With the passage of Labor Day, school starts and political campaigns for the 2012 primaries begin. While Illinois will lack a major U.S. Senate or governor race at the top of the ballot and voting for President Barack Obama seems like a shoo-in for most Chicagoans, there are a number of down-ballot state legislative races in the Center Square area competing for our attention.
Although the election is not until March 20 of next year, in the coming weeks, candidates will begin to officially announce their campaigns and our neighborhood will be canvassed by volunteers seeking ballot nomination signatures for their favorite candidates. Center Square Journal has assembled a look at some of the candidates’ petitions you may see circulating and some of the more important dates you should watch for.
In Illinois, candidates who want to get on the ballot must circulate ballot nomination petitions and collect hundreds of signatures from currently registered voters in their district. The signature gathering process is full of picayune rules and regulations, many of which only exist in case law, rather than written regulation. If candidates do not follow them exactly, they can be knocked off the ballot long before election day.
For that reason, the signature gathering period is considered, “the campaign before the campaign,” by Illinois politicos and watched closely. An early sign of a candidate’s seriousness is how professionally they run their signature gathering campaign. Tuesday, September 6 was the first day to circulate ballot nomination petitions, with the deadline in the first week of December.
11th District State Representative, Incumbent: Ann Williams (D)
With just one year of her first term under her belt, Williams is no stranger to Springfield, as she was a lobbyist and member of Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s staff prior to election.
“I am currently planning on running for re-election,” she told Center Square Journal earlier this month, but she has yet to make an official announcement. “There is plenty more that I would like to see accomplished both in the short- and long-term which would benefit the community.”
Jonathan Goldman, a Springfield environmental lobbyist, ran in 2010 for State Representative in the 10th District but was remapped into the 11th District this past year. Actively involved in 32nd Ward politics, Goldman says he wants to run for state legislative office but says he considers incumbent Williams, “an ally.”
Goldman, who says,”"I have no intention of running for either State Representative of the 11th District or State Senator of the 6th District,” is now considering moving his family south into the 5th State Senate district to run against recently appointed Democratic State Senator Annazette Collins.
Scott Tucker, the Republican candidate for the 11th district in 2010, recently told Center Square Journal that he does not plan to run again this year.
13th District State Representative, Incumbent: Greg Harris (D)
“It is official, I am anxious to seek re-election,” Says Rep. Greg Harris. The veteran legislator is seeking his third full term (he was appointed in 2007 to complete then-retiring Larry McKeon’s term) and began circulating petitions for the 2012 Election last week but he does not expect to formally announce his candidacy until sometime in October.
As the chief legislative sponsor of Illinois’ civil unions, Harris made national news when the landmark legislation was passed and was signed into law last February. Harris’ national stature and resulting fundraising prowess seems to have scared off any potential opponents this year. Although this will be the third time he will run unopposed for office.
6th District State Senator, Incumbent: John Cullerton (D)
Ravenswood Manor resident John Cullerton is not just a state senator, he’s the President of the Senate. As one of the most powerful leaders in Springfield with millions of dollars of campaign cash at his command, there are few fellow Democrats, let alone Republications, willing to take him on. Although nobody has announced plans to run against Cullerton, it does not seem likely he will have an opponent this election cycle.
7th District State Senator, Incumbent: Heather Steans (D)
In an email sent to supporters two weeks ago, Edgewater resident Heather Steans announced her plan to run for reelection for her third term and that she needed help circulating ballot nomination petitions.
Steans handily won reelection against Democrat Jim Madigan in 2010, who ran a determined campaign against her. Her victory last time around may explain why no new opponents have cropped up so far.
Mike Fourcher contributed to this report.