speaker Michael Madigan has controlled the Illinois House. So, the G.O.P. is trying to convince voters Madigan is a big reason for the state's financial woes. But will it work? Republicans face a tough task if they want to take control of the House. They have to take back six seats in the November election. But remember, the new district map was drawn by Democrats.
The G.O.P.'s "Fire Madigan" campaign is about taking away Madigan's power.
"He's a very shrewd politician," State Rep. Rich Brauer (R-Petersburg) said. "He knows the process. He knows how to get things done that he wants to get done."
During the state fair in August, the "Fire Madigan" campaign really kicked off. Republican supporters held Fire Madigan signs as House minority leader Tom Cross talked about a state in a fiscal crisis, thanks to leaders like Madigan.
"Our candidates in the House and Senate are going to turn that around," Cross said back in August.
When asked about the "Fire Madigan" campaign, Speaker Madigan's spokesman, Steve Brown, told us, "They are desperate. They can't explain their vision if they win. They have no vision."
"I think it would be a better alternative if they said, this is what we stand for, this is how we are going to improve our state and to offer a positive alternative," State Sen. Michael Frerichs (D-Champaign) said.
According to a Tribune/WGN poll, only 16 percent have a favorable view of the Speaker. 35 percent view him unfavorably. But keep in mind, that leaves a lot of Illinois residents who have no view on him.
"I think in this election cycle when there are so many negative ads on the air, people are tired of people assigning blame," Frerichs said. "What they really want are solutions. They want people to lead and not criticize."
"It's time to bring balance back to state government," Brauer said. "Where we have Republicans and Democrats and we have conversations and compromises and solutions."
Speaker Madigan has been in the General Assembly since 1970. He has been Speaker for nearly 30 years. State lawmakers return to the capitol for the fall veto session in late November.
As many of us brush up on the big issues in this year's election, there's no doubt our personal, moral and religious views play a part in who we vote for.
Monday night, State Senator Bill Brady, who is Catholic, talked to many young, Catholic voters ahead of them heading to the polls.
There are several issues Catholics in particular have been paying attention to this election, including healthcare reform, abortion, same sex marriage, among others.
"I think it's important for us all to get involved so we can make a difference in our society through voting and we can have a say," Mary Blazier said at the event which was hosted by YAM, or young adult mass; a group of young Catholics within the Springfield Diocese.
Brady addressed the crowd and said, "We have a responsibility to become informed about what candidates stand for."
He also talked about how his faith plays a role in his life as a politician.
"Every walk of life whether business or politics, the person you are comes out in actions and things you do and weighing the difference in my constitutional obligations as a legislator and my personal beliefs and faith as a catholic is always challenging."
YAM Board President Brad Baker said, "What we think is most important is the young voter stays educated. All too often a young voter hears a flashy news title but doesn't always know the background information on what a candidate's voting history is or what his core values are."
Catholic dioceses across the country, including in Springfield, have joined a lawsuit against the federal government; challenging the Obama administration's mandate that requires employers to provide birth control coverage.
During last week's vice presidential debate, the moderator asked Vice President Joe Biden and challenger Paul Ryan - both catholic - how their faith influences their personal beliefs on abortion.
Biden said, "Life begins at conception. That's the church's judgement. I accept it in my personal life. But i refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians, Muslims and Jews."
Brady is running unopposed in next month's election. Under the newly drawn senate districts, the republican represents the northern part of Springfield, Menard County, Logan County and the Bloomington area. In 2010, Brady was the republican candidate for Illinois Governor.
YAM leaders also reached out to Governor Quinn, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, and State Senator John Sullivan to also participate in tonight's speech; all of whom are democrats and Catholics.
That's how much money the State of Illinois owes in pension payments. But, the money isn't set aside for it.
Voters will get a say on how changes to pension and retirement benefits for public employees are made in the future. Next month, voters across Illinois will decide whether it should be more difficult to expand benefits for public employees.
"I get the gist of it," UIS sophomore Steven Stransky said. "They want to make it harder to change pension benefits and raise those benefits, but I don't know what it means for the people with those benefits now."
"I know it has to do with retirement funds," Springfield resident Janet McNew said. "I know that's a big problem in Illinois."
