Dirty Tricks in the 52nd District State Senate Race?

-By Warner Todd Huston

One question has arisen in the race for the Illinois State Senate in the 52nd District: why is GOP Sen. Leader Christine Radogno getting involved in a local primary to the reported tune of some very tall cash? And why is she supporting a guy that supports civil unions and tax hikes?

The GOP primary race is between activist Champaign small business owner John Bambenek and 63-year-old Champaign County Board Member Al Nudo. And in this race there are some clear differences between the two candidates.

For instance, Bambenek is much more in line than Nudo with the ideals of the last crop of GOP Congressmen that were elected from Illinois in 2010. Bambenek’s ideas would find echos in Randy Hultgren or Bobbie Shilling. Nudo, on the hand is much more a social and fiscal “moderate.”

Certainly Al Nudo, running claiming the need for “bipartisanship” in Springfield, is thought of as the “moderate” candidate in the race. “I work with both sides. There’s issues you can take from both sides,” he recently told the Daily Illini.

Nudo came out in favor of civil unions at a Tea Party forum held early in September. He has also supported raising revenue for the county with fees for civil unions.

Nudo supports a casino for the Danville area, a position few conservatives will take but certainly one that his Democrat opponent supports. Nudo sees gambling as a jobs program for Vermillion County.

Nudo has also supported a “drive to nowhere” to be funded by Obama stimulus cash. Nudo supported the extension of Olympian Drive to connect to U.S. 45 and hoped to undertake the project with Obama “stimulus” cash.

On taxes, he supported raising the county tax by 1% but also says that he’d have voted down the recent 67% ta hike the Democrats brought to the state. So, he was for raising taxes before he was against them.

This is the man that leader Rodagno is rumored to be supporting after claims in the past that she’d stay out of the primaries.

Bambenek is not surprised by this likely series of events, though.

“The fundamental problem with Springfield, in both parties, is political cowardice,” he told me via email. “It isn’t that we don’t know what needs to be done, it’s that some Republicans are so afraid of their own shadow, they won’t do anything about it. I plan to lead if I get to Springfield and will do everything I can to turn the state around, even if it means I serve 1 term.”

“I’m running against a Democrat who was bought and paid for by Chicago party bosses with over $1M in campaign cash. I don’t think the solution to that problem is electing someone bought by a different party boss. I will be my own man and fiercely beholden to the taxpayers of the 52nd district. Nothing more, nothing less.”

In any case, if Radogno really is getting involved in a primary, it’s hard to escape the feeling that this is the sort of thing that Illinois politics is infamous for; mucking around in smoke-filled rooms instead of letting the voters decide.

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