Saturday, October 15, 2005

Mr. Senator: A Tribute to the Political Enigma That is Rick Winkel

State Sen. Rick Winkel's announced retirement rose eyebrows and headlines across the state. Not yet 50, he has served four terms in the House and one in the Senate. Winkel's affable demeanor belies his political pugilism. A political neophyte, having served two years on the Champaign County Board, his 1994 win-an upset of incumbent Laurel Prussing-was one of victories that helped the Republicans take by the House. In 1996, he staved off a little known Democrat who campaigned doggedly but who failed to acquire party backing. Her name: Naomi Jakobsson. In 2000, he defeated Urbana mayor Tod Satterthwaite-son of former state legislator Helen Satterthwaite. In the 2002 primary, Winkel unseated incumbent Judith Myers-who may run to reclaim her office-and won a narrow victory over Champaign mayor Dan McCollum in November.

Winkel's peculiar brand of Republicanism has earned him antagonists and helped him keep his seat. A protege of dearly departed local GOP icon Stan Weaver, his voting record is far different from that of his mentor. Last spring, Winkel helped formulate an alternative to S. B. 755(aka the "tax swap) that was intended to be more palatable to his GOP colleagues. (The bill itself was tabled.) He has supported campaign finance reform and voted in favor of the issue of the much maligned pension bonds. However, Winkel is a staunch social conservative and, in a departure from his usually quiet countenace, vocally denounced the narrowly defeated stem cell research proposal. (The good senator rarely takes to the floor.)

Senator Winkel, we salute you, sir. Regardless of one's political stripe, one has to admire Winkel for the perseverant pugnacity that has enabled him to keep seats in "swing districts" in Republican hands for the past ten years.


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