A group of civic leaders has formed a nonpartisan political action committee to recruit and support centrist candidates for the Bloomington and Normal city councils.
Responsible Cities PAC quietly formed last spring and has since gone public with a website and Facebook page. Its leadership includes Republicans, Democrats, and independents, although it will recruit, finance, and otherwise support candidates only in nonpartisan races like city council, said Responsible Cities founding chair Alan Sender of Normal.
“We’re looking to encourage quality candidates who want to work collaboratively with people on the council, with the mayors, and with the city staff, to maintain what we have and build on it, rather than tear it down. Whether you’re tearing it down from the left, or the far right, it’s just not something we can afford in our community, and it’s not something that’s appropriate in a nonpartisan election,” said Sender, a former journalist and retired executive at Chestnut Health Systems.
Responsible Cities was sparked by the April 2019 municipal elections, when several new faces joined the Bloomington City Council and Normal Town Council. That included those further to the ideologically left, such as Jenn Carrillo and Jeff Crabill on the Bloomington council, and the ideologically right, such as Stan Nord on Normal’s council.
Organizers say it will be candidate-oriented, not issue-oriented.
“Our political strategy is to reason together in a way that ideology does not direct the narrative, in a way that respect is given to individuals. And in a way that data are used for decision-making. And that one can count on each other to be civil, to be responsible in doing their homework relative to the work of leaders in municipal government,” said Responsible Cities co-chair Sally Pancrazio of Bloomington, who also is a Democratic Party precinct committeeperson.
Responsible Cities has yet to endorse candidates for the spring 2021 municipal elections, when several council seats and both mayor’s offices will come before voters. The PAC’s treasurer, Michael Straza, recently announced plans to run for Bloomington City Council in Ward 5.
Normal Mayor Chris Koos recently resigned from the PAC’s leadership team after announcing plans to run for re-election, Pancrazio said. He’s expected to face challenger Marc Tiritilli again in the spring.
“Folks, this is the establishment,” Tiritilli said in a recent Facebook video about Responsible Cities. “They do not want to see me win this election. They are so scared after the last election that they’ve formed this committee to try and promote candidates that they think are the right fit for them.”
Responsible Cities was formed with $4,500 in seed money and recently raised another $5,401 in the quarter ending June 30. Its donors so far include Democratic McLean County Board members George Gordon and Elizabeth Johnston, long-term care executive Steve Wannemacher, Beer Nuts President Andy Shirk, and former Normal Town Council member R.C. McBride, who also is WGLT’s general manager.
The PAC spent more than $6,000 last quarter, including $5,000 to pay Kansas City-based Remington Research for telephone polling, according to state election filings.
Bloomington-Normal isn’t home to many political action committees focused on local elections. The McLean County Chamber of Commerce PAC formed in 2009.
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