Jim Dey | Not off and running, but at least in the game


Now that his candidacy is official, Republican Illinois Senate candidate A.J. Ruggieri said he’s running hard against his Democratic opponent.

Ruggieri is facing incumbent state Sen. Scott Bennett of Champaign. But, mostly, he’s been fighting off legal challenges to his candidate petitions filed by Bennett supporters, led by Vermilion County Democratic Party Chairwoman Germaine Light.

Last week, a circuit judge in Chicago affirmed an earlier decision by the Illinois State Board of Elections to deny Bennett’s challenge. Ruggieri said he’s been informed by his lawyer, John Fogarty of Chicago, that Bennett supporters “would not be appealing.”

“The people of the 52nd District have a choice,” said Ruggieri, a lawyer who recently established his own firm in Savoy.

He was previously with Meyer Capel in Champaign but decided to go out on his own because campaigning would take too much time away from his work.

Ruggieri, also a Savoy trustee, said he is “now practicing law on a limited basis for a few select clients” but is devoting most of his time to his campaign.

He is, to say the least, running uphill.

Ruggieri entered the campaign late, being slated by party officials after the March primary. The late entry was complicated by the petition challenge filed by Bennett supporters. At the same time, Ruggieri was called for service in the Illinois National Guard from March 30 to July 31. Under Guard rules, he was forbidden to engage in political activity while on duty.

The 52nd district is challenging political turf for the GOP. Made up of portions of Champaign and Vermilion counties, it was drawn by Democrats to give their party’s candidate the advantage.

Bennett, who also is a lawyer, was appointed in 2015 to fill a vacancy. He easily won a four-year term in 2016.

Ruggieri said he has funded his campaign with a personal contribution and small contributions. He said he has “fundraisers in the planning stage” and joked that he will “most certainly accept more contributions.”

His main criticism of Bennett is that the incumbent has supported the legislative proposals of Chicago Democrats who control the Legislature that are not in the best interests of the 52nd district.

Ruggieri and Bennett also disagree on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution that would replace its flat-tax mandate with a progressive tax that would permit multiple rates on rising levels of income.

“I believe it’s just a more creative way to raise taxes on the people of Illinois,” he said.

Ruggieri also said that, if elected, he will place a high priority on helping local business that were damaged by the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent economic lockdown Pritzker ordered.

He criticized Pritzker’s “one size fits all” approach and suggested that decisions need to be made by local officials acting on a regional basis.

As the pandemic wore on, the governor has modified his statewide rules to establish region-based decision-making. But Ruggieri said that approach has not gone far enough, citing Pritzker’s statewide ban on high school football while all the states surrounding Illinois allow it.

Ruggieri said he favored local communities being allowed to “take a look” at the circumstances and deciding for themselves how to proceed.

Given the pandemic’s limitations on campaigning, Ruggieri said he’s getting his message out via his website (ajfor

senate.com) and postings on Facebook.

Davis-Londrigan debates

A three-debate schedule in the close contest between incumbent U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, and Democratic challenger Betsy Dirksen Londrigan is near completion.

Details of two debates have been completed. Davis spokesman Aaron DeGroot said final arrangements for a third “in late October” are near completion but “have not been confirmed yet.”

There was some previous discussion about the candidates appearing online. But all three will feature them in person.

The first debate will be Oct. 5 at the WCIA studios in Champaign. WILL radio and the League of Women Voters are joining the TV station as co-sponsors.

The second, co-sponsored by public radio station WGLT and the Bloomington Pantagraph, will be held Oct. 13 at Illinois State University’s Center for the Performing Arts.

The date for the final debate has not been set. But it will be held at WICS-TV in Springfield.

Davis is seeking his fifth term representing Illinois’ 13th Congressional District. Londrigan is making her second run after losing a close race to Davis in 2018.

via The News-Gazette

September 26, 2020 at 02:41PM

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