Quick Hits – The First Ward Midterm Predictions – Mild Revisions

I’m generally standing by last week’s electoral prognostications and I’m certainly looking forward to seeing scurrilous Kane County Auditor Terry Hunt’s gleaming visage adorned in a White Sox cap after I prove to be dead on in the governor, attorney general and 6th district congressional races.

But as I like to say, “When the evidence changes, my mind changes,” and a late Sienna College /New York Times poll has Lauren Underwood pulling away from 14th congressional district incumbent Randy Hultgren. And the Sienna/Times polls are always among the most accurate.

Hultgren Underwood

Not only that, but Hultgren’s last-minute attack ad questioning Underwood’s nursing credentials is beyond absurd and it’s bound to backfire with the swing voters that could cost Hultgren the race.

Since Mr. Hultgren brought up the whole morality thing, has anyone noticed his wife follows him everywhere he goes and she never looks very happy about it? Trust me! Her ubiquitous presence has nothing to do with love and devotion or the fact she can’t live without him.

Meanwhile, I believe that Underwood’s more positive recent mailers are the reason she’s pulling away. She’s finally appealing to swing voters.

The bottom line? Despite running a horrific campaign with horrific signs, I’m now forecasting Underwood will win by 5 points.

It would also appear that young and new voters are, indeed, casting mid-term ballots which means I’m leaning towards my previous “if young and new voters vote” qualifications in those original prophecies.

Put more simply, I think this is gonna be a really bad night for statewide and federal Republicans.

Quick Hits – November 5, 2018

Judge Dalton can’t even be ethical on a mailer!

Between his miserable Illinois State Bar Association ratings and a small, but determined, group intent on removing him from the bench, Kane County Judge John Dalton suddenly seems to be getting a bit nervous.

It’s still somewhat of a longshot to get 41 percent of the electorate to vote no on his retention question, but the Judge has managed to bully and torment so many of the folks who’ve come before him that the anti-retention effort has really started gathered steam.

To stem that rising tide, his Elgin cabal are posting pro-retention Facebook memes, and in an unprecedented move, Dalton sent out mailer with a similar message. Most judges consider retention votes to be a mere formality.

The front of his mail piece boasts a glowing endorsement from one Marzenia Vandeburgt, who describes herself as a “Kane County Attorney.” While that certainly is the case, it’s hardly the whole story.

Bad Judges

You see, Ms. Vandeburgt is not just any “Kane County Attorney,” what she strategically left out is that she’s a prosecutor in the Kane County State’s Attorney’s office. And as she indicated on the mailer, she’s regularly appeared in Dalton’s courtroom for the last three years.

I’m sure I don’t need to lecture you on the pitfalls of an assistant state’s attorney currying political favor with a sitting judge who regularly rules on her cases. All I can say is, I certainly wouldn’t want to see her to sitting across the aisle from me in courtroom 101.

Put more simply, she just won herself an ADRC complaint.

The endorsement continues with Vandeburgt waxing poetically about how Dalton is “fair to all the litigants who appear before him.”

First, that kind of fiction makes Trump’s mendacious mentality appear tame by comparison. And second, Vandeburgt generally deals with settlements to which both parties have already signed on, so there is no litigation. So, how would she know he’s fair to litigants?

She wouldn’t.

Though it’s only semi-immaterial to my point, Vandeburgt and Dalton have been friends for the better part of two decades. That means that Dalton couldn’t get any private Kane County attorney to say just one good thing about him. He had to resort to a friend who tried to hide the fact that she’s really a prosecutor who plies his courtroom.

For this, and all the other reasons we’ve already discussed, if you haven’t already, please vote “No” to send this miserable excuse for a judge packing.


Why are you running?

That’s the very first question in my impeding book, “So You Want to Win a Local Election?” If you can’t respond to that basic inquiry directly, effectively, and with an appropriate amount of passion, then please put the nominating papers down and walk away.


Carol Rauschenberger

And that’s the very first question that popped into my head mind when I heard that Elgin City Councilperson Carol Rauschenberger would challenge Dave Kaptain in the 2019 mayoral race.

Why are you running?

There’s virtually no difference between the two candidates, right down to management style, political leanings, and their perception of the city they both serve. Rauschenberger admitted they agree on most things, she expects the race will be “a friendly one,” and she told the Courier-News, “Overall, this is a pretty well-run city.”

