SOUTH HOLLAND | Kenneth Williams is seeking a seat in the Illinois House of Representatives against an incumbent who has solid support from the local political establishment.
And Williams has next to no money to campaign.
So how does the former school board president of Thornton Township High School District 205, who still has an appeal pending to get that post back, plan to overcome such disadvantages?
Williams said he plans to show up at City Council, village board and school board meetings in coming weeks to introduce himself to officials he doesn’t know and exchange greetings with those he already does.
He started this tour of the Illinois House 29th district last week, where it turns out village President Don De Graff is his next door neighbor.
The two chatted for a few minutes, commiserating about campaigning for political office.
“I’m going to meet with mayors and trustees and clerks, everybody I can,” Williams said. “I’m reaching out, coming to these meetings.”
Whether such tactics will gain him much in the way of votes is uncertain. De Graff was quick to say his meeting with Williams does not construe support for the campaign against state Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City.
“I’m not speaking disparagingly about Kenny ... I’ve known him for a long time,” De Graff said. “But Thaddeus as a public official has been very supportive of South Holland. He’s the person we want to continue to represent our area.”
De Graff said Jones has supported state funding for several road repair projects benefiting South Holland in recent years, while also urging Gov. Pat Quinn and other state officials to support projects such as a new Chicago-area airport near Peotone and development of a commuter railroad line from Chicago to Crete that would have a South Holland stop.
Jones also has the support of the Thornton Township Democratic Organization, where Committeeman Frank Zuccarelli is the person who orchestrated Jones’ election in 2010. Spokesman Robert Storman said Williams has “very little support” for the March 18 Democratic primary, and said the partisan split that has halted business from occurring in recent months at the Thornton Township district high schools reflects badly upon him.
“A lot of people who follow the District 205 high schools see things going badly, and that is working against him too,” Storman said.
Williams believes his tenure was a productive one. Williams talks of wanting to bring more jobs to the south suburbs, without getting into specific proposals.
“We have to bring more economic development and jobs to the area,” he said. “We also need to bring some sort of trades to the area, that is what I intend to do.”
Williams compares his desires as similar to those of U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., who served as mayor of Newark, N.J., from 2006-13 and made a priority of talking about a revitalized local economy.
But Williams lacks campaign finances.
The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform said Jones’ legislative campaign fund received $67,909.63, and spent $32,623.37 during 2013, compared to nothing for Williams.
Reports filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections indicated Jones’ state Legislature campaign fund only had $129.54 on Dec. 31, 2013. But another fund for Jones’ campaigns as Calumet City 3rd Ward alderman had $12,662.24.
Some $4,000 was transferred from the aldermanic to the state Legislature campaign fund on Jan. 27. Jones’ legislative campaign fund received a $1,300.20 donation from Friends of Michael Madigan on Jan. 30 to help pay for campaign staff salaries. It received a $1,000 donation from John Kasperek Co. Inc., whose owner is also finance director of Calumet City government, on Jan. 30, and a $1,000 donation from Irving, Texas-based Cottonwood Financial on Jan. 31.
The state Elections Board had no records of Williams' financial reports filed for his current campaign. When Williams ran for the Illinois House in 2010 as the Green Party nominee, he reported raising $2,251 for the whole campaign, with expenditures so small none of them had to be itemized.
Jones said he is focusing his campaign efforts on telling voters about himself.
“A lot of times when you run for office, you find that the people really don’t know you,” he said. “I have to let them know who I am and what I am about.”