WBEZ | Annazette Collins http://www.wbez.org/tags/annazette-collins Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Veteran Illinois lawmakers try to hang on against ambitious primary challengers http://www.wbez.org/story/veteran-illinois-lawmakers-try-hang-against-ambitious-primary-challengers-97226 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-March/2012-03-12/IMG_1293.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Just over a week to go before Illinois' primary election day. Candidates for all sorts of offices are knuckling down and knocking on doors.</p><p>That includes the multitudes running for the 177 seats that're up in the Illinois House and Senate. We looked at a pair of those elections, which couldn't be more different.</p><div class="inset"><div class="insetContent"><p><strong>DISCUSSION: </strong>More on Monday's <em>Afternoon Shift with Steve Edwards</em></p><p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332752351-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-march/2012-03-12/leg-races.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></p></div></div><p>Last year when Democratic leaders drew new boundaries for state legislative districts, they manufactured some match-ups that otherwise would not have been. Take the 24th state Senate District in the Western suburbs: held by Republican Kirk Dillard, a senator since 1993.</p><p>"You know, essentially I went Northward, very much like a glacier would move," said Dillard on Sunday in his campaign office, looking at a map of his new district. "You know I think [Democratic leaders] did it because they needed to take care of some senators on the south suburban area."</p><p>Dillard could be governor right now if he'd managed to swing a couple hundred votes in 2010. In the GOP primary, he fell just short of beating fellow state Senator Bill Brady, who later fell just short of beating Democratic Governor Pat Quinn.</p><p><strong>Dillard v. Nybo</strong></p><p>But instead of ruling the state, Dillard is going door to door to fend off a Senate challenge. His campaign is buying no TV ads, no radio. Just mail - and lots of it.</p><p>"It is amazing how fast when you really focus on it, you can get mail out the door. But literally in the last weeks, you could be talking upwards to 800,000 to a million pieces of mail," Dillard said.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-12/IMG_1299.JPG" style="width: 350px; height: 263px;" title="State Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale"></p><p>And that's to a district with about 217,000 residents, by the last Census count.</p><p>Most of Dillard's mailings are positive, he says, but one this week will knock his opponent, state Rep. Chris Nybo.</p><p>"You know, if you put a sign up, you just mark it down 'Yes,' you know, 'YS" for yard sign, and the notation that you placed it. But it should be a good day out there. I mean the weather's nice so people should be in a good mood," Nybo said in a pep talk Sunday to about a dozen volunteers wearing his green campaign T-shirts.</p><p>He's a state representative with little more than a year of House experience. But he's running for Senate against Dillard in part because Democrats drew him into a district with another Republican House member. Nybo chose instead to go for the promotion, against Dillard.</p><p>"You know, I mean, Kirk is a nice guy, but he's been down there a long time," Nybo said. "And I think we need some new energy down there. I don't think anybody should be making careers of this stuff."</p><p>And with all those votes in Dillard's career, Nybo's found quite a few to criticize. Dillard's campaign, meanwhile, put up an attack website featuring "The Chris Nybo Report Card."</p><p>Oddly enough, both these Republicans have ties to the Democratic president. Dillard appeared in a TV commercial for then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama during the Democratic primary for president, praising him for bipartisan work. Nybo volunteered on the congressional campaign of Mr. Obama, who was his law professor at the time.</p><p>As you can imagine, both men are quick to deflect blame for their cracks in party loyalty.</p><p>"I don't think he should say anything about my 15 nice words about President Obama about an ethics bill he sponsored with me when he was walking precincts and a student coordinator at the University of Chicago," Dillard said.</p><p>"Kirk Dillard is criticizing what I did as a 22-year-old college student with what he did as a 50-something-year-old party - acknowledged - party leader," Nybo said.</p><p>This is one of four Illinois Senate primaries statewide that feature two current Republican members of the General Assembly. Not an uncommon occurrence in elections following redistricting.</p><p>Boundaries changed all over the state, though not all that much in one Chicago Senate district that nonetheless is seeing a big Democratic primary fight. The 5th District is entirely within Chicago - a bit of the North Side, but mostly on the West.</p><p><strong>Collins v. Watkins</strong></p><p>"How you doing? God bless you," Patricia Van Pelt Watins greeted potential voters in the entranceway of a charter school in the Lawndale neighborhood.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-12/IMG_1283.JPG" style="width: 350px; height: 263px;" title="Patricia Van Pelt Watkins of Chicago"></p><p>Some parents tell Watkins they voted for her last year when she ran for Chicago mayor. Watkins hears that a lot, but doesn't always believe it.</p><p>"Right. Because there's too many of them," Watkins said. "Wait a minute. I only got [9,704] votes. How in the world did all these people vote for me? I guess they wanted to in their hearts."</p><p>The state Senate, some voters tell Watkins, is where she ought to be.</p><p>"Yeah, because they think this position fits me better," she said.</p><p>The seat used to be held by the outspoken Rickey Hendon, until he resigned - suddenly and without much explanation - early last year. Watkins applied for the vacancy, but Democratic leaders chose Annazette Collins, who'd served a decade in the state House.