I guess the simple answer is Carol wants to be mayor! It’s not the best reason to run, but it’s not the worst, either.

Her problem is, without some sort of wedge issue like the formerly proposed rain tax, there’s really no good reason to vote for her. And with the City in the Suburbs humming along quite nicely, I’m not sure what kind of messaging could possibly differentiate her from Dave.

So, why run?

This may well turn out to be the most boring mayoral race in Elgin’s long history, which, after these fascinating mid-terms, won’t necessarily be a bad thing.

Quick Hits – Sealing the deal!

As we head into the final mid-term stretch, I’m getting a bit tired of those folks who cynically claim that all of our public servants come from the same self-serving stock. I know it takes some effort to ferret them out, but there truly are some stellar elected officials in Illinois who do bear noting.

Election 2018 b

So, before that election day bell rings, let’s take a final shot at considering the good guys on the ballot!

1. Kane County Treasurer Dave Rickert

Dave does such a great job that one of my bevy of attorneys specifically called to extol his vast political virtue. Apparently, the property tax lines were out the door that day and my attorney was quite impressed that Dave came out to help his team make short work of the payment process.

You’ve never read about any problems in the Treasurer’s office because there haven’t been any.  And the staff is always friendly and helpful despite the daunting task of collecting property taxes from people who’d rather be going to the dentist.

Normally, I’d be hesitant to support a candidate who’s seeking his fifth term, but Dave refuses to give in to any sort of entitlement mentality and if it ain’t broke…


2. Kane County Board Member John Martin

John is smart, he’s politically savvy, he doesn’t fall for partisan BS, he doesn’t take the gig personally, and he gets along with every other board member. He’s willing to put the required time and effort into a part-time job really isn’t, too! His district is lucky to have him.


3. Kane County Board Member Kurt Kojzarek

My occasional former radio show co-host has done such a great job he clearly deserves a third term. All of the adjectives attached to John Martin also apply to Kurt, who’s successfully chaired the all-important development committee and, as his campaign slogan goes, he truly has been “A Voice of Reason” on a frequently fractious board.

You know you’re doing well when your opponent co-opts your platform plank for plank. Some savvy folks say Kurt would be the logical choice to succeed Chairman Chris Lauzen and I would tend to agree with them.


4. Judge John Barsanti

You know my disdain for many 16th Circuit judges, but I have absolutely no problem voting “yes” to retain John. We discussed many difficult issues during his tenure as Kane County State’s Attorney and I was always impressed by his thoughtful approach to a very difficult job.

It’s also important to note his Illinois State Bar Association’s 100 “legal ability” rating. That means 148 of his Kane County peers gave him a perfect score.


5. Judges Clint Hull and Rene Cruz

They may be running unopposed, but that doesn’t mean I won’t check off those boxes when voting later today. Their ISBA ratings are excellent, they understand exactly what wearing the black robe means, and they never forget that, in the end, they serve the people.

They’re also very active in the community, which includes speaking to middle and high school students about the dangers of texting the wrong kind of photographs and all the other pitfalls of modern technology.


6. Don DeWitte

Don and I share a keen perception of the obvious which has led to quite a fascinating friendship. Some GOP folks say he’s not pure enough to be sent to Springfield, but my fervent belief is that we need more general assembly Republicans who understand that stomping your feet and holding your breath never accomplishes anything.

Don will be exactly the kind of guy who can work with the Democratic supermajority to actually get things done.


7. Ron Hain

Ron has more Sheriffing capacity in the tip of his left little finger than Don Kramer has in his entire body. And he would’ve showed up at Delnor, too!

Ron has concrete plans and programs to bring the kind of respectability back to the office that was the norm under former Sheriff Pat Perez. I particularly like his anti-recidivism rehab and jobs for felons efforts because jailing folks is utterly ineffective and incredibly costly.

Too often we have to choose between the lesser of two candidate evils. This is not one of those cases. Hain is the exponentially better choice.


8. Treasurer Michael Frerichs

He’s a good guy who runs an efficient office while always looking out for the people of Illinois. He’s certainly earned a second term.


I’ll see you at the polling place!



Quick Hits – The First Ward’s Midterm Predictions!

