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COLUMN: Are local candidates unbeholden?

State representative candidates Jerry Long (left), R-Streator, and Andy Skoog, D-La Salle, received much help from their respective political parties in the 2016 election. That will likely again be the case in the race between Long and Democrat Lance Yednock this year.
State representative candidates Jerry Long (left), R-Streator, and Andy Skoog, D-La Salle, received much help from their respective political parties in the 2016 election. That will likely again be the case in the race between Long and Democrat Lance Yednock this year.

La Salle County is likely to see a repeat of its 2016 experience in the race for state representative.

Two years ago, Republican Jerry Long and Democrat Andy Skoog got a lot of help from their respective political parties, which spent hundreds of thousands on deceptive mailers and TV ads.

This year, Rep. Jerry Long, of Streator, and Ottawa Democrat Lance Yednock are likely to battle it out in similar style as the November general election nears.

Long had no primary competition this year, but before the GOP primary two years ago, he got significant help from the state Republican Party, largely funded by Gov. Bruce Rauner. Skoog was the chosen candidate among those interviewed by the state Democratic Party, chaired by House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Back then, a GOP official showed a rare moment of candor when we asked about his party's support of Long in the primary: "This is serious business. We are making financial investments."

Ah, yes, when you make make an investment, you get something in return.

The irony is local candidates typically portray themselves as independent of powerful interests, unbeholden to anyone. Yet the evidence indicates they answer to party chieftains based in Chicago and Springfield.
 
Nurse's group mum

A few days before Tuesday's primary, the Illinois Nurses Association sent out a mailer accusing Democratic state representative candidate Jill Bernal, a La Salle County Board member, of "helping Bruce Rauner break our family budgets and cut our health care."

It cited a unanimous 2014 County Board decision for a 30-hour threshold, rather than 20 hours, for an employee to be eligible for health insurance. Democratic County Board Chairman Jerry Hicks said the board grandfathered in employees operating under their 20-hour threshold.

Despite the nurses association's alarming mailer, it made no endorsement in the Democratic primary between Yednock and Bernal. Yet it endorsed in the races for 81 of the 118 seats in the state House.

If the association was so distraught over Bernal's vote, you'd think it would have made known its support for Yednock.

This leads me to wonder if some other organization — say, the Madigan-led Democratic Party — did the research and gave it to the nurses association. The state Democratic Party avoided showing open support for Yednock during the primary, lest it give more fodder to Republican Long to paint Yednock as a Madigan lackey.

I reached the association's associate director, Staci Moore, but she declined to comment, referring me to the group's PR person, Chris Martin.

Martin said he didn't know the details about the mailer and would have to find the answers for The Times. He has not called back.

'Heck of a campaign'

After the Democratic primary for the 16th Congressional District seat, we heard from all the candidates but Amy "Murri" Briel, who finished third.

I reached the Ottawa native on Thursday.

"It was a heck of a campaign," Briel said. "There were some great relationships that were built. People ran excellent, clean campaigns. I'm trying to decompress. Getting through the last days of the campaign was tough."

She promised to "absolutely" support for Democrat Sara Dady over Republican incumbent Adam Kinzinger.

Police lights blinding?

A reader called me Thursday to talk about the lights on police cars. He said he passed a cop on U.S. 6 in Marseilles who had pulled over a driver. The police car's overhead lights were so blinding he had to stop before proceeding, he said.

"I have no problem with the police department," the reader told me. "This is a safety issue. If I were driving with my high beams, I would get a ticket."

Marseilles Police Chief Jim Hovious told me many departments now use LED lights. They are more energy-efficient than earlier versions of police lights, which drew too much power from their squad cars, he said.

The lights have different power modes, but Marseilles officers don't use the most powerful.

"LED lights are definitely brighter," Hovious said. "I never really had anyone complain before. We don't have a lot of options."

David Giuliani is a reporter for The Times. His weekly column "As It Is" expands upon regular news coverage by adding his insight and ideas. He can be reached at 815-431-4041 or davidg@mywebtimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tt_dgiuliani.

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