"I'll research it," UIS senior Ashley McClelland said. "I'm more about, I know how I feel about things, but I need to see both sides."
"We've been advised, I've already received information about our association that this is something would not be very good for us," retired state worker Wayne Wolf said.
In addition to picking the candidates in a number of hotly contested races, Illinois voters will get a say on how lawmakers and local officials handle pensions.
They'll check "yes" or "no" to whether more votes should be required to expand pension and retirement benefits in the public sector.
"I think it's an admission by the legislature they haven't done a good job at handling this issue, so they're asking for help from voters by making it more difficult for them to expand benefits," UIS political science professor Jason Pierceson said.
Instead of a simple majority, three-fifths of the governing body - whether the general assembly, local city council, school district or retirement system board - would be needed to increase a benefit for a public worker or official.
Approval at the ballot box would change the state's constitution.
But Pierceson said it might not make a difference beyond the document.
"I don't know the amendment will change things either way," he said. "The amendment won't reduce the unfunded liabilities, won't reduce the budget shortfall, in some ways it's a bit of symbolic politics."
The pamphlet sent by the state to all registered voters lays out arguments in favor of the change, including preventing unfunded future liability and creating greater consensus.
The booklet also outlines arguments against the change, including limiting bargaining power and making it more difficult to recruit the best candidates.
In order to make the change to the constitution, three-fifths of the people who answer the question on the ballot must vote "yes."
If the referendum is approved, the requirement will take effect on January 9, 2013.
The vice-presidential debate was everything the first presidential debate wasn't: a fight.
Vice President Joe Biden was the aggressor. His foe, Congressman Paul Ryan, held his ground as the two duked it out.
Watch a debate recap by ABC Newschannel 20's Vince DeMentri above.
The candidates for vice president have one chance to square off face to face in front of the American people, and tonight's the night.
Republican Congressman Paul Ryan and incumbent Democrat Joe Biden will discuss the economy, federal spending, and foreign affairs at Centre College in Danville, Ky.
Experts argue the debate has grown in importance since Mitt Romney's strong showing in a presidential showdown last week. We asked local voters if tonight's debate will make a difference in how they vote. Here's what they said.
"Oh, absolutely. They're next in line. They're absolutely important."
- Undecided voter Marie Kruger
"I want to hear about health care. That's a basic thing. The economy is terrible, the gas prices are high."
- Undecided voter Linda Powell
"I think I've pretty much got my mind made up on which way I'm going to vote."
- Democratic voter Gus Kruger
Most people who weighed in on our Facebook page said the debate won't change their minds.
The vice presidential debate will kick off at 8 p.m. tonight. Catch complete coverage on ABC Newschannel 20 and live-streaming on WICS.com.
The issue of whether Springfield employees should be required to live within city limits is still hotly contested.
Today, members of the Springfield Citizens for Residency Committee held a press conference urging people to vote yes on the November ballot.
Those in favor of the requirement said it would be beneficial to have Springfield's tax dollars buying homes, going to schools, and spending money in the capital city.
"If even half of the salaries to the employees who have moved outside the city are spent outside the city, it amounts to $17 to $20 million a year in lost retail sales," the committee's Jim Zerkle said.
Those against the requirement said it would cost the city more money, because city officials would then have to bargain with dozens of unions on pay and benefits.
No matter what the verdict is on the ballot, the ultimate decision still lies with the city council.
Did you remember to register to vote? The deadline to register in order to vote in-person on November 6 was today.
We stopped by the Sangamon County Clerk's office this morning to talk with voters about their expectations for the election. The general consensus? If you don't vote, you can't complain.
"It is your vote and you need to have a voice in society," registered voter Kathy Stone said.
Registered voter Kay Shafer added, "If you want change, you have to get out there and vote."
If you didn't have a chance to register today, you can do so via grace period voting. That requires you to vote on the spot when you go in to register.
To vote, you must be 18 years old on November 6, a United States citizen, and a resident of the election precinct for at least 30 days before the election.
Visit the Vote 2012 section of our website for more information on voting.
