NY Times hammers the Callis working class 'narrative'

By David Yates | Apr 10, 2014

Former Madison County judge Ann Callis is "narrative challenged" in her bid for Congress, according to a recent missive by New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich.

In the April 8 article “How Not to Seem Rich While Running for Office,” Leibovich wrote that the judge-turned-Congressional candidate doesn't know financial hardship, which could be a problem as she campaigns on the plight of the middle class.

Callis, a Democrat, stepped down from a 19-year career on the bench last year to make a bid for the 13th Congressional District. In the March primary she easily defeated challengers George Gollin and David Green, both of Champaign, allowing her to go on to face Republican incumbent Rodney Davis of Taylorville in the November general election.

“Her privileged background does not make for the onerous, up-from-nothing story that every politician today craves, especially one who is continually reminding everyone that ‘people are hurting’ and vowing to ‘do what’s right for the middle class,’” Leibovich wrote.

“Yet Callis has overcome this obstacle by doing what any savvy politician must do when in need of a pluckier yarn: She borrows from her parents and grandparents.”

The article states that Callis’ father, “poor Lance” Callis, once worked in a steel mill. His father died when he was a small boy, and his mother, the youngest of 11 children, couldn’t get work because she was an Irish immigrant. However, Ann Callis’ grandmother moved from New York to Southern Illinois. And there, with the help of a priest, she became a nurse at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Granite City.

“It is an amazing, heartwarming, all-American story,” Leibovich wrote. “Or as they say in Washington, it’s a great narrative.”

But the article also points out that attorney Lance Callis has emerged “megawealthy.” He is managing partner at the prominent personal injury firm Callis, Papa, Hale & Szewczyk and an original shareholder in the Alton Belle Casino. He also is “one of the most well connected Democrats in the state,” Leibovich wrote.

“His alliances most likely helped (Ann Callis) get appointed to her first judgeship, just a few years out of St. Louis University Law School, at 30,” he wrote.

The article discusses how modern politics has been overrun by hard knock stories that occurred before many of the politicians spinning the tales were even born.

“In recent years, American politics has been overrun by an adversity-theft epidemic,” Leibovich wrote. “These days, the practice has infested campaigns across the country, at every level, wherever the tiresome same notes of media consultants can be heard — as in, pretty much everywhere. It does not matter that the most recent hard knocks endured by many of today’s politicians came well before they were born, as with Chris Christie, whose father worked in a Breyer’s plant. We will still hear about it as if it were yesterday.”

In conclusion, Leibovich wrote that candidate Callis failed to respond to his requests for an interview, suggesting his column may be a “threat to her hard-earned adversity theft.”

“Plus, it is quite obvious that Callis’s opponent could wipe the floor with her in a narrative showdown,” wrote Leibovich, finishing the column by referencing one of Davis’ campaign ads, in which the congressman talks about growing up in his family’s restaurant, where he washed dishes and cleaned tables.

According to statements of economic interest filed with the state supreme court through 2012, Callis reported owning properties in Troy, St. Louis, Breckenridge, Colo. and Scottsdale, Ariz. The combined value of all four is approximately $1.9 million.

Callis is backed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.

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