The 3rd quarter reporting of congressional candidates to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) has come and gone.
As predicted in an article here on McHenry County Blog originally published on September 16, the report cards are in for how the 14th district Republican candidates’ respective messages have been received.
Recalling the days in my youth when I was a precinct chair/committeeman and assessed multi-candidate races to determine whom I might ask my neighbors to support, it’s time to apply mature discernment using the facts and my observations of all of the campaigns to date.
Just like back in school after grades have posted and report cards are out, it’s time to do a class rank.
It’s time to face reality.
And a reminder for the main reason I am here, I’m not here to tickle ears, but to tell the truth.
To begin, here is the 3rd quarter fundraising grid:
There are clearly 4 candidates who have risen to the top in the 14th.
McHenry County Blog, being completely neutral and unbiased, will take these 4 and and apply a rank, based on objective and subjective factors, including but not limited to fundraising.
It must be very clear, that any of the 4 top ranked candidates can win the primary in March.
All of them have strengths, and opportunities to improve.
None of them, including the top ranked, can afford to “coast” or “back-in” to the nomination.
The frontrunner cannot play “frontrunner” because the other three are very good viable choices who can win.
Opportunity, for starters, all of the candidates need to roll-out their stances on the major issues through detailed policy/position papers. One liners won’t cut it with most Republican primary voters.
Remember what the primary is: candidates are auditioning to be on stage with Congresswoman Lauren Underwood for 7 1/2 months, March 18 to 7PM November 3, 2020.
And Republican primary voters are your judges. Last year, a little over 60,000 votes were cast in the Republican primary in the 14th district, and that includes the voters who did not cast a vote for the Republican congressional incumbent.
All of the top-ranked candidates’ specific opportunities will be discussed in upcoming articles.
To the class rank:
#1: Jim Oberweis
While Oberweis is the top spot in the class rank of candidates, it is only as a nominal frontrunner. Oberweis leads in fundraising, including cash-on-hand and grass roots volunteers. As observed last month, his volunteers covered two events at the same time in early September.
Oberweis has the support of many local officials, particularly in McHenry County, including McHenry County Republican Chairman Diane Evertsen, party vice chairman Chuck Wheeler, who is also the deputy state central committeeman for the 14th district, and Harvard Mayor Michael Kelly, among others.
State Representative Allen Skillicorn, who has a significant following in McHenry County, endorsed Oberweis’ candidacy last month.
Oberweis has two campaign offices opened, including his headquarters in St. Charles and a satellite office in Crystal Lake. His campaign infrastructure is in place, befitting a candidate who started running in February.
Finally, he has strong support inside the party in Washington. This past Wednesday in Washington, Senator March Rubio (R, FL) and Congressman Francis Rooney (R, FL) co-hosted a high-dollar fundraiser. Senator Rubio will be in Oak Brook next Friday to fundraise for Oberweis again.
An important note: A month ago today, Oberweis released the executive summary to polling his campaign did in late July and early August that showed him significantly ahead with a very small sample size and a huge margin of error. That poll had no bearing on his ranking.
#2: Ted Gradel
Gradel entered the primary field on April 23rd, releasing a highly professional video narrated by legendary former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz.
Then within a week, Gradel announced he had raised over $150,000 by the end of April for his campaign. In both the 2nd and 3rd quarters, he raised the most money from individual donors.
A complete newcomer, Gradel is a self-made successful businessman who started out working in the pits of the CBOT and CME, and now can literally write his own ticket. Gradel, who is 54, is from the Will County portion of Naperville.
According to the financials, he has nearly 1/2 million in cash-on-hand, not far behind Oberweis, but as revealed by McHenry County Blog on Wednesday, $102,900 of that amount cannot be spent in the primary.
That $102,900 number shows is he’s got the most maxed-out donors who have bought his message and invested significant cash for the general election.
#3: Sue Rezin
Rezin, 56, of Morris entered the race on July 9 and has yet to formally launch her campaign, which she said in July she would do during the coming months.
