Discretion is the better part of valor. Look before you leap.
Those thoughts, among others, must have been running through state Rep. Carol Ammons’ mind as she contemplated following through with her January announcement that she would challenge appointed state Sen. Paul Faraci for the Democratic nomination for the Illinois Senate’s 52nd District seat.
After weighing the pros and cons, Ammons filed papers Monday with the Illinois State Board of Elections amending a previous filing declaring her Senate run. The new filing by the Friends of Carol Ammons stated her intent to seek “re-election to the 103rd Illinois House seat that comprises Champaign-Urbana.”
She declined to respond to a News-Gazette inquiry.
It’s quite a flip-flop, but one that makes political sense both for her and her party.
“I think Carol is doing the right thing by herself, by the party and by the electorate,” said Champaign County Auditor George Danos, a fellow Democrat. “By avoiding a risky state senate primary, she maintains experienced representation for us in Springfield as well as her own tenure in the House.”
The immediate beneficiary of Ammons’ decision is Faraci, who was appointed to the Senate after the sudden Dec. 9 death of 45-year-old state Sen. Scott Bennett.
Ammons was among those who sought appointment to Sen. Bennett’s seat. She called her prospective appointment a “no-brainer,” and she and her husband, Champaign County Clerk and Recorder Aaron Ammons, took great umbrage when a committee appointed by the Vermilion and Champaign County Democratic Party leaders named Faraci.
Aaron Ammons denoun-
ced the Faraci appointment as racist and bashed White Democrats who did not support his wife.
Faraci accepted the news with equanimity.
“I really do look forward to working with Representative Ammons,” he said. “This (decision) allows us to focus on that, and I think it’s great.”
Rietz to run again
Faraci was quick to note that Ammons’ decision “doesn’t necessarily mean that I won’t have a primary opponent.”
He’s right — someone could come out of the woodwork. But if that happens, any challenger would lack Ammons’ political base and campaign funds.
The 52nd District is made up of portions of Champaign and Vermilion counties, cleverly gerrymandered by supermajority Springfield Democrats to make it unlikely for a Republican to win.
The gerrymandering also applies to Ammons’ House district. So Ammons’ filing makes it clear both she and Faraci should have a free ride in 2024.
Another Democrat sitting pretty is Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz. She declined to comment on Ammons’ decision but took the opportunity to state that she’ll seek her sixth term next year.
Consider that statement her “official announcement,” said Rietz, who wanted to dispel ill-informed speculation that she is not running again.
“I will be focusing my attention on my re-election in 2024,” said Rietz, who pointed out that she’s also supporting “my friend, Senator Faraci.”
The right call
A Senate run by Ammons made little sense from a variety of perspectives.
For starters, running for the Senate would have risked defeat, leaving her without a public office and the $73,000 annual base pay and status that goes with it.
Even if she ran for Senate and won, she would have forfeited her House seniority and possibly taken a $10,000 pay cut.
Finally, running for the Senate and losing would have cost her other positions she achieved after the fight over Sen. Bennett’s seat. Ammons was named as joint chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus and vice-chairwoman of the House Democratic Women’s Caucus.
As chairwoman of a House committee, Ammons receives a $10,000 stipend on top of her $73,000 salary. There’s no guarantee that Senate President Don Harmon would have named Ammons to lead a committee, particularly since members of his staff made it clear they preferred Faraci to Ammons during the appointment process.
Ammons’ announcement is good news for Democrats because the party avoids a divisive primary fight. The only losers from her announcement are local Democrats who wanted to run for Ammons’ House seat if she had run for the Senate.
Among those Democrats who drew speculation as potential House candidates are Urbana City Council member Chaundra Bishop and Champaign County Democratic Party Chair Mike Ingram.
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May 16, 2023 at 06:45AM