Record-breaking spending underway in testy Senate District 48 race

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State Sen. Doris Turner D-Springfield, speaks at the Springfield Clinic on June 9. [Thomas J. Turney/ The State Journal-Register]

State Rep. Sandy Hamilton, R-Springfield, delivers her first remarks after taking the oath for the 99th District House seat during a ceremony at the Gardner Township Hall in Springfield on Dec. 30, 2021.

While many Illinois General Assembly races are either uncontested or not expected to be competitive, one local Senate race has garnered significant financial attention.

Both in their first elections, Springfield’s own Democratic state Sen. Doris Turner and Republican state Rep. Sandy Hamilton are facing off in the big money 48th Senate District race. More than $4.7 million in collective campaign funds have been reported in the race, according to Reform for Illinois’ Sunshine Database — the third-highest amount of money among Illinois General Assembly elections as of Wednesday.

Much of this money has gone into financing television ads, which have become increasingly attack-based in recent weeks with both candidates referring to their opponent as either corrupt or a sell-out to special interests.

This amount of spending came to no surprise to University of Illinois-Springfield political science professor emeritus Kent Redfield on Friday, prior to the candidates’ release of their quarterly campaign finance reports with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

To overcome the Democratic, 41-18 supermajority in the Senate, Republicans have to win six seats in November. With this race, Redfield said the GOP senses an opportunity to bite into that lead.

“This could be a $5 million race, which even by Illinois standards, that is a very expensive Senate race,” Redfield said in a phone interview.

Quarterly campaign finance reports filed on Monday indicated who is supporting the candidates and how they are using their funds in the run up to Election Day.

More:The Illinois 48th District Senate race gets heated as candidates lob attack advertising

Turner outpaces Hamilton in contributions, expenditures

Turner, a former Springfield alderwoman and Sangamon County board member, came into the post-primary quarter with more available funds than Hamilton, a local Realtor and volleyball coach. Monday’s reports saw Turner maintain that lead, but with Hamilton closing in on the Democrat.

With $467,172 in available funds as of July 1, the beginning of the quarter, the Friends of Doris Turner committee reported $1.7 million in contributions and transfers and more than $2 million in expenditures. Higher expenditures than investments into the campaign saw the committee report $164,833 in available funds — a reduction of more than $300,000.

SandyForSenate had $66,536 in the beginning of the quarter and saw that number grow to $126,070 on Monday, carried by the $650,138 in contributions and transfers the campaign received. Expenditures reported by the committee were $590,670.

How is that money being spent?

Candidate expenditures ranged from as little 7 cents for mailing to several hundreds of thousands dollars for advertising in the July-September report.

The largest recipient in either report is Adelstein and Associates LLC, a Chicago-based political media firm founded in 1996 to support Democrat candidates nationwide. To the tune of $1.75 million and more than 85% of its $2 million in independent expenditures, the Turner campaign reported nine expenditures to the company.

For Hamilton, her campaign’s largest cost is advertising with People Who Think LLC totaling $564,620. The Louisiana-based company was listed as a recipient in several Illinois GOP senate candidates’ quarterly reports such as Rock Island Mayor and Senate District 36 candidate Mike Thoms and Erica Harriss in the 56th Senate District.

More Money Talk:Politics and Facebook: How candidates are using social media ads to advance campaigns

Both Turner and Hamilton have raised more compared to their respective Democratic and Republican candidates in the 2018 race — Democratic Sen. Andy Manar and eventual losing Republican candidate Seth McMillan — which has allowed for more money to be spent on advertising.

Some of these television ads focus on identifying the candidate, their background and where they stand on the issues. Others, however, are attack ads against their respective opponents.

This strategy has been the emphasis of Hamilton more so than Turner, Redfield said, due to the funding advantage the Democrat has. Most notably, one ad from the Republican has attempted to tie the senator with her husband, Cecil Turner, who was sentenced to 30 months in prison for his role in a pay scheme fraud.

As the ad claims, FBI wiretaps and court records prove that Doris Turner “lied” about her involvement in the scheme. Redfield notes however that the ad does not mention any indictment or conviction.

“If there were indictments or convictions, you would be hearing about it,” he said.

The Turner campaign responded to the ad with an ad of their own, which said Hamilton was the one lying and that Turner “helped the FBI by putting a staffer in jail.” The motive behind the Hamilton ad was to distract, the ad continued, from her ties to Minority Senate Leader Dan McConchie’s anti-abortion stance.

Who are the big donors?

Driving this year’s increase are both candidates’ respective Senate political party committees. Formed in 2020, the Illinois Senate Democrat Fund contributed $1.25 million to Turner this quarter — the most it transferred to any Democrat Senate candidate.

Its transfers total nearly $4.5 million this quarter, going to five candidates, and were supported by the $8 million in transfers from Gov. JB Pritzker and Senate President Don Harmon.

The Senate Republican Victory Fund is the largest donor to Hamilton, sending $732,700 to her campaign this year and more than $120,000 so far in October. The fund, chaired by McConchie, was created in 2021 and reported $3.2 million in expenditures with $295,711 funds available in the latest quarterly report filed on Monday.

While reporting 16 transfers totaling $2.6 million, SRVF only divvied that money among three Senate candidates and the Illinois Republican Party. Hamilton received $564,620 in transfers from the committee, but also received funding for staff salary expenditures to the tune of approximately $27,784.

Other big donors include the Realtors PAC, which contributed an additional $45,000 to Hamilton last week after the end of the quarter, while union groups like IBEW Illinois PAC and the LIUNA Chicago Laborers’ District Council PAC are prominent backers of Turner.

How does this compare to past funding?

Former state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, won all three of his elections with at least a 10-point margin over his Republican competitors. Even those years, however saw millions in campaign contributions — peaking with $3.4 million in 2018.

More money will go into this year’s race as Nov. 8 approaches, which has already exceeded all campaign contributions in races dating back to 2000, according to Ballotpedia. The 48th has not always included central Illinois. It included parts of DuPage, Kane, and Will counties between 2001 and 2011, when it did not garner nearly the funding it has recently. That district often had only one candidate and thus saw much less funding than more recent elections.

Makeup of the district

The 48th is a light blue island in a sea of deep red districts, much the case for the spare Democratic-leaning districts outside Chicagoland.

In 2021, the new maps drawn up by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. JB Pritzker saw the district now span more of downtown Springfield and cut out Taylorville all together. Being more urban-based, also including Decatur, was a decision to shore up more Democrat support in the race, Redfield said.

Based on voting history from 2016 through 2020 in the presidential, U.S. Senate and gubernatorial elections, Dave’s Redistricting found a slight lean to Democrats within the district. With almost 170,000 residents eligible to vote as of 2020, 48% of the vote in those years supported Democrats compared to 47% voting for Republicans.

Back in 2018, prior to redistricting, Democratic and Republican statewide candidates found success in the 48th. Pritzker won the district by approximately five points, yet Republican candidate for Attorney General Erika Harold also had a six-point lead over eventual Democratic Attorney General Kwame Raoul.

With this margin being so slim, Redfield expected both candidates to ramp up advertising efforts in all mediums — television and direct mail — with Election Day now less than three weeks away.

Contact Patrick Keck: 312-549-9340, pkeck@gannett.com, twitter.com/@pkeckreporter

The sun rises over the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Ill., Wednesday, October 20, 2021. The state is the top employer in Sangamon County. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

This article originally appeared on State Journal-Register: Millions invested in Doris Turner, Sandy Hamilton in state Senate race

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October 20, 2022 at 06:53AM

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