Friday, January 15, 2010

What happens if you have a televised U. S. Senate Candidate Debate and the front-runner is a no show? Welcome to the Illinois Republican Party

The split among the Republican base

It has been, to say the least, a peculiar Republican Primary U. S. Senate race. The conservative Republican Party base in Illinois is supposed to dominate the primaries [But, see the Topinka 2006 Gubernatorial Republican Primary win]. Yet, the base couldn’t come up with one major, conservative office-holder to take on nine-year, very moderate, North Shore Republican Congressman Mark Steven Kirk (R-Highland Park, 10th CD). Instead, the conservative movement is split among four candidates: Pat Hughes, John Arrington, Don Lowery and Kathleen Thomas.

None of these conservatives has a political base or currently holds a political office. Hughes is the only one with some significant money to spend, having raised about 140K in the third quarter and self-funded to the tune of about 260K in that quarter. The other conservatives appear unlikely to have more than 15 K, collectively, to spend. Hughes is the only conservative with a real statewide organization and his supporters claim he will give Kirk a run for his money on February 2, 2010, Election Day.

Who is Andy Martin?

Then there is Andy Martin, who defies easy categorization. He has traveled a good part of his life under another name. He has a law degree but he was found unfit to practice law. He ran for Governor in the Republican Primary in 2006, receiving about 1% of the vote. When this journalist asked him last night what percentage of the vote he had received in the 2006 election, he said, “I don’t know.”

It is said Martin has a history of making anti-Semitic comments: including calling a federal judge “a crooked, slimy Jew.” Andy Shaw, Executive Director to the Better Government Association asked him about that comment during the debate and Martin declined to answer. This journalist asked him, in a presser after the debate, if he made that comment and he refused to answer with a yes or a no, saying somewhat lamely he had answered the question.

The Martin radio ads about Cong. Mark Steven Kirk

Martin has been running a radio ad with a sequel. The first ad says there is a “solid rumor,” that Cong. Kirk is a homosexual.” Apparently in response to that ad, Cong. Kirk was asked by AP recently if he is a homosexual and Mark Kirk said no. Martin said during the debate that he had no problem with Kirk being a homosexual, but that he has a problem if Kirk is not being “open,” about it. Martin said that Jacob Meister, running for the U. S. Senate in the Democratic Primary, is openly gay and that Meister and Martin are essentially friends.

A Kirk led boycott of the Debate?

For whatever reason, Cong. Kirk decided to pull out of last night’s televised debate, sponsored by ABC-7 in Chicago, the League of Women Voters and the Better Government Association. Also not showing up were Kathleen Thomas and Don Lowery, a former circuit court judge and State’s Attorney.

In the Chicago Tribune poll (the only public poll in this race), conducted early last December, it was Kirk with 41% to Hughes and Thomas with 3% each, respectively, followed by Arrington and Martin at 2% and Lowery at 1%. Hughes claims that he has done a more recent internal poll that shows him to be closer to Cong. Kirk.

Hughes and the voting issue

During last night’s debate, Arrington spent a lot of time attacking Hughes for often not voting, especially during primaries (a charge Hughes seemed to concede). Arrington declined to say much critical about Martin, other than if his radio ads about Kirk were not true, then they “would be an outrage.”

Arrington, African-Americans and Republican values

Arrington, Harvard educated and African-American, asserted last night at a media availability after the debate that the African-American community shared many of the values of the Republican Party, including being socially conservative on abortion, gay rights and gun rights and in favor of school vouchers-school choice, all views to which Arrington subscribes.

School vouchers-school choice, blocked by the Democrats?

Arrington said he is a strong supporter of school choice, as is Rev, [State Senator] James Meeks. In the post-debate presser, Arrington said he wished he had had a chance to talk about vouchers and service learning during the debate, which is what he is writing his dissertation on at Western Illinois University. Arrington noted, “A lot of African-Americans and Hispanics don’t really understand that the Democratic Party is the one [who is saying no on school vouchers-school choice.]“ Arrington called that “an outrage.” [Ed. Note: Cong. Kirk has been strongly anti- School Voucher in the past]

Arrington said, at the presser, that Rev. Meeks supported him as a city councilman but he is not sure “where Meeks is,” with respect to the Senate race.

Pat Hughes, the anti-Kirk?

Pat Hughes, 40, is a former practicing lawyer who has apparently done quite well economically as a real estate developer. Hughes is married to Susan Hughes, a partner at Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal, a major international law firm located in the Loop. Pat and Susan live in Hinsdale with their three children.

The key issues in the Republican U. S. Senate Primary

Hughes said the ads being run by Martin that question Kirk’s sexual orientation are “reprehensible.” However, Hughes emphasized that the key issue that should be discussed at the debate is what he viewed as Cong. Kirk’s liberal voting record, citing Kirk’s support for Cap and Trade, hostility to gun owner rights, support for partial birth abortion, support for the financial sector bailouts and opposition to the U. S. military surge in Iraq.

Reagan v. Pelosi-Obama ?

Hughes argued to the panelists asking questions that Andy Martin was not a serious candidate, so he wasn’t going to discuss him. Instead, Hughes tried to focus on his own views as a Ronald Reagan conservative, i.e., he is in favor of limited government, less spending, low income and capital gains tax rates and less economic regulation to stimulate economic growth and jobs.

During a post debate presser, Hughes emphasized again to this journalist that the choice for Republican U.S. Senate primary voters is between Hughes, “A Reagan conservative who believes in limited government, fiscal responsibility, low taxes and our traditional social values,” and Mark Kirk, who “sides with Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama on major policy initiatives in our government.”

Andy Martin: Pro Life or Pro Choice

Andy Martin, during the post debate presser, told this journalist that he was pro-life and that he was “concerned with the rights of the unborn,” but that he would not like to see Roe v. Wade overturned. Martin appeared unable or unwilling to explain the apparent contradiction.
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