According to the News-Gazette, An update on the process to replace Mike Frerichs in the state Senate: Naomi Jakobsson doesn’t want the position but several other people do.
Jakobsson’s name has been floated as a possible contender to fill the remaining two years on the Champaign Democrat’s state Senate term, once he moves up to the office of state treasurer next month.
“You know what?” she said Tuesday. “If it were a two-year term without having to run (in 2016) I would do it.”
But the Champaign and Vermilion County Democratic Party chairmen who will name Frerichs’ successor — Al Klein and Frank Wright — want someone who not only will move into the 52nd District Senate seat for two years, but will run for election in 2016.
“Beyond those two years I don’t really have it in me,” Jakobsson said.
But she said she has encouraged an Urbana minister, the Rev. Robert Rasmus, to join the 10 or so Democrats already in the mix.
“He’s very interested,” she said of the senior pastor at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Urbana. “He’s got a nice background of doing things and here he’s done political things because of his church.”
Rasmus, 60, has an intriguing background: former political reporter in Iowa, former congressional press secretary, served as an Army medic, a Lutheran minister for 20 years, 14 years at St. Matthew, past chair of the Lutheran Social Services of Illinois board, and a husband and father to a seventh-grade daughter.
“One of the talents I think I bring is the ability to build coalitions and partnerships,” he said.
Rasmus said he has talked to Wright and has contacted Klein about his interest in the position.
“I am very interested,” he said. “I’ve been encouraged to look at it and I am doing that.”
Meanwhile, last weekend’s Vermilion County Democratic Party Christmas party gave some Democrats the opportunity to introduce themselves and state their case to be the successor to Frerichs.
Among those who attended the party, some of whom spoke to the gathering about their interest in the Senate seat, were former Vermilion County Clerk Lynn Foster, Danville businessman Don Crist, Champaign County Board member James Quisenberry, Champaign school board member Jamar Brown, Champaign County assistant state’s attorney Scott Bennett, former state representative candidate Michael Langendorf of Urbana, past Champaign County Board candidate Brent West of Champaign, and Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing. Those Democrats, along with Champaign County Board member C. Pius Weibel and Danville City Council member Michael Puhr, are known candidates to replace Frerichs.
Langendorf, now retired, worked at the Vermilion Association for Special Education from 1991 to this summer, a point he said he stressed to Wright during an interview earlier this month.
“I made it clear to Frank that I had worked there for 23 years, that I knew the people there pretty well, that I had run against Chad (Hays) and that I had gotten on the ballot on my own,” Langendorf said. “I spent about 45 minutes with Frank and I have spoken to Al (Klein).”
Quisenberry, of Urbana, said he hadn’t had detailed interviews with either Wright or Klein.
Several others, including former state representative candidate Lori DeYoung, Frerichs aide Laurie Bonnett and Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz, say they’re not interested.
During the holiday party Klein and Wright said that the Senate appointment process would present the two organizations with the opportunity to build a better relationship and to work together. They also said that they weren’t in a hurry to name Frerichs’ replacement, although they have to act before Frerichs is sworn in on Jan. 12.
Frerichs as treasurer and comptroller?
Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, in an op-ed piece in Tuesday’s Chicago Tribune, suggested that following last week’s death of Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, state officials should appoint Frerichs as both state treasurer and comptroller, in what she called “an informal consolidation.”
Simon noted that both she and Topinka favored combining the offices, and estimated that it would save about $12 million a year.
“Having one person hold both offices would require some changes to our current statutes, including processes for transparency and separations of functions within the office,” wrote Simon, who was defeated by Topinka in the Nov. 4 election. “Those safeguards would help prevent the kind of corruption the state experienced under our previous constitution prior to 1972.
“And it gives the Legislature time to continue work on a constitutional amendment that would turn this informal consolidation into a real consolidation.”
A spokesman for Frerichs said, however, that although the treasurer-elect favors merging the offices he doesn’t favor the “informal consolidation,” and would not accept what he called “a dual appointment.”
“On Wednesday, Illinoisans will come together to celebrate the life of Judy Baar Topinka. We are all united today in mourning the loss of a great leader and friend,” said spokesman Dave Clarkin.
“Serious discussions will begin Thursday on the best path forward to reunite the operations of the two offices. Treasurer-elect Frerichs supports reuniting the offices and hopes to be a part of those discussions at the appropriate time. Although many have made the suggestion, Frerichs is not seeking, nor would he accept, a dual appointment to both constitutional offices.”
The website for next month’s state inauguration festivities — http://illinoisinauguration.com/ — lists a few events where Frerichs will be a participant.
He’s scheduled to be at an inaugural reception from 7 to 11 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 11, at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield. The website does not list ticket prices and says more information will be forthcoming.
There also will be an open house at his new office on the second floor of the Capitol from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. on inauguration day. The inaugural ceremonies for all the statewide officials, including Frerichs, will be at 11 a.m. at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in downtown Springfield.
An inaugural concert, which replaces the traditional inaugural ball, also will be at the convention center from 9 p.m. to midnight on the 12th. General admission tickets are $125. “A famous musical act” will be announced at a later date, says the website.
It was a little odd to peer at the State Board of Elections website the other day and see $54,000 in contributions to the Citizens for Judy Baar Topinka campaign fund.
The donations were dated Dec. 8, however, two days before the comptroller unexpectedly passed away.
Among the contributions was $45,000 from Local 150 International of the Union of Operating Engineers in Countryside, the same place where Topinka’s memorial service is being held this morning.
Incidentally, in her last campaign Topinka raised a relatively thrifty $1.1 million (between Jan. 1, 2013 and Election Day this year) while Simon raised $1.9 million. Topinka won the race, 49.5 percent to 45.6 percent.
Topinka collected $2,750 from Champaign, $500 from Urbana and $225 from Danville (from her old friend, former state Rep. Bill Black) in that race.
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.