(Chicago, IL) – October 14, 2010. State Senator Dan Rutherford (R-Chenoa) and Democrat Robin Kelly have both sketched out either small bore or undetailed ideas for the Illinois Treasurer’s office that will likely have little impact on the state, but more likely a greater impact on their campaigns.
A top Rutherford cost-cutting, head-line grabbing measure that he has been recently pushing is a pledge to close the treasurer’s recently opened six, rent-free branch offices located in existing state government buildings staffed by Treasurer employees who used to work from home and who would otherwise be paid travel expenses.
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune’s Joseph Ryan, Rutherford said he does not know how much money that the closure of the rent-free offices might save. However, Rutherford says his focus is on the nickels and dimes.
“Let’s say it is not a lot of money, but that is the problem with government today” — it nickel-and-dimes people, Rutherford said.
Additionally, Rutherford wants to audit the Treasurer’s low-interest loan programs and other investments to identify those that may be providing a sub-par rate of return. However, the veteran lawmaker does not know which programs should be discontinued.
Kelly, the current chief of staff to Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, on the other hand, is pushing a more ambitious agenda, seeking legislation to have the state guarantee 10% of a loan to small businesses that create jobs within one year. Kelly, however, offers no estimate of cost to the state’s empty treasury or how many jobs such an initiative would create.
“I care about people who don’t have a job,” said Kelly. Whether “care” can translate into more jobs is an open question, but it is unlikely to be more than nickels-and-dimes.
Rutherford is uninterested in Kelly’s jobs growth idea. “I’m not looking to expand into brand-new programs,” Rutherford said.
At this point, Rutherford is more likely to have the chance to implement his more limited, nickels-and-dimes vision in the Treasurer’s office.
According to a poll conducted by the Illinois Manufacturer’s Association on September 14, Rutherford leads Kelly 37.8% to 32.3%. A more recent poll has Rutherford up by 8 points.
In addition to leading in the polls, Rutherford has amassed an insurmountable fund-raising lead over Kelly. As of June 30, Rutherford had $1,078,060.16 in the bank to Kelly’s own nickel-and-dimes, $143,715.75. As of October 1, Rutherford has reported raising $26,500 to Kelly’s $18,000.
Illinois election law requires candidates to report contributions $500 or more within two business days.
An interesting $2,000 contribution to Rutherford arrived in the last few days from Chicago businessman Sam Zell whose Chicago Tribune recently endorsed Rutherford over Kelly. Zell has come under increasing scrutiny for his alleged dealings with ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich.
The Chicago Sun-Times has endorsed Kelly.
Rutherford is planning to spend his horde of cash on a major television ad buy in the last weeks of the campaign. Kelly lacks the cash to match him. To overcome Rutherford’s cash edge, Kelly has issued a stream of critical press releases in the last weeks attacking several of Rutherford’s contributors and past legislative votes, including his opposition to a minimum wage hike. Rutherford has ignored the substance of Kelly attacks and has, instead, sneered at his opponent’s motive or timing.
Anyway, it matters little. The traditional media–and much of on-line media–wisely ignored their back-and-forth. Neither inspired.
The best for which Kelly can hope is that the tightening of national and state polls that reveal the Democratic base is stirring to life, which partially accounts for the narrowing between Governor Pat Quinn and GOP rival Bill Brady, will lift her listing political boat.
But hope is not a plan. Quinn has a flush campaign war chest. Kelly does not. She needs more than nickels-and-dimes to get back in the contest.
The race is Rutherford’s to lose.