March 24, 2006

Primary Results Show Big Wins for Sierra Club Candidates

As the dust settles from Tuesday's Illinois primary elections, it is clear that voters in both Republican and Democratic primary races rewarded pro-environment candidates with their votes for state and local office.

Sierra Club worked hard to help its endorsed candidates in these races. Sierra Club volunteers staffed phonebanks, CTA and Metra stops, precinct walks, and mailing parties. We produced targeted mail pieces in many races to reach pro-environment voters and let them know about our endorsement. A few numbers from our primary campaign efforts:

*100 volunteers working on campaigns around the state
*35,000 mailings to targeted voters
*Over 5,000 personal phone calls to Sierra Club members
*35 Election Day volunteers in Cook County
*8 victories in 9 contested General Assembly races (5 Democrats, 3 Republicans)

Here is a roundup of the outcome in contested races where Sierra Club made endorsements:


Republican Primaries
Sierra Club targeted four suburban Republican primaries where there were clear differences between the candidates in hotly contested races. In Lake County's 62nd District, Sandy Cole is a Lake County Board member who has been a strong voice for smart growth, water supply protection, and expanding Lake County's forest preserves. She won with 59% of the vote against developer-backed candidate Barbara Oilschlager. Incumbent Paul Froehlich, a solid supporter of measures to reduce mercury pollution, protect wetlands, and preserve open space funding won handily in the 56th District. In the 95th District, West Chicago Mayor Michael Fortner, who has been active in efforts to clean up local thorium contamination, and dedicating West Chicago Prairie as an Illinois Nature Preserve, beat a well-funded challenger. Palatine Mayor Rita Mullins lost her campaign for the Republican nomination in the 27th Senate District.

Democratic Primaries
In Democratic races, House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn-Currie, who last year won the Illinois Environmental Council's Lifetime Achievement Award, and for years has been a leader in passing legislation protecting people from harmful pollution, won handily in the face of her first significant primary challenge in years. State Senator Martin Sandoval, a member of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee and strong supporter of measures to clean up air pollution, particularly from old coal-burning power plants, held off a well-funded challenger in the 12th Senate District. State Senator Don Harmon, the lead Senate sponsor of legislation to spur renewable energy development and measures to clean up water pollution and protect open space, and State Representative David Miller, a solid supporter of clean air, wetlands protection, and open space legislation each won handily against primary opponents.

In addition, Sierra Club supported Dave Koehler in the Democratic Primary for Senator from the 46th District in the Peoria area. Koehler is seeking to replace retiring Senator George Shadid. He will bring support for action by the state to clean up pollution in the Illinois River, acquire more land for outdoor recreation, and promote clean, renewable energy sources to the Illinois Senate.

Forrest Claypool's reform campaign for Cook County Board President fell just short of victory in the face of a strong showing by machine politicians and a late wave of support for incumbent John Stroger after he suffered a stroke in the campaign's final days. However, our unprecedented effort to mobilize pro-environment voters across the County clearly demonstrated the public's interest in taking better care of our magnificent forest preserves will sets the state for better protection of Cook County's open spaces in the future.

The victory for Debra Shore's outsider campaign for MWRD is a testament to the outstanding campaign run by Debra, a longtime conservationist but rookie candidate, the public's demand for clean water, and the power of a Sierra Club endorsement. Debra was not slated by the Democratic Party but appears to have finished in first place (with some votes yet to be counted) on a day when "the machine" was out in full force.

Sierra Club endorsed Republicans Dewey Pierotti for President and Roger Kotecki for the Board of the DuPage County Forest Preserve District, and both were unopposed Tuesday. Endorsed candidate Kaaryn Oldfield lost her race for the Forest Preserve District Board to Michael Formento.

Sierra Club's campaign efforts in DeKalb County were focused on supporting a land acquisition referendum for the DeKalb County Forest Preserve District. If you haven't been there lately, the county is undergoing rapid sprawl and until now had no funding available to try to save wetlands, prairies, and forests from development. Tuesday's victory provides $5 million over the next decade.

Thank you and congratulations to all the Sierra Club volunteers who worked on these campaigns - your impact was truly felt.   

March 22, 2006

Victory for DeKalb County Forest Preserves

Sierra Club's campaign efforts in DeKalb county were focused on supporting a land acquisition referendum for the DeKalb County Forest Preserve District. If you haven't been there lately, the county is undergoing rapid sprawl and until now had no funding available to try to save wetlands, prairies, and forests from development.

Tuesday's victory provides $5 million over the next decade. Details are here.

signing off

Laptop battery dwindling, me not far behind. Looks like Claypool has fallen behind Stroger, still a fair number of ballots out.

Paul Froehlich Wins Big

One of the strongest pro-environment voices among Illinois House Republicans held off a spirited challenger. Paul Froehlich, who is a big supporter of mercury polllution controls, wetlands protection, and open space funding, was renominated. Good to see.

Mike Fortner Wins

West Chicago Mayor Michael Fortner won the Republican nomination in the 92nd State Rep District. Fortner's opponent, Pamela Mitroff, had major business support.

Fortner is a major advocate of better public transit for the suburbs, and has been a leader in protecting open spaces like West Chicago Prairie. He is a physics professor at Northern Illinois University.

