Debbie Halvorson


My last Ottawa Delivered column of 2010:

It’s been a great year to be a political reporter. Whether it was the Capitol Hill wars, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s corruption trial or any of many interesting election battles, 2010 was notable in the political realm.

By contrast, it was a relatively quiet year on the La Salle County Board front, though the county certainly had its share of notability in 2010. For example, there was the swift rise and fall of the forest preserve; more administrative changes at the nursing home; controversial pay raises; and the dispute centering on the county’s now-former software vendor, Sikich.

Illinois politics created quite a range of news, from our state’s Blagojevich baggage to the close, contentious race between his successor, Gov. Pat Quinn and state Sen. Bill Brady, to the free-for-all to replace Richard M. Daley as Chicago mayor. State politics provided a couple memorable moments locally, namely Sue Rezin’s victory over state Rep. Careen Gordon and the surprise resignation of state Sen. Gary Dahl, which resulted in Rezin being named to Dahl’s seat.

The political story of 2010 that is most memorable to me is the 11th Congressional District race that saw challenger Adam Kinzinger defeat incumbent U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson by a runaway margin. Covering the race extensively made it memorable, to be sure, but so did the ramifications of the race. The GOP is clearly grooming Kinzinger for bigger things, giving him some plum assignments for a freshman legislator. It will be interesting to watch what happens to his political career.

Kinzinger will be only one of 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, but he’ll be weighing in on matters of national importance – and when it comes to national politics, these are interesting times. The year began with President Obama riding high and pushing his agenda forward, only to be slapped back at the polls in November, and ending with Obama’s apparent comeback via compromise with Republican leaders.

Still, it’s too early to tell if Obama’s supposed comeback is indeed that. I suspect it’s more complicated than it seems, but if the president continues his path down the political middle, then he likely is doing himself a favor looking ahead to 2012. Either way, you can safely bet that 2011 will be another year when it’s worth paying attention to politics.

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My column from this week’s issue of Ottawa Delivered:

Now that Labor Day has passed, the election season is kicking into high gear.

There’s no better time to be a political reporter – especially when there is a tight race to be covered, such as the 11th Congressional District battle between U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-Crete) and challenger Adam Kinzinger (R-Manteno). And when it comes to pleasing readers, there is no worse time to be a political reporter.

To paraphrase Charles Dickens, it is the best of times and the worst of times.

The goal of any political reporter, including this one, is to give fair and balanced coverage to the candidates and the issues. Unfortunately, there are people I like to call Pavlov’s Politicos: They love any media story about their preferred candidate, and they call anything other than that biased reporting.

Case in point: Last week I covered a Halvorson campaign stop in Ottawa. As we do with all our articles, I posted a link to the story on Facebook. That’s where a Marseilles man suggested – tongue-in-cheek, I hope – I must be receiving monetary contributions from the congresswoman because I write “fluff” stories about her. I checked out his Facebook “likes,” which include Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, FOX News, the National Tea Party and nothing that appears to be remotely associated with Democrats.

So it follows suit that the commenter doesn’t like Halvorson. And apparently, because I covered a Halvorson event in the course of doing my job, he doesn’t like me, either. Or perhaps he just doesn’t like my writing. Doesn’t matter, really. I just wonder if, when he reads my coverage of a Kinzinger event, he feels the same way about my article.

I’m not mentioning the man’s political leanings to insinuate anything about Republicans. I mention them because a few days later, I received an e-mail message from somebody I know regularly attends meetings of the Bureau-La Salle Tea Party complimenting last week’s issue of Ottawa Delivered. Noting the spread of political stories in the issue, which included my Focus story about local political campaign volunteers and an in-depth interview with Halvorson, the e-mailer said the “good objective articles” were providing “a fine public service” to readers.

Apparently he wasn’t offended by the Halvorson article in the newspaper. Which brings me to my greater point: We don’t pander to any politicians here at Ottawa Delivered, and while I don’t expect to please everyone, I hope that readers will respect our attempt at providing them with views from all sides of the political arena: Democrat, Republican, tea party, independent, etc.

When our newspaper received compliments about its political coverage from a tea party member, a staunch Republican and a couple of union members all within a week’s time, I knew we must be doing it right. And I hope you agree. Because even if you don’t agree with the views expressed by the people being covered in a particular article, I hope you’ll at least respect the way we reported them.