Dollars pouring into 26th District race: More donate to Christian Mitchell, but Jay Travis gets some heavy hitters, too
By JEFFREY BISHKU-AYKUL
As of January 2013, almost $700,000 has poured into the race for Illinois’ 26th District House seat — and that’s excluding donations to unaffiliated political action committees.
An analysis of campaign donors reveal the interests that may command political attention should either candidate win, as well as a big fundraising gap in incumbent Christian Mitchell’s (D-26) favor.
According to the Illinois Board of Elections, Mitchell has, since January 2013, raised more than $600,000, surpassing his 2012 election cycle receipts and Travis’ total contributions of more than $87,000 since her campaign began last October. While unions comprise all major donors to Travis — all but two of them representing teachers — Mitchell’s funds come from a diverse mix of labor organizations, corporations and special interest groups, as well as wealthy and high-profile individual donors.
Mitchell’s top five donors account for just over 25 percent of all his campaign donations since January 2013, while Travis’ account for almost 75 percent of her fundraising since October 2013.
Mitchell’s top donor is Oregon-based special interest group Stand for Children — a supporter of charter schools that has attracted considerable ire from Travis and the Chicago Teachers Union. Since January 2013, the group has donated $66,000 to Mitchell’s war chest, and was his top donor during the last election.
Other top donors to Mitchell include the Democratic Majority fund and the We Mean Business Political Action Committee (PAC), which have contributed more than $37,000 and $17,000 respectively. Donors to We Mean Business — a major supporter of Illinois pension reform — include Republican gubernatorial front-runner Bruce Rauner ($10,000), as well as the wealthy Steans and Crown families, both direct contributors to Mitchell.
Two groups have given Travis her top donations, amounting to $20,000 each: the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Chicago Teachers Union PAC. Travis’ fourth biggest donor, Service Employees International Union Local 73, contributed more than $12,000 to Mitchell before endorsing her earlier this year and giving her $5,000.
Mitchell’s list of individual donors dwarfs Travis’ roster of only 26. Notable individual donors to Mitchell include Kenneth Polonsky ($1,000), executive vice president for medical affairs at the University of Chicago Medicine; Andrea Zopp ($1,000), president of the Chicago Urban League and Chicago Board of Education member, and Dave Cocagne ($3,500), CEO of Vermilion Development, which led the development of Harper Court. Donors to Travis include Bill Gerstein ($250), former chair of the Seminary Co-op Bookstore, and Jackson Potter ($1,000), staff coordinator for the CTU. A number of Mitchell’s supporters also support his political patron, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, including Safeway Construction, Friends of Kwame Raoul, Bettylu and Paul Saltzman and members of the Stean and Crown families.
Donations under $1,000 to Travis all come from individuals, whereas Mitchell’s smaller donors comprise a wide roster of unions and companies including Monsanto ($500) and Pepsi ($250).
Mitchell’s individual supporters also include members of the families of billionaire Lester Crown and millionaire Harrison Steans — who if counted as one donor each, rank as his second and fourth largest donors respectively. Members of the Crown family — also a major contributor to Stand for Children — have given Mitchell $41,800 and members of the Steans family, $21,200.
While Travis has fewer funds at her disposal than Mitchell, she has benefited greatly from the Chicagoans United for Economic Security PAC, which has spent almost $200,000 to get her elected, according to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform’s Sunshine Project. This figure includes almost $25,000 for radio and newspaper ads supporting Jay Travis and more than $80,000 for TV ads opposing Christian Mitchell.
Contributors to the PAC include the Chicago Teachers Union PAC and AFSCME Illinois Council No. 31, both direct contributors to Travis.
To learn more about each candidate’s finances, visit the Illinois Board of Elections website at elections.il.gov.