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Big money on sidelines in Dist. 214 race
By Sheila Ahern | Daily Herald Staff

Leslie Pinney


Lenore Gonzales Bragaw


Mark Hineman


James Perkins


Miriam "Mimi" Cooper Spickard


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Published: 3/26/2009 12:00 AM

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No one is spending $60,000 to win a school board election this time around.

According to state reports, District 214 incumbent Leslie Pinney, running alone for the unpaid post, hasn't yet hit the $3,000 bench mark that would require her to file a state campaign finance report.

The other incumbents - Miriam "Mimi" Cooper Spickard, Lenore Gonzales Bragaw and James Perkins - joined forces with challenger Mark Hineman. That group plans to raise about $6,000, said Norm Horler, treasurer of the Friends of District 214 group, which is in charge of fundraising for all four candidates. So far, it has recorded one $4,000 donation from a custodial union.

Those funds are just a fraction of what was raised and spent on the District 214 election in 2005 and 2007.

It all started when Pinney - then a political newcomer - raised $20,000 in 2005, most of which came from the Family Taxpayer Network, a conservative group that opposes abortion and gay rights. At the time, the race was considered to be one of the most expensive school board campaigns in Illinois history.

Pinney pledged to bring her Christian beliefs into all board decision-making. As one of her first moves, she suggested nine texts be yanked from required reading lists because she felt they were filled with lewd language, vivid sexuality and graphic violence.

In 2007, incumbents Bill Dussling, Alva Kreutzer and Bob Zimmanck, fearing a well-financed conservative slate that never materialized, topped Pinney's figure by raising $60,000, mostly from past and current District 214 officials and a local elementary district teachers union.

Times have changed.

"Like a lot of people, I'm trying to pay my own mortgage and I'm very busy with my job," said Pinney, who hasn't sent out a mailing or held a large fundraiser.

So far this campaign the Family Taxpayer Network hasn't donated any money to Pinney.

"I haven't asked them," she said. "I figured they'd come to me if they wanted to donate to my campaign. Maybe that wasn't a good idea, but I'm doing the best I can. I really don't know where it will all land."

Jack Roeser of the Family Taxpayer Network said he would consider donating to Pinney if the other candidates resort to dirty politics, but at this point, his group probably won't contribute.

"Leslie Pinney should be elected on her own accomplishments, on her own steam," said Roeser, a wealthy Barrington conservative who once ran for the Republican governor nomination against Jim Edgar. "The trouble is getting another person on the board to second her motions. She's a good person and very rational."

Horler said his group hasn't held a fundraiser, either. His group is planning one mailing before April 7.

"I think people are still exhausted from two years ago," he said. "In 2005, we were shocked at the amount of money that was spent, and in 2007, we didn't want to be caught unprepared. This year the spending is much more reasonable."

Bragaw said the feeling that "a group was going to take over the board" just isn't there with this election, where it was in 2005 and 2007.

"We are monitoring the other side's spending, but the economy is also affecting things," Bragaw said. "People who gave $100 in the past can only donate $25 this time."

To access the candidate finance documents online, visit the board of elections at Search donations by plugging in candidates' names.