April 27, 2022

Virtue signaling is the unsubtle and visible way of making a statement – which is that I’m more virtuous and better than you and hold the correct opinions, and you don’t.

The term is often used by those on the Right as a smear tactic for those on the Left, but both are guilty of exhibiting the behavior.

Some on the Left exhibit the behavior by constantly wearing a COVID mask, driving an electric vehicle to save the planet, and by donating to various popular causes and movements du jour.
It’s exhibited by those on the Right by wearing Make America Great Again caps, driving gas-guzzling pickup trucks, owning guns, and donating to the National Rifle Association.

But those are just stereotypes and I make no judgement.

However, politicians engage in some of this foolishness, but for them virtue signaling is measured by their D-2s which are filed quarterly with the Illinois Board of Elections. The D-2s reflect campaign cash received, expended and on-hand. They call it “victory-signaling.” Maximum campaign bucks minimize the likelihood of defeat.

The first quarter of 2022 ended March 31 and this columnist checked the new D-2s (see chart). The primary is June 28, and the second quarter ends June 30. So if a politician’s recent filing was lackluster, so are their prospects.

GOVERNOR: No politician likes wasting time dialing-for-dollars. It’s part of their job. But all Governor J.B. Pritzker needs do is get his checkbook or phone or maybe call his broker. The governor had $87,560,806 on-hand on March 31, of which $90 million was donated by him on Jan. 14. He got another $13,703 in random donations. He spent $32.5 million in the first quarter, most on media ads.

Pritzker’s net worth is around $3 billion, so $90 million is 0.03 percent of his fortune. As detailed in my October 20 column, Pritzker gave his campaign $35 million on March 12. His total since Jan. 1, 2021 amounts to $125 million and he will surely put in $125 million more between now and Nov. 8. Expect more ads of him wearing a hard hat or a sweater.

Only money checkmates or beats money. As shown in the chart, the three Republican running are doing respectably. Richard Irvin, the Aurora mayor, has $10,922,608 on-hand and is being funded by billionaire Ken Griffin. The Democratic Governors Association has an ad accusing Irvin of “getting wealthy” by representing low-class street criminals and not “really” being tough on crime. Jesse Sullivan has $8,015,429 on-hand and businessman Gary Rabine has $1,044,940.

SECRETARY OF STATE: Alexi Giannoulias was once a rising political superstar. He was state treasurer at age 30. He has $4,403,134 on-hand, but Pritzker is backing the new superstar, Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia, with $1,116,365 on-hand. Expect a late Pritzker-paid surge for her.

CHICAGO: Mayor Lori Lightfoot has yet to commit to a 2023 re-election, but the February primary is 10 months away. One poll showed her “approval” rating in the low 30s. She has $1,725,582 on-hand, and raised a hefty $737,010 in the first quarter, so she is running. She will have to replicate that in each of the next three quarters and go into 2023 with $4 million on-hand. Willie Wilson is running again and can spend whatever he wants, as is Alderman Ray Lopez, a frequent mayoral critic. Congressman Mike Quigley (D-5) might run.

City aldermen need to get on cash steroids to deter 2023 opposition. Aldermen Nick Sposato and Sam Nugent posted great numbers: Sposato (38th) has $194,087 on-hand and Nugent (39th) $171,453. Anthony Napolitano (41st) and Gil Villegas (36th) were so-so, with $51,504 and $50,007 on-hand, respectively. Sposato loaned himself $99,000 on March 12.

Jim Gardiner’s (45th) plight is more problematic. Last summer’s obnoxious texting caused him to go underground for a few months. He raised $11,400 in 2021’s last 2 quarters and $25,483 in 2022. He has $127,896 on-hand, but his legal fees are adding up and he needs to increase his fund-raising.

Opponent Megan Mathis has $44,541 on-hand, and even retread John Arena, who Gardiner beat in 2019, is coming out of the weeds: He just reported a $2,500 donation to his Citizens to Reelect John Arena committee and has $4,177 on-hand. Yeah, that last one seem a little odd
COOK COUNTY: She isn’t what she used to be. Board president Toni Preckwinkle (D) remains damaged political goods after her 78-22 percent 2019 runoff loss to Lightfoot. With 24,000 county employees and an $8 billion budget stuffed with contracts, and as the county party chair, Preckwinkle managed to raise $368,067 in the first quarter, with $342,847 on-hand. She’s basically relying on the Democratic Party “machine.” Ex-commissioner Richard Boykin is opposing her, but he had only $70,836 on-hand. He got less than 90 days to raise $1 million. Otherwise, forget it.

It is not helpful in politics to be perceived as “under-whelming,” meaning notably underperforming expectations. But that is what MWRD president Kari Steele (D) has done in her bid to oust assessor Fritz Kaegi (D) in the primary. The narrative was supposed to be all about identity, as in Black woman versus White man, plus the hyping of Steele’s credentials as an administrator versus Kaegi’s rocky tenure trying to fix Joe Berrios’s mess. Steele has to go negative quickly. But she has $107,100 on-hand, to Kaegi’s $874,209, and he has the party slating.

STATE LEGISLATORS: The noisy emergence of police officer Erin Jones as an opponent of state Senator Rob Martwick (D-10) is interesting. Martwick has $348,515 on-hand, raised $119,089, and will be given another $100,00 by senate President Don Harmon’s (D) campaign committee. Jones has $4,584 on-hand, giving Martwick a 76-1 money advantage. Jones touts FOP’s endorsement, but needs more from the FOP, which has indicated that her candidacy is her top priority. Having survived a petition challenge from the Martwick camp, can or will FOP president John Catanzara deliver for her?

Martwick’s colleague Ram Villivalam (D-8) has $616,850 on-hand, and no opponent. Incumbent state Representative Brad Stephens (R-20), who is Rosemont’s mayor, has $56,217 on-hand, plus $53,882 in other accounts; he is unopposed in 2022.

Tina Wallace got noticed when she reported $83,719 on-hand in her D-2s, compared to state Representative opponent Lindsey LaPointe’s (D-19) on-hand of $155,888. But $80,000 of that was a personal loan from Wallace, and she raised $20,000 from others but has only a few thousand left on-hand, She’s in trouble. Keith Thornton has withdrawn.

An interesting race is developing in the 15th District, vacated in 2021 by John D’Amico (D) to take a job with the Plumbers Union. D’Amico still has $316,047 on-hand, a bundle more than appointee Mike Kelly’s (D) on-hand of $22,222. D’Amico told me he would spend some of his money to nominate and elect Kelly, a Mayfair firefighter, who is facing a challenge from the Left in Michael Rabbitt, who has $25,115 on-hand.

CARRYOVERS: Non-incumbents and their “forever” funds include John Mulroe ($356,530), John D'Amico ($316,047), Mike Madigan ($6,490,016), who paid his lawyers $4 million on March 1, and Pete Silvestri ($74,928).

They cannot use the money to pay themselves or for non-political “expenses,” but they can pay it to other politicians, or, you know, for any legal fees if needed. Use the campaign money to get elected and then use the campaign cash to defend yourself in court. What a deal.