Daily Egyptian

The designation of Randolph County commissioner Dan Reitz to the post previously held by Ill. House Rep. Terry Deering, D-DuBois, has left Barb Brown, Reitz’s most formidable opponent in the selection, more motivated than ever.

By Gus Bode

It has certainly set the wheels spinning again, said Brown, an SIUC lecturer in political science.

A committee composed of the four Democrat county chairmen in the 116th District, including Richard Cooper of Randolph County, Tony Mayville of St. Clair County, Robert Sprague of Washington County and C. Glennon Rau of Monroe County, in a unanimous decision, appointed Reitz in a closed June 16 meeting.

Brown said she fully supports Reitz in his new position, but regrets the committee’s final decision.

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From my vantage point, I would have really liked to have had that appointment, Brown said. It would have been a wonderful opportunity.

Reitz was unavailable for comment.

Brown said the appointment would have given her the chance to discuss the issues detailed in her 1996 senatorial campaign more extensively.

A very important role for a legislator is to be an educator and to show leadership on complicated and complex issues, but that’s not easy to say in the course of a campaign, Brown said. I would have loved to have that year of incumbency to be able to define myself in a way that would have given me more credibility on some of the issues where I think people would appreciate a balanced discussion rather than a knee-jerk reaction.

The seat became vacant when Deering died in an automobile accident June 26, eliciting a field of Democratic candidates, all labeled by the chairmen as proficient and qualified.

The field included Reitz and Brown of Randolph County, Tony Mayville and Gerald Deering of Washington County, and Dan McGuire and Ken Joseph of St. Clair County.

Some of the county chairmen said they favored a candidate from Randolph County.

Besides Reitz, Brown was the only other Randolph County applicant. Cooper said, this coupled with the fact that Brown amassed an impressive vote total in her November 1996 race against Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, for the district’s state Senate seat, made the SIUC political science lecturer a sound choice.

However, he said, in the end, Reitz was a better fit.

Reitz, apart from his position as county commissioner, also served as a lobbyist for the Southern Illinois coal industry. Cooper said this weighed heavily in the committee’s decision.

There’s a solid base for Dan (Reitz) in Randolph County, Cooper said. He’s been with the coal mine forever. He knows all the legislators (in Springfield), he knows how to talk to them, he knows where they drink, and he knows the area.

It will be a deal for our district that we’re not walking in (to Springfield) with a freshman who doesn’t know anything about anything.

Brown said she is dubious about Reitz’s lobbying activities factoring into the decision. She said voters tend to be cynical about political lobbying and apprehensive about endorsing the process.

I think it’s extremely difficult to ask voters to support someone who’s been a lobbyist, Brown said. Dan will have to learn how to deal with that.

Brown said Republican efforts to unseat Reitz in 1998 will probably include an attack on the lobbying issue.

It’s an issue he’s going to have to face square on, and it will not be easy for him, she said.

However, Cooper said Reitz’s experience as a lobbyist outweighs the position’s negative connotation in the minds of the voters.

Mayville said the committee’s decision was based primarily on ideology and elective potential.

He said Brown’s position on abortion worked against her.

Deering had been a pro-life candidate, and this district is a pro-life district, Mayville said. Barb is a pro-choice candidate, and Reitz is pro-life, so we had to go with him.

Also, he said, there was considerable concern on the part of the committee that Brown could not secure the post in 1998 when it would be up for election. This was evident in her failed Senate bid, he said.

She only got 42 percent against Luechtefeld, so there were a lot of people questioning whether she could be re-elected in this district, Mayville said. She didn’t mend her fences, that’s why she didn’t win (the Senate race).

Cooper disagreed with this analysis and said the main reason Brown lost the appointment was because she does have the potential to beat Luechtefeld in 1998.

What it really came down to is that Barb is stronger in the senatorial district, Cooper said. She’s such a great vote-getter.

She’s going to be a hammer next time (in the 91998 Senate race), just watch.

Rau said Reitz was given the position because he is a more viable candidate for the district.

It might have had something to do with gender, Rau said. There was some feeling among some of the county chairmen that the seat would be more suited to a man running.

However, Cooper said gender was never an issue in the selection process and said he deplores the thought.

I don’t remember anybody saying that (Brown was disqualified because of gender), Cooper said. That would have stuck in my mind.

We never said anything about her (Brown) being a woman.

Rau also said the committee decided to focus on two primary issues.

We’d all agreed that we’d look at abortion rights and gun control, Rough said. You have to be more mainstream with the issues in the district, and Dan’s more compatible with the 116th District.

Sprague was not available for comment.

Brown said Reitz’s appointment has motivated her again for a possible run against Luechtefeld in 1998.

There’s still some unfinished business here, Brown said.

However, she will not make a decision until Labor Day and in deciding, will consider if another senatorial campaign is appropriate for her and her family.

It is much more challenging and intriguing, to me personally, to represent the whole Senate district because you have such diversity of views, and that really is exciting, Brown said. And to have an opportunity to sort of bring people together from both ends of the district, as you have an opportunity to do as a senator, is something that I relish the thought of having the chance to do.

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