Ammons Center of Fight for Bennett Seat, Harmon Reportedly Doesn’t Want Ammons in Senate

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Multiple sources tell me Senate President Don Harmon’s camp has reached out to top Champaign County Democrats indicating he does not want Rep. Carol Ammons appointed to the late Scott Bennett’s Senate seat.

Champaign County Democratic Party Chairman Mike Ingram declined to comment. A spokesman for Harmon did not return our request for comment last night (to be fair, though, we sent it late).

We’re told Harmon’s camp did not indicate a preference for the appointment other than his opposition to Ammons.

“I think he’d prefer to stick to Stacy’s selections,” one source said.

Bennett, a moderate Democrat from Champaign, died December 9 from complications from a previously undiagnosed brain tumor. His wife, Dr. Stacy Bennett, agreed to fill the seat to the end of the current General Assembly (which ends next Wednesday morning.)

That means party leaders need to fill the two-year unexpired term that begins January 11. Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Urbana) represents half of Bennett’s 52nd District, but has become a lightning rod of controversy surrounding the potential appointment.

Numerous local Democrats have said they fear Ammons is “too liberal” to win a district represented by Bennett, a moderate, which not only includes the progressive Champaign-Urbana area, but more conservative areas like Rantoul and Danville.

The fight has only intensified in recent days, as Ammons’ husband, Champaign County Clerk Aaron Ammons, made a lengthy, racially charged Facebook post about his wife’s effort to win the appointment.

“If we, meaning Black folks, in particular Black women, are positioned to be next in the line of succession, the goal posts move,” Ammons wrote. “That means, when we meet all the qualifications, some other reason is put forth as the reason why the qualified and experienced Black woman is not chosen.”

In response, Stacy Bennett laid out four names she believed Scott would have supported for the seat, and Ammons’ name was not on the list.

“Scott emphasized the importance of integrity and honesty in everything he did. He did not appreciate it when other elected officials stretched the truth or made false statements in order to stand in the spotlight. In fact, Scott was not someone who cared about being in the spotlight,” she wrote. “In our discussions about whom he thought would be a good replacement, four names consistently came up. Scott believed these people would bring integrity, and valuable experience and perspectives to the senate, while also listening to and representing the entire district.”

Bennett listed City of Champaign Township Supervisor Andy Quarnstrom, City of Champaign Township Assessor Paul Faraci, Champaign School Board Member Gianina Baker, and City of Champaign Community Relations Manager Mary Catherine Roberson as preferred appointments. Of the applicants, only Roberson did not submit an application.

Champaign County Democratic Chairman Mike Ingram, who indicated before Christmas he was not interested in the appointment, did submit an application and recused himself from the decision making process.

Candidates spoke at a virtual public forum last night, and numerous candidates touched, either directly or indirectly, on the politically charged nature of the appointment process.

“The appointee to the late Senator Bennett’s seat must be a proven leader. They must have a history of public service and results-based service with integrity,” Quarnstrom said. “Most importantly [the chosen candidate] should have the support of the Bennett family to continue Scott’s legacy in the Illinois Senate.”

Ammons, meanwhile, argued she is the only logical candidate for the seat.

“Filling this vacancy is critical to the Democratic process,” Ammons said. “This decision will communicate to the Democratic voters of the 104th whether or not the Democrats really understand the needs of the district.”

Before he recused himself, Ingram created an advisory committee to help with the appointment. The list includes Mike Frerichs, the State Treasurer and Bennett’s predecessor in the Senate. The advisory group is expected to meet this weekend with a final appoint coming by early next week.

Bennett, a moderate Democrat from Champaign, died December 9 from complications from a previously undiagnosed brain tumor. His wife, Dr. Stacy Bennett, agreed to fill the seat to the end of the current General Assembly (which ends next Wednesday morning.)

That means party leaders need to fill the two-year unexpired term that begins January 11. Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Urbana) represents half of Bennett’s 52nd District, but has become a lightning rod of controversy surrounding the potential appointment.

Numerous local Democrats have said they fear Ammons is “too liberal” to win a district represented by Bennett, a moderate, which not only includes the progressive Champaign-Urbana area, but more conservative areas like Rantoul and Danville.

The fight has only intensified in recent days, as Ammons’ husband, Champaign County Clerk Aaron Ammons, made a lengthy, racially charged Facebook post about his wife’s effort to win the appointment.

“If we, meaning Black folks, in particular Black women, are positioned to be next in the line of succession, the goal posts move,” Ammons wrote. “That means, when we meet all the qualifications, some other reason is put forth as the reason why the qualified and experienced Black woman is not chosen.”

In response, Stacy Bennett laid out four names she believed Scott would have supported for the seat, and Ammons’ name was not on the list.

“Scott emphasized the importance of integrity and honesty in everything he did. He did not appreciate it when other elected officials stretched the truth or made false statements in order to stand in the spotlight. In fact, Scott was not someone who cared about being in the spotlight,” she wrote. “In our discussions about whom he thought would be a good replacement, four names consistently came up. Scott believed these people would bring integrity, and valuable experience and perspectives to the senate, while also listening to and representing the entire district.”

Bennett listed City of Champaign Township Supervisor Andy Quarnstrom, City of Champaign Township Assessor Paul Faraci, Champaign School Board Member Gianina Baker, and City of Champaign Community Relations Manager Mary Catherine Roberson as preferred appointments. Of the applicants, only Roberson did not submit an application.

Champaign County Democratic Chairman Mike Ingram, who indicated before Christmas he was not interested in the appointment, did submit an application and recused himself from the decision making process.

Candidates spoke at a virtual public forum last night, and numerous candidates touched, either directly or indirectly, on the politically charged nature of the appointment process.

“The appointee to the late Senator Bennett’s seat must be a proven leader. They must have a history of public service and results-based service with integrity,” Quarnstrom said. “Most importantly [the chosen candidate] should have the support of the Bennett family to continue Scott’s legacy in the Illinois Senate.”

Ammons, meanwhile, argued she is the only logical candidate for the seat.

“Filling this vacancy is critical to the Democratic process,” Ammons said. “This decision will communicate to the Democratic voters of the 104th whether or not the Democrats really understand the needs of the district.”

Before he recused himself, Ingram created an advisory committee to help with the appointment. The list includes Mike Frerichs, the State Treasurer and Bennett’s predecessor in the Senate. The advisory group is expected to meet this weekend with a final appoint coming by early next week.

Meanwhile, Multiple sources say Senate President Don Harmon’s camp has reached out to top Champaign County Democrats indicating he does not want Ammons appointed to the Bennett’s Senate seat.

Champaign County Democratic Party Chairman Mike Ingram declined to comment. A spokesman for Harmon did not return our request for comment last night (to be fair, though, we sent it late).

We’re told Harmon’s camp did not indicate a preference for the appointment other than his opposition to Ammons.

“I think he’d prefer to stick to Stacy’s selections,” one source said.

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January 5, 2023 at 06:31PM

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