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New job gives DiCenso chance to run

Sangamon County Democrats do not have a candidate for circuit clerk on the March 20 primary ballot, but a giant step has been taken toward the possibility that the party could name someone to fill the likely vacancy after the primary.

KRISTIN DiCENSO said in October she was considering a run for the Democratic nomination for the office. At the time, however, she was the director of the office of strategic services at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and she learned that the federal Hatch Act would bar her from running for a partisan office. That law bans people paid with federal funding from certain political activities.

However, as of Feb. 16 — voila — DiCenso has a new state job. She is now adviser to the chief operating officer at the Illinois Department of Transportation. The job was not posted and is exempt both from the anti-patronage Rutan ruling and from civil service rules. DiCenso’s pay went from $76,248 annually to $79,298 in the new job.

To those who have watched carefully, this is not a surprise. JIM MOODY, the Sangamon County Democratic chairman, said several weeks ago that he hoped DiCenso would transfer to another state job that would allow her to run. And in case anybody forgot, the state is now run by Democrats.

Moody said last week that DiCenso’s move was “all on her own initiative.” However, he added, if she runs, she would be “a great candidate” for circuit clerk.

“It’s my sense that the Democratic Party would back her 110 percent,” he said.

One potentially complicating factor is that while no Democrat filed petitions to run for the office, one perennial write-in candidate is seeking the Democratic nomination. However, that candidate got only two votes when he ran for a Springfield aldermanic spot in 2007. So he’s unlikely to get the 237 write-in votes he would need to become the Democratic candidate and keep the party from appointing DiCenso to the opening on the November ballot.

JOSH KAUFFMAN, spokesman for IDOT, said via email that DiCenso “previously interviewed for positions at IDOT, and has extensive upper level management experience. Her qualifications matched with the need for experience and a strong administrative and supervisory skill set for this position.” He noted that in her DNR job, she oversaw information technology issues, permits and licensing, public services and education initiatives.

“An employee’s personal aspirations are not a concern,” he said about the politics of the situation, “as long as it doesn’t affect individual performance or conflict with job responsibilities.”

He also said that the Hatch Act does not apply to her new job.

DiCenso said she has long hoped to move to IDOT. She said she first interviewed for a job there in August 2010.

“I don’t believe I have the political pull to get myself moved,” she said with a laugh in response to the question about the timing of her transfer. So far, she said, the new job seems “fantastic.”
As for political plans, she said, “there’s no big announcement at this point.”

The potential candidacy is extra interesting, of course, because incumbent Circuit Clerk TONY LIBRI, who is seeking another term, is also chairman of the county Republican Party.

Endorsements in 50th
State Sen. SAM McCANN, R-Collinsville, has gotten some significant endorsements in his run in the new 50th Senate District. He is opposed by Springfield Park District Trustee GRAY NOLL in the GOP primary.

When the Illinois Chamber of Commerce  last week endorsed McCann, DOUG WHITLEY, president and CEO of the chamber, called McCann, owner of a construction company, a “proven job creator” whose “frontline experience running a business in Illinois” is needed in the Senate.

Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — the largest state-worker union group in Illinois — also endorsed McCann last month.

“Senator McCann has a strong voting record on issues that matter to AFSCME members, and he is an important advocate for saving disability services at Jacksonville Developmental Center,” said AFSCME legislative director JOANNA WEBB-GAUVIN.

McCann is also getting the endorsement of the Illinois Farm Bureau.

Noll is the choice of the Sangamon County GOP, and a radio ad for him features state Sen. LARRY BOMKE, R-Springfield, who isn’t seeking a new term.

Springfield Ward 9 Ald. STEVE DOVE dropped out of the Republican primary race, but not early enough to get his name removed from the March 20 ballot. No Democrats filed in the district, which includes all or parts of nine counties and stretches to the Mississippi River.

Condolences to friends and family of late state Sen. GEORGE RAY HUDSON, R-Downers Grove, who died Feb. 10 age 92.

He served in both the House and Senate during a legislative career that lasted from the early 1970s to the early 1990s. An obituary in the Chicago Tribune noted that after his Army Air Corps service in World War II, Hudson got a graphics art degree, and for several years produced a cartoon strip called “Travelin’ Ted” for that newspaper. He also helped found a conservative political organization called Taproot and operated an advertising agency.

“He was a delight to serve with, a person who could stay true to his convictions and make a point without raising his voice or belittling anyone,” said state Comptroller JUDY BAAR TOPINKA, who served with Hudson in the General Assembly.

She recalled he often had his wife, BARBARA, by his side. “His dedication to his wife and family was exceptional,” Topinka said.

Bernard Schoenburg is political columnist for The State Journal-Register. He can be reached at 788-1540 or Follow him on Twitter at @bschoenburg.

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