Tom Kacich: Republicans showing support for Marlin
There's evidence of Republicans already crossing over to vote in Urbana's Democratic mayoral primary election, according to Champaign County Recorder Mark Shelden, an elections numbers cruncher who formerly was the county clerk.
And that's a likely sign of trouble for Mayor Laurel Prussing.
Shelden said he reviewed the names of about 240 people who have voted early in the three-way Feb. 28 mayoral primary and found that about 25 percent of them were people who had voted in the Republican primary election last March.
Another quarter hadn't voted in either party primary last spring, and the remainder had voted as Democrats.
Shelden said he reviewed the list Thursday night, when there was a total of 239 ballots cast. By noon Friday, according to County Clerk Gordy Hulten, the number of votes cast had risen to 251.
"Having that many Republicans versus Democrats showing up in the Democratic primary is a pretty big number, that would be a pretty big outlier. I don't think that would be typical," Shelden said.
Esther Patt, who is chairing Prussing's campaign, has acknowledged concerns about Republicans crossing over because there is no GOP mayoral primary.
"What I'm telling Democrats is that if you're a Democrat, you'd better be voting in the Democratic primary because the Republicans are," Patt said.
Diane Marlin, who is believed to be the beneficiary of the GOP votes, said she's "not actively seeking them, no, but the fact of the matter is that this is a local election, and people vote for the person rather than the party."
Shelden said "there's no question" Republicans are taking a Democratic ballot to vote for Marlin.
The contest between Prussing, Marlin and Evelyn Burnett Underwood is the only race on the Feb. 28 ballot in Urbana.
"I've certainly heard lots of people talking about it, but it doesn't surprise me. We had this 12 years ago, too," he said. "There were certainly a lot of Republicans who voted in the (Tod) Satterthwaite-Prussing primary 12 years ago, but I think the number of Republicans expressing that they're going to vote I think is a lot higher than it was 12 years ago.
"Every Republican who I've heard talking about voting and participating in this primary is voting for Marlin."
Shelden said he is "watching from my couch" and is "not one of them casting a Republican primary ballot this year."
U.S. attorney opening
Jim Lewis, the former U.S. attorney for the Central District of Illinois, including Champaign-Urbana, stepped down in December.
That means there's an opening for a pretty prestigious job, headquartered in Springfield.
If you're interested, get your applications and resumes in to whitehouse.gov and to U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville.
It helps to be a Republican.
Normally U.S. senators get to recommend U.S. attorney candidates to the president, but because both Illinois senators are Democrats and the POTUS is a Republican, things are different in Illinois this year.
Shimkus, because he is the most senior of the state's Republican congressmen, will have a part in recommending the three new U.S. attorneys in Illinois.
"He will have a role. We're still not clear on how the process will go, but we are accepting resumes, applications, everything," said Shimkus spokesman Jordan Haverly. "So anyone who wants to be considered should contact us."
Once Attorney General Jeff Sessions establishes the nomination process, Haverly said, "we'll find out exactly how this process of representatives making a recommendation to them for appointment works. For now, we're in the process of just collecting information from those who are interested."
Haverly said there already have been some applicants for the top prosecutor position in Springfield.
He stressed that Illinois' two senators still will have a role in the selection, particularly Sen. Dick Durbin, a member of the Judiciary Committee.
Senators, in what is now a 100-year-old tradition, can "blue slip" a nominee: literally a blue slip of paper sent to the Judiciary Committee with a senator's favorable or unfavorable opinion about a nominee. The committee will take the opinion into consideration, said committee chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
"We'll be working collaboratively with the senators. We don't anticipate there will be any problems," Haverly said.
Hulten on immigration investigation
Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten said he was contacted during the last week in January by FBI agents investigating Miguel Valencia-Sandoval, the 33-year-old Mexican citizen who has been charged with a number of federal charges including "voting in an election by an illegal alien."
Hulten posted on Twitter that he was "(p)roud to have provided records to contribute to this prosecution."
"They came by the office last week and they were looking for voter registration records and voting history records for this person. We searched them and found them and turned them over," Hulten said Friday.
He said it was the first time in his six years as clerk that he had been contacted by federal agents about illegal voting.
"I've had conversations with the FBI before about procedures and just to keep an open dialogue. But in this case, they came to us and said we've got somebody with what we believe is a case of stolen identity, and it also appears he has voted using this stolen identity," Hulten said.
The main parts of the case against Valencia-Sandoval are related to him making a false statement in applying for a passport and aggravated identity theft. Those are related to his use of the birth certificate — for which he paid $50,000 in 2005 — of a Texas man whose identity he allegedly assumed.
But four voting-related charges also were filed against Valencia-Sandoval, who has lived in Urbana for several years.
"I don't know that I'm in a position to draw any conclusions, but my understanding of how federal prosecutions work is that they will charge you with everything they can charge you with," he said.
Republican precinct committeemen in County Board District 1 (generally the northwestern quadrant of the county) will meet at 4 p.m. today to select a replacement for Gary Maxwell, the Mahomet Republican who resigned from the Champaign County Board last month. The meeting will be at the Hensley Township Building, 301 W. Hensley Road, Champaign.
UI birthday resolution
The Illinois House Higher Education Committee last week OK'd a resolution declaring Feb. 28 as "University of Illinois Day" in the state.
That date is close to the 149th anniversary of the day the UI opened for business — March 2, 1868 — in tiny Urbana.
House Joint Resolution 5, sponsored by Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana, urges Illinoisans "to celebrate the sesquicentennial anniversary of the leading institution of higher learning in the state."
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette reporter and columnist. His column appears on Sundays and Wednesdays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.