By Hannah Meisel
* WCIA’s Mark Maxwell filed an interesting story last night, in which he caught Democratic state rep candidate Dillon Clark of Litchfield embellishing his record as a volunteer firefighter. Clark, 26, is challenging Avery Bourne (R-Raymond), also 26.
The story focuses on Clark’s campaign ad, which I cannot find (his other two campaign ads on his website are “unlisted,” an interesting YouTube feature, by the way) *update* click here for the video hosted on Facebook — but footage of the ad in Maxwell’s story shows repeated shots of the Litchfield Fire Department interposed with shots of Clark standing both next to a fire truck and in the driver’s seat.
“As a volunteer fireman, I watched as the budget crisis tore apart our small towns,” Clark says in a narrated video, which shows him climbing into a Litchfield Fire Department Truck, wearing the Chief’s hat, and sitting in the driver’s seat of the fire engine.
However, Clark never served as a volunteer firefighter for Litchfield, or any other fire department in Illinois.
When asked about his campaign costume, Clark confessed that while he wore the chief’s helmet, “I am not a fire chief. The chief let me wear his helmet on that day. But I was a volunteer fire man back in the day and I really enjoyed that. It taught me a lot.”
Clark stated that his stint as a volunteer fireman in Bolivar, Missouri, lasted “one point two years.” Asked to clarify what exactly that meant, he repeated, “One point two years,” which apparently was intended to mean something between 14 and 15 months.
However, the fire chief at the Bolivar Department disputed Clark’s claim, writing in an email that their records show Clark was only on the volunteer roster for seven weeks in the fall of 2010, “during which time he attended one training event and responded to one emergency incident.”
* Clark did not like the WCIA story, and alleged on Twitter overnight that it wasn’t factual.
I can’t see the Facebook statement, but here’s a screen grab:
* Meanwhile… (*update* Clark unblocked Maxwell in late morning)
* Another tidbit from Maxwell’s story that didn’t make it to air…
Reporter: Would you vote for Speaker Madigan to retain his title as House Speaker?
Clark: I will say this: I do not care who is the head of Chicago, who is in Chicago, who is the head of Springfield or anything like that.
Reporter: But you’re running to be a House Democrat.
Reporter: As a House Democrat, you get a vote. Would you vote for or against Speaker Madigan to remain Speaker?
Clark: Again, I just want to represent my district. I am solely going to represent my district. I don’t care who’s in charge.
Reporter: But why dodge that question?
Clark: Again, I just want to represent my district.
*** UPDATE 1 ***
* Statement from Avery Bourne…
“Our volunteer firefighters sacrifice so much to serve our communities. It is shameful for my opponent to lie about his experience as a volunteer firefighter for political gain. He should take down the false campaign ad, give us the whole truth, and apologize to our first responders and their families.”
*** UPDATE 2 ***
* Statement from ILGOP Executive Director Andrew Collins…
“Dillon Clark will need to attend more than one training to put this big fire out. Clark shamefully exaggerated his time served as a volunteer firefighter for political gain, doubled down on his false claims, and then blocked a reporter on Twitter who called him out for it. To make matters worse, Clark disagreed with a Missouri fire chief’s assessment of his time served in college. What else is Dillon Clark not telling us?”
*** UPDATE 3 ***
* Earlier this morning I called Clark to ask where he got the “150+ present votes” number he claims about Bourne in his statement. Here’s what he told me late morning:
Our team gathered this information from Ilga.gov by looking through Bourne’s Rauner inspired tenure.
* Also, looks like Clark unblocked Maxwell on Twitter, but also unearthed the fact that Clark was on the Rauner campaign payroll in 2014.
Mark was kind enough to point me toward the Board of Elections website, which indicates Dillon was paid a total of $5,833.33 for “grassroots consulting” and “field consulting” for Citizens for Rauner Inc. between July and November of 2014.
A 2014 campaign source told me that both Clark and Bourne were paid walkers for Rauner.
*** UPDATE 4 ***
* Sen. Andy Manar, who is supporting Clark and even has a campaign event scheduled with him (and Betsy Londrigan) for Monday, told me today that Clark is “one of the hardest working candidates I’ve ever seen.”
“He won incredibly challenging county board race in 2016 in Montgomery County because of hard work and connecting with voters,” Manar said. “[The ad] maybe perhaps insinuated something that wasn’t the case but the fact is he was a volunteer firefighter, and because he lives in a small community he has seen the devastation of Rauner’s cuts. He’s doing one heck of a job knocking on doors. If he were to ask me for advice, I would encourage him to continue to do that.”
*** UPDATE 5 ***
* Clark provided this statement mid-afternoon, and also called me to confirm that yes, he had worked for the Rauner campaign, but had quit in September of 2014 due to Rauner’s position on public employee unions…
As I was just getting into politics, a local state representative I was interning for encouraged me to join the Rauner campaign. He said it would provide me with solid work experience and be a great way to figure out whether I wanted to keep working in politics. I worked on his campaign through September, when I finally decided he wasn’t someone I could continue to support. We disagreed on a lot, but it was his attacks on union workers that drove me to leave his campaign and his new brand of Illinois Republican Party. Families like my granddad’s depended on hard work and a union wage to get by, and here, in one of the most union-member-filled districts in Illinois, Bruce Rauner and Avery Bourne’s anti-union agenda has been awful on our district.
In response I joined the Democratic party and worked hard every day, knocking door after door to defeat the Republican Vice Chairman of the Montgomery County Board.
Today, I’m running just as hard to be State Representative in the 95th, because representing people here needs to be about making sure hard workers have jobs and the money to provide for their families, not about which Chicago millionaire is backing you.