Tag: Vermilion County IL Democrats

McCarthyism comes to East Central Illinois

AUTHOR’S NOTE: One of the members of the Vermilion County (IL) Board, Edwin Barney, Jr. (D-Westville), is my cousin.

Even on the websites of the local newspapers here in East Central Illinois, I’ve found it hard to find good information about local politics, since most of the local political news reporting around here has a right-wing slant to it and/or isn’t all that detailed.

Well, I was looking through a email inbox that I rarely use, and I stumbled upon a press release by the Vermilion County Democratic Party, issued last month, about the politically-motivated firing of Nikki Bogart, who was the Financial Services Director for the Vermilion County Board for seven years before being terminated by far-right Vermilion County Board Chairman Mike Marron (R-Fithian), apparently because Bogart ran as a Democrat for county auditor in 2012 (Bogart lost to Republican office jumper Tom O’Shaugnessy, who was elected to a circuit court judgeship last year). Bogart was fired by Boss Marron despite the fact that Bogart had never been officially reprimanded prior to her firing, as well as the fact that Boss Marron had praised Bogart by name for her work on the 2014-2015 county budget. Bogart filed an appeal in an effort, but the grievance committee had not been convened at the time the press release was issued a little over a month ago. (In case you’re wondering, this is the only time that I’ve ever received any kind of email containing official Vermilion County Democratic Party documents of any kind).

Sadly, Bogart isn’t the only person to either be fired or pressured out of a job because of Boss Marron’s reign of terror in Vermilion County. In one instance, a qualified mental health professional was either fired or effectively forced out of a job by Boss Marron and the hostile, hyperpartisan work environment that Boss Marron has created throughout Vermilion County government and was replaced by mother of the county board chairman.

Vermilion County lacks an official chief executive of the county, although Boss Marron thinks that he can act as the de facto chief executive of the county because he ran unopposed last year in a county board district that includes one-ninth of the county (specifically, his district includes the west central and north central parts of the county) and was elected Vermilion County Board Chairman by his fellow Republicans,¬†who control the county board. Instead of doing anything to make Vermilion County a better place to live, Boss Marron is doing everything he can to purge Democrats from what few positions they hold in the county government for purely partisan reasons. In fact, what Boss Marron is doing is eerily similar to the witchhunts against alleged communists who weren’t communists by former U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-WI) in the mid-20th century. The only thing that is missing is Boss Marron presiding over a special county board committee conducting a public shaming and character assassination of someone who Boss Marron disagrees with for some reason.

Quite frankly, Vermilion County needs a directly-elected county executive, because I don’t think that Boss Marron could win a county-wide election in a hypothetical county executive race because of his highly vindictive style of politics, even against a stubborn-headed progressive like me and with a local Democratic Party organization that could be best described as barely existent.

Anti-abortion Democrat Michael Puhr seeking appointment to Illinois State Senate seat currently held by Mike Frerichs

In just a few weeks, Mike Frerichs, who represents me in the Illinois State Senate, will be sworn in as the new Illinois Treasurer. This will result in a vacancy in the 52nd Legislative District of Illinois, which is a microcosm of the state and includes parts of Champaign and Vermilion Counties, including the cities of Champaign, Urbana, and Danville.

Three Democrats have publicly acknowledged that they are seeking the state senate appointment:

  • Danville Alderman Michael Puhr
  • Former Champaign County Board Chairman C. Pius Weibel
  • Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing

Additionally, several other Democrats, none of which have been publicly named by anyone, are seeking the appointment as well.

The fact that Michael Puhr is considering a state senate appointment isn’t surprising, as he ran in the 104th Representative District (areas of the 52nd Legislative District outside of the heavily-Democratic areas of Champaign and Urbana) in 2010, losing to far-right Republican candidate Chad Hays in an open-seat race. However, during his state house campaign, Puhr campaigned as an socially conservative Democrat, opposing abortion and gun control. I remember seeing newspaper ads paid for by Puhr’s state house campaign which touted Puhr as a “pro-life” and “pro-2nd Amendment” candidate, indicating that Puhr is opposed to the idea of women having the right to make their own reproductive health care decisions and is opposed to most, if not all, forms of gun control designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and abusers. While Puhr’s socially conservative views would probably be necessary for a Republican-leaning state house district to be won by a Democrat, Puhr is seeking an appointment to a seat in a state senate district that is a microcosm of a Democratic-leaning state where it is very difficult for politicians who publicly oppose women’s rights to get elected, in fact, if Puhr were to be appointed to the state senate, he’d probably lose a competitive primary once the seat comes up for election in 2016.

The only other Democrat who is publicly seeking the state senate appointment that I know quite a bit about is Laurel Prussing. Prussing, who is currently the Mayor of Urbana, the second-largest city in the district, has been a political figure in East Central Illinois for over four decades. Prussing has publicly stated that she wants to eliminate property tax exemptions on at least some non-profit hospitals in Illinois, such as Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana. I like this idea, since, given how much money hospitals make (even many non-profit hospitals have large cash reserves), hospitals like Carle are effectively moochers since they receive corporate welfare (in the form of a property tax break) from the state.

I know virtually nothing about C. Pius Wiebel, as I’m not all that familiar with Champaign County politics.

The Champaign County and Vermilion County Democratic Party chairmen should appoint someone who will represent the people of East Central Illinois well to serve the last two years of Mike Frerichs’s term in the Illinois Senate. Hopefully, that isn’t a supporter of the Bruce Rauner-Mike Madigan War on Women like Michael Puhr.