U.S. Rep. TIM JOHNSON, R-Urbana, who is making a push to get himself known in the Springfield area as he would represent much of it under a new district map, is finding this year’s Illinois State Fair a good place to meet potential constituents.

U.S. Rep. TIM JOHNSON, R-Urbana, who is making a push to get himself known in the Springfield area as he would represent much of it under a new district map, is finding this year’s Illinois State Fair a good place to meet potential constituents.

“I was always under the impression it was probably 80 percent out of the area,” he said of the crowd that he’s encountered there over the years. But now that he’s searching for votes in the new 13th Congressional District, which would include much of Springfield, he said he’s finding 80 percent to 90 percent of the people he’s been talking to there are from the area, making it “more than just entertainment.”

Johnson made this observation after I noticed he and some staff near Springfield’s municipal complex this week. Turns out he had just met with Mayor MIKE HOUSTON and discussed matters including where high-speed rail should be routed through the city.

Similar to Houston’s stand, Johnson said, he is “absolutely, 100 percent in for 10th Street,” saying the mayor and others have convinced him that “in terms of economic development, in terms of infrastructure, in terms of the future of Springfield, it is critical.”

Meanwhile, some of Johnson’s congressional and political staff already reflect the area. Among those with him this week was Sangamon County Board member JEN DILLMAN, R-District 23. She used to be a fundraiser for U.S. Rep. JOHN SHIMKUS, R-Collinsville, but has been on the Johnson team since January.

MARK SHELDEN, Johnson’s chief of staff, said the three months that ended June 30 was the “best quarter we’ve had since the first election.” Johnson was a longtime state representative before being elected to Congress in 2000.

Johnson raised nearly $125,000 in the three-month period, and had nearly $284,000 on hand as of June 30. Dillman was paid $6,000 during that three-month period.

Also with Johnson was SAM PFISTER, 25, who went to high school in Rochester and is a 2008 Western Illinois University grad. He’s a legislative assistant to Johnson in Washington, D.C., and particularly handles agriculture issues.

Pfister gave the youth perspective back in 2009 when he spoke in a tax day tea party rally on April 15 outside the Statehouse.

“The more they spend now, the more they will tax later,” he said of our government leaders. “That means my generation will have less political freedom, less economic freedom, more rules to follow, more regulation to abide by, and more foreign powers to answer to. They have abandoned our principles and our values and now it is our liberty at stake.”

He also mentioned things including the “puppet media” and the “decrepit men that caused this mess” with the economy, proving that he was not shy about speaking his mind.

His father, real estate broker FRITZ PFISTER, has also spoken at local tea party events.
The young Pfister is paid $41,000 annually by the government — though he noted he does live in Washington, D.C. Word is the cost of living is a bit higher there than in Springfield.

Meanwhile, a Springfield truck driver who has been considering a primary run against Johnson, SAM SPRADLIN, has also been using the state fair as a place to meet voters.

Schock’s ‘campaign engine’
U.S. Rep. AARON SCHOCK, R-Peoria, raised more than $320,000 in the second quarter of the year, and by June 30, had more than $1.43 million in his political fund. He also had nearly $10,000 in his Generation Y fund, which is used to help other candidates.

So why is it necessary for Schock to host House Speaker JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio,  in a $250-per-person fundraiser in Edwards on Aug. 31?

Schock said in Springfield this week that he raised and spent $2.5 million in 2010, and if the newly drawn Democratic map holds, he’ll have something more than a quarter-million new constituents.

“I think fate favors the prepared,” said Schock, still the youngest member of Congress at 30. “I’m a big believer that you always keep your campaign engine in operation. You never get complacent.”

Schock also noted that it’s an annual event to which he’s had major players before — then-President GEORGE W. BUSH and former first lady LAURA BUSH among them. He said he thinks President BARACK OBAMA is “probably going to win his home state,” and in 2012, there’s no U.S. Senate race in Illinois, meaning the U.S. House candidates will be listed on the ballot right under president.

He said the GOP nominee for president will “probably not” be “investing in voter turnout” in Illinois, so for U.S. House candidates, “It’s going to be your organization, your resources that are going to have to ID voters and turn them out on Election Day.”

The new 18th Congressional District, drawn by Democrats and under court challenge, would still have Schock representing much of Sangamon County and part of Springfield, should he win another term.

Democratic get-togethers
Sangamon County Democrats just might be hoping that several generations of leadership, all put together, can have some good results.

Party Chairman JIM MOODY said that for a month or so, weekly meetings have been held bringing together several past chairmen to talk about candidates.

“TODD (RENFROW) came to me and asked me if I thought that would be a good idea,” Moody added. “I thought that would be a wonderful idea.”

Renfrow is the former general manager of City Water, Light and Power and was a key player in the administration of the late Springfield Mayor TIM DAVLIN.

Up in 2012 are a range of offices, from some at the countywide level, members of the county board, as well as General Assembly seats under new maps.

Among those who have been involved, Moody said, are TIM TIMONEY, BOB WESLEY, BILL HOULIHAN and SUSAN SHEA. TOM OWENS attended a meeting, and TOM PAPE said he was at one early on, too.

“We’re getting along fine,” Timoney said. “We’ve had our differences in the past … but we’re trying to work together for the common good of the party.”

We’ll see what comes of this new togetherness.

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