With the primary election barely 2 weeks away, we are in a period when political campaigns can devolve into a mix of the bizarre and the desperate.
Anybody is liable to say anything about anyone, on or off the March 18 ballot, if it can mean a few votes.
And if you are starting to feel the heat, blame the media.
As you probably have noticed, some of that has already started.
Robocalls. TV and radio commercials. Newspaper ads. Junk mail. Letters to the editor. Online postings.
It can only get worse.
ABOUT THE ONLINE comments and questions ...
“How about full disclosure?” one reader asked a reporter online. “Who are you and SVM endorsing?”
On Page A6 today, you will find a Shaw Media endorsement of Bruce Rauner for the Republican nomination for governor.
That editorial is being published by all Shaw Media newspapers in Illinois.
As far as the editor can tell, that’s it for endorsements.
If you’ve heard anything else, please let the editor know.
He hates surprises.
SOME READERS ARE under the impression that favoritism by editors or reporters at this newspaper will swing the reporting to favored candidates.
“As far as the paper goes,” a reader recently wrote in an online post, “I’m sure it’s all in who they are backing who gets the coverage.”
If anyone knows who – besides Rauner – is receiving the “backing” of this newspaper, please tell the editor.
He hates to be the last one to know.
IN FACT, THE EDITOR dislikes endorsements in primary elections.
Choosing candidates for the Democratic and Republican ballots in November ought to be done by the Democratic and Republican parties.
Direct primary elections that involve voting by us ordinary folks have been a miserable failure.
In the last comparable primary election – Feb. 2, 2010 – only 14.28 percent of Whiteside County’s registered voters bothered to cast a ballot.
In Lee County, it was 18.06 percent; 21.98 percent in Ogle County; 23.16 percent in Carroll County.
And when you consider that only about half of eligible residents are even registered to vote ... well, the apathy is overwhelming.
Let the political parties do their own nominating for the fall election.
They seem to care.
VOTING SHOULD PICK up quite a bit this year in Lee County – thanks to the campaign for the Republican nomination for sheriff.
Incumbent John Varga is being challenged by John Simonton, a city police officer who retired from the Illinois State Police.
Varga had no opponent in 2010, so his friends and supporters are having trouble dealing with the fact he is getting a little bruised in a contested race this year.
The fact that the brass in the Dixon Police Department are openly supporting their colleague’s challenge to Varga has raised the profile of this campaign even more.
In addition to considering the qualification of the candidates, voters are watching the debate about whether it’s appropriate for city police administrators to get so involved publicly in choosing the top administrator in the county’s police department.
Partisans will disagree over whether the conflict is personal or professional, but it’s only going to get more intense over the next 17 days.
Although this is only a primary election, Democrats don’t now have – and seem unlikely to have by November – a candidate for the office. So this is pretty much the election for sheriff.
Our position? May the better man win.
VOTING TURNOUT OF more than 20 percent in Ogle County 4 years ago could probably be attributed to the sheriff’s race there.
This year, incumbent Michael Harn is trying to avoid getting what he gave in 2010 to then-incumbent Greg Beitel – a one-term stint as sheriff.
Harn has a strong political base – he captured well over 60 percent of the vote when he ousted Beitel – and he is benefiting this year from the fact that he has two challengers to split the opposing votes.
On the downside, the Ogle County Board has twice in the past year had to put some curbs on his spending practices and policies – which doesn’t look good in the months before re-election.
An unapologetic Harn has dismissed criticism – even factual reporting – of those money matters as petty politics.
“Recent media accounts which reflected poorly upon myself the Sheriff’s Office and the Ogle County Board were found to be a sham political stunt perpetuated upon taxpayers and voters,” the sheriff posted on his department’s Facebook page.
He didn’t say what independent investigating agency made that finding.
IN THE MIDST OF a contentious political campaign, blaming politics for your troubles is an easy out.
But facts are facts.
Harn used his county-issued credit card for personal expenses, for which he reimbursed the county when the invoices arrived – effectively a 1-month interest-free loan from the county. But Ogle County doesn’t make such financial services available to everyone, and the “I can do it but you can’t” arrogance of such credit card use doesn’t sit well with a lot of people.
Harn also spent thousands of tax dollars on meals at local restaurants that he explained as “training” that couldn’t be done anytime other than over lunch. But when the County Board told him to stop it, the “training” luncheons somehow magically ended.
And just a couple of months before the primary election, he bought newspaper and radio ads – which he denied were political – to boast of his returning more than a million dollars from his budget to the county during his tenure as sheriff. The ads were paid with county funds from the loosey-goosey “tow fund,” for which the County Board recently changed the spending rules.
His supporters will tell you that Harn’s sound fiscal management of the department has benefited taxpayers through the unspent money returned to the county. His detractors will question why, year after year, his budget contained hundreds of thousands of dollars that he didn’t need.
It’s a three-way race for the Republican nomination for sheriff in Ogle County, with no Democratic candidate in sight.
Our position? May the best man win.