The Daily Line - Sept. 04, 2018
What three third-party candidates reveal about the Illinois GOP
By Hannah Meisel
This piece was originally published in The Daily Line, which offers subscriber-only content. An excerpt from the original article is reproduced below with permission from the author. The full original article can be found here.
Justin Hanson: Write-in candidate hopes to give Republicans another option in 3rd District race
Though Republicans still count Patton as a positive in its 2018 strategy, the Illinois GOP fumbled hard in its handling of Art Jones, an avowed anti-semite, white supremacist and Holocaust denier who slipped onto the Republican ballot unnoticed last year, and who only revealed his true colors as the primary election neared in the spring.
If Jones’ ability to get on the ballot as a Republican is both a sore spot and an embarrassment to the party, the Illinois GOP’s failure to stop Jones from his run for Illinois’ 3rd Congressional district multiple times has made for an absolute fiasco for Republicans. Unopposed, Jones received more than 20,000 votes in the March Republican primary and is now the official GOP nominee against conservative Democratic U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski in November.
After local — and then national — news outlets reported on Jones’ abhorrent beliefs this winter, the Illinois Republican Party attempted to mount a challenge to Jones, speaking with several candidates who were interested in running in the race. Ultimately, however, those potential candidates declined. Earlier this summer, party officials said it would have been an immense challenge to collect the signatures necessary to mount a third-party challenge, pointing to the fact that the district is skewed heavily Democratic.
Illinois State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich told The Daily Line that a third-party candidate in the 3rd District would have needed to collect 14,559 signatures by late June, roughly 24 times as many signatures as the 603 Jones collected last year in order to get on the ballot as a Republican. The Board of Elections certified the ballot Aug. 24, locking in Jones and Lipinski as the only two candidates to appear in the race for the 3rd district.
However, Thursday is the deadline to mount a write-in challenge for the seat, and despite giving up on the search for a candidate, the Illinois GOP confirmed to The Daily Line last week that the party will get behind independent candidate Justin Hanson — in moral support only, that is.
“We’re excited about his candidacy,” Illinois Republican Party Executive Director Travis Sterling said.
Sterling said the party would promote Hanson, but when asked if Hanson could expect money from the party, Sterling said “not at this time,” citing the party’s limited resources. Some of Hanson’s core beliefs also conflict with the Republican Party’s platform and many GOP candidates’ beliefs, like Hanson’s stance that Roe v. Wade should remain the law of the land and his belief that the National Rifle Association has grown too powerful in the debate over gun rights.
Hanson, a litigation attorney with Chicago-based firm Gould & Ratner, describes himself as a “true independent,” having worked for many years as a Hill staffer in Washington D.C. The 35-year-old told The Daily Line that he was horrified at Jones’ candidacy, saying he knows most people had no idea they were “voting for a Nazi.” He said he was disappointed the Illinois GOP did not stop Jones sooner.
“My wife and I just assumed that no political party would no matter what let a candidate like that run unopposed under their banner, but we were wrong,” Hanson said.
Hanson has been certified as a write-in candidate already, and said he has raised nearly $40,000 for his campaign. That support is a testament to voters’ desire to make others aware of Jones’ true views, Hanson said, adding that he hopes the Illinois GOP reverses its stance on helping to fund his race.
“I wish that they would,” he said. “I’m not saying to support me, but what I’m saying is I wish the Republican Party would pour significant resources if only to let voters know what Art Jones is about and that he’s not a choice. I think the district deserves at least that level of effort. I know they have other races they’re dealing with around the state but this is a matter of principle. They let a lot of people down in our district.”
The focus on state politics in Illinois — a focus from both parties — stems from both the strength of Illinois’ General Assembly as a legislative body and the state’s constitutional officers, especially the governor. Illinois has a much more powerful legislature and governor than many other states, making those positions a priority for campaign spending within the state party apparatuses.
Congressional races in Illinois, while still important, are often left up to the national parties, or even regarded as afterthoughts, while the two state parties funnel resources toward gaining power in the General Assembly. While a senior U.S. senator, for example, may be the de facto leader of a state party in many places, in Illinois that’s traditionally not been the case, as Speaker Madigan has long been the head of the state Democratic Party, and for the last four years, Rauner has led the state GOP.
But that deprioritization doesn’t mean the rest of the country hasn’t noticed Art Jones; in June, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted that Jones was a “bigoted fool” who “should receive ZERO votes.”
“This is horrific,” Cruz said in the tweet. An avowed Nazi running for Congress. To the good people of Illinois, you have two reasonable choices: write in another candidate, or vote for the Democrat.”
Though Rauner has said that Jones has no place on the ballot, and has even called on him to drop out of the race, the governor would not go so far as to agree with Cruz’s suggestion to vote for “the Democrat,” Lipinski.
For his part, Hanson also said Lipinski doesn’t necessarily deserve another term just because he’s the obvious choice against Jones.
“We wanted to jump into the race to show the country that we’re better than that in a way that is not reliant on Lipinski’s name recognition, and that Dan’s inactive record won’t go unchecked,” he said, saying that while Lipinski is a “nice man,” the 3rd District should be “at the forefront of thought for the direction of the country,” and said Lipinski has not done much while in Congress.
Lipinski faced a difficult primary challenge from progressive candidate Marie Newman, who made the Congressman’s pro-life views into an issue, drawing nationwide attention to the race.
Two days after Hanson’s write-in candidacy was announced last month, Jones confronted his new opponent outside of Hanson’s home, challenging him to debate the Holocaust. Hanson told The Daily Line that he has no plans to ever debate Jones, instead seeking to debate Lipinski one-on-one this fall.