Local candidates seek campaign support

Running for a political position takes a lot of resources: time, energy and most of all, money. Out of all three candidates running to be a representative in the newly formed 13th District — incumbent Tim Johnson (R-15), and Democrats David Gill and Matt Goetten — Johnson has secured the most campaign funding thus far with $472,010 as of December 2011, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Johnson has also gained the financial support of two prominent local businessmen: Shahid Khan, owner of Flex-N-Gate, an automobile parts manufacturer, and Jimmy John Liautaud, owner of Jimmy John’s, a sandwich chain restaurant. Both donated the maximum amount of money that is permitted for a congressional campaign: $2,500.

Habeeb Habeeb, president and CEO of Benefit Planning Consultants, also contributed $2,500 to Johnson’s campaign. Habeeb said he decided to donate the full amount because of Johnson’s longtime relationship with the area and his signature way of calling his constituents to hear their concerns. A big obstacle that Johnson faces in this election is running in the new 13th District, which is primarily democratic.

“They made it much harder for him, and we don’t want him to lose,” Habeeb said. “We want to make sure that we are loyal to him like he has been loyal to us.”

Just behind Johnson is Goetten with a total of $143,313 as of December 2011, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Goetten, current Greene County State’s Attorney, has been working hard to connect with supporters across the new district, said Vladimir Gutman, campaign manager for Goetten. His record of being an Afghanistan veteran and a State’s Attorney has helped Goetten garner support, Gutman added.

“When people get to know Matt, they really want to support him and want him to be Congressman,” Gutman said. “Some of those people will choose to support him financially, too.”

Goetten has received the support of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. Gutman said the two know each other through Goetten’s job as a State’s Attorney. Also, two lawyers at Simmons Law Firm, Gregg Kirkland and Michael Stewart, have donated their own share of $2,500 towards Goetten’s campaign.

Gill’s campaign funding solely relies on individuals’ contributions, refusing any corporate funding. The Federal Election Commission reported Gill’s campaign had raised $99,133 as of December 2011. Mike Richards, media/field consultant for Gill, said Gill will also receive national support.

“People are interested in a progressive to this new Democratic district,” Richards said.

Some of Gill’s biggest contributors are employees of the University. Some include: Ellen Fireman, statistics lecturer, George Gollin, physics professor, Anthony Leggett, physics professor, Eric T. Freyfogle, law professor, and John E. Wetzel, professor emeritus of mathematics. Freyfogle said in an email that he chose to contribute the full amount to Gill because of his progressive stances on the economy, environment and the role of money in politics.

“A critical factor for me in stepping forward in this campaign (by donating and co-sponsoring a fundraising gathering) is that the district boundaries have been redrawn in ways that greatly increase the chance of electing a Democrat — something that was not possible (in the past),” Freyfogle said.