Rock River Valley voters campaign hard for candidates

Andrea Zimmermann

Martha Pulido Logemann is targeting the Rock River Valley’s undecided voters, and her campaign starts at home.

Logemann is a passionate supporter of U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton’s bid for president, but her husband and two sons are likely going to back other Democrats.

“We are not going to go out and shoot each other if our candidate doesn’t win,” Logemann said of her family division. “No matter who wins (the nomination), we are going to band together and make sure that candidate is in the White House in January 2009.”

Voters are donning their campaign pins, sticking signs in their yards and manning the phones as the country nears Feb. 5 — so-called Super Tuesday — when Illinois and 21 other states will hold primary contests. This is the most hotly contested presidential race in a generation, and Feb. 5 is nearly akin to a national primary.

In the Rock River Valley, just as elsewhere in the country, there is no clear favorite among Democrats or Republicans. Voters are lining up behind candidates across the spectrum.

For Tim Koritz, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is the right candidate for the White House because, Koritz believes, he has the skills, vision and abilities needed in a modern-day president. Romney’s fundraising, however, is not faring well in the Rock River Valley, with only a single $250 donation.

Husband and wife Janet and Jerry Beger are diving headfirst into politics this year. They are Illinois delegates for former North Carolina U.S. Sen. John Edwards, and this is their first time actively campaigning for any politician.

“I think he will be a healer and bring our country together,” said Jerry Beger, who is an attorney in Rockford. “He resonates with average people, and I think he wants to change our tax code and make it fairer and simpler.”

GOP presence

On the GOP side, retired Air Force Gen. John Borling is backing former U.S. Sen. John McCain. Rockford’s Borling and McCain were prisoners of war together in Vietnam.

But Borling insisted that even if he hadn’t shared that experience with McCain, he still would choose him for president.

“I think he, of all the candidates, can effect a political renewal at the domestic and international levels that is good for America,” Borling said.

McCain raised about $15,000 in the Rock River Valley ­— the largest amount of any GOP candidate, according to Federal Election Commission data.

Behind former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s campaign, which has persistently struggled financially, is Luther Landon of Rockford. Landon said he must rely on other campaign methods, such as word-of-mouth. He said his phone rings more and more with calls about the Huckabee campaign asking questions and for yard signs.

“There’s no secret that this is a campaign run on a shoestring and they use the money very efficiently,” he said.

Landon also is trying to reach out to people outside of the evangelical Christian base and show that Huckabee does have other supporters.

“This is not a grassroots campaign staff primarily with homeschoolers and evangelicals,” the 53-year-old environmental consultant said. “It’s a broad array.”

‘A part of something historic’

Ryan Rainey can’t vote Feb. 5. It’s not because he is too busy or working or apathetic; he’s just too young. But the 16-year-old Hononegah High School student has been campaigning for Democrat Barack Obama everywhere he can.

“I thought that if I wasn’t able to vote, then I might as well have some sort of impact on the election,” Rainey said.

As a result, he canvassed neighborhoods in Iowa twice and planned to tackle the areas around his Roscoe home.

“I feel that I am a part of something historic,” Rainey said. “And it would be great for other people to feel that too, to be able to tell their grandchildren that they were a part of a very consequential election in American history.”

Obama receiving much support

Rock River Valley residents were much more generous to the Democrats, with Obama receiving the most campaign contributions, $34,175. Edwards came in second with $14,450 and Clinton a distant third with $4,692.

Rockford real estate mogul Sunil Puri and his wife Jenine have contributed more than a third, or $11,800, of Obama’s total contributions from the Rock River Valley.

Once a dyed-in-the-wool supporter of President Bill Clinton, Puri said he is backing Obama­ — a move that has promtpted national Democratic heavyhitters to call Puri begging him to support Sen. Clinton.

“I genuinely believe, at this time, the country desperately needs someone who can connect with our hearts,” Puri said. 

Logemann, the Clinton supporter, said it can be difficult to campaign for Clinton when this state’s favorite son, U.S. Sen. Obama, is running against her. She is pinning her hopes on undecided voters.

The 58-year-old Rockford resident said she has waited all of her life to vote for a woman president, and although she supported Obama’s U.S. Senate campaign, she thinks it’s a woman’s turn to be the chief executive.

“Everything being equal, I would prefer to have a woman in the White House at this point,” Logemann said. “We’ve given the men a lot of chances, and here we are with huge deficits and the history of our planet in trouble and spending money on a war that will never be won. Men have brought us to this; we need a woman to get us out.”

Register Star staff writer Andrea Zimmermann can be reached at 217-753-3882 or