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$2 million raised for Senate race

Jacobs: Money spent in politics ‘obscene’

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012 12:45 p.m. CDT
Mike Jacobs (left) and Mike Smiddy.

STERLING – Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, far outraised his opponent in his successful bid for re-election last week. But he said the money in political races was “obscene.”

Another Democrat, Mike Smiddy of Hillsdale, who beat the incumbent in the 71st House District, also prevailed in his fundraising.

Both Jacobs’ and Smiddy’s districts include much of Whiteside County.

In the 36th Senate District, Jacobs’ race against Bill Albracht, R-Moline, was the second most expensive Senate contest in Illinois this year, with more than $2 million spent on both sides, according to the Chicago-based Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, a watchdog group.

Jacobs, who won with 55 percent of the vote, raised nearly $1.5 million, more than double Albracht’s $618,000, the group reported. Outside groups independently spent more than $250,000 in the race, a little more than half of which was spent in efforts favoring Albracht.

Meanwhile, Smiddy, who got 52 percent, received $375,000, more than twice that of Rep. Rich Morthland, R-Cordova, who got $166,000. More than four-fifths of Smiddy’s money came from unions.

While Jacobs received nearly a half million from Democratic organizations, Smiddy got just $7,450, most of which was from other candidates’ committees.

Jacobs has been in the Senate since 2005, inheriting his seat from his father, Denny Jacobs.

Why so much money in this year’s race?

“Jacobs has been around for a while,” said David Morrison, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. “He has a mature fundraising apparatus. His father was there before him.”

Morrison said Republicans may have thought they had a better shot because of Jacobs’ confrontation on the Senate floor last year. Other senators accused Jacobs of punching a GOP colleague. That run-in was after the colleague questioned Jacobs’ motive for sponsoring a bill that increased ComEd rates. Jacobs’ father was a ComEd lobbyist.

“The Republicans made a serious run,” Morrison said.

Jacobs said the system makes it “cost-prohibitive for a lot of normal people” to run.

“The money has become obscene,” he said. “We should go to public financing.”

Jacobs said he found himself spending more time raising money than meeting voters.

“It’s hard to raise that kind of money. You have to physically talk to every person. I don’t believe it’s a healthy situation for anyone,” he said. “I would rather take that money and do something positive for our community.”

Jacobs said the Democratic-run General Assembly designed his Senate district, which includes two House districts, in a way to ensure the election of House Democrats. And it worked: Smiddy was elected and Pat Verschoore, the 72nd’s Democratic incumbent, was re-elected.

“We did everything in our power to get Democrats [in the 71st and 72nd],” he said. “We tried to ensure that we could pick up some areas of Sterling and Rock Falls. I really felt we were much more successful drawing that map than anyone thought.”

The redistricting, Jacobs said, was crucial for Smiddy.

“He couldn’t have been elected under the old map,” he said. “Mike Smiddy will find himself in a safe Democratic seat.”

Morrison of the Illinois Campaign said the Democrats, who gained seats in last week’s election, had the advantage this year.

“The Democrats drew the map. They tended to raise the most money,” he said. “They worked very carefully to recruit the right candidates.”

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