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Politics
AP
Election 2020
Trump, Biden make their cases
  • Updated

WARM SPRINGS, Ga. — Joe Biden traveled Tuesday to the hot springs town where Franklin Delano Roosevelt coped with polio to declare the U.S. is not too politically diseased to overcome its health and economic crises, pledging to be the unifying force who can "restore our soul and save this country."

The Democratic presidential nominee offered his closing argument with Election Day just one week away while attempting to go on the political offensive in Georgia, which hasn't backed a Democrat for the White House since 1992. He promised to be a president for all Americans regardless of party, even as he said that "anger and suspicion is growing and our wounds are getting deeper."

"Has the heart of this nation turned to stone? I don't think so," Biden said. "I refuse to believe it."

While Biden worked to expand the electoral map in the South, President Donald Trump focused on the Democrats' "blue wall" states that he flipped in 2016 — Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — and maintained a far busier travel schedule taking him to much more of the country.

At a cold, rain-soaked rally in the Michigan capital of Lansing, Trump said Biden supported the North American Free Trade Agreement and China's entry into the World Trade Organization, both of which he said hurt the auto industry and other manufacturing in the state.

"This election is a matter of economic survival for Michigan," the president said, arguing that the state's economy was strong before the coronavirus pandemic hit. "Look what I've done."

Trump also cheered Senate candidate John James — who may ultimately have a better chance of winning the state than the president — while attacking Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for moving aggressively to shut down much of the state's economy to slow the virus' spread. He even seemed to cast doubt on federal authorities breaking up what they said was a plot to kidnap her, which Whitmer has argued Trump's "violent rhetoric" helped spark.

"It was our people that helped her out with her problem. And we'll have to see if it's a problem. Right?" Trump said. "People are entitled to say 'maybe it was a problem. Maybe it wasn't.'"

Biden went after his election rival, accusing Trump anew of bungling the federal response to the pandemic that has seen new cases surging in many areas, and failing to manage the economic fallout or combat institutional racism and police brutality that have sparked widespread demonstrations.

"The tragic truth of our time is that COVID has left a deep and lasting wound in this country," Biden said, scoffing at Trump's pronouncements that the nation is turning a corner on the virus. He charged that the president has "shrugged. He's swaggered. And he's surrendered."

Venturing into Georgia was a sign of confidence by the Biden team, which is trying to stretch the electoral map and open up more paths to the needed 270 Electoral College votes. The former vice president plans to travel to Iowa, which Trump took by 10 points in 2016, later in the week. His running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, is hitting Arizona and deep red Texas.

Besides Lansing, Trump traveled to West Salem, Wisconsin. First lady Melania Trump was on the road, too, making her first solo campaign trip of the year in Pennsylvania. Vice President Mike Pence was in South Carolina, maintaining his campaign schedule despite several close aides testing positive for the coronavirus last weekend. There, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham is in a potentially tight reelection race.

Hillary Clinton flirted with GOP territory in 2016, only to lose traditional Democratic Midwestern strongholds. But a top Biden adviser rejected the notion that the campaign is spreading itself too thin, noting that the former vice president's visit follows weeks of paid advertising in Georgia and visits by Harris and the candidate's wife, Jill Biden.

In the coming days, Biden will also visit Wisconsin, Michigan and Florida, where former President Barack Obama gave a speech in Orlando on Tuesday, blistering Trump with the theory that he was only worrying about the virus because it was dominating news coverage.

"He's jealous of COVID's media coverage," Obama said. "If he had been focused on COVID from the beginning, cases wouldn't be reaching new record highs across the country this week."

Trump expressed his displeasure that Fox News carried his Democratic predecessor's speech live, complaining to reporters about it and tweeting the network was "playing Obama's no crowd, fake speech for Biden."

The president also visited Omaha, Nebraska, after a Sunday stop in Maine. That anticipates a razor-thin Electoral College margin since both areas offer one electoral vote by congressional district.

While Biden rarely travels to more than one state per day, the Republican president has maintained a whirlwind schedule, focusing on his argument that he built a booming economy before the coronavirus pandemic upended it. Trump is planning a dizzying 11 rallies in the final 48 hours before polls close.


Matt Burger (left) and Lucinda Stafford, both of Carbondale, drop off their ballots at the drop box outside of the Jackson County Courthouse on Tuesday, Oct. 27 in Murphysboro. 


Govt-and-politics
editor's pick top story
Election 2020
Perry County voters to decide 3 county races
  • Updated

Perry County voters will see three contested county races on their General Election ballots.