Normally, election prognostication columns are one of my favorite things, but with this election cycle truly testing my prophetic mettle, I’m not looking forward to dipping my toe into that muddied swamp.

Put more simply, not only would I like to preserve my 85 percent prescient track record, but some of y’all take far too much glee in reminding me of the few times I wuz wrong.

What I can tell you with reasonable certainly about these midterms is:

  • There will be no local blue wave
  • I wouldn’t count on a national blue wave
  • There will be no real Hispanic turnout
  • Non-voters still won’t vote

But there is a wildcard! If the current anti-Trump sentiment has motivated new and young voters to cast a ballot, that will change everything. But since they have no real voting history, applying a statistical model to forecast that turnout is pointless. Put more simply, we won’t know until we know.

Election Predictions

With all of that in mind, and with some qualifying conditions, I’m gonna give it my best shot. Just be gentle with me when it’s over:

1. Governor

J. B. Pritzker by 18 points; 23 if young folks vote. Pritzker gets better at campaigning every day while Bruce Rauner looks as lost as he did at that Southern Illinois Trump rally.

2. Attorney General

Kwame Raoul by 20 points. With the unparalleled Madigan ground game behind him, Raoul will trounce Erika Harold, a truly terrible candidate.

3. Secretary of State

Jesse White by a landslide. Why Republicans waste their time running against him is beyond me.

4. Comptroller

Susana Mendoza by 20 points. People like Ms. Mendoza and I’ve neither seen nor heard a thing from Republican challenger Darlene Senger.

5. Treasurer

Michael Frerichs by 20 points. Again, Michael is a very likeable guy and his main opponent, Jim Dodge, is anything but. If Dodge ever did have a chance, Libertarian candidate Michael Laheney’s entry into the race put an end to it.

6. 6th Congressional District

Casten by 3 points. If young voters show up, 8 points. Considering the vast GOP nature of DuPage County, I’m really going out on a limb here, but Peter Roskam’s failure to hold town hall meetings or effectively respond to constituents means he’s done. Casten has also run a campaign that hasn’t left those all-important swing voters out in the cold.

7. 8th Congressional District

Raja Krishnamoorthi by 20 points. Raj is quite popular in his district and I haven’t seen hide nor hair of his Republican opponent.

8. 11th Congressional District

Bill Foster by 25 points. He may be a completely worthless Congressman (and human being), but the district is highly Democratic and Foster is one of the few candidates who understands how to use voting statistics.

9. 14th Congressional District

Randy Hultgren by 4 points; Lauren Underwood by 1 point if young people vote. This one was Underwood’s for the taking, but her poorly run campaign has been aimed solely at people who were already going to vote for her. And preaching to the choir gets you nowhere when you’re in the district’s minority party. That said, given her surprising primary victory, if she has been aiming at swing voters via some unseen method, she could win by 5 points.

10. State Senate District 33

Don DeWitte by 15 points. Ain’t no Democrat ever gonna win the 33rd.

11. State Rep District 43

Anna Moeller by 25 points. Ain’t no Republican ever gonna win the 43rd.

12. State Rep District 49

Tonia Khouri by 20 points. Ms. Khouri knows how to campaign and her Democratic opponent, Karina Villa, does not. Ms. Villa is listening to the Aurora Democrats which is the quickest way to lose an election.

13. State Rep District 50

Keith Wheeler by 15 points. Jim Leslie may be a tireless campaign worker, but it doesn’t matter because he’s run one of the worst campaigns I’ve ever seen. Constantly attacking your opponent over minor issues doesn’t work in local races.

14. State Rep 65

Dan Ugaste by 20 points. Ugaste signs are everywhere, but I’ve only seen three of Richard Johnson’s in the entire county.

15. 16th Circuit Judge

Tom Hartwell by 10 points. Hartwell really should trounce opponent Michael Noland by twice that, but the extent of Noland’s contemptible behavior isn’t as well known outside of the Elgin area.

16. County Clerk

Jack Cunningham by 20 points. Being a perennial losing candidate has not helped Nico Jimenez at all and his campaign ethic does not impress me.

