A strategist for the mayoral campaign of SHEILA STOCKS-SMITH gave fellow Democrats a reason for hope through numbers last week at a party meeting.

A strategist for the mayoral campaign of SHEILA STOCKS-SMITH gave fellow Democrats a reason for hope through numbers last week at a party meeting.

Former Sangamon County Democratic Chairman BILL HOULIHAN, downstate director for U.S. Sen. DICK DURBIN, D-Ill., is pushing for election of Stocks-Smith.

Houlihan used some round numbers, but the point was made that Stocks-Smith’s distant second to former Mayor MIKE HOUSTON in the Feb. 22 primary wasn’t really that far back.

Early polling showed Stocks-Smith with 5 percent in the race, while Houston had 28 percent, Houlihan said. But in the primary, he noted, Houston got 32 percent — just four points higher than earlier polling — while Stocks-Smith nearly quadrupled her early showing. She ended up with 19 percent.

In addition, Houlihan said, he expects turnout of about 45 percent in the April 5 general election. That would more than double the 22.8 percent turnout in the primary. Houlihan thinks the winner will need about 14,000 votes. Houston got 5,890 in the primary to Stocks-Smith’s 3,490 so Houlihan said each would need to gain a lot to win.

Houlihan’s analysis, of course, puts it in the best light for his candidate. Name recognition has a lot to do with such things, so it makes sense that Houston, well known as a former mayor, would gain less support over the course of a campaign than a virtual unknown like Stocks-Smith, who then spends thousands on ads. But if the spin fits, wear it.

“We think we are the only candidate that can make sure that there’s a Democrat that’s going to be mayor,” Houlihan said. “I think if the people in this room, labor and women decide to get involved, we’ve got a very good chance to win.”

Ward 3 Ald. FRANK KUNZ is also a Democrat running for mayor, but he doesn’t seek support of such party groups, and nobody spoke on his behalf.

And there remain divisions within the group, as party Chairman JIM MOODY made clear when he said he was following what he was told is a tradition of the party not endorsing in these nonpartisan elections.

“There’s no consensus on most of this stuff,” Moody said. But he is personally supporting Stocks-Smith.
Other candidates at the meeting who spoke included City Clerk CECELIA TUMULTY, SCOTT McFARLAND for Subdistrict 3 of the Springfield School Board, Ward 5 Ald. SAM CAHNMAN, MIKE ZIRI for the convention center board and Sangamon County Board member DORIS TURNER, running for Ward 3 alderman.

The Sangamon County GOP is backing  candidates in the April 5 nonpartisan elections, including mayoral hopeful MIKE COFFEY JR.

Hockey at the PCCC?
Should the Springfield Jr. Blues move their games from the Nelson Center to the Prairie Capital Convention Center?

That question was raised at a recent meeting of the PCCC’s board. DAN WRIGHT, an appointed member who is running for a full term on the Springfield Metropolitan Exposition & Auditorium Authority, said a friend of his, GRANT HAMMER, volunteers for the team and discussed the idea with Wright.

He noted that the center does not now have its own equipment to create the sheet of ice, but if that were to change, a variety of shows and events would be possible. Some skating events have been at the center, but that’s when shows have brought their own ice-making capability.
Wright did say it was just a preliminary idea.

MIKE STRATTON, executive director of the Springfield Park District, which runs the Nelson Center in Lincoln Park on Springfield’s north end, said the Jr. Blues have been working with the park district for “probably over 30 years,” and with 1,000 to 1,600 fans per game provides the district about $50,000 to $55,000 in rental fees annually.

Still, Stratton said, “The district’s always been community-minded. If they’re wanting to move to a different venue, we’d assist in any way possible. We’d like it (the team) to stay in the community.”

“I think it’s a big-picture concept, because putting in ice isn’t cheap,” said BRIAN OAKS, general manager of the PCCC. He said the idea is “absolutely worth looking into.”

RICK MAIOCCO, the volunteer president of the team, said the organization has a “great relationship” with the Nelson Center, “but the thought of doing something with the Prairie Capital Convention Center is worth exploring.” He said lack of adequate parking near the Nelson Center is one problem.

“What excited me, just as a citizen,” he added, was the good effect the venue could have for fans and businesses, such as downtown restaurants and bars.

Wright is one of four people running for three seats in Subdistrict 1 of the convention center board. Republicans are backing Wright, GREGORY SRONCE and incumbent JUDY YEAGER for the nonpartisan seats. Incumbent Ziri is the fourth. He told Democrats at their meeting last week that he thinks he’s been a “strong, independent voice” for the district, and “I’m the only Democrat running.” Each voter can pick three of the four.

Wright said he and Hammer are gathering more information as well.

Hammer is involved in politics as well as hockey. He was co-campaign manager for new state Rep. ADAM BROWN, R-Decatur, and also spent a couple months on the campaign of new state Rep. WAYNE ROSENTHAL, R-Morrisonville. Before that, he was central Illinois field coordinator for the gubernatorial campaign of ANDY McKENNA.

“I just try to pitch in wherever I can help,” Hammer said of his work with the Jr. Blues. He said he and wife JENNIFER helped put together a recent pregame party to boost attendance at a game.
Hammer, 28, has joined the staff of state Treasurer DAN RUTHERFORD, doing scheduling and advance. He’s being paid $52,000 annually.

Bernard Schoenburg is political columnist for The State Journal-Register. He can be reached at 788-1540 or bernard.schoenburg@sj-r.com.