WASHINGTON – GOP White House hopefuls John Kasich and Ben Carson bring their campaigns to Chicago for major fundraising events this week, with Jeb Bush returning early next month for more campaign cash.
The visits come as the Illinois operations for Kasich, the Ohio governor, and Bush, the former Florida governor, are scrambling to win the support of Scott Walker donors and activists in the wake of the Wisconsin governor dropping out of the 2016 campaign.
I’m told that a big Illinois prize – Todd Ricketts, the Chicago Cubs board member who was Walker’s national finance co-chair – is not rushing to commit to another candidate.
Ricketts, a Wilmette resident, is being wooed by nine or ten Republican presidential campaigns but for now is taking a breather from 2016 politics – especially with the Cubs heading to a spot in the playoffs.
While Walker quit the race after his fundraising dried up, he had a cultivated a base of donors and supporters in neighboring Illinois through his runs for governor and his recall contest and his short-lived presidential bid.
The 2016 contenders need to devote some attention to Illinois now, even though the primary is not until next March — after the voting in the early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
That’s because the window in Illinois to circulate nominating petitions for delegates to the nominating convention opens up on Oct. 8.
Kasich was scheduled to arrive in Chicago on Monday night, to huddle with party leaders and GOP elected officials.
On Tuesday, the Chicago press corps will get their first look at Kasich as a presidential contender when he visits the Portillo’s at 100 W. Ontario St., for an event billed as a “meet and greet.”
Later, Kasich has his first big Chicago fundraiser, where former Quaker Oats CEO Bill Smithburg is one of the hosts. The event at the Union League Club, 65 W. Jackson Blvd. has price points ranging from $10,000 to raise to host to $1,000 to attend. A photo op with Kasich comes with a $2,700 contribution.
In Illinois, GOP veteran Nancy Kimme, the former chief of staff for the late Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, is running the Kasich delegate recruitment drive. Pam Kinsey, who was the finance director for Gov. Bruce Rauner’s 2014 campaign, is handling money raising in Illinois for Kasich.
Walker “had a lot of strength in Illinois,” Kimme told me. “So with his exit, I think a lot of people are looking at John Kasich.”
Carson, the retired neurosurgeon, was in Chicago in June, appearing at an event hosted by Pastor Corey Brooks’ New Beginnings Church on the South Side.
However, there are no hosts listed for Carson’s fundraising luncheon Thursday at Trattoria No. 10, at 10 N. Dearborn St. The price ranges from $1,000 to $2,700 to attend.
The Bush Illinois team is expected to tap former Illinois House Minority Leader Rep. Tom Cross, R-Oswego, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., and former Gov. Jim Edgar as co-chairs.
Cross told me they reached out and converted some Walker folks to become Bush delegates.
Bush returns to Chicago on Oct. 8 and 9 for high-dollar fundraisers hosted by Janet and Gerard Keating in Geneva and a breakfast Friday morning at the Chicago Club, 81 E. Van Buren St.
I’m told a Donald Trump political operative just starting making Illinois calls. Even if Trump eventually bankrolls an Illinois operation — he is behind in getting a slate together. And he needs to get all his petitions done right. His rivals will go to lengths to knock him off the Illinois ballot.