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Watson trip defended, hit

Tuesday, Dec 19, 2006

My weekly syndicated newspaper column is about an unpublicized European trip taken by Senate GOP Leader Frank Watson a few weeks before the election.

After losing five state Senate seats and ending up on the wrong end of a veto-proof majority, there’s bound to be a lot of second guessing and finger pointing. But Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson probably did himself no favors by going to Europe for 10 days just a month before the November election.

Watson’s spokesperson, Patti Schuh, did her level best to tamp down this story last week, and she made a few good points. Watson, she stressed, called in every day from Europe to check up on things, much as he would have done if he had been in his Decatur or Greenville district offices. “He was in constant communication by telephone, by e-mail.”

Watson was reportedly at an NCSL conference in Italy with Sen. Steve Rauschenberger in October.

Some lobbyists and former staff members have been quietly grumbling about the trip since they first heard about it, but most of them have conceded it probably didn’t make a lot of difference in the election’s outcome.

That’s an important point, by the way. Still….

I’ve talked to some of Watson’s members who are just furious about his trip. What bothers them the most is that they and their volunteers were in some of the more hotly contested districts walking precincts and doing other work while Watson was in Europe. Important meetings or not, a legislative leader’s top job — perhaps his only job — during campaign season is making sure his caucus does well at the polls.

So even if he ran all his traps before he left and checked in every day, Watson nevertheless left the field of battle, and that fact has most definitely rankled some of his members. If he was in one of his downstate offices and crisis struck, he could have been in Springfield or in the district in question within a few hours at most. He couldn’t have done that from Europe.

I kinda bet he won’t do that again.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Squideshi - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 9:24 am:

    Fine by me. I think our politicals could use a little more exposure to the global community.

  2. - Snark - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 9:53 am:

    Something jumped out at me in the article. His spokeswoman says that he was in constant contact just as if he were in his district offices in Greenville or Decatur. Wouldn’t the district offices be state property, (i.e. campaigning using state resources), isn’t he better off making those calls about campaign related activities from Europe than from his district offices?

  3. - moderate - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 9:55 am:

    Illinois Republicans won’t vote him out either, there ok with loosing and mediocrity. This represents everything that is just pitiful about this party right now.

  4. - Whatsthedif - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 10:22 am:

    Why does this surprise anyone when the Senate Chief of Staff Brian McFadden runs the Topinka race in lieu of protecting senate seats. It was obvious before the election the senate republicans already conceeded.

  5. - Snark - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 10:25 am:

    Maybe they were trying to ruin Topinka’s chances too.

  6. - Cassandra - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 10:31 am:

    Watson’s function in the Republican party seems to be one of responding not very intelligently to various initiatives put forth by the Dems in the Legislature. In a sense, he works for the Dems more than the Republicans. What if the Dems put forward something and there were no opponent to respond.It’s no fun to be in politics without an opponent.

    And since Watson never, ever has anything intelligent or even interesting to say, and he is totally predictable, the Dems are happy to have him there and they throw him a bone now and then.

    Useless as he is, it doesn’t matter where in the world he goes and whether he is in touch with his office or not…except to the Dems, I guess.

  7. - Anani Mouse - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 10:45 am:

    Will these Italian stories again fuel speculation/rumors of a challenge to Sen. Watson’s leadership?

  8. - cermak_rd - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 11:03 am:

    What exactly was Watson supposed to do if he was there? I don’t think any of the incumbent GOPers in the State Senate were embroiled in any fantastic scandals or anything that he would have had to put the fire out on. They simply got beat on a lot of little things. Whether he was in Europe or at his office, I don’t see the outcome differing.

  9. - scoot - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 12:40 pm:

    A lil disappointing from Watson…especially after he flips out over the littlest things. Maybe it’s time for Dilliard to take over.

  10. - DuPage progressive - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 1:58 pm:

    What the heck was NCSL thinking when they scheduled that boondoggle.
    I’m guessing Watson is not the only state legislator in deep doo-doo over this.
    Bonehead move on their part.

    Poor Frank was just trying to brush up on his legislative know-how…

  11. - anon #1 - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 2:39 pm:

    WOW, a 10 day conference! I didn’t know conferences could last that long.

  12. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 3:04 pm:

    Take a look at the results in November. Does anyone think they did a good job? Would anyone like to see a better result? It is time for heads to roll.

    You shouldn’t crash and burn like this without consequences. It is completely unacceptable.

  13. - BIG R.PH. - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 3:26 pm:

    Once again, proof that there is a serious lack of leadership at the top. Judy’s defeat was only the first step. Now it is time to move down the ticket & let the young guns take over.

  14. - tough guy - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 5:42 pm:

    I have no problem with the Greenville Grinch being out of the country. Being the great strategist he is, they probably would have lost five more seats!!

  15. - 'Lainer - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 7:04 pm:

    Does NCSL stand for National Conference of State Legislators? If so, why were they having a conference in Italy, of all places, right before an important election?

  16. - Squideshi - Tuesday, Dec 19, 06 @ 11:51 pm:

    Do State Legislators receive any taxpayer funding to attend business-realted trips like NCSL meetings? If so, why 10 days in Italy? Maybe this came out of their campaign funds? Hmmm…

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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