Rezin has been focused on fundraising, and her 3rd quarter fundraising was very good. While she has not announced any high-profile endorsements, she received significant contributions from Congressman Adam Kinzinger, State Senator Don Dewitte, former State Senator/former Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay and former state Senator Christine Radogno.
Since her entry into the race, she has been quietly building an infrastructure, and clearly, her priority has been fundraising, where she has shown strength.
#4: Catalina Lauf
The 26 year old Woodstock native made a huge entry into the race, launching her campaign on August 22 including a highly effective professional video message, and within the first 38 days, raised nearly $105,000.
Her earned media, through interviews across the country including a feature in the New York Post propelled Lauf into her current momentum. The former Trump Administration Commerce Department adviser has successfully displayed herself to represent the genuine, down-to-earth “why” message that’s similar to the message that propelled Donald Trump into the White House.
Lauf is far ahead of all of her competitors on social media, with a following of over 24,000 in Twitter and over 15,000 on Instagram. No one else comes close. With nearly 20% of her 3rd quarter receipts through WinRed, her potential fundraising will cause any objective observer to pause.
And like her social media following, she is the only candidate that has the Democrats and their leftist allies scared. To them, she is the real threat to Lauren Underwood’s reelection. None of the other candidates come close.
Rest of the Candidates
These three gentlemen need major course-corrections in order to be remotely competitive at this late stage. Those course-corrections need to bear fruit by the end of 4th quarter fundraising.
The Top 4 have plans to be competitive for voters in March including building war chests to purchase media advertising in the Chicago media market. Specific callouts in alphabetical order
- Anthony Catella – I genuinely like what he brings to the table particularly serving our country in the Army and God as a priest. But he’s not going to be competitive just doing amateur video to an empty room at the Baker Community Center in St. Charles. He may make and stay on the ballot, but that’s as far as it will be.
- Danny Malouf – He has shown some sparks to begin to be a good candidate, but he has not inspired people to invest in his campaign, raising less than Catella in the 3rd quarter. Like Catella, if he makes it to the ballot, that’s as far as he’ll go in 2020.
- James Marter – For a guy who’s run twice for federal office in the last 2 election cycles, his 2019 fundraising is showing voters aren’t buying his message. He has a handful of high profile volunteers, but investors aren’t buying his 2020 campaign. While he’s a cut above Catella and Malouf, he’s got to figure out what’s not working and change it fast.
- For example, he aspires to be in the House Freedom Caucus. Then why is the House Freedom Fund, the caucus’ fundraising arm, not backing his candidacy in spite of the message he gives is theirs? Jeanne Ives is being backed by the Freedom Fund in the 6th.
- In 2016 and 2018, Marter never raised $80,000 in the course of those campaigns.
Finally, all 3 men should look at the grid at the top of the article, and note Evelyn Sanguinetti’s line. She raised nearly $143,000 in 5 1/2 months with over $36,000 in the bank. She knew she could not stay in the 6th district race and be competitive, so she did the honorable thing and withdrew.
And Remember What Awaits the Primary Winner
Today, Congresswoman Underwood introduced her “plan” to save the middle class in the area of health care and prescription drugs. Last week, she promoted H.R. 1757, to raise state and local taxes deduction caps, a major component of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017.
Now she’s going to middle class issues of prescription drugs pricing and health care in general.
And notice in her tweet the reference to “bipartisan support”. My response is below:
This is the kind of fake messaging Underwood, the Democrats and their leftist allies will throw at 14th district voters with millions of dollars to get the message out.
And here’s another example, which I gave a response, though maybe some of the Republican candidates could have responded, too.
And I know both Anthony Catella and Danny Malouf are pro-life, too:
And they are backing Sean Casten in the 6th, too.
It is hoped the rank helps to identify the candidates with real strength to combat what’s coming to the one who wins on March 17.
- Underwood’s 10/18 press release: https://underwood.house.gov/media/press-releases/underwood-unveils-five-point-plan-reduce-drug-prices
- POLITICO 10/18 article Republican challenges to take back House including Democratic fundraising and WinRed vs. ActBlue: https://www.politico.com/news/2019/10/18/democrats-house-fundraising-2020-050538