Candidates in three key suburban congressional campaigns moved into get-out-the-vote mode Sunday, concerned that Election Day turnout will be the deciding factor as outside groups focused on a spate of automated phone calls to voters.
Federal campaign reports show that in the last seven days, super political action committees reported spending almost $100,000 to target voters’ phones in the northwest and west suburban 8th District, the North Shore 10th District and the west and southwest suburban 11th District. All but about $20,000 was reported by super PACs aligned with Republican candidates.
The so-called robocalls can be made for less than a penny apiece and they’re not exactly beloved by voters. In addition to the recorded calls, the candidates and other groups have phone banks operating to make live calls to try to persuade voters to show up at the polls on Tuesday.
In the 8th District, where freshman Republican Rep. Joe Walsh is being challenged by Democrat Tammy Duckworth, almost $50,000 in robocall spending was reported to the Federal Election Commission, including $20,600 from the Conservative Strikeforce. The Arlington, Va.-based super PAC also is backing such tea-party icons as Reps. Michelle Bachmann in Minnesota and Allen West in Florida.
Other groups backing Walsh by phone include $16,317 from the New Prosperity Foundation, a super PAC co-founded by former Republican governor candidate Ronald Gidwitz of Chicago, and $5,027 from Independent Women’s Voice, a conservative super PAC.
Duckworth is getting robocall support of $7,521 from the House Majority PAC. In addition, a group called Illinois Immigrant Action listed expenditures of $11,198 to operate a phone bank to back the Democrat.
On Sunday morning, Duckworth thanked volunteers who came in to her Elgin campaign office to make calls and knock on doors, a day after her staff said volunteers at five locations had made about 8,000 calls.
With two days left, Duckworth’s campaign is no longer trying to reach out to Republican voters, but instead ensuring that voters identified as Democrats, likely Democrats and independents show up on Tuesday. In the district drawn by Democrats, independents could play a critical role.
“They’ll vote one way in one election, a different way the next, or they’ll split a ticket,” Duckworth said.
In the 10th District race, Democratic challenger Brad Schneider is counting on 13 “staging locations,” some sponsored by the campaign and others by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, to bring out his supporters
through phone calls and canvassing.
Residents of the North Shore district also can expect robocalls alongside the live voices on Schneider’s behalf, said campaign manager Reed Adamson. On Sunday, Schneider dropped by a Grayslake call center that resounded with a cacophony of volunteer voices. He took a phone from one and spent several minutes chatting with a prospective voter.
“I’d love to earn your vote on Tuesday,” Schneider said.
In the 10th District, the New Prosperity Foundation has reported spending more than $14,000 to conduct robocalls on behalf of Republican Rep. Robert Dold. Like Schneider’s campaign, Dold’s volunteers are also using calls and visits to target particular voters and turn out supporters. Dold’s campaign also will use automated calls.
As Dold’s tour bus blasted upbeat music outside on Sunday, the freshman lawmaker worked his way around Cubby Bear North in Lincolnshire, talking to prospective voters in Bears gear. Dold, who played quarterback at New Trier Township High School, kept one eye on the game and periodically exhorted players to outrun a defender or cover up a fumble.
“I already voted for you,” one man called out from a booth.
“Bless you,” Dold said.
In the 11th District contest, the campaign of Democratic challenger Rep. Bill Foster began robocalls in which former President Bill Clinton endorses the former congressman and scientist as having the “kind of common sense experience and leadership we need in Washington.”
During a stop outside of a Joliet church, one of four he visited in the district Sunday, Foster joked that he should have recorded, “I'm Bill Foster, and I'd be crazy not to endorse this message” at the end of Clinton's call.
Republican Rep. Judy Biggert dismissed the robocalls as a frantic move from a trailing campaign.
“I hear he has the endorsement of President Clinton. Big deal,” said Biggert, dressed in a Bears shirt during a stop Sunday at a packed Bolingbrook bar. “All politics is local, and I've gotten endorsements from all of the papers, plus (U.S. Sen.) Mark Kirk and the chamber of commerce and many others. That's what's important.”
Foster's campaign also disclosed to federal election officials Sunday that he had lent his campaign $500,000, most of which is being used to air a new ad critical of Biggert.
Records show the New Prosperity Foundation has reported spending $17,293 for robocalls on behalf of Biggert, while the House Majority PAC listed $11,870 for calls on behalf of Foster.
Tribune reporters Bill Ruthhart and Monique Garcia contributed.Copyright © 2015, CT Now