17. Sheriff

Don Kramer by 5 points; Ron Hain by 1 point if new and young voters turn out. Ron Hain should’ve run away with this one, but the Kane County and Aurora Democrats totally screwed him by running candidates against countywide Republicans they can’t possibly beat. This blitheringly stupid move forced those Republicans to mobilize and, though Kramer clearly doesn’t deserve the office, a rising GOP tide lifts all boats. If you want to snatch an election defeat from the jaws of victory, take advice from Democratic Vice Chairman Corinne Pierog.

18. County Treasurer

Dave Rickert by 40 points. I haven’t seen a single Jim Snelson sign anywhere and Rickert is a very astute campaigner.


For Kane County Board Races, I’m just going to pick the winner:

District 2 – Anita Lewis

District 5 – Bill Lenert

District 6 – Ron Ford – will actually win a write-in campaign!

District 11 – John Martin – by a landslide

District 13 – Steve Weber

District 15 – Barb Wojnicki

District 19 – Kurt Kojzarek

District 21 – Cliff Surges

District 23 – Jim Patrician

Now, it’s your turn to put your neck on the line and make your own predictions in the comments section. After that, get out and vote!

Quick Hits – Just Don’t Do It – Part 2

Survival as a journalist depends upon a capacity to harden your heart or follow in those Zen masters’ non-attachment footsteps. I’d like to think I fall into the latter category, but despite my best efforts, some news reports still get to me. To wit, two similar stories ripped my heart out and stomped on it last week.

The first involved a 21-year-old University of Utah track standout who’d taken compromising photographs with a boyfriend who turned out to be a 37-year-old sex offender. When they broke up as a result, he used those photos to shake her down for $1,000 and then he killed her after she went to the campus police six separate times.

He committed suicide when the police finally caught up with him and the University will have to explain how they could possibly let this one fall through the cracks.

While that one’s certainly gut wrenching, it’s the second one I’m having a really tough time with.

Through a chatroom, David Cottrell, a former law student who lives in Niles, Illinois, somehow convinced a seventh-grade girl to send him nude photos. Thinking she was anonymous, the girl complied only to be threatened with a child porn charge if she didn’t continue to provide more graphic videos and photographs.

David Cottrell

David Cottrell

Cottrell, 28, coerced the middle-schooler into providing pictures and videos almost daily, which included making her stay up late to act out pornographic scripts and leave her classes to take nude pictures in the school bathroom. This went on for three long years until her parents finally found some of those transactions on her phone.

Cottrell, who plead not guilty to all charges, was remanded to federal custody where he faces a minimum of 15 years in prison if convicted. Considering the charges, my guess is he’s in isolation.

I may not have daughters, but I can’t comprehend how any human being could torture a 13-year-old girl in this heinous a manner. There’s gotta be a special place in hell for Cottrell, and my fondest wish is his inevitable jail time comes as damn close to one of Dante’s inner circles as possible.

But despite harboring a vast amount of sympathy for the two victims and especially for their parents, we both know that a senseless death and three years of torment might have been avoided if those nude photos didn’t exist.

All I can say is, I’m glad cell phones weren’t available in 1971.

The first problem is, even if you consent to sending graphic photos of yourself, if you’re underage, it may well mean a child porn charge for the sender and the recipient. That’s a quick 4 to 15 years in prison.

The second issue is, blinded by that sense of blissful sense of youthful invulnerability and/or being in love, teenagers quickly forget that nothing ever goes away on the Net – and that includes emails and texts. All it takes is a bad breakup, and most of our early relationships end poorly, and those pictures go up on a revenge porn site or worse.

Not to mention they can simply be passed around by someone who’s a bit more callous than you might like to think.

Third, a good friend just told me, “There’s no such thing as anonymity anymore,” and he’s right. One of the things I’ve learned in 12 years of journalism is that, give me a scant 15 minutes, I can find out virtually anything about anybody. Getting something as simple as an address is child’s play. And we’re not talking any kind of hack either. Most of it’s already out there. It’s simply a matter of knowing how and where to look.

If you do make a mistake and someone does post those kinds of pictures online or attempts to blackmail you, please, please, please, go to a parent, counselor, or law enforcement agency. Of course, your parents won’t be happy about it, but we’ve all made blunders we’d rather forget, and I can tell you that protecting our children from predators is far more important than prosecuting an error in judgement.

Trust me, your parents will support you in this regard.