Social Security and Medicaid sum it up. Long-term care is one of the key issues in this election. It’s now of elevated importance to voters over 50. Even though you may not be there yet, it might be just as important to you after reading this.
For seniors, Obama versus Romney is not their first rodeo, but it may be the most significant of their time.
“We don't know what the future--you know we don't have a very long future and whether our money will last and so forth,” said Illinois senior Shirley Ingold.
Voters who are over 50, like Ingold, not only register in greater numbers. They're twice as likely to cast their ballots.
“It is typical every four years with a big presidential election. We always get an influx of registrations,” said Sangamon County Director of Elections Stacey Kern.
This year the numbers aren't matching up to what we saw in 2008. In Sangamon County for example more than 138,000 voters registered back then. This year there are almost 8,000 less. The county doesn’t track voters by age, but historically seniors are the most loyal group of voters come election day.
“It does mean a lot to me to vote," Ingold said. "I have got awful discouraged with the length of the turmoil and so forth that we had, but I'll still vote.”
Ingold thinks other voters over 50 may feel too discouraged to vote. But with major changes to both Medicaid and social security likely, it may not be in their best interest.
Already seniors receiving Medicare make up about 15 percent of those getting federal benefits. That number will likely go up as boomers age.
“Every long-term care facility in this country has the ability to have everyone vote,” said Becky Haldorson, President of the Illinois Pioneer Coalition.
Nursing homes are no longer just a place for the dying. Baby boomers are already making their way in. For the next two days, the Culture Change Summit is being held at the Crowne Plaza in Springfield. It will address the changing needs of nursing home residents.
“They're starting to show up at our doors in their mid to late
60's even, so it's really important that we make sure that their rights are met
and more than that they're demanding that it's different for them,” said
Expect to see more voter registration drives pop up at places like nursing homes to meet the growing demand of seniors who live longer and want to continue making their votes count.
In this year's election, there's a very important ballot issue that affects all the state's taxpayers. It's a proposed amendment to the Illinois constitution. While lawmakers can't agree on how to solve the state's $80 billion pension problem, they did agree on one thing this past spring that deals with pensions.
When you hit the polls for the November election, be ready vote yes or no on a proposed amendment to the Illinois constitution. That being, requiring a three fifths vote to approve any pension or retirement benefit increase for public employees and officials on both the state and local level.
"When Blagojevich came in as Governor, the liability was about $35 billion," State Rep. Raymond Poe (R-Springfield) said. "Now, it's $85 billion. If you use the real value on investments, instead of the eight percent instead of the four or five percent, it could be up to $125 billion."
State Representative Raymond Poe joined all his peers in the Illinois House to put this proposed amendment on the Illinois ballot. Arguments for the amendment are a higher vote would help prevent unfunded future liability for pension benefits, it provides better accountability, and requires greater consensus among parties. Arguments against the amendment include a higher vote requirement may limit bargaining power and there is a possibility of disagreement on what constitutes a benefit increase.
"It will probably curb the enhancements," Poe said.
It's less than a month until the 2012 election. In 2008, voter turnout across the country was nearly 57 percent, according to the Federal Election Commission. So what can be expected this year? Mike Miller, a UIS Political science professor says maybe one to two percent less. Why? He says the excitement for President Obama isn't as high as 2008 and Governor Romney isn't creating the buzz Obama did in 2008.
"Anger and fear are the two mobilizing factors on either side," Mike Miller said. "So, you just have to wait and see how that plays out for both teams."
The proposed amendment would also require a two-thirds vote for lawmakers to override a Governor's veto or accept a Governor's proposed changes in a rewrite of pension increase legislation. Currently, it's a three-fifths vote. If you are in favor of this amendment, you will vote "yes" on your ballot. If you are against, you will vote "no."
Only two state lawmakers voted against this measure.
For the fourth straight year, the nation's deficit is over the $1 trillion mark. The federal deficit for fiscal year 2012 came in at $1.1 trillion.
The deficit, which makes up 7 percent of the gross domestic product, is among the highest since 1947.
Just this week, the total national debt has climbed to more than $16 trillion.
It's a big issue in this year's presidential election on November 6.
Debate moderator Jim Lehrer has been roundly criticized for his performance during Wednesday's first presidential debate. But the group that organized the debate is defending the veteran journalist.