All of the candidates mentioned the county budget as one of the top issues in Perry County. In early 2019, the county board faced a budget deficit of $1.3 million dollars. After hiring a consultant, raising fees and making deep cuts, the county was able to pass a budget with a gap of only $17,000. This year, the county is working with a balanced budget.

Incumbent State’s Attorney David H. Searby Jr., a Republican, will face Democratic challenger Bubba Harsy.

Searby, of Du Quoin, has served as state’s attorney for four years. Prior to taking office, he served as assistant state’s attorney and Emergency Management Agency director for Perry County. He also had a private law practice. He is a graduate of MacMurray College and Southern Illinois University School of Law.

Searby said budget issues are still on everyone’s minds in Perry County. “We have to operate within our budget,” he said.

Another ongoing problem that Searby has faced as state’s attorney is drug use.

“I’m proud of the Perry-Washington Drug Court, a program I designed to keep people out of prison,” he said.

Searby calls the drug court a “really good” success story. The program offers rehab to first-time offenders instead of prison. After completing rehab, offenders are required to complete a period of probation.

Harsy, of Du Quoin, is an assistant in the Coles County State’s Attorney’s Office in Charleston, where he is the county’s representative for drug court. He is home every weekend and for holidays. He is a graduate of SIU and received his law degree from American University in Washington, D.C.

Harsy said the county faces an issue with drug use, but its biggest issue is in the way laws are applied. “I feel like now in Perry County the laws are not being applied justly, and that’s something we need,” he said.

Harsy hopes to bring objective fundamentals of law to the county and apply them to everyone, he said.

In the race for County Clerk, Democratic incumbent Beth Lipe faces Republican challenger John Batteau.

Lipe, of Pinckneyville, was an administrative assistant in the Perry County Highway Department. She received training through Illinois Department of Transportation. She was appointed county clerk in 2019 to finish the term of Josh Gross, who took the position of director of Du Quoin State Fair.

Currently, Lipe said the big issue in her office is the upcoming election. The changes in voting due to COVID-19 have added to the workload in the clerk’s office.

Another big issue is the county budget. Lipe’s office, like other county offices, have cut the cost of operating the county clerk’s office. “I’m proud of the fact that I have reduced the budget for the clerk and recorder’s office, but I didn’t reduce services,” Lipe said.

Lipe also upgraded the system for recording deeds, she said, so they can now be entered online, which has kept people from having to come into the office during the pandemic. She also has kept staff to a minimum.

She has extended voting hours on Tuesday and Thursday to 7 p.m. and every other Saturday.

“People live here but don’t work here. If they get off work at 5 p.m., they can’t get here. Everybody has the right to vote, so we have to do everything possible to make that happen,” Lipe said.

Batteau served as supervisor of assessments from 2008 until his retirement in 2016. He also is retired from Illinois Central Railroad and worked for Illinois Department of Corrections. He ran for county commissioner in 2016 but was not elected.

"The county clerk’s office is the threshold to county government. I think I have a lot of experience and still have something to contribute,” Batteau said.

He is concerned about the budget and believes he has experience to help solve some of the budget problems.

He would adopt a more professional attitude in the office and more cross-training of employees, saying that would give residents “more bang for your buck.”

The first thing he would do if elected is to make sure there is a smooth transition.

“I don’t plan to make changes immediately. I want to get familiar with the office,” Batteau said.

In the county commissioner race, incumbent Susan Hepp, a Democrat, will face Republican challenger Bruce Morgenstern.

Hepp, of Pinckneyville, served as Deputy Treasurer from 2005 to 2014, a position her mother held 45 years ago. She said the fundamentals of a balanced budget and low property taxes are instilled deep within her. She works for Illinois Department of Corrections, where she is currently an advanced accountant at Big Muddy River Correctional Center in Ina.

Hepp was appointed to the board in June 2019 to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Jim Epplin.

She said the county board is no place for partisan politics. During her short tenure on the board, Hepp has worked with commissioners Bobby Kelly and Dallas Bigham to create a county budget that does not require the county to borrow money. They have accomplished that without raising property taxes. At the same time, they have increased the public safety budget.

Morgenstern, of Pinckneyville, is officially retired. He and his wife managed and were part owners of Pheasant Hollow Winery. He has an associate's degree in agriculture mechanics and a bachelor’s degree in horticulture from SIU College of Agriculture.

He has served on several boards, including the board of Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association. Morgenstern calls IGGVA a “quasi-government” entity that operates on government funds.

He said there is one principle to budgets — don’t spend more than you bring in.

He knows Perry County did not get into budget problems overnight and the budget cannot be fixed overnight. He said the board has to be smarter as they go along.