</p><p>"Well, if I win [a full term], people will have recognized that we've done a good job," Collins said in an interview last week at her office.</p><p>Collins talked of her efforts to overhaul the state's youth prison system. She boasted of bringing lots of state money home to the district, a positive symptom of seniority she said Watkins would be without.</p><p>"If I lose, it means that there are people who want change, and they want something different. And our community is upset. People are mad. They're mad at the president because things aren't changing fast enough. They're mad at everybody, except themselves," Collins said.</p><p>A loss could also mean that voters gave weight to some of the negatives lobbed Collins' way in recent months. Media reports have questioned whether she really lives in the district, as required by law. Last week the<em> Sun-Times</em> reported she gave university scholarships to people who live outside her district.</p><p>"I don't know that [this election is] so much tougher [than in the past], but it's very nasty," Collins said.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-12/IMG_1288.JPG" style="width: 350px; height: 263px;" title="State Sen. Annazette Collins of Chicago"></p><p>Collins had a public showdown recently with Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, a Watkins supporter who compared Collins to former Governor Rod Blagojevich.</p><p>But with turnout expected to be brutally low, Collins is counting on a strong get-out-the-vote game. Helping lead those efforts as a paid member of her campaign team: Rickey Hendon, the onetime politician whose abrupt resignation a year ago put this seat in play.</p></p> Mon, 12 Mar 2012 19:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/veteran-illinois-lawmakers-try-hang-against-ambitious-primary-challengers-97226 Annazette Collins tapped by Democratic officials to replace Rickey Hendon in Illinois Senate http://www.wbez.org/story/annazette-collins/annazette-collins-tapped-democratic-officials-replace-rickey-hendon-illinois <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-March/2011-03-14/IMG_0005.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois state Rep. Annazette Collins is getting a promotion to the state Senate. Democratic leaders in Chicago appointed Collins to fill out the term of Rickey Hendon, a controversial lawmaker who abruptly resigned last month.</p><p>About a dozen Democratic ward committeemen gathered Monday afternoon at a West Loop restaurant to interview candidates for the Fifth Senate District vacancy. More than 12 hopefuls showed up, including Collins, former candidate for governor Scott Lee Cohen and Patricia Van Pelt Watkins, who recently ran for Chicago mayor.</p><p>Collins won unanimous support from the Democratic leaders during a public vote. But it was a different story earlier, behind closed doors. Sec. of State Jesse White chaired the meeting, and told reporters there was a &quot;heated discussion.&quot;</p><p>&quot;So the fix was not in,&quot; White said in response to a suggestion that the outcome was pre-determined. &quot;Everyone up there had their thoughts about who was best qualified to be the senator of this district. And we just finally - a few moments ago - arrived at who that person should be.&quot;</p><p>As proof of that, White revealed that he was not personally in favor of Collins' candidacy.</p><p>&quot;There were about four people that I liked very well,&quot; said White, who controlled about 17 percent of the weighted vote used to select a new state senator. &quot;But the four I liked [did not include] the one that ended up with the position.&quot;</p><p>An underlying tension affecting Monday's proceedings was the complicated web of West Side political alliances. This includes, most notably, the tough re-election fight for 24th Ward Chicago Ald. Sharon Denise Dixon, who controlled nearly a quarter of the weighted vote. Dixon faces a strong challenge in an April runoff from the man she unseated from the city council four years ago, Michael Chandler.</p><p>Dixon's chosen candidate for the Senate vacancy was Vetress Boyce, a former business executive who actually ran against the alderman in the February election. Boyce finished out of the runoff, in third place behind Dixon and Chandler.&nbsp;</p><p>Boyce finished third again Monday in the closed-door votes cast by Democratic officials, behind Collins and Patricia Van Pelt Watkins.</p><p>Collins credited her victory to her ten years of experience in the General Assembly, and the heft that could provide in the upcoming redistricting fight that could leave the Fifth Senate District looking much different than it does now.</p><p>But Collins acknowledged Monday that politics is not all about resume, when she alluded to another factor in the Democratic negotiations:&nbsp;the rivalry between Sec. White and her chief backer, former Ald. Ed Smith, who controlled close to 14 percent of the weighted vote.</p><p>&quot;In politics, everybody wants control, and they want their own power,&quot; Collins said. &quot;And so they want someone that they can say, 'This person is in my organization.'&quot;</p><p>The bid of another candidate who garnered a lot of media attention quickly fizzled. Scott Lee Cohen failed to garner any nominations from committee members, who questioned his Democratic credentials given his recent bid for governor as an independent. Cohen said he may run for the seat when it is next up for election, in 2012.</p><p>With Collins' move to the state Senate, Democratic officials must now appoint her replacement in the state House.</p><p>&quot;Van Pelt Watkins had a lot of support, and when it comes to this legislative seat that's coming up, we think that she's going to be a viable candidate,&quot; White said after the meeting.</p></p> Tue, 15 Mar 2011 01:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/annazette-collins/annazette-collins-tapped-democratic-officials-replace-rickey-hendon-illinois