The Commission on Presidential Debates said Lehrer implemented its new format exactly as designed.
Critics have said Lehrer was too passive and let the candidates go over their allotted time in several segments.
Lehrer said the moderator should be rarely seen or heard, and that it's up to the candidates to ask the follow-up questions and challenge each other.
He said the debate was successful based on its goal.
The general election is one month away. And if you haven't registered to vote yet but want to, the deadline is getting close.
The deadline is Tuesday, but the election office will be closed Monday for Columbus Day.
However, there will be a grace period in Sangamon County that allows you to still register until November 3. The catch? If you register after Tuesday, you must cast your ballot on the spot when you register.
When registering to vote, don't forget to bring two forms of identification. One must have your current address.
For more information on registering to vote, or to find out if you're registered, visit the Vote 2012 section of our website.
The presidential candidates are back on the campaign trail following their first face-to-face clash last night.
Republican Mitt Romney arived to cheers at a last-minute event in Denver. Following a strong debate performance, an energized Romney told supporters he and president Obama are worlds apart on their visions for the country.
But Romney wasn't the only presidential candidate in Colorado today. President Obama made the rounds as well. Obama was on the offensive, accusing Romney of being a two-headed candidate based on what Romney said at last night's debate.
Obama attacked Romney's plan on tax cuts for the wealthy, telling his supporters "there must be two different Mitt Romneys"--alleging that Romney misled Americans during the debate.
Many observed Obama's debate performance as lackluster. To that end, his campaign team is promising to make big changes before the next debate on October 16.
U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson is still awaiting clearance from his doctors to return to work. Today, his wife said he is seeing a doctor three times a week and still isn't sure if he will be back before or after the November 6 election.
The 47-year-old Chicago Democrat took a leave of absence about three months ago. It was later revealed he had been hospitalized suffering from severe depression and gastrointestinal problems.
With the first of three October presidential debates set for Wednesday, a new CNN poll shows a tight race. It says 50 percent of likely voters favor President Obama, while 47 percent prefer Mitt Romney.
However, while the popular vote is a good indication, remember the first candidate to reach 270 electoral votes wins the election.
A map compiled by Real Clear Politics projects Obama has already won 269 votes to Romney's 181, with seven states undecided.
It appears Obama will need to win just one state to win the election, at least according to this group.
Absentee voting is underway in Sangamon County. The election office is expecting more people to cast their ballots this year because it's a presidential election.
They're also expecting more absentee ballots, since voters no longer have to give a reason why they can't vote on Election Day.
Voters can cast an absentee ballot in person until the day before the election. They can also mail in their absentee ballot until November 1.
For more information, visit the Vote 2012 section of our website.
It's still two years away, but the talk continues to heat up. Who will run for Governor in Illinois on the Republican side? While no one Republican candidate has come out and said he or she is running, the speculative list is long, but the names are familiar.
Those include state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, state Senator Bill Brady, state Senator Kirk Dillard, and U.S. Congressman Aaron Schock. The Peoria Republican tells us he will wait until after the election is over, but he won't rule out running for the state's chief executive position.
"Whether I run or someone else runs, we need good leadership here, if we are going to have growth and prosperity for Illinois residents," Schock said.
State Treasurer Dan Rutherford said, "The option to run for Governor is on the table."
State Senator Bill Brady, who lost to Gov. Pat Quinn in 2010, said, "I'm giving it serious thought. My wife and I will sit down sometime after the election and make a decision."
State Senator Kirk Dillard, who lost to Brady in the primary by less than 200 votes, said, "I think I have a unique skill set to make Illinois work again. I have more resolve to make Illinois a better state now than in 2010 because the state is in even worse shape."
A recent poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute found Quinn's approval rating has improved over the past year. They report 42 percent of Illinois residents approve of the Chicago Democrat. That is up seven points from last year.
Everybody has a prediction on who they believe will win the presidency in November. But it's already a forgone conclusion for researchers at the University of Illinois. They say the numbers don't lie.
This theory by researchers in the computer science department has already been tested. Their data accurately predicted the 2008 presidential race. Four years later, they are giving it another go.
