Bernard Schoenburg: Mrs. Clarke’s email offers helpful ideas

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Do I want to write a letter of recommendation for a candidate for the U.S. House in the 13th Congressional District?

Well, being a newspaper guy, it’s not really my role to do so. But if I wanted to, I’d know where to get some ideas.

That’s because I happened to get a copy of an email from LANAE CLARKE, wife of JERRY CLARKE, one of eight candidates seeking to be appointed to the ballot spot that had been won in the GOP primary by U.S. Rep. TIM JOHNSON, R-Urbana, in March.

The email was sent in advance of a meeting this weekend in Springfield where the 14 GOP county chairmen who will make the decision were to interview candidates. Their final decision is targeted for May 19.

“We would like to get recommendation letters from friends, family, etc. showing your support for (Clarke),” Lanae Clarke wrote, adding that she understands if some people have conflicts and couldn’t add their thoughts.

Kindly, she also added some rough drafts “to give you an idea of how some look … please let me know if you have any questions.”

Those drafts come under headings of “Former Staffers” and “Brothers.”

How about this? “Jerry Clarke was an excellent boss. He was easy to talk too (sic), created an encouraging work environment and taught me a great deal about the government process. I would work with him again any day.”

Or perhaps: “He was a natural leader who welcomed others input. He is extremely committed to solving the issues that matter to people of Illinois: a better economy, lower taxes and smaller government.”

Or, if I were his brother: “Jerry has always valued the importance of faith in his life. As a matter of fact, I remember him being an alter (sic) boy when we were young. It didn’t surprise me to learn that Jerry was going to join the U.S. Army, as he had always been a leader and was committed to protecting our country. He went on to become a pilot earning two Bronze Stars and the Air Medal Award.”

In all, there are a dozen paragraphs to choose from.

Clarke is one of six children, and one of his brothers is Pawnee Village President JEFF CLARKE, who said he had not received such an email as of Friday.

I called the campaign to get comment.

“This is what you do on campaigns,” said MIKE CYS, spokesman for the Clarke campaign. “You try and get as much support from as many people as possible. This certainly demonstrates we are going to run an effective and very competent campaign.”

Cys was a colleague of Clarke’s on the Illinois House GOP staff. He is now managing partner of a Washington, D.C., firm called Total Spectrum that was paid about $21,900 this spring for direct mail for Johnson’s campaign. Johnson announced April 5 he was dropping out of the general election.

Clarke was working as Johnson’s chief of staff in Washington when he met his wife, who was on the staff of then-U.S. Sen. PETER FITZGERALD, R-Ill., Cys said.  The Clarkes, now of Urbana, have four young children. Cys said the email from Lanae Clarke is typical of campaign missives where “we are giving them ideas on what to say … but they should use their own words.”

“Part of a spouse’s job in a campaign is to make sure you get friends and family on board with the campaign,” Cys said.

Jerry Clarke, now chief of staff to U.S. Rep. RANDY HULTGREN, R-Winfield, was the 2010 campaign manager for the GOP nominee for governor, state Sen. BILL BRADY of Bloomington, and  Brady endorsed Clarke last week.

“I have known Jerry for many years and seen his loyalty, dedication, commitment to Republican values and love of public service,” Brady said in a statement. “Jerry believes in lower taxes and less government. … He will not let a moment go by without defending the 13th District from attacks from Democrats and NANCY PELOSI who would love to claim a victory here in her quest to once again take the gavel in the House of Representatives.”

Brady’s news release said he got more than 62 percent of the vote in his race for governor in the 14 counties in the new 13th. Statewide, Democratic Gov. PAT QUINN won a slim victory.

Other Republicans in the running for the GOP nod in the new 13th are RODNEY DAVIS of Taylorville, projects director for U.S. Rep. JOHN SHIMKUS of Collinsville;  Urbana native and 2003 Miss America ERIKA HAROLD, now practicing law in Chicago; former state Agriculture Director BECKY DOYLE of Macoupin County; KATHY WASSINK of Shipman; MICHAEL FIRSCHING of Madison County near Moro; FRANK METZGER of Glen Carbon; and SAMUEL SPRADLIN of Springfield. The Democratic candidate is DAVID GILL, an emergency room physician from Bloomington.

New to Rutherford’s staff

LORI YATES, 46, who has had a series of high-level government and political jobs, joined the staff of state Treasurer DAN RUTHERFORD in January as manager of event scheduling.  A Metamora native now of Springfield, she’s being paid $80,000 annually.

Yates last year handled events and scheduling for U.S. Rep. AARON SCHOCK, R-Peoria, at the same rate of pay.  She had been a top aide to then-Attorney General JIM RYAN, and national jobs have included her being the lead advance person for then-first lady LAURA BUSH during the 2004 re-election campaign of President GEORGE W. BUSH. She has also worked for the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

Her new job with Rutherford is considered a management position. Rutherford spokeswoman CATIE SHEEHAN said it was determined the position was needed “to fully accommodate the influx of requests” for Rutherford or surrogates to attend events pertaining to office programs such as Cash Dash, Bright Start and Linked Deposit.

“In the treasurer’s division of scheduling, logistics and events, Lori plays a key role in coordinating the treasurer’s demanding schedule and surrogate appearances from programmatic staff to provide the best possible representation of this office,” Sheehan said.


A strong voice for veterans has been silenced with the passing of former GOP state Sen. ROBERT MITCHLER, who died April 19 at his rural Oswego home. He was 91.

“Mitch was very interested in veterans affairs,” said former state Sen. ROGER SOMMER, R-Morton, who served in the legislature with Mitchler and is brother of state Rep. KEITH SOMMER, R-Morton. “He was a veteran of World War II, and that was his main thing.”

Even the way he carried himself had the mark of his time in the Navy. “His posture was very military,” Sommer said.

“He was also very conservative,” Sommer added of Mitchler’s politics. “He didn’t like to spend money.”

Mitchler joined the Navy in 1941, and his service included amphibious and minesweeping operations until the end of WWII. He was recalled to active duty in the Korean War. He was in the Illinois Senate for 17 years ending in 1981, and was appointed to veteran-related positions by Govs. JIM THOMPSON, JIM EDGAR and GEORGE RYAN.

“For an incredible 22 years, through the age of 91, Bob enjoyed competing in the Annual Mid-America Canoe and Kayak Race on the Fox River,” an obituary stated.

He and his wife of 61 years, HELEN, who survives, had three children and nine grandchildren.

Bernard Schoenburg is political columnist for The State Journal-Register. He can be reached at 788-1540 or follow him via His email address is