HOPF: Behind-the-scene jockeying shapes Quincy ballot

Posted: Dec. 15, 2012 10:33 pm Updated: Jan. 27, 2013 1:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Campaigning for the Quincy municipal primary and general elections probably won't get into full swing until after the holidays, but already there has been plenty of behind-the-scenes intrigue.

The most public was the Dec. 3 challenge by incumbent 1st Ward Alderman Virgil Goehl of the candidacy of Republican Ronnie McKenzie.

Goehl's challenge, a week after the final day of the filing period, asserted that McKenzie was ineligible to hold public office because he was convicted of a felony in Wisconsin. Goehl also argued that McKenzie was ineligible because he had not been a resident of the 1st Ward "for the requisite amount of time to run as a candidate."

McKenzie dropped out of the race later that day, apparently giving Goehl a clear shot at a sixth four-year term.

What made that challenge interesting is that Goehl, a Democrat, was aided by Republicans.

Included in the challenge filed with the city clerk's office was a change of address form for voters in Adams County. According to the Adams County Clerk's Office, the document was requested by Luke Neuser, a Republican operative who has worked on previous local campaigns. According to the Illinois State Board of Elections, Neuser was previously the secretary of Citizens for a Better Quincy, a political campaign committee formed by Republican aldermen in Quincy to support conservative candidates.

Why would Republicans want to help Goehl, a former chairman of the Democratic Central Committee?

Goehl has sided with Republicans on a number of issues, specifically with the city's attempts to develop hydropower facilities on the Mississippi River. He voted in opposition along with four Republican aldermen in April when the city sought to renew preliminary permits to develop hydropower facilities at Lock and Dam 24 in Clarksville, Mo., and Lock and Dam 25 in Winfield, Mo. He also joined Republicans last December to oppose seeking proposals from law firms in an attempt to recover money from the city's failed attempt to obtain a license for Lock and Dam 21 in Quincy.

Goehl's occasional cooperation with Republicans could go back to 2004, when he was ousted as Democratic chairman after three terms in favor of Verne Hagstrom, a former Quincy alderman and two-term mayor. The move eventual split the party into factions, and Democrats have seen what was once a commanding 10-4 majority on the City Council flip to a 10-4 minority.

There also was some jockeying in Republican ranks before the filing deadline.

Alderman Kyle Moore, R-3, announced in August that he planned to seek his party's nomination to try to unseat incumbent Mayor John Spring, and he wanted to avoid a primary challenge. However, there were some factions within the party that weren't in favor of his candidacy, and there were serious attempts to recruit another candidate.

Alderman Mike Farha, R-4, was the primary target. Farha is the most senior Republican on the council, and he ran -- and lost -- a mayoral race against incumbent Chuck Scholz in 2001. Despite showing interest and being promised fundraising support by some prominent Republicans, Farha at the 11th hour decided not to run.

That appeared to clear the deck for Moore until Rich Nichols on the final day of the filing period filed petitions for both mayor and 3rd Ward alderman. Nichols eventually withdrew his petitions for mayor and joined a crowded field to replace Moore in the 3rd Ward.

Both Moore and his 3rd Ward seatmate, Paul Havermale, recruited FedEx employee Jared Holbrook to run for the seat Moore is vacating. Havermale also is listed as the chairman of Moore's mayoral campaign on documents filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Holbrook will face Nichols and Ken Hultz, owner of Hultz's We Care Auto Care, in the February Republican primary. The winner will face Democrat Mike Martin in the April 9 general election in a ward that was once considered a "swing," but has now turned more Republican.

Republicans were able to convince another potential 3rd Ward candidate, self-employed businessman Tom Ernst, to pull out of that race after he picked up petitions.

Ernst, who lost a state Senate race against John Sullivan in 2004 and later talked about potentially running for mayor, was convinced by some Republicans -- including Moore and Havermale -- to instead challenge three-term Treasurer Peggy Crim. That went against the wishes of other Republicans, who argued that the party shouldn't slate a candidate to oppose an incumbent who they felt was doing a good job.

Republicans chose not to file a candidate to oppose City Clerk Jenny Hayden.

Democrats, meanwhile, will need to decide whether they want to slate aldermanic candidates in the 4th, 5th and 6th wards. The 4th and 5th wards have traditionally been solidly Republican, and the 6th Ward -- once represented by two Democrats -- now has two Republican aldermen.

Democrats also will need to see whether they want to try to hold the township supervisor post, which is being relinquished by the retiring Steve Schrage.

Schrage's longtime deputy, Cindy Brink, declined to reveal her party affiliation when she took out petitions to run for the office, although it was initially assumed she would run as a Democrat. Brink, however, filed as a Republican.