State Rep. Calvin Giles has been a man under fire recently. Some of it by his own doing and much of it, he said, the result of political mudslinging at his expense. Giles’ problems with the Illinois State Board of Elections concerning unpaid fines for his late filing of campaign finance reports caused stinging criticism from various circles, namely his opponent in next week’s March 21 primary, LaShawn Ford.
Giles settled the fines with the state in January. The six-term state legislator running for reelection in the 8th district, which includes Austin, is now focusing on the future.
“I knew I didn’t owe that type of fines,” said Giles referring to his nearly four-year battle with state election regulators. “I knew all along that the accusations and the amount of the fine were enormous.”
Those fines topped $144,000 last year. Giles said the problems stemmed from campaign workers and volunteers filing the paperwork late, and also the turnover of volunteers unfamiliar with the filing process.
Critics don’t buy his reason, arguing that it’s the candidate’s responsibility to comply with state election laws – not campaign volunteers. But Giles said his critics wouldn’t be satisfied with any reason he gives. He said a great deal of the attacks were politically motivated but won’t say from whom. Giles said he just wanted to be treated fairly.
“I just wanted the state board of elections to treat me like they’ve treated the governor, the secretary of state; just like they’ve treated every office holder that have had fines,” he said. “My thing was, let’s be realistic – what do I owe; I’ll pay it and let’s move on.”
Political and family ties
Giles, nephew of former Chicago Ald. Percy Giles, who was convicted in 2000 on federal corruption charges, is rather low-key as far as Illinois politicians go. He admittedly avoids the spotlight ?” another extremely odd move for a Springfield legislator, particularly with the backdrop of ‘in-your-face’ Chicago politics looming so large in the state.
Giles wants to let his record speak for itself. He is chair of the House Committee on Primary and Secondary Education. In his next term, he wants to work with every elementary and high school in the district one on one, finding out what each school needs individually and providing resources accordingly, he said.
His critics, again, will ask, ‘why did it take 12 years to finally take this initiative on?’ Giles notes that the Democrats have been in the minority for most of his tenure, causing a great deal of his and other members’ legislation to stall or die in Springfield. Now that the Democrats are in charge, the party can get some of its legislation off the ground, Giles said.
But he acknowledges that his low-key style can be a problem.
“I don’t like the hoopla involved in politics – I never have,” said Giles, an Austin native.
“I don’t believe in putting on a front. I grew up in [politics] practically, but I never embraced the ‘politics’ side of it.”
Giles, though, is aware of the type of charisma needed to hold elected office.
“I’m aware of that,” he admitted. “When that comes to my door I know how to deal with that and I embrace it.”
Even Giles’ supporters have urged him to get out more.
“One thing I do need to do – and everyday [people] around me beat me up about this-I do need to let people know what I’m doing,”
That inability has given him the label as a ‘do-nothing’ politician. But political watchers can’t deny his elect-ability. Voters have sent Giles back to the Illinois House in five previous elections. He thinks his continued re-election is partly because of his unique style.
“You hear people say,’Well, he don’t do anything.’ No, we’re doing something; [I] just need to talk about it,” Giles said. “You don’t get 12 years in Springfield if you have not worked. You just don’t get there and all of a sudden luckily you’re there for 12 years. You’ve had to do something.”
Giles, 44, is the eldest of five children born to Betty and Louis Carter. He attended Resurrection Grammar School and Holy Trinity High School. At Northeastern Illinois University, he received a B.A. in Management and Finance.
Married and the father of one daughter, Giles’ involvement in politics began much earlier than shadowing his famous uncle. His first entry into politics was as a volunteer for Harold Washington’s mayoral campaign in 1983.
Giles worked on the campaign while still in college, continuing on with his graduation and eventually through to Washington’s victory as the city’s first black mayor.
Giles has served since 1993, but he thinks some simply viewed him as a ‘machine candidate,’ because of his family ties.
The criticism, mainly from the media, he said, caused him to distance himself. Even if relations were better with the media, he still wouldn’t make a big fuss about his accomplishments as some of his colleagues might.
“I’m from here, I don’t have to boast,” he says defiantly. “I know the type of person who will call in the [press] and say, ‘look guys, this is what I’m doing, and you need to write about it.’ I’m not that type of individual.”
Giles is critical of some elected leaders who are hounds for publicity, but accomplish little else.
“You need tree shakers but at some point you have to do something. You have to have some substance,” he said. “Today, you have people who want to use the same tactics and in some cases it may work. “In my opinion, I get tired of seeing those people using those tactics, and got our folk out there with those picket signs. But after the rally is over those people with the signs go back to their homes and their gas is still cut off. They put the picket signs on the table and they don’t have food in the refrigerator.”
Giles, though, has been hit hard in the media and by Ford, who is challenging Giles for a third time.
Giles has not responded to many attacks directly from Ford, but he does question his opponent’s repeated challenges.
“When you continue to run against an individual it looks like you’re running for a position, not because you think you can make difference,” said Giles. “I run for reelection because I still believe that I got something to contribute to the process.”
-Elementary and Secondary Education, Chair
-Tourism and Conventions
-President, 37th Ward Regular Democratic
-Young Democrats of Illinois.
-Child Violence Prevention
legislative achievements as co-sponsor
-$1 million in funding for Austin Wellness Center,
4800 W. Chicago Ave.
-$2.9 million in funding for Westside Holistic Family Services
-75,000 for the Village of Riverside
?”courtesy of vote-smart.org
and the Giles campaign