Legislative races in west-central Illinois don't normally bring in big campaign contributions. But, money has poured into House District 93 this year, where State Rep. Norine Hammond (R-Macomb) is being challenged by John Curtis (D-Macomb).
Hammond and Curtis had the opportunity to share the stage during two candidate forums, but Hammond declined to attend both times.
So instead of talking about the issues, face to face, the candidates are communicating with voters through television commercials, campaign mailers and advertisements on radio, newspaper and online. All that comes with a hefty price tag.
The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform is a non-profit group that tracks campaign contributions and spending across the state.
The ICPR’s Executive Director Sarah Brune said there’s a lot of money in this race given the region of the state. According to the group’s campaign tracking website, illinoissunshine.org:
- Hammond campaign account - $713,175.
- Curtis campaign account - $217,337.
The website shows that Hammond has nearly tripled Curtis in fundraising since the March primary, $775,944 to $246,690.
Both candidates in the race have accused the other of taking money from their party elites. Curtis’ campaign has said Hammond is getting money from Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. Meanwhile Hammond’s campaign has said Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan has Curtis in his pocket.
Brune said that rhetoric has been a staple this election cycle.
“That’s sort of the strategy all over the state by both parties. It certainly seems that there’s a lot of conversation about two people, neither of which are on the ballot right now,” Brune said.
There are many ways for a candidate to get money from their political party and Brune said tracking that can be difficult.
A single donor has provided more than half of the money Norine Hammond has raised.
The House Republican Organization has contributed $403,595 to Hammond’s campaign. Three-quarters of that money arrived within the last two weeks.
The biggest donors to the House Republican Organization are the Illinois Republican Party and Citizens for Jim Durkin, who is the house minority leader. Both groups are heavily funded by Gov. Rauner.
Citizens for Rauner, which is the governor's campaign committee, has donated $28.9-million directly to the Illinois Republican Party this year.
“That money trickles down, but you can’t track it specifically, but certainly if a candidate in this election is receiving money from the Republican Party, one of their main donors is Governor Rauner,” said Brune.”
Hammond’s second largest donor is the McDonough County Republican Central Committee, which contributed $57,000.
The Illinois Political Action Committee for Education is the third largest donor to Hammond's campaign having given $35,200. I.P.A.C.E. supports candidates in an effort to improve the quality of education.
John Curtis has received about 4% of his total campaign contribution directly from his party through the Democratic Majority. It’s the fourth single largest donor for Curtis having given $10,134.
“In the case of Curtis, I saw less direct party contributions, although certainly, you know, that candidate has received money from some unions and those types of general democratic allied sources,” Brune said.
The three largest donors to the Curtis campaign are unions. The Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT), which represents teachers and paraprofessionals across the state, donated $53,000 to the Curtis campaign.
AFSCME, which is the state’s largest public employees union, donated $52,900. Curtis’ campaign also received $51,269 from the University Professionals of Illinois (UPI), which represents unionized employees at Illinois’ public universities.
According to Illinoissunshine.org, the majority of the unions’ money comes from membership dues and political contributions.
As the race between Hammond and Curtis nears $1-million in total contributions, it is quickly outpacing the other legislative contests in the area.
House District 74:
- Dan Swanson (R) - $79,126
- Bill Butts (D) - $7,922
The winner will replace State Rep. Don Moffit (R-Gilson), who is retiring.
House District 94:
- State Rep. Randy Freese (R-Paloma) - $17,944
- Bob Pritchett (D-Roseville) - N/A (Pritchett has not reported any contributions. Reports are not required until a candidate raises $5,000)
After the election, the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform will be looking at legislative races across the state to determine whether the candidate who raised the most money was the one who won.
“I think conventional wisdom says that the more money a candidate spends, the more likely they are to win. That may be true up to a point,” Brune said. “But this election might give us a little more information into how much spending is really necessary for a necessary for a statehouse race.
Brune said there’s no limit to the amount of money a candidate can spend. But she questions whether there’s a saturation point to where mailers and advertisements actually begin turning off voters.