GOP puts big money into 5 suburban races

  • Sheri Jesiel, left, and Loren Karner are candidates for the 61st State House District seat.

    Sheri Jesiel, left, and Loren Karner are candidates for the 61st State House District seat.

Updated 10/17/2014 11:00 AM

With the election 20 days away and in-person early voting starting Monday, tallies of campaign spending reveal where the toughest legislative battles are being waged in the suburbs.

Five Illinois House contests we looked at drew donations of more than $200,000 in the third quarter of the year. Much of the big money on both sides comes from party leaders.


And that doesn't even count third-party spending by groups like the one run by conservative radio show host Dan Proft, who plans to spend $2 million by Election Day to help Republicans.

Voters in the suburbs are key to determining what kind of majority Democrats have in the Illinois House for the next two years because few races are truly contested statewide and many that are, are in the suburbs.

Among the big-money races:

1. The battle to replace retired state Rep. JoAnn Osmond of Antioch drew a whopping $642,000 in campaign contributions between the two candidates. Republican state Rep. Sheri Jesiel of Winthrop Harbor, appointed to the legislature in July, raised about $228,000 and is trying to stop Democrat Loren Karner from building on his party's successes at state races in Lake County. Karner raised about $414,000.

2. The race to replace another Republican lawmaker is getting pricey in DuPage County. State Rep. Dennis Reboletti of Elmhurst didn't run for re-election to the Illinois House. Republican Christine Winger of Wood Dale raised $245,000 and Democrat Jenny Burke of Itasca pulled in about $293,000, for a combined $538,000 in the race.

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In 2010, Democrats won two Statehouse seats in DuPage County, so they might work hard if they think they can win another.

3. Freshman Democratic state Rep. Marty Moylan of Des Plaines has a tough re-election bid against Republican businessman Mel Thillens of Park Ridge, and the two candidates took in $493,000 combined. Moylan had the bulk of it, with $370,000 to Thillens' $124,000.

4. Similarly, freshman Democratic state Rep. Sam Yingling of Grayslake has seen a lot of money come into his first re-election campaign. Yingling, who's being challenged by Republican Rod Drobinski of Wauconda, took in about $238,000 of the $274,000 in the race's third-quarter donations.

5. State Rep. Carol Sente, a Vernon Hills Democrat, has likewise gotten the bulk of her race's $240,000 in donations, tallying $179,000 in the three months against Republican Leslie Munger of Lincolnshire, who had $61,000.

At the top

Republican businessman Bruce Rauner chipped in $3 million to the Illinois Republican Party to help candidates for office in Springfield, including some direct support for Thillens in the third quarter. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn gave the state Democratic Party $300,000, 10 times less.


Who's driving?

In Yingling's race, the Republican Party sent out a mailer showing a driver in a car full of money. At the top, the mailer read: "Career politician Sam Yingling in the driver's seat."

The photo, though, is not of Yingling. It's of Jacob Meister, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in the primary. Meister is a Yingling supporter, but he's taking issue with the GOP using his picture in a mailer.

Faith leaders against gambling

A number of faith leaders wrote an open letter to Quinn and Rauner after both candidates told the Daily Herald editorial board and others that they remain open to more gambling in Illinois, including slot machines at Arlington International Racecourse.

The letter called the idea a "perennial legislative distraction."

"If gambling expansion were a magical solution, the explosion of neighborhood slot parlors would have solved all of our state's financial troubles," they wrote. "Instead, it has only injected another vice into our communities."

Among the signers were the Rev. James Preston from Kingswood United Methodist Church in Buffalo Grove and the Rev. Sherrie Lowly from Bethany United Methodist Church in Itasca.

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