Election Day is Nov. 3.


Updated

State-and-regional
breaking top story
Chicago is 7th of 11 Illinois regions to trigger increased mitigations
  • Updated

SPRINGFIELD — Starting Friday, Chicago will be the seventh of 11 regions of the state’s COVID-19 mitigation plan due for increased economic restrictions, including the closure of bars and restaurants for indoor service.

Two other regions are above the 8% positivity rate threshold that, if sustained for three days, would subject them to the same mitigations, and the other two non-mitigated regions are quickly nearing the threshold as well.

“Region 11 (Chicago) is now averaging more than twice as many COVID-related hospital admissions per day as it was a month ago, with a positivity rate that has almost doubled since the beginning of October,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a news release. “We can’t ignore what is happening around us — because without action, this could look worse than anything we saw in the spring.”

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 continue to increase across the state. As of Monday night, the state reported 2,758 people in Illinois were hospitalized with COVID-19, including 595 in intensive care unit beds and 241 on ventilators. Those numbers were once again new highs since early to mid-June.

“Based on current trends, we soon could face reduced hospital bed availability and overwhelming our health care systems,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a news release. “Please, for our health care workers, yourself, and your community, keep distance between you and others, wash your hands, and always wear a mask when around people.”

IDPH reported another 46 virus-related deaths Tuesday, bringing the total death toll since the pandemic began to 9,568. The 4,000 cases reported Tuesday were among 62,074 test results reported, making for a one-day positivity rate of 6.4%.

The statewide COVID-19 rolling positivity rate increased to 6.4% Tuesday, the highest it has been since June 2.

The statewide rate is generally lower than regional rates because it is calculated on a case positivity rate basis — meaning any positive case is counted only after the first time the individual tests positive, not after subsequent positive tests. IDPH calculates the county and regional rates with a test positivity rate — meaning every time an individual tests positive their case shows up as a positive result in regard to countywide positivity rates.

“Case positivity and test positivity rates have different purposes and are both relevant to help us understand the whole COVID picture,” a spokesperson for IDPH said in an email. “Case positivity helps us understand whether changes in the number of confirmed cases is due to more testing or due to more infections. Whereas, test positivity rate account for repeated testing and helps us understand how the virus is spreading in the population over time.”

Ezike said the hospitalization and death toll increases have followed weeks of rising positivity rates.

“People want to poke holes in the stats,” she said at a news conference in the Chicago suburb of Hazel Crest Tuesday. “You can't deny people in the hospital with COVID; you can't deny people who have died with it.”

“So all of these metrics are moving in the same direction,” she added, “which really validates that this test positivity really does give you that inkling and the fact that the test positivity goes up, it's followed by cases going up, followed by hospitalizations going up, followed by death and that's the trend, the trajectory, that we need to turn around.”

Chicago, which makes up Region 11, had a test positivity rate of 7.8%, according to the latest data, but it also saw increases in positivity rates and hospitalizations for at least seven of 10 days, which triggered the added mitigations.

Per the mitigation measures, meetings, social events and gatherings both indoor and outdoor will be capped at the lesser of 25 guests or 25% of overall room capacity for those under Tier 1 of the mitigation plan, while casinos will close at 11 p.m. and be capped at 25% of capacity. Party buses will not be allowed to operate.

Currently, Regions 5 in Southern Illinois, 1 in northwest Illinois, and 7 and 8 in Will, Kankakee, Kane and DuPage counties are all under increased mitigations, with suburban Cook County and the Metro East on the Missouri border joining them starting Wednesday.

Region 3, which includes Springfield and several surrounding counties, increased to an 8% positivity rate, according to the latest data, and Region 9, including north suburban Lake and McHenry counties, increased to 8.4% — the second day above the threshold that would lead to increased mitigations for that region.

Region 2, including Peoria and several surrounding counties, had a positivity rate of 7.5% and Region 6 in east central Illinois had a rate of 7.9%.

This information will be updated daily with the latest numbers from local health departments in Southern Illinois. The numbers reflect new lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases reported in the last day, total cases, new COVID-19 deaths reported in the last day, total COVID-19 deaths, and recoveries. Some health departments don't report numbers on weekends or holidays.

CountyNew CasesTotal CasesNew DeathsTotal DeathsRecovered
Alexander2261123
Franklin281891022899
Gallatin120202113
Hamilton3404278
Hardin114056
Jackson1924581322016
Jefferson1675471432
Johnson6441350
Massac4102149
Perry90818649
Pope63135
Pulaski3452228
Randolph1974261707
Saline91120024465
Union103921619
Williamson4332590741662
White1257009242