The candidates for River Forest village president have exhibited different philosophies regarding campaign finance. Patty Henek, whose first term as village trustee ends next month, has prioritized running an inexpensive campaign to unseat incumbent Cathy Adduci, who is seeking a third term.
“I, particularly at the local level, don’t really like the fact that the bar gets raised so high with election spending because not everybody’s in a position to self-fund or have connections to people with money or feel comfortable asking people for money,” said Henek.
Henek told Wednesday Journal that her “grassroots” campaign for village trustee in 2017 cost around $2,000 total. For the 2021 village president race, Henek tried to maintain low campaign costs.
“I, throughout the time of my campaign, was being very conservative and being very mindful of the decisions I was making to try and stay below that $5,000,” said Henek.
Campaign finance law dictates once a campaign exceeds $5,000 in either receipts or expenditures, the campaign must file a Statement of Organization, otherwise known as a D-1 form, with the Illinois Board of Elections.
The campaign contribution or expenditure that carries a campaign over $5,000 becomes the first financial item reported. Once the D-1 is filed, all subsequent contributions and expenses must be reported to the state board of elections.
The decision to buy printed trifold brochures, Henek said, was the expense that put her campaign over $5,000. The brochures were delivered by volunteers, according to Henek.
“It was at that point I filed as an official campaign,” said Henek, who filed her D-1 form March 23.
Henek’s opponent Adduci filed her campaign’s D-1 during the fall of last year.
“I knew this political campaign was certainly going to be more than $5,000,” said Adduci. “I immediately opened up my political campaign well before I spent $5,000.”
Adduci’s reasoning for filing her D-1 before exceeding $5,000 boils down to transparency. She believes all expenditures and donations, regardless of size, should be disclosed.
“If you want to be transparent with our public, you need to report,” Adduci said. “It’s the right thing to do.”
Since she filed, Adduci has garnered $20,500 in campaign contributions, $17,500 of which Adduci herself loaned to her campaign. Media expenditures and advertising make up the majority of her campaign expenditures, having spent, among other costs, $920 with Growing Community Media the publisher of Wednesday Journal for ads and $2,997 on digital advertisements, according to the Illinois Board of Elections.
“I don’t just talk transparency. I am transparent,” said Adduci. “I think that’s important.”
Adduci expects her campaign’s total cost to end up around $17,000, while Henek expects hers will be below $6,000.
“I don’t plan to spend anymore and I’m just under $6,000,” said Henek.
Not filing her D-1 with the Illinois Board of Elections until breeching $5,000 had nothing to do with trying to keep her campaign finances hush hush, according to Henek.
“As soon as you cross that threshold, you have to file; otherwise, they don’t really need to know what you did,” Henek said. “And so, it was a matter of like, did I need to have that extra work of filing the paperwork if I didn’t really need to?”
“I was trying to be as conservative in my spending as possible in order to not discourage future people from running,” she said.
Henek has been able to keep her costs low by utilizing volunteers and social media to spread news of her campaign. She said she has not purchased any ads to promote her campaign.
She also hired a high school student with aspirations of becoming a photojournalist to take her campaign headshots.
“I paid him 50 bucks to take my headshots. And I gave him credit on my website,” she said.
For Henek’s campaign video, she hired a “young, new dad” trying to get his “up-and-coming” business off the ground.
In both cases, Henek believes the high school student and the small business owner receive exposure through her website and experience.
Despite the election occurring on April 6, Henek and Adduci both have until April 15 to file their campaign’s financial activity for the quarter of January 1 through March 31 with the Illinois Board of Elections.
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While Henek told Wednesday Journal she anticipated Adduci would spend more money on her campaign, she feels it is dispiriting how costly campaigns for local office tend to be.
“Why do you feel compelled to spend over $20,000? If you’re a two-term, well known, well accomplished incumbent,” said Henek of Adduci.
Adduci, on the other hand, believes campaigns are costly by nature but that doesn’t bar people without the personal finances from running for elected office. She also does not believe that having the ability to self-fund, partly or wholly, contributes to an uneven playing field. Candidates can fundraise, take in donations or receive financial backing from non-profit groups, according to Adduci.
“I think the playing field is totally leveled.”