Ph. D. student Jason Sauppe said the formula recognizes national polling data is not always indicative of how the race will turn up. So the researchers look at polling data state by state, then use dynamic programming algorithms. These take individual state probabilities and combine them into one overall probability that a candidate will win at at least 270 electoral votes, which is what they need to take over the White House.
"Every day, we check what new polls are available, plug them into our model, and get new numbers," computer science graduate student Jason Sauppe said. "So we're tracking things every day, and as we get closer to Election Day, we expect our results to get more accurate as to what will happen."
New this year, the group is also calculating Senate races using a similar formula to the one they're using for the national race.
If you're curious as to what their data shows, President Obama will win the November election, and Democrats will keep control in the Illinois state Senate.
You can check out the election analytics yourself by visiting the website.
Mitt Romney has made an about face releasing his tax returns.
Documents show in 2011, Romney earned $13.7 million and paid more than $1.9 million in taxes.That's a tax rate of about 14 percent.
The Obamas' tax returns for last year showed the president and first lady earned $789,000 and paid more than $162,000 in federal taxes.
48th District state Senate candidates Mike McElroy and Andy Manar are set to square off in a debate next Wednesday at the Macon County Extension Center Auditorium in Decatur.
The public is invited and will have an opportunity to submit questions.
Because of redistricting, the 48th District now includes parts of Macon, Sangamon, Montgomery, Christian, Macoupin, and Madison counties.
The ads and the allegations in one of the area's hotly contested Congressional races are heating up with just seven weeks before voters head to the polls. The campaigns for the candidates in the 13th Congressional district
The ads and the allegations in one of the area's hotly contested Congressional races are heating up with just seven weeks before voters head to the polls.
The campaigns for the candidates in the 13th Congressional districtare spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on television ads.
But, behind all of the negativity and name-calling, is any of the information true?
Republican and Democratic organizations at the national level are the ones behind the negative ads. The television spots tend to be more aggressive because a candidate isn't associated with them or shown approving the message.
AD: "End run around the law. Insider rodney davis. George Ryan got him started, now davis supports the Paul Ryan plan to end the Medicare guarantee."
Davis worked for former governor George Ryan.
But, it was during Ryan's term as Secretary of State from 1992 to 1997.
AD: "For Rodney Davis, it wasn't enough to be on George Ryan's secret clout list of political insiders. Davis also admitted his role in a scheme that skirted campaign contribution limits."
Davis' name was added to what his campaign calls a "master list" of a number of Republicans and Democrats by Ryan's chief of staff.
But, his campaign says it was done without his consent or knowledge. And he never asked for political help.
"You've got both sides essentially hoping they can fool the voters," said UIS Political Studies Professor Kent Redfiield.
AD: "David Gill supports keeping the new healthcare law, gutting medicare. But Gill wanted to go farther, forcing each American into government-run healthcare. And to pay for it, Gill supported a new income tax. "
He wants to give all Americans the choice to buy in to Medicare.
He's on record saying he'd allow tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 a year to expire.
AD: "It would be a 2 percent tax, it'd do away with your Medicare, because Medicare would no longer exist. David Gill. His plan would end Medicare."
Gill opposes cuts to Medicare.
His campaign says expanding the program to include everyone would mean Medicare would no longer exist in its current form.
They say the ad misrepresents what Gill said during a debate.
"If you don't know who Rodney Davis or David Gill are, and the first thing you hear about them is negative, that's hard to overcome," Redfield said.
That's exactly why the parties spend big money on the negative ads.
Redfield says shaping first impressions and manipulating opinions can make a difference.Davis and Gill aren't the only candidates in the race. John Hartman, an independent, is also running for the seat.
The newly-drawn 13th Congressional district stretches from Collinsville to Bloomington, and Springfield to Champaign
Sangamon County Clerks Office teams up with eight county high schools to get seniors to register to vote.
High School teachers are nominated by their Principals to oversee seniors registering to vote. Mr. Neil Colderon's social studies class at Southeast High School registers to vote at the beginning of the school year.
Mr. Colderon also discusses local politics as well as the presidential election with his students. "He breaks it down to where people can understand it," says Senior DeAris Logan.
