Chuck Sweeny: Castanza is the cash king of 68th House race

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69th district race not getting much PAC attention

Following the money doesn’t necessarily tell you who’s going to win an election, but at least it tells you who’s paying for the candidates and the orientation of the interest groups helping to finance the campaigns.

In Illinois politics there’s an old saying: You dance with the one who brought you. It’s said as a joke … kind of.

In the 68th state House district, Rockford Democrat Jake Castanza, director of Project First Rate, a group of construction unions and companies who employ union workers, is challenging Republican John Cabello, a six-year incumbent who is also a Rockford police detective living in Machesney Park. He’s 47.

Democrats and their labor union allies are throwing an unusually large amount of money into the 28-year-old Castanza, in a district that historically has elected GOP state lawmakers but may be in play this year.

Democrats may also be doing this just because they can. Their gubernatorial candidate, J.B. Pritzker of Chicago, is an heir to the Hyatt Hotels fortune and a billionaire three times over. He’s funding his own campaign.

So, any money the Democrats and their affiliated organizations raise can be used on other statewide campaigns and on legislative races.

Campaign finance reports for the third quarter of 2018 were filed last week with the Illinois State Board of Elections, and for the 68th district, records show that as of Sept. 30, Castanza had received $234,046.36 from supporters. His campaign had spent $184,575.29, giving him $49,471.07 in cash on hand at the end of September.

However, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Contributions of $1,000 or more must be reported right away, and Castanza has been getting lots of them. On Oct. 18 and Oct. 19, Castanza’s campaign received $164,483.71 from labor unions and the state Democratic Party. The biggest of those donations was $55,400 from LIUNA Chicago Laborers’ District Council political action committee.

Between Oct. 1 and Oct. 17, Castanza received nearly $84,000 in donations of $1,000 or more from the state Democratic Party and labor unions.

However, Castanza bristles at the suggestion he’s beholden to any group or people, noting that he’s personally knocked on 27,000 doors throughout his district and intends to represent the district’s interests first.

The groups funding Cabello are on the opposite end of the political spectrum. Cabello is a pro-business Republican who votes accordingly, but he trails Castanza in fundraising.

As of Sept. 30, Cabello had received $40,957.36 from supporters. His campaign spent $12,898.37 from July through September.

On Sept. 30 Cabello had $28,058.99 on hand.

Between Oct. 1 and Oct. 17, Cabello received nearly $73,000 in donations of $1,000 or more, almost exclusively for business-related organizations, the state and local Republican Party and one union: Cabello received $5,000 from Associated Firefighters of Illinois. He also received $1,000 from S.A.F.E., made up of supporters of Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana.

Voters have a clear choice in the 68th district between a progressive and a conservative who was Illinois co-chair of Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign. Voters can’t say they don’t have a distinct choice. Should be an interesting race.

Over in the 69th House District, state Rep. Joe Sosnowski, R-Rockford, is being challenged by Belvidere-area Democrat Angelique Bodine, who ran against him unsuccessfully in 2016.

Sosnowski had receipts of $24,952.06 on Sept. 30. His campaign spent $16,672.16 from July through September, and at the end of the month he had $8,279.90 on hand.

Sosnowski also received $15,170 in contributions of $1,000 or more from Oct. 1 through Oct.18, from Republican Party groups and business political action committees.

Bodine reported $14,249.04 in donations against $9,134.58 in expenses on Sept. 30.

Since Oct. 1 her campaign received (as of Sunday) $2,200 in two contributions of more than $1,000, both from union affiliated political action committees.

I surmise from following the money in the 68th and 69th House districts that the Democrats think they can win the, 68th; the 69th not so much.

Republicans don’t seem worried about losing either district, but they should be concerned about hubris in the 68th, where Castanza’s campaign has been spending money on TV ads and on mail pieces that paint Cabello as a bad guy who has “gone Springfield” and is “part of the problem.”

Negative campaigning often backfires around here when it’s aimed at local people we all know and generally like; I advise the Democratic Party’s ad makers to accentuate Castanza’s many positive qualities and his agenda in the remaining days of the campaign.

And Cabello? Hello! He’s got to kick-start his campaign if he wants to be sure of winning. It’s not enough for him and state Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, to complain on Facebook about Castanza’s hit pieces.

Chuck Sweeny: csweeny@rrstar.com; @chucksweeny

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October 22, 2018 at 07:39PM

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