Some state primary ads go negative

“The woke left is coming after me for peeing on a tree during my college days,” says state Rep. Adam Niemerg, R-Dietrich

“The woke left is coming after me for peeing on a tree during my college days,” state Rep. Adam Niemerg, R-Dietrich, told me not long ago.

I’ve told you about this race before. The 102nd Illinois House District is one of a handful of southeastern and southern Illinois Republican primaries that might slow or intensify the Republican Party’s rightward lunge. They’ve featured far-right candidates trying to fend off or battling with more mainstream Republicans. US Rep. Mike Bost’s race against the much further-right Darren Bailey has been another.

Niemerg, an anti-union, anti-abortion, pro-gun Illinois Freedom Caucus stalwart, was responding at the time to an opposition report I’d seen about him. That research eventually found its way into a TV ad from an Illinois Education Association-funded group helping Niemerg’s Republican primary opponent,t Jim Acklin, a former school superintendent.

The ad is paid for by Illinois Working PAC, an independent expenditure committee which spent more than $100,000 on the race and received all of its funding from the IEA. The teachers union and other unions directly contributed another $120,000 to Acklin’s campaign. That gave Acklin almost twice the spending power as Niemerg.

“Adam Niemerg sure talks a lot, but what is he not telling you?” the ad’s announcer asked. “Well, there's the DUI Niemerg got, more than twice the limit. And how he pleaded guilty to obscene conduct.”

OK, let’s stop right there for a moment. Niemerg was busted in 2003 for DUI, speeding and possession/consumption of alcohol by a minor. He paid a fine and had to go to treatment. Then, on 4/20 (heh) of 2006, Niemerg was busted for obscene conduct. He pleaded guilty, paid a fine and was given 90 days supervision.

Niemerg has not addressed the claims via his own advertising, even though “obscene conduct” can conjure up quite a large number of scenarios. Also, a lot of homeless people charged with peeing on trees end up in a heap of legal trouble, so it’s not that funny to them. The anti-Niemerg ad is also being pushed hard online, and as of last Friday afternoon it had 232,000 YouTube views, which is more than twice the total population of a House district.

A group called American Action Fund, however, punched back on Niemerg’s behalf with social media ads on another topic. “Jim Acklin failed to act when complaints were filed against his friend and chose to blame the victim while superintendent. Acklin looked the other way and let a predator roam free in his school for years, now he wants to be your State Rep. Our State Rep. should stand up for us, not their buddy.” The ad links to a 2016 news story (which was basically an opposition research report released when Acklin was running for a House seat) entitled, “In sexual misconduct suit, State Rep candidate said female student was responsible for relationship with teacher.” According to Facebook, the ad generated up to 40,000 impressions by last Friday.

Acklin brushed off the attack, noting that the lawsuit “was based on entirely false allegations,” and was, “so unfounded that it was ultimately dismissed with prejudice against the plaintiff, which means that I can never again be sued for that false allegation. I was exonerated because I handled the situation exactly as it should have been handled; I suspended and barred the employee involved from school property within minutes of learning of the allegations. The individual in question will never be able to teach in Illinois again because of the action I took.” But Acklin hasn’t specifically countered the claim that I can tell.

This has been, without a doubt, the meanest primary in Illinois this spring.

Let’s go back to the Acklin TV ad: “Niemerg voted to allow minors convicted of serious crimes to be paroled. And remember those Obama DACA aliens? Niemerg voted to allow them to become police officers. I guess with Adam Niemerg, it’s not what he says, but what he doesn’t say that’s important.”

Niemerg has denied that he voted to allow DACA recipients to become police officers. But he did vote for the bill when it applied to non-citizens. Niemerg and a few others voted “No” after it was amended to explicitly include DACA folks.

And a recent Niemerg mailer features some rather incendiary quotes from American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Chicago Teachers Union president Stacy Davis Gates and ties them to Acklin. “Jim Acklin is completely funded by the radical, left-wing extremists,” the mailer blares.

I’ll let you know how it plays out.

Rich Miller

Rich Miller publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and

Illinois Times has provided readers with independent journalism for almost 50 years, from news and politics to arts and culture.

Your support will help cover the costs of editorial content published each week. Without local news organizations, we would be less informed about the issues that affect our community..

Click here to show your support for community journalism.

Got something to say?

Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

Comments (0)
Add a Comment