Mr. Colderon will continue having all of his senior classes register to vote after the presidential election.
An Illinois state senator is back home after surgery at a Baltimore hospital to remove a rare type of cancer.
John Sullivan said he his happy to be home with his family and friends. The Democrat, 53, had surgery back in August after being diagnosed with liposarcoma. It's a very treatable, slow-growing cancer made up mostly of fat cells.
Right now, his doctors said, there's no need for further treatment, like chemo.
Sullivan has been in the Illinois senate for 10 years. He is running for re-election this fall against Republican Randy Frese of Paloma.
âOurs is a fight to restore the values that built the largest middle class and the strongest economy that the world has ever known,â President Barack Obama said shortly after accepting the Democratic nomination for a second term.
Obama was riding a wave of support from the biggest names in the Democratic Party: US Senator Dick Durbin, former President Bill Clinton, US House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and First Lady Michelle Obama.
âI didn't want him to stop and continue to focus on the healthcare, the veterans, and things just helping support the economy,â said Douglas Holt who attended a Democratic National Convention watch party at the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 137 Union Hall in Springfield.
In 2008 the majority of voters between 18 and 29 supported Obama. Many in that age range attended the watch party. Why would they vote for Obama again in 2012?
âI look at... try to look at both people, and I looked at Romney. And it's hard to tell what his real issues are,â said graduate student Marty Muloski.
Just one week earlier he sat at a watch party on the University of Illinois Springfield campus with other students. They watched and listened closely as Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney tried to sway their votes.
âWhen he was Governor of Massachusetts, he was very to the left. He was farther to the left than Obama, and now he's trying to be very far to the right. So I have no idea how he's going to be as President,â said Muloski.
Since taking office Obama has supported legislation aimed at college affordability, like the âPay as You Earnâ program. Supporters say it is one of many reasons he, not Mitt Romney, is the person to lead this country.
âHe actually listened to peopleâ¦ By going to the grassroots
and finding out what's actually going on down there, he was able to put a plan
to.. put plans together to help people who are the working class,â said Holt.
Republican vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan spent the day in the Rocky Mountain State, hoping to win over undecided voters as the DNC comes to a close tonight.
Colorado is considered a key swing state, and Ryan had choice words for president Obama, calling him the most partisan president he's seen.
Mitt Romney, meanwhile, is in New Hampshire. He was asked whether or not his focus will be on the president's speech tonight.
"If it's another series of new promises he's not going to keep I have no interest in seeing them," Romney said. "Because I saw the promises last time, and those were promises he did not keep, and the American people deserve to know why he did not keep his promises."
A new television ad from the Romney campaign has surfaced, using former president Bill Clinton's words from 2008 against Obama. The ad will start airing tomorrow in eight battleground states.
Firing up his base and swaying undecided voters to vote for him. Tonight, President Obama accepts his party's nomination for President. Poltical experts say saying voters is the goal for President tonight.
Republicans are attacking President Obama on what they call his failed policies. That's their side. Tonight, the President will give his side. One of his big messages?
"I think what you have seen, during his 2008 campaign and during his Presidency, is how he has worked to make changes that has enriched everyone's lives," Doris Turner, the Sangamon County Democrats Chair.
Mike Miller is a political science professor at UIS. He says the speech by former President Bill Clinton on Wednesday night will be a huge help for the President because it picked apart Mitt Romney's message.
"Many undecided voters are probably tilting now to the left," Miller said. "I do expect a bump for democrats coming out of this election that I did not see for the republicans simply because of that speech."
Expect the President to also point to plenty of accomplishments. Things like ending the Iraq War, killing Osama Bin Laden, signing equal pay legislation, and passing the Affordable Health Care Act. Miller says women and the Latino population will be the President's main focus. Some polls show Mitt Romney is gaining some ground on the President. That said?
"The President will beat Romney on likeability. If you are the Romney camp you want to close the gap,"Miller said. "You are never going to overcome it."
The President originally scheduled to give his speech in front of a large crowd inside a football stadium in Charlotte. That has been moved inside and will be in an arena due to weather concerns. You can watch Obama's speech tonight on ABC at 9pm.