There’ll be no contest in March for Democratic primary voters in the 17th state House district, which includes much of northwest Evanston.

Jeff Smith of Evanston says he’s withdrawing his candidacy, leaving Laura Fine of Glenview, the Northfield Township clerk, the only candidate running.

Kyle Frank, of 4125 Enfield in Skokie, is running unopposed in the Republican primary.

Smith, an attorney and community activist, told Evanston Now that, with the state party’s backing, Fine stands to have a substantial fundraising advantage.

Under new campaign finance rules, he said, the party can give substantially more to candidates than most supporters can, and it can also sway the support of union and business groups.

Smith compared his race to the failed Scottish rebellion led by William Wallace  dramatized by Mel Gibson in the movie “Braveheart.”

While people love the hero, Smith said, they forget that “most of the time, striving against the odds doesn’t pan out, and takes a lot of other people down with you.”

Smith said the race was also made more challenging by the short campaign season.

The race was triggered by State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg’s November decision to retire, which led Daniel Biss, who now represents the 17th District, to run for Schoenberg’s job.

Smith said the party organizations in Evanston and New Trier townships don’t plan to make their endorsements until the end of January and the only candidate forum won’t be held until mid-February, making it likely the outcome would hinge on costly mass mailings, rather than in depth debate about the issues.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. No contest

    Looks like Jeff Smith followed Democrat party orders and stepped down. Now Democrat voters who are the majority in this area won't have a choice of candidates in the 17th House District primary race.

    This certainly tells me Smith is a loyal Democrat and not independent-minded. 

    Meanwhile, State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg waits until two weeks before the filing deadline to announce he won't seek re-election, and at the same time Daniel Biss announces he will run for Schoenberg's seat. Then Schoenberg, Jan Schakowsky, Robyn Gabel, Elizabeth Tisdahl and Larry Suffredin publicly endorse Biss.

    It is evident that these Democrat power players brokered these arrangements and waited until the last minute to announce the changes so that other potential candidates wouldn't have time to prepare and get the needed petitions and endorsements. Once again, voters have less of a choice in Democrat candidates because of the Democratic party machine and its monopoly on this area's political process.

    Also consider that this is the perfect example how the state's new ethics law involving campaign finance is a sham (It was a Democrat-led law). Even Smith admits the other 17th District Democrat candidate had the "party's backing." The new ethics law simply allows MORE campaign money to be funnelled to party leaders, giving THEM greater political power and persuasion.

    In other words, state party leaders hold the purse strings and they use the money to pick which candidate is most loyal to THEIR ambitions. Political power in Illinois isn't spread out anymore but is concentrated at the top hierarchy of party leadership. In my opinion, the ethics law made things worse.

    Smith compared his race to the struggles of William Wallace's Scottish rebellion in 1297, and that gave me a good laugh. Did Smith wear a kilt and paint his face blue when he announced his withdrawal from the race?

    I would not have voted for Smith in the primaries. However, Smith's withdrawal means there will be no contest and that leaves voters no choice. An uncontesed candidate is bad for our district and democracy.

    Smith is no hero.

    1. What have you done?

      I have no idea the real reason Smith left the race, but to say he followed "party orders" is nothing but conjecture.  Mostly likely he felt he could not win — if he felt he could win he would have stayed in the race despite what "the party" wanted.

      Moreover, I would ask… did you contribute money to Jeff Smith's campaign?  Did you volunteer your time to help make him a strong, viable candidate?  You slam "the machine" yet you mention doing nothing to help his candicacy other than saying you would have voted for him.  If you don't like the current crop of Democratic leaders, don't just talk the talk — walk the walk and go campaign against them.

  2. Al…did you read the article?

    Al- Please read the article:

    " Kyle Frank, of 4125 Enfield in Skokie, is running unopposed in the Republican primary."

    I would take your rantings more seriously if you complained about this too.  You don't seem to have a problem with unopposed Republicans, like Joel Pollak or Kyle Frank.. (or W. Mittens Romney, who is going to have the Republican nomination handed to him even though nobody really likes him).

