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Group Suggests 'Schock Waves' in Illinois Special Election

Schock's replacement will be chosen in a Sept. 10 special election. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Most Democratic strategists probably couldn’t name their party’s nominee in the upcoming race for Illinois’ 18th District, or even remember that there is a special election on September 10. But one not-for-profit group is trying to gin up interest in a possible historic outcome, even as the final result is likely to be pretty routine.  

Rob Mellon sounds like it could be the name of a band featuring White Zombie’s frontman covering Blind Melon songs. In reality, Mellon is an Army veteran, high school history teacher and the Democratic nominee against Republican Darin LaHood in the race to replace former GOP Rep. Aaron Schock.  

“Will ‘Schock’ waves jolt 18th District Special Election into Action on Campaign Finance Reform?” asked a press release over the weekend from RunClean.org, a “not-for-profit vehicle” that “allows” candidates to campaign with dramatically less money if they agree to fundraising or spending caps.  

“Capping fundraising was a no-brainer for me, because fundraising is perhaps the thing I like the least about politics,” Mellon said in the release. Candidates who enjoy spending time raising money are as rare as people who can name a second Blind Melon song. But the Democrat’s noble stance is also convenient, since he isn’t likely to come anywhere near the cap.  

Mellon raised $10,679, according to his October quarterly filing with the Federal Election Commission, which is supposed to detail activity through September 30. LaHood, son of Transportation Secretary and former GOP Rep. Ray LaHood, raised more than $1 million through the end of June and had $531,000 on hand.  

“We have to have the money to send a few mailings, appear in a few newspapers, and travel throughout the expansive district, but beyond that, what would the point of more money be?” Mellon asked in the release.  

At his current pace, the candidate isn’t going to be able to pay for the few items on his campaign wish list. It looks like he had $1,265 on hand when the form was filed August 10. Candidates often use extra money to communicate with 21st century voters through radio, television, and online advertising.  

By agreeing to the cap, Mellon’s experience and positions on 10 issues are featured on the RunClean.org IL-18 Vote Guide without any rebuttal from LaHood, who did not respond to the invitation to participate. RunClean.org started less than a year ago and has a modest online presence, including 39 followers on Twitter and 83 “Likes” on its Facebook page when the release went out on Sunday.  

It’s possible for an under-funded challenger to upset the favorite in the race, just walk to GOP Rep. Dave Brat’s office in the Cannon House Office Building. But so far this year, special elections have been largely-ignored by the public and gone precisely as planned. In May, Republican Daniel Donovan won New York’s 11th District, 59-39 percent, over New York City Councilman Vincent Gentile. And in June, Republican Trent Kelly won Mississippi’s 1st District, 70-30 percent, over Democrat Walter Zinn.  

The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call rate Illinois’ 18th District as Safe for Republicans.

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