STERLING – Democrat Mike Smiddy is ahead in fundraising over Republican state Rep. Rich Morthland in the 71st District, which includes much of Whiteside County.
From July to September, Smiddy raised $69,348 to Morthland’s $52,171 for the Nov. 6 election, according to campaign finance reports filed with the state Board of Elections.
Two-thirds of Smiddy’s donations came from unions during that time. That includes $20,000 from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a union that represents public employees, including Smiddy, who works at the East Moline Corrections Center as a supervisor.
Since the two candidates filed their campaign finance reports earlier this month, they have taken some big contributions.
Smiddy had taken in $35,000 more in union donations, while Morthland has received a nearly $11,000 in-kind advertising contribution from the Illinois Republican Party and $2,500 from the committee for state Rep. Tom Morrison, R-Palatine.
Smiddy, of Hillsdale, said Republicans are starting to give more support for Morthland because they realize Smiddy is doing so well with fundraising. Meanwhile, he said, his campaign has been without support from the Illinois Democratic Party.
“We caught the Republican Party asleep a little bit because the Democratic Party didn’t come in, yet we were able to raise the funds for a very successful campaign,” he said.
Morthland, a Cordova resident elected 2 years ago, said his opponent was receiving much support from public employee unions.
“They’re clearly a special interest,” he said. “When you think about it, it’s a conflicted interest. They are clearly trying to secure a representative to do their bidding. That has to be the motivation of a lot of the people supporting him.”
“The donations are a mirror of the district,” he said. “We are made up of a lot of union households. They [unions] are looking out for the best interests of folks in the area.”
One of the biggest issues involving public unions is the pension crisis. State lawmakers are looking at how to pare pensions because of billions of dollars in debt.
Smiddy said he would be willing to work out an agreement with the state’s unions.
“The public sector unions are not against a haircut with their benefits,” he said. “They don’t want a lobotomy.”
In the 71st District race, redistricting may play a role. The district was a primarily Rock Island County district; before Morthland, it was held by Democrat Mike Boland. With the new term, Whiteside County will make up much of the district.
“The district is clearly more Republican than it was,” Morthland said.
Smiddy said Whiteside County had voted Democratic in other races, adding that much of the district is new to Morthland.
“We’re not taking anything for granted as a Republican or Democratic area,” he said.
Smiddy backs longtime speaker
STERLING – Mike Smiddy, the Democratic candidate for state representative in the 71st District, will be a vote for longtime Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.
Madigan, a state representative since 1971, has been speaker for all but 2 years since 1983. Republicans say Madigan is the poster boy for the state's financial problems and the excesses of Chicago's political machine.
"As it stands now, I would vote for Mike Madigan as speaker of the House," Smiddy said in an interview Tuesday. "He's not only the leader of the House, but the leader of the Democratic Party of Illinois."
Smiddy, who is running against Rep. Rich Morthland, R-Cordova, said he had his differences with Madigan, particularly on the pension issue. For four decades, he said, state legislators have failed to properly fund pensions for workers.
"The first thing is for legislators to do our part, pay our portion of the payment," he said.
The Hillsdale Democrat noted that the Illinois Democratic Party has not given its support to his campaign.
"I have already set myself as independent from the speaker," Smiddy said.
Still, he said he doesn't resent that the state party won't give him backing, as it has for state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline.
"The Democrats have the majority in the House and the Senate. They have to make sure their No. 1 priority is that their incumbents are re-elected."
The 71st District includes much of Whiteside County.
How much they've raised
Campaign finance reports for July 1 to Sept. 30 for the 71st House District:
Candidate Raised Spent In bank on Sept. 30
Rich Morthland, R-Cordova $52,171 $35,231 $31,761
Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale $69,348 $50,037 $33,933
Source: State Board of Elections