People associated with local tea party and 9/12 groups were among those who cheered on state Sen. SAM McCANN, R-Carlinville, when he announced last week he is running for the state Senate in the new 50th District.

People associated with local tea party and 9/12 groups were among those who cheered on state Sen. SAM McCANN, R-Carlinville, when he announced last week he is running for the state Senate in the new 50th District.

Among 35 or so people at United Contractors Midwest — run by McCann backer JIM BRUNER of Jacksonville — was RICH BRAHLER, owner of Brahler’s Truckers Supply in Jacksonville, and active in the “Take Back Illinois 9/12” organization. Brahler and his company combined to donate, loan or otherwise help the McCann campaign to the tune of more than $50,000 in McCann’s successful 2010 toppling of former Democratic state Sen. DEANNA DEMUZIO of Carlinville.

Also at the announcement was SANDY DRAGOO, the Springfield area tea party coordinator, and FRITZ PFISTER, whose intense speeches at tea party events in Springfield have included his appropriation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream speech” into tea party talking points at the Illinois State Fairgrounds back in the spring of 2010.

“I dream of a November where every statist liberal congressman and senator that voted in support of this radical administration be voted out of office,” he said as part of that speech.

McCann also had some regular GOP organizational support at the event, as evidenced by appearances by state Rep. JIM WATSON, R-Jacksonville; and GOP county chairmen JOHN BIRCH of Pike County, FLOYD ALEXANDER of Jersey County and RICHARD MEYER of Calhoun County. At least three other GOP county chairs are also backing McCann.

All or parts of nine counties are in the new 50th, including part of Sangamon County. That’s the home of Sen. LARRY BOMKE, R-Springfield, who says he won’t run in the new 50th because it is too big for him to serve the way he prefers to.

Sangamon County’s GOP chairman, TONY LIBRI, a great Bomke fan, hasn’t made an endorsement in the 50th.

During the 2010 campaign, Brahler said McCann was a member of a 9/12 group. I asked McCann at his announcement if he belongs to tea party or 9/12 organizations.

“I don’t know if either one of those groups have membership cards,” McCann said. “You’re a member, I guess, believing in the standard core values and principles that the nation was founded upon … like personal responsibility and accountability.

“So when I show up to a 9/12 meeting or a tea party meeting, what I typically encounter is a roomful of people from all walks of life who are very proud to be Illinoisans, and very proud to be Americans. And they first thing they usually do is say the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. The next thing they’ll do is maybe say a prayer to their creator. They might even sing the National Anthem.

“And then they typically have a program that talks about those core values and principles that made America great. And so, am I part of that? Regardless of what the label is, I’m all about that.”

Decatur mayor eyes 48th
Decatur Mayor MIKE McELROY, 59, is considering a run for the Republican nomination for state Senate in the new 48th District, which includes part of Springfield.

“An opportunity arose, and I thought that I would certainly look into it,” McElroy said. “Now it’s just a matter of the feel of the landscape.”

McElroy, who served on the Decatur City Council before becoming mayor three years ago, described himself as someone who supports the best candidate.

“I tell my Democratic friends, ‘I’m sure I voted for a lot more Democrats than you did Republicans,’” he said. “I’m very fiscally conservative, but on other issues, I’m a moderate, and I do believe there’s two sides to a story.”

The mayor’s office, a part-time position, is officially nonpartisan.

McElroy said events leading to a possible run unfolded quickly late last week, with McCann, who lives in the new 48th, announcing a run in the new 50th, and Bomke making it clear he is likely to retire from the Senate if boundaries of the new 50th don’t change.

McElroy is vice president of marketing and government affairs for Skeff Distributing, which brings Anheuser-Busch products to Decatur, Springfield and Champaign. He and wife LYNN have one grown son.

‘True friend’ of city dies
Former Springfield Ward 3 Ald. RAY ROWDEN alerted me to the recent passing of DERMOT O’CALLAGHAN of Killarney, Ireland,  which has had a “twin cities’ relationship with Springfield since the mid-1990s. O’Callaghan was a longtime town councilman who also served as mayor of Killarney.

O’Callaghan made repeated visits to Springfield and was grand marshal of Springfield’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1996 at the invitation of then-Mayor KAREN HASARA. He also became good friends with former Springfield Mayor TIM DAVLIN, who often traveled to the Irish city.
“He was my closest friend,” said Rowden, who, upon learning of the July 6 death of O’Callaghan, 74, made quick arrangements and traveled to Killarney to attend the funeral.

O’Callaghan ran the Fa’ilte Hotel in Killarney, was a great promoter of tourism, and was often the first person people would meet when they traveled in groups from Springfield, Rowden said. O’Callaghan would regularly put on welcoming brunches at the hotel for such groups, according to Rowden.

He was also an expert livestock judge. Rowden said he recalls watching a horse show at the Coliseum at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, and O’Callaghan, who stayed at the Rowden home while here, could regularly predict the winners.

One of his six sons, COLM O’CALLAHAN, is managing director of Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago.

“He was a true friend to the city of Springfield,” Rowden said of the elder O’Callaghan.

Bernard Schoenburg is political columnist for The State Journal-Register. He can be reached at 788-1540 or bernard.schoenburg@sj-r.com.