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Rauschenberger fires U.S. Senate campaign staffers

By Dan Duggan

  ELGIN — With preparations under way to kick off his U.S. Senate campaign Tuesday, state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger has been shaking up his campaign staff.

  Last Tuesday, his campaign manager, Dave Kelm, was fired along with his campaign finance specialist, Brock Wilhelm. They had been working on the campaign to win the seat currently held by Peter Fitzgerald, who said he will not run again in November 2004.

  Rauschenberger, R-Elgin, formed an exploratory committee nearly a month ago to look for support before committing to a run for the office. He said Friday that Kelm and Wilhem have helped in that effort but there is now a rift in ideas.

  "We pretty much just changed teams," Rauschenberger said. "We had a nice group of young guys together for the exploratory committee, but we didn't agree with where we were headed from there."

  For now, the operations of the campaign will be handled by Steve's brother, John Rauschenberger, who has been an integral part of the campaign from the beginning.

  They also spared campaign spokesman Charlie Stone.

  Kelm, 34, of Springfield, was co-manager for Jim Durkin's campaign when he ran unsuccessfully against Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin in 2002.

  He said the decision to change managers wasn't something he had been planning.

  "I was a little surprised," he said. "We got them through the exploratory phase of the campaign, and I wish them luck from here."

  Rauschenberger's formal entry to the race will bring the number of declared candidates in the Republican primary to eight.

  To date, John Borling, John Cox, Antonio Davis-Fairman, Chirinjeev Kathuria, Andy McKenna, Jim Oberweis and Jack Ryan have all announced their candidacies.

  On Tuesday, Rauschenberger will hold a campaign event at 11 a.m. at the Hemmens Cultural Center in Elgin.





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