Although he’s only officially in the “exploratory committee” stage, Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias has already raised $1.1 million in 28 short days since he announced he was “exploring” a run for U.S. Senate.
He is eyeing the seat formerly held by his friend and basketball court partner, President Obama, that was filled recently by disgraced former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich with Roland Burris.
“It’s actually unbelievable on two counts: The sum of $1.1 million, in and of itself, is unbelievable, but the fact that it’s in the worst political fund-raising environment that, I think, any of us have ever seen, makes it all the more extraordinary and impressive,” said political activist and fund-raiser Michael Bauer, during an interview with the Chicago Sun Times.
The Washington Post reported a week ago that political donations are down 26 percent across the board from two years ago, presumably because of the economic downturn. Giannoulias supporters said this big a haul — with no Giannoulias personal or family loans, PAC or corporate money — in the 28 days before the March 31 quarterly reporting deadline appears to be a record.
Giannoulias had hoped to raise half a million dollars after announcing his exploratory bid on March 3 to make him appear the prohibitive favorite in next year’s Democratic primary for the seat. The amount of contributions surpassed his expectations, he said.
“We were thrilled and flattered by the outpouring of support that we’ve received over the last 3 1/2 weeks, and I think it’s evidence that people are hungry for fresh leadership and new ideas in Washington, D.C.,” Giannoulias told the Sun Times.
Giannoulias got to know Obama on the University of Chicago basketball court while Obama was teaching law and Giannoulias, part of the family that owns Chicago’s Broadway Bank, was studying for his MBA.
The Senate seat is currently held by former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris, controversial because he accepted the appointment from then-criminally charged, now-indicted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Burris at first said he had not lobbied Blagojevich aides for the seat but then said he had. Its unclear whether Burris will run in the primary.
Chicago mayor Richard Daley’s brother William Daley and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky have floated their names for the seat but have not mounted campaigns yet, nor started raising money. On the Republican side, U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk is considered a potential candidate.
(Adapted from The Chicago Sun Times and The Washington Post)