Chris Essig

Walkthroughs, tips and tricks from a data journalist in eastern Iowa

This weekend’s election coverage

with 2 comments

A. Elections, elections, elections. With the state in fiscal peril, everybody is looking to the state’s leaders and hoping–and praying–for swift and meaningful action. And with the lawmakers out of town until the election season is finished, it’s no wonder why the primaries are dominating Statehouse coverage as of late. I had a chance to cover some of the lesser-know races last week and the stories appeared in various newspapers over the weekend. And I am happy to report that I received one phone call today regarding my treasurer and comptroller stories that ran in the Herald & Review, which means at least one person is reading them.

But first a story on the incredibly-crowded lieutenant governor’s race. Last Friday, we had some down time in the office so I started browsing the State Board of Election’s web site. And I noticed one candidate for lieutenant governor, Jason Plummer, received $500,000 worth of donations from the plumbing company owned by his family. I thought it was interesting that his family would invest so much money into a race for a position that has relatively few formal responsibilities. I then noticed that he loaned his campaign an additional $150,000 just weeks earlier, meaning him and his family were pumping (no pun intended) serious dough into the race. I also knew that other candidates had pledged to self-fund their campaigns with hundreds of thousands (and sometimes millions) of dollars, meaning Plummer wasn’t alone. I discussed the issue with my bureau chief and he gave me the “thumbs up” on the story. So, I called a few people today, and, wallah, I had my first completely-independent news story that I thought of on my own. Nothing earth-shattering, but I thought it was interesting, in a nerdy, political way. And the mandatory quote:

SPRINGFIELD — The candidates for Illinois lieutenant governor may be vying for a position with few formal responsibilities, but that hasn’t stopped a trio of them from putting hundreds of thousands of dollars into the race.

Democratic hopeful Scott Cohen has loaned his campaign more than a half million dollars so far this month. Republicans Don Tracy and Jason Plummer are tapping into their own wallets and into their family businesses for cash to bankroll their primary ambitions.

And the link. It will be interesting to see how people react to this story. Some are sympathetic to self-funded candidates and wish it didn’t cost nearly that much to run a viable campaign. But others think it’s ludicrous to spend that much money on a campaign and wish the money would go a better cause, like a charity. If you have an opinion, leave it in the comments.

B. Secondly, I had three election stories run this weekend in our fine Lee Enterprise publications on the comptroller and treasurer races. Each of the three stories dealt with a particular primary race, including the Democratic race for comptroller and treasurer, and the Republican race for comptroller. In the Republican race for treasurer, Sen. Dan Rutherford, R-Chenoa, is running uncontested in the primary, so there was no need for a story.

Basically the question posed to the candidates (eight in all) was: What is your opinion of short-term borrowing? In recent years, the state has made it an annual practice to borrow money, which is usually reimbursed in a year or so, to help pay its bills short-term. Recipients of the borrowed money include human service providers, medical providers and universities. The issue became volatile this year after Gov. Pat Quinn proposed borrowing $500 million to help pay Medicaid bills and other providers. Comptroller Dan Hynes refused to sign off on the plan. Hynes, of course, is running against Quinn in the Democratic gubernatorial race. Quinn cried foul, saying Hynes was playing politics and human service providers were suffering as a result. Hynes said the state simply has too many unpaid bills as it is. Recent estimates put Illinois’ backlog of bills at $5.1 billion. That’s billion with a “B.” Both the treasurer and comptroller have to sign off on all short-term borrowing plans (although the General Assembly did consider a proposal last week that would have allowed the state to borrow money without getting approval from Hynes. The measure, however, wasn’t debated on the Senate floor).

To no surprise, the Republicans largely agreed with Hynes and the Democrats largely didn’t…

Wow, that was a long-winded set up. Anyways, here are the stories:

  1. Democratic candidates for state treasurer agree with short-term borrowing
  2. Republican hopefuls back Hynes’ veto plan to borrow short-term
  3. Democratic hopefuls (for comptroller) agree state should borrow to pay backlog of bills

Look for more election related stories in the coming weeks. And remember, folks, get out the vote on Feb. 2!

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2 Responses

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  1. My mom’s been having trouble with getting qualified herself since July, the Medicaid system is in the tubes.

    James

    January 19, 2010 at 3:55 pm

  2. […] a comment » 1. As I reported on yesterday, the family of Jason Plummer, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, has chipped big bucks […]


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