Good work by volunteers for Sierra Club's River Prairie Group, who walked precincts and did targetted mail for Fortner. It will be great to have a new pro-environment House Republican!

Sandoval Holds On

Congratulations to Sen. Martin Sandoval, who withstood a strong challenge tonight to hold on to his State Senate seat. Sandoval has been a leader on environmental issues in the Senate, and Sierra Club worked to educate swing voters in this district that suffers from a disproportionate amount of air pollution.

Currie Seems Headed to Victory

Not enough precincts in yet for the race to be called, but House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie is way up on her opponent, which is a very good thing for clean air and water. Barbara recently won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois Environmental Council.

March 21, 2006

The Shore Line

Debra Shore ran an incredible campaign for Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. Her effort would have been impressive from a career politician, but for a first-time candidate it is nothing short of amazing. Her campaign platform, her staff, her donors, her volunteers, and her direct mail were all first-rate.

She has not declared victory yet tonight, but it looks very good for her with her leading all candidates at this point of the night. Her strong showing is a strong sign that voters are looking for candidates with strong environmental values and experience, but it is also obviously largely in part to the energetic, grassroots campaign she has sustained for close to a year now.

Congratulations, Deb!!!

Sandy Cole Wins In the 62nd!

Sandy Cole, part of the core of strong conservationists on the Lake County Board, is the projected winner against developer-backed Barbara Oilschlager. Go Sandy!

Koehler Wins in Peoria!

Great to see Dave Koehler, a progressive with a strong track record on the Peoria City Council, winning handily in Peoria.

The Finish Line!

We made it.

After all the phonebanks, CTA and Metra stops, precinct walks, envelope stuffing, bad campaign food, conference calls and planning meetings, the polls are closed. Whatever happens to our candidates tonight, I am so proud of the work Sierra Club did in these primary elections. A few numbers:

*100 volunteers working on campaigns around the state
*35,000 mailings to targeted voters
*Over 5,000 personal phone calls to Sierra Club members
*35 Election Day volunteers in Cook County

If you played a role in this effort, you should feel great about what we’ve accomplished even before we hear any results. Congratulations and celebrate!

If you volunteered today, share your experience as a comment!

March 20, 2006

Illinois’ Environment On the Ballot

Please make sure to vote on Tuesday. Low turnout is projected statewide, which means your vote could make the difference.

On Election Night I’ll be posting live updates as results pour in from around the state. Check back for updates on races Sierra Club is working in, and add your two cents on the results of the night.

Check out Sierra Club’s endorsements at:

March 15, 2006

Blagojevich Proposes Mercury Cleanup Plan

Tuesday Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich moved aggressively to protect children’s health by requiring Illinois coal plants to cut mercury pollution levels by 90% by 2009. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) proposed rules that would require new controls for mercury pollution, which has been linked to neurological defects in children and health problems for adults.

This is a bold proposal to order Illinois’ biggest polluters to clean up their act to protect our children’s health. We have the technology to make sure that future generations of Illinois children are not harmed by mercury pollution, and we hope Illinois power plant operators do the right thing and install the pollution controls to protect our kids.

In February the Illinois Department of Public Health issued a warning to women of child-bearing age about the dangers of eating large predator fish (such as bass and walleye) from any Illinois lake or river due to mercury pollution. The largest source of mercury pollution in Illinois is coal-burning power plants, which spewed 4,125pounds of mercury into the air in 2003. A teaspoon of mercury can contaminate an entire lake.

Sierra Club has conducted hair sampling for mercury contamination as part of a nationwide study that found that 1 in 5 women have levels of mercury in their bodies that could harm a developing fetus. Sierra Club’s testing in Chicago found such levels in 1 in 4 Chicago-area women.

Going fishing with your kids or your grandchildren should be a wholesome, healthy form of recreation, not a health risk. We hope that Illinois power companies will choose to install the pollution controls to protect our kids rather than spend their money on lawyers and lobbyists to derail this cleanup plan.

The Illinois Pollution Control Board is expected to hold hearings on the proposal beginning later this Spring. The proposal is available online at

Very impressive move by the Gov.

March 08, 2006

Key Clean Air Measures Move Toward Passage In Springfield

Good news from Springfield as the General Assembly moves into the home stretch - two clean air measures took major steps toward becoming law last week.

State Rep. Karen May and State Sen. Terry Link reached an agreement with the automakers on a program to recycle mercury-containing car parts that are currently being landfilled, where the mercury could get into drinking water, or vaporized when junked cars are melted down. The agreement is contained in both HB5578 and SB2884, which each passed their respective chambers last week and appear headed for the Governor's desk. Congratulations to May, Link, and the Illinois Environmental Council, who have worked for two years on this issue. The Tribune has a story in Thursday's paper on it here.

Also last week State Rep. Eileen Nekritz passed HB 4782 out of the House which would limit excessive idling by diesel trucks. Diesel exhaust can be very dirty and unnecessary idling pumps these fumes into our air, often in residential neighborhoods. TV news in Chicago tonight is reporting that an idling truck near downtown building's air intake may have been the source of carbon monoxide levels that forced the building's evacuation.

Good too see Illinois moving forward toward cleaner air!