Jim Dey | Despite setback, Rep. Ammons made a couple moves up

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There was plenty of talk — some of it contentious and accusatory — before local Democratic leaders met Jan. 7 to appoint local politico Paul Faraci to the Illinois Senate vacancy created by the untimely death of Scott Bennett.

Since then, those talking the most publicly — the husband/wife political team of state Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana, and Champaign County Clerk and Recorder Aaron Ammons, and Urbana Democrat Danielle Chynoweth — have had little to say about Carol Ammons’ failure to win the appointment she thought was her due.

Despite that setback, the veteran House member hasn’t been without promotion. She was named last week as joint chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus.

“I’m confident that under my leadership, we will make more progress in undoing the unjust and institutional racism Black Illinoisans often find themselves facing,” she said.

Ammons issued a similar statement about female advancement after she became vice-chairwoman of the House Democratic Women’s Caucus.

Despite her failure to win appointment to Sen. Bennett’s seat — and the lamentable tactics that undermined her bid — one thing remains clear — Ammons remains a hard-charger.

What’s next on her political radar? Those who follow the political process will be waiting to see if she takes on Faraci in 2024 for their party’s nomination for the 52nd District seat.

Ammons already has filed required campaign committee papers for the Senate race. That shot across the bow was intended to persuade party leaders to appoint her to Sen. Bennett’s post.

But that move — as well as incendiary comments made by both Ammons and their supporters — had a more negative than positive impact on local Democrats.

The only Ammons supporter who has spoken publicly after the Faraci appointment is outgoing Cunningham Township Assessor Wayne Williams.

“While I’m happy for Paul, I stand by my previous comments,” he said. “I expect to be supporting (Carol Ammons) for state Senate.”

Williams also expressed disdain for the process by which the Champaign and Vermilion County Democratic Party leaders — aided by a 16-member advisory committee — chose Faraci.

“I’m not surprised by the outcome. The deck was certainly stacked against her,” he said.

Champaign County Democrats are divided into multiple factions, among them groups that are pro- and anti-Ammonses.

But even those who view them favorably were put off by the strong racial claim made for Sen. Bennett’s seat. Calling his wife a “strong Black woman” with an impressive record, Aaron Ammons suggested in Facebook post that her opponents were motivated by racial prejudice.

Since then, local Democrats have puzzled over his post-appointment Facebook post of a fable involving a lion and a donkey that he interpreted as follows:

“There are people who, no matter how much evidence … we present to them, are not in the capacity to understand, and others are blinded by ego, hatred and resentment, and all they want is to be right even if they are not,” he said.

How that translates into their future political action remains to be seen.

For now, Carol Ammons remains secure in the Illinois House. But her reputation for being difficult undermined her effort to move to the Senate.

Political reporter Patrick Pfingsten reported before the Faraci appointment that Senate President Don Harmon “doesn’t want Ammons” and that his political team made that clear to local Democrats.

Pfingsten wrote he was “told Harmon’s camp did not indicate a preference for the appointment other than his opposition to Ammons.”

In early 2021, Ammons was appointed to House Speaker Chris Welch’s leadership team. But he subsequently removed her for misbehaving while presiding over House debate.

Welch’s recent appointments indicate Ammons remains on the outs. She was not among the 14 Democrats he appointed to his leadership team or the 12 other Democrats named as caucus whips.

Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached at jdey@news-gazette.com or 217-393-8251.

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January 17, 2023 at 09:30AM

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