    Then in your comments you say:

    "Political power in Illinois isn't spread out anymore but is concentrated at the top hierarchy of party leadership."

    So you are concerned about the concentration of political power?  Then can I assume that you are concerned about the concentration of wealth in our country, since wealth and political power are practically identical?    Will you join the OWS protesters?

  3. Educate yourself

    I struck nerves again. I seem to do that a lot here. My sincere apologies. 🙂

    I would never contribute money or vote for Jeff Smith in any race. His political views are almost polar opposite of mine.

    My beef was because Smith withdrew his candidacy the Democrat primary will go uncontested. Democrat voters now have no choice in the primaries. I do not plan on voting for any Democrat in this year's election. But I do care about my fellow Democrat voters, many of whom are my neighbors, and I do think the more political competition there is the better our elected officials will become.

    I would have ranted and raved if Smith withdrew his candidacy from the Republican primaries. Unfortunately, there is only one Republican candidate in the 17th District primaries. If there were two Republican primary candidates and one withdrew because the other had the party's backing I would complain.

    But with the sneaky backroom Schoenberg and Biss episode it seems like all the politcal chicanery in this area reside in the Democrat party.

    I do not like the new state ethics law that essentially gives party leaders – Republicans and Democrats – the purse strings to wield undue power over lower level party candidates. Educate yourself on the criticisms of the Illinois ethics law and how campaign finance has changed the political landscape of our state.

    In terms of wealth, my concern is the demise of the middle class through higher taxes, higher debt, and increased government mandates, programs and regulations that strangle industries, restrict capital and scare away investment and risk taking in the free market system.

    The drug-abusing violent OWS is simply a ruse to conduct class warfare in preparation of the upcoming election that will for the first time in a long time provide voters with a clear choice – big centralized government, tax and spend Democrats vs free market, states rights and tax reform-minded Republicans.

    I do plan to campaign against the Democrats and donate money to Republican and maybe Libertarian candidates. See ya at the voting booth.



  4. Jeff Smith

    Jeff Smith withdrew from this race for practical reasons. It is better not to split the party if you are fairly certain the other candidate will outspend you and garner most of the votes. In addition, Jeff respects his staff and volunteers. To have them working 20 hours a day with no money is unjust, and Jeff recognizes this. I know that Jeff Smith is not any kind of obedient servant to anyone or anything. He is a man of thoughtfulness and integrity-the kind of candidate we need more of.

    I was sorry to hear that Jeff withdrew as I believe he would make an excellent Representative.

    1. re: Jeff Smith

      "I was sorry to hear that Jeff withdrew as I believe he would make an excellent Representative."


      I too am sorry that he withdrew, because I was looking forward to voting for his opponent, and I was hoping that Jeff and his 'volunteers' would spend their time on a quixotic campaign so they would have less time to meddle in Evanston affairs.     Jeff Smith and the Central Street Neighbors Association have been a negative force in Evanston politics, opposing just about every development project that ever came around while simultaneously supporting the wasteful branch library on Central Street.

  5. Party Politics and Campaign FInance

    As anyone who knows Jeff Smith, it's absurd to assert that he “followed Democrat party orders and stepped down." That comment evinces a total lack of understanding of what it takes to run a campaign and how much money and stamina it takes to be the independent democrat in a primary where the party has anointed—and funded—its favored candidate.

    You lament the loss of choice? So do I. But that loss was brought to you not by Jeff Smith but by a party adept at leveraging Illinois’ distorted brand of campaign finance reform, which now amplifies the advantages of being the party’s choice to a degree that’s obscene.

    I have no doubt Jeff would serve the district and the state well. But the reality of Illinois Democratic politics now is, quite simply, if the party hasn’t dubbed you their prince or princess, you’re not likely going to the ball.

    If you can self-finance your campaign, though, it’s different. That’s why it will be interesting to see how Daniel Biss and Marc Levine match up for the Senate race. Daniel is supported by the Democratic regulars and Marc is said to be capable of financing a serious campaign.

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