A couple of weeks ago, we submitted candidate questionnaires to the 36 candidates for the Whiteside County Board and the 28 Lee County Board contestants.
Some candidates returned them right away. Others took awhile. One candidate told me his brother accidentally burned the questionnaire along with other documents. We sent it again.
Three candidates – all incumbents – told me they didn't plan to return the questionnaire at all. At least they were honest.
But it makes you wonder why they don't want to respond to a questionnaire. We didn't ask trick questions. They were questions about the bigger county issues, such as wind farms, the needs of law enforcement, and candidates' preferences for County Board chairman.
Our questionnaire may be the only one they receive during the campaign. I doubt they're bombarded with them.
One Whiteside County incumbent told me that some board members wouldn't answer because they didn't like the questions, particularly the one asking who they wanted as chairman.
To be sure, most of those who answered the questionnaire avoided the chairman question. They said they didn't know who would be elected to the board, so it would be premature to state a preference.
Most board members stay on for years. In Whiteside County, 25 of the 27 board members are running for re-election. In Lee County, 19 incumbents are running for 24 positions; three were knocked off in the March Republican primary.
If we had only five County Board members in each county – as is the case in much of the country – we could actually get to know the candidates and have debates. With the number of candidates in Lee and Whiteside counties, a debate would be a logistical nightmare.
With so many of them, board members aren't used to much scrutiny. Does that explain some of the resistance to responding to questionnaires?
The subtle messages that politicians send
I don't usually laugh when looking through my mail. On a recent day, I did. The cause: a campaign mailer.
The Illinois Democratic Party sent out a glossy piece attacking Republican Senate candidate Bill Albracht of Moline. He and state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, are vying to represent the 36th District, which includes most of Whiteside County.
Political consultants are careful about words and photos they use in campaign literature. One of the goals is to pick the least flattering photos of their opponents.
So far, I have received three anti-Albracht mailers from the Democrats.
In one case, the Illinois Democratic Party chose a picture of a grimacing Albracht wearing sunglasses. In another, Albracht is looking down. He is sitting alone among a group of empty folding chairs.
What got me to laugh was a photo of a smiling, tuxedo-clad guy with a cigar and what appeared to be a glass of brandy in hand. He is sitting on a leather sofa in a marble-walled room.
Three other cigars – probably Cubans – await their turn on an end table.
Next to this large photo is a small head-and-shoulders photo of Bill Albracht, with the words, "Republican Albracht wants to cut taxes for millionaires while making poor seniors pay more out of their own pockets for their health care."
Voters are supposed to connect Albracht with the rich guy. And we all know wealthy men hang around their houses wearing tuxedos.
I looked to see where the Democratic Party got the photo. In Google Images, I searched for "rich man tuxedo," and a number of photos turned up for this same dapper guy.
Another Democratic mailer included a photo of a long-faced elderly woman with a treasure trove of prescription drugs. The mailer says, "Albracht would force poor seniors (which is why they are on Medicaid) to somehow come up with money to make a co-pay for their medical bills." This may be why the woman is so glum – or so the campaign consultants would hope you believe.
If you get political mailers, look for the subtle messages that the politicians – both Democrats and Republicans – are trying to send you.
Sauk Valley Media reporter David Giuliani covers the Whiteside and Lee county governments, Morrison and other smaller communities. He can be reached at dgiuliani@saukvalley or at 800-798-4085, ext. 525.