By Stanley Campbell
The boys in Springfield gerrymandered Rockford into two congressional districts, which, I think, will give us a little more input into the U.S. Congress. If we don’t get help from one representative, we can appeal to the other.
Right now, Rockford is in the 16th Congressional District. We have Donald Manzullo as our “Representative for Life.” He is not a hard worker. The Donald takes the easy way out on a lot of issues, though he has a great staff that gives good service, which is very important to maintain one’s power.
The Donald ran as an outsider, and promised to serve only six terms. That was 10 terms ago. He could have had practically any congressional committee in Congress, but he chose some simple ones that had little power (and even less to do).
Manzullo racked up an incredible zero percent on environmental votes. He never voted for the environment. He did allow the Rock Island Arsenal to place some acreage in a wildlife preserve, thanks to the work of his wife.
Manzullo’s new 17th Congressional District will have most of the Republicans in Illinois, and they can yell at each other as to which one will build the highest electrified fence at our borders, who’s more conservative and wants to kill the most Arabs. Manzullo now faces a Tea Party Republican in his first primary battle since he trounced Democrat John Cox in 1992.
Four Democrats are running in the 17th Congressional District who want their party’s vote. They are vying to be the first Democrat from the Rockford area to be elected to Congress since John Cox (and he was only there one term). Before Cox, the last Democrat was in the 1840s.
The 17th District is represented by a Teabagger as well, Bobby Schilling, but his chances, I imagine, are now pretty narrow. Gerrymandering means the politicians draw boundaries so their side wins. Almost always.
A month ago, Rockford Progressive Meetup hosted a Meet the Candidates Night. They invited those Democrats running for U.S. Congress in the Illinois 17th District. It was the first chance to meet them. Rockford will be split between the 16th and the 17th in the new gerrymandered state. Since I’d heard the 17th will be more Democrat, I figured this would be a good time to meet one of our next representatives.
Five Democrat candidates were invited, but only three showed: George Gaulrapp, mayor of Freeport; Cheri Bustros, alderman of East Moline; and David Koehler, state senator from Peoria. This was the first time these candidates were together, and the event gave us an opportunity to hear them talk. Only The Rock River Times advertised the event (thanks, Frank!), but two of the three TV stations showed, as well as one of the Hispanic papers (El Tiempo, I believe).
Here’s my impressions: They were all good candidates. I loved the fact that Cheri’s father ran Paul Simon’s gubernatorial campaign (he lost, but went on to beat Chuck Percy for Senate), and Dave Koehler worked for Cesar Chavez before moving his family to Peoria, where he worked for an interfaith urban ministries (my kinda guy!). Late breaking news: Dave just pulled out of the race!
George was the best I’d ever seen him. He’d run against Manzullo in 2010. Articulate, focused on his “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” campaign. Concerns: George does not identify himself as a Democrat in his big yard signs, and he bends to business interests.
I think there are two other Democrats running. Hope they show up at some public forum before the primary. Thanks to Progressive Meetup for hosting a great candidate forum, and IBEW for letting everyone into their beautiful hall.
Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.
From the Dec. 14-20, 2011, issue