Riopell: Local presidential campaigns look to Iowa, if Illinois spot is secure

  • Marco Rubio and Donald Trump shake hands in front of Jeb Bush during Republican presidential Tuesday in Milwaukee.

    Marco Rubio and Donald Trump shake hands in front of Jeb Bush during Republican presidential Tuesday in Milwaukee. Associated Press

Updated 11/12/2015 5:19 PM

Some local backers of some presidential candidates are eager to head west to volunteer in the run-up to the all-important Iowa caucuses -- but first they have the big job of locking down their ballot spots in Illinois.

The most organized campaigns in Illinois say they'll probably have people going to The Hawkeye State to help out before the Feb. 1 caucuses, the first major chance for presidential candidates to gain momentum for the grueling primary season ahead.


Meanwhile, candidates' operations are working on getting petition signatures to get delegates on Illinois' March 15 primary ballot. After all, supporters wouldn't want to spend too much time in Davenport or Des Moines if their ballot spot here isn't locked down.

"Just getting on the ballot in Illinois … it's difficult," Jeb Bush supporter and former House Republican Leader Tom Cross of Oswego said.

Marco Rubio's campaign is a little more sure about making Iowa plans, with Illinois co-chairman Sen. Mike Connelly of Lisle saying local supporters have been at recent Wisconsin events, too.

"This is not just pie in the sky," he said.

And former Illinois GOP chairman Pat Brady of St. Charles said outsiders can be most helpful in Iowa during the final push, and especially on the night of the caucuses themselves, when local volunteers can help drive a candidate's backers to meetings.

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But for now: "We've got our own work to do," Brady said.

Petitions for Illinois delegates aren't due until Jan. 6, but collecting them becomes more difficult as cold weather makes going door-to-door harder, and petition-gathering volunteers are more likely to be a no-go in the snow.

Full house

Donald Trump's Illinois chairman didn't return a request for comment, but Springfield attorney Kent Gray might still be waiting for the record-breaking rally at the capital city's convention center to empty out.

The event Monday drew more than 10,000 people, but few top local Republicans have publicly backed the real estate mogul.

The local connection

The Illinois Senate's newest member, Sen. Laura Murphy of Des Plaines, also happens to be the Democratic committeeman for the township where Hillary Clinton grew up.

Maine Township includes Park Ridge, so is Murphy in a unique position as Clinton seeks the presidency?

She said it's similar to when Clinton ran in 2008.


"We were one of the few townships that supported her last time," Murphy said.

The township will make an endorsement in January, she said.

Hide the ball?

On Wednesday, suburban mayors were asked to send a blitz of phone calls to their state senators, begging them to convene and approve legislation that would send their towns the gasoline tax and gambling tax money that has been delayed since the state started operating without a budget July 1.

The Illinois Senate isn't scheduled to return to the Capitol this year, and the money won't be coming unless senators sign off.

An email from the Northwest Municipal Conference includes talking points, including urging that the legislation "will allow your community to continue to provide the vital services that these funds support (for example: 911 service, road maintenance including snow removal, salt purchases). Provide local examples of how the withholding of funds has or will affect your government's operations."

The email says the conference's suburban member towns miss out on $8 million per month, which can hit local budgets hard.

Hands tied

Here's the thing: While the legislation from state Rep. Marty Moylan, a Des Plaines Democrat, was approved by the Illinois House this week, the paperwork hasn't been walked across the hallway to the Senate.

So the senators on the receiving end of those phone calls can't do anything about it.

A parliamentary hold was placed on the legislation by state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, a Chicago Democrat. The move prevents the Senate from acting until she removes the hold.

Now what?

Moylan says the move is no big deal and the bill can be released when the Senate is ready to act.

"We just want to control the bill," he said.

So was it just a way to keep someone else from holding it up first? Even if the bill is released, the Senate needs to sit on the proposal for at least three days of meetings before it can vote, so mayors aren't going to get their money soon.

Democrats and GOP lawmakers joined forces to approve the legislation, but add this one to the long list of confusing wrestling bouts fought during the budget impasse. State Rep. David McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican, says the House could attach some of the additional items Gov. Bruce Rauner wanted onto a different version of Moylan's proposal. That would allow the Senate to act more quickly, but he credited Moylan for working on the original proposal "in good faith."

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