Though it certainly feels like another case of spitting into the wind, my fondest wish is that every parent, and every middle school and high school teacher, will impart those two terrifying news stories to their young charges. It’s hard to believe that a couple of photographs could spiral out of control like this until the evidence proves that it can.

I understand it’s not easy to entertain certain unpleasant realities. When I think about the “dangers” we faced growing up in the 60s, it’s remarkable to consider that predators can enter your child’s life directly through a device in their back pocket. That’s why it’s so important to talk to them about the dangers of sending nude photos and so many other of our fascinating 2018 parental challenges.

Because to lose a daughter and to have another daughter endure three years of agony over the briefest of lapses is beyond sad and incredibly difficult to comprehend.

Quick Hits – October 26, 2018

This is why Republicans can’t win in Illinois

With the friendliest poll numbers putting him 13 points behind J. B. Pritzker, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner is resorting to the same sort of silly shenanigans that will ensure the Springfield Democratic supermajority will be sustained.

His latest TV ad, entitled ‘Unholy Union,’ features the backs of two well-dressed men facing a minister at the altar. The clergyman says, “Repeat after me. I, Mike Madigan, take you, J.B. Pritzker, as my unlawful partner in destruction, to raise property taxes, corrupt government and bankrupt Illinois’ future.”

To which the Madigan character responds, “Done,” while the Pritzker stand-in says “Deal.”

The minister continues; “And I, J. B. Pritzker, take you, Mike Madigan, to honor and obey till death do us part.”

“Always have; Always will.” the faux Pritzker replies.

“By the power vested in me, I now pronounce Illinois bleeped,” the minister concludes mouthing a F-bomb directly into the camera.

Rauner Wedding Ad

First, the tired old anti-Madigan Republican mantra doesn’t work. Illinois voters want a lot more solutions and a lot less blame. As the Governor himself said in 2014, “If I don’t change the state in four years, throw me out.”

And that’s exactly what we’re gonna do.

Second, this kind of messaging is called a “dog whistle” ad because it’s true intent is to scare the conservative voters who’ve long since abandoned Rauner for third party candidate Sam McCann. C’mon! Do you really think the depiction of a same-sex marriage was an accident?

Not only will this tactic fail to rescue Rauner from being relegated to political oblivion, but its radiating ripples will help doom Illinois’ Republican chances for years to come. I keep saying it! Illinois is a purple state and shrieking about social issues won’t get you very far.

I’m gonna keep saying this, too! If the Illinois GOP wants to beat Mike Madigan, they need to put a lot less effort into lip service and a lot more effort into creating the kind of ground game that gave the Dems a supermajority in the first place.


Just don’t do it!

My wife and I have a running gag called ‘Things you thought you’d never have to say.”

For example, when they were younger, I had to tell one of my sons to stop licking his brother. Then there was the time I had to explain why putting cereal up your nose is a bad idea. Just last week I had to tell the new dog not to pee on his sister.

It’s along those very same lines that I suddenly feel obligated to call on my Caucasian counterparts to stop calling the cops on folks for breathing while black. It’s not that I’m necessarily responsible for my race (and I’m an honorary Mexican anyway), it’s that I’m tired of having to read the weekly story on the latest loon setting our race back 200 years.

To wit, white people have dialed 911 to report blacks who were:

  • Barbecuing
  • Babysitting white children
  • Accidentally brushing a woman with a backpack
  • Going to a public pool
  • Sitting a seat away while flying
  • Napping in a dorm lounge
  • Shopping
  • Leaving an Airbnb
  • Taking a college tour
  • Golfing
  • Sitting in Starbucks

Just don’t do it!

And when your ridiculous rant goes viral, insisting that you’re not racist while claiming that one of your best friends is black really doesn’t help matters, either.

White Folks

The next sentence I never thought I’d have to issue is, “Men need to stop groping women on airplanes!” There have been three separate airplane groping news accounts in just the past six months.

What the hell is wrong with you people? Despite whatever adult movies might depict, most women don’t like being randomly grabbed by anyone, much less a stranger. And there’s no place to hide on an aluminum tube hurtling through the upper reaches of the atmosphere at 600 mph, either.

Just don’t do it!

Of course, airlines might want to consider not overserving passengers on long flights, but that’s a column for another day.

