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updated: 7/18/2014 9:41 AM

GOP may need more cash to win back legislative seats

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  • Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, right, trails Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, far left, in the money race to try to get their parties' candidates elected.

    Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, right, trails Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, far left, in the money race to try to get their parties' candidates elected.
    Associated Press File Photo


Republicans in November will try to undo some of the 2012 damage Democrats did to their ranks in Springfield, but the campaign cash reports released this week showed the challenges they'll face trying to raise their numbers in the Illinois House, in particular.

If you count just two of the campaign funds Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan could use to help his candidates for re-election -- there are others -- he had about $2.8 million in the bank as of the end of June.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs has less than half that -- about $1.2 million -- in two similar accounts.

The state House is likely to be where most of the down-ballot action is in November. There aren't as many hotly contested Senate races in Illinois.

There's a similar disparity at the state party level. The Illinois Republican Party showed having about $696,000 in the bank, and the Democratic Party, of which Madigan is chair, showed $2 million.

However, those numbers don't include $750,000 Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner gave to his party recently, a move that could foreshadow where some extra help for GOP hopeful lawmakers could come from.

But ...

Here's the usual and important disclaimer: Money isn't everything.

And in fact, we might find out this year the true effect outside groups might have on state-level campaigns. Typically, party leaders like Durkin and Madigan lead the charge to try to get their people elected.

But in the March primary, outside groups like one led by radio talk show host Dan Proft spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on suburban races, and that kind of spending could buy a lot of advertising and mailers before November.

Farnham's spending

Former state Rep. Keith Farnham, an Elgin Democrat, still has a campaign account despite abandoning his race for re-election following federal child pornography charges.

His most recent report shows he paid $1,200 for campaign office furniture on April 8, weeks after he had already resigned his seat.

And in late June, Farnham gave $500 to the American Legion in Elgin and $1,200 toward a Lao veterans memorial in town.

He still has $33,669 in his account, and at least one previous filing doesn't indicate a purpose for the money should the fund dissolve.

Kirk votes with Democrats

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, a Highland Park Republican, voted to allow debate on legislation that would undo the U.S. Supreme Court's recent Hobby Lobby case on contraception.

The move put him in the voting category with most Senate Democrats as the party has picked up the Hobby Lobby issue as a national campaign issue.

That's true in Kirk's old north suburban 10th Congressional District, where Democratic U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider of Deerfield is a supporter of the plan and has tried to emphasize that fact.

Schneider faces Republican Bob Dold of Kenilworth in the suburbs' big rematch race for Congress.

Not happy

Legislation Kirk backed was approved by the U.S. Senate Thursday. It would extend a law offering some protections to insurance companies in the event of terrorist attacks.

Kirk gave a speech about the plan on the Senate floor, using colorful language to lament Chicago no longer having a skyscraper in the top-10 lineup of the world's tallest buildings.

"Look over at that tallest one," Kirk said, motioning to a chart.

"That kind of still pisses me off, the Burj Khalifa, which is right now the tallest building in the world."

Big picture

In the midst of this week's state legislative hearings over the scathing audit of Gov. Pat Quinn's troubled violence prevention program was a nugget from state Rep. Fred Crespo, a Hoffman Estates Democrat.

He wondered why similar hearings weren't being held for other troublesome audits, like one of the Department of Children and Family Services that found problems with the agency's investigations of children's deaths.

"It just baffles me that does not rise to the level of something like this," he said.

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