SPRINGFIELD — The winners for 35 state Senate seats in Illinois will be determined months before the general election on Nov. 7.
This majority of the 59 state Senate races will be decided on the March 20 primary, because the candidates are running unopposed or in a district without opposition party candidates.
Joe Calomino, a campaign strategist who has worked on campaigns statewide since 1994, said winning an election is all about the four M’s: “money, media, message and members, or volunteers,” regardless of whether the candidate is a veteran with name recognition or the new kid on the block.
Two incumbents — longtime state Sen. Dave Syverson
, R-Rockford, and newcomer Sen. Christine Johnson
, R-Shabbona — are mastering Calomino’s four M’s, especially money, in their race for state Senate District 35.
Calomino said two incumbents running against each other create a unique situation.
“It’s a difficult task. These people are normally friends, at least colleagues,” he said.
Syverson had $119,005 in his war chest at the end of 2011, the last reporting period for which records are available, but has since received a $21,000 contribution from the Illinois Health Care Council
, a group that lobbies on behalf of nursing homes in the state, according to the Illinois Board of Elections
“We’ll certainly be spending all of that,” Syverson said.
Johnson, who was appointed in 2011 to her seat after her predecessor, former state Sen. Brad Burzynski, resigned last year, had $112,886 at the end of 2011, according to the state Elections Board.
Money generally translates into two other M’s, message and media, which go hand-in-hand. In any race, from state Senator to president, the majority of a campaign’s money is spent on some form of advertising, from television spots to websites to yard signs.
State Senate District 19, unlike District 35, has two relatively unknown opponents. State Sen. Maggie Crotty
, D-Oak Forest, announced at the end of December that she wouldn’t seek re-election.
Iraq war veteran and member of the Consolidated High School District 230 School Board, Michael Hastings
, will be facing former president of Chicago Guarantee Land Survey business owner and Tinley Park Village Trustee Gregory Hannon
Neither Hastings nor Hannon have statehouse experience, and neither of them have much money. Hastings and Hannon lent their campaigns $5,000 to get up and running. Hannon has collected at least $10,000 in donations so far, while Hastings has raise $4,000.
When candidates don’t have much money to spend on getting their name and message out, it’s time to start going door-to-door, Calomino said.
Hannon and Hastings have been shaking hands and kissing babies, so to speak.
“I’m busy, that’s for sure. The last two weeks I’ve visited well over 1,500 homes,” Hannon said.
Hannon said he usually tells people about his experience with running a business and with local politics when meeting them.
Hastings, too, has been going door-to-door.
“I want to look people in my district in the eye and tell them I have the guts for the changes they want to see happen,” Hastings said.
The competitive primaries comes thanks to the redistricting process, which redraws the political districts every decade to match shifting population numbers as reflected in the U.S. census data.
The redrawn maps for the state Senate and House also presents an opportunity for legislative leaders to create districts for themselves with little to no competition.
Of the 35 races that will be decided March 20, 16 have only one candidate, including state Sen. President John Cullerton
, D-Chicago, state Sen. Minority Leader Christine Radogno
, R-Lemont, and most of their lieutenants.
District 33, Republican: open district: Kane County Board Chairwoman Karen McConnaughay vs. political consultant Cliff Surges;
District 50, Republican: Incumbent state Sen. Sam McCann vs. Springfield Alderman Steven Dove vs. Sangamon County State’s Attorney’s Office prosecutor Gray Noll.
District 53, Republican: State Rep. Jason Barickman vs. incumbent state Sen. Shane Cultra. Barickman was appointed to his seat after Cultra was bumped up to the Senate to replace now Treasurer Dan Rutherford.
Illinois Statehouse News interns Stephanie Fryer and Anthony Brino contributed to this report.