All I can say is, to quote a short story character in the Atlantic Monthly, “Sometimes I wonder if the whole world isn’t an idiot asylum for the castaways of happier planets.”


Quick Hits – October 24, 2018

Yes! Judge Dalton really said that!

As is always the case, whenever we cover John Dalton, a miserable excuse for a judge and a human being, a slew of new emails inevitably arrive detailing even more of his abhorrent abuse of power. Most of them are heart-rending, too.

In that very vein, I just received another missive that truly sums up the kind of man John Dalton really is.

In February, a young woman petitioned Dalton for an order of protection against her ex who was stalking and harassing her, including sending sexually explicit text messages that detailed how he’d masturbate in bed next to their two-year-old daughter. The ex also happened to be out on bond for threatening to kill her two separate times.

Dalton’s response to those texts was to admonish the plaintiff with, “Do you know how many people have sex in the same room as their children?” Then he proceeded to “explain” that her ex-husband was making these threats out of frustration that she wouldn’t respond to him.

Then he wouldn’t grant her the order of protection.

Courtroom KC

I don’t know about you, but my fervent believe is that most of us don’t threaten to kill our wives of former wives if they don’t immediately respond to a text. And who wouldn’t want to engage in a lively conversation with an individual who regularly stalks, harasses and threatens you.

I told you Judge Dalton doesn’t like women.

But wait there’s more!

When the plaintiff asked that her ex remain in the car during visitation exchanges – an agreement they’d both already signed – Dalton ignored it and insisted that the child be dropped off at a police station instead. Then he proceeded to lecture the mother for getting the police involved and how it might affect their daughter.

That’s the very essence of John Dalton – he loves to berate plaintiffs for his own orders.

In this woman’s own words:

I have witnessed this judge berate people every time I am in his courtroom. I have watched him have no sensitivity for very personal matters; and I have watched as he rolls his eyes, snarls, chuckles; and I have watched him accuse good parents of damaging their children.

I am voting that he NOT be retained as judge, and I pray that many other people do the same.

I’m praying for the very same thing!


Don’t let ‘em get away with it folks!

When we last left off, Kane County 6th District County Board candidate, Ron Ford, was headed to court to try to level the electoral playing field.

You see, because these delicate flowers harbor a third-grade mentality, especially when they lose a race they shouldn’t have lost, the beyond dysfunctional Aurora Township Democrats pulled a fast one by pulling the slating rug out from under Ron.


If you recall, Ron was appointed to fill out Brian Dahl’s term after he moved out of the district, and that would typically mean he’d automatically get a spot on the November ballot.

But KC Democratic Chairman, Mark Guethle, and Aurora Township Democratic Chairman, Greg Elsbree, conspired to keep Ron and his precinct committeemen supporters in the dark as to that nominating process until it was too late for them to respond.

So, the Aurora Dems secretly slated yet another nothing candidate whose sole purpose in life is to turn the county board in the local equivalent of Congress. Do we really need another partisan battleground right here in Kane County?

If you doubt my hypothesis, remember when the Aurora Dem infighting got so bad that two separate township groups claimed heirship to the throne? They went as far as holding separate meetings until the courts finally sorted it all out.

Nobody ever benefits from that kind of political stupidity.

The courts were Ron’s last chance to redress this blatant power play, but as is too often the 16th Circuit case, they failed us again. I’m not saying that Judge Kevin Busch was necessarily nefarious, it’s just that, when it comes to election law, he has no clue. And applying a family court mien to a ballot issue never works well.

According to Ford’s attorney, Jeff Meyer:

Judge Busch appeared genuinely troubled by the clear effort to avoid providing actual notice to Ron Ford supporters. Unfortunately, the Judge ruled that was a not a legally relevant consideration in determining sufficiency of notice under the statute.

It is however, a relevant consideration for voters. The fine folks in Kane County Board District 6 should respond to Guethle’s and Elsbree’s effort to abrogate the voting right of Ron Ford supporters by sending their candidate packing.

Put more simply, don’t let those Aurora bleeps win this one.

Ron, a county board member who other county board members look up to, is running as a write-in candidate. And if he hasn’t knocked on your door, he will soon with a simple instruction card on how to apply the write-in process.

It certainly won’t be that difficult to write in “Ron Ford?”