STEVE WEINHOEFT, who has been first assistant state’s attorney in Sangamon County since mid-2005 and a prosecutor there since 1996, has accepted a job as a federal prosecutor in southern Illinois.

STEVE WEINHOEFT, who has been first assistant state’s attorney in Sangamon County since mid-2005 and a prosecutor there since 1996, has accepted a job as a federal prosecutor in southern Illinois.

It will be bittersweet to leave his hometown of Springfield to become an assistant U.S. attorney based in Fairview Heights, he said, but “my wife and I are very excited to take this next step.”

“It’s a tremendous professional opportunity for me, an opportunity I certainly could not pass up,” he said.

Weinhoeft expects to begin his new job in February, pending his FBI background check. He also got agreement from his soon-to-be boss, U.S. Attorney COURTNEY COX, who oversees the southern district of the state for the federal government, to allow Weinhoeft to stay on the job in Sangamon County to try a murder case in January.

“I feel I owe it to the office and I owe it to the victim’s family to see it through,” Weinhoeft said.

He has been preparing for the trial of RAUL MARRERO, who is accused of shooting ISHMAEL SHARMER LEWIS, 18, outside the Rutledge Foundation Group Home in 2004.

Weinhoeft started with Sangamon County more than 11 years ago after graduating from the University of Memphis law school. He said he will remain a career prosecutor in the federal system. He said his federal salary will be higher than his county pay, which is about $93,500. Weinhoeft and his wife, the former AMY NASH, are the parents of a daughter who will be four months old this week.

Sangamon County State’s Attorney JOHN SCHMIDT has been a “terrific boss,” Weinhoeft said.

“He is an excellent attorney and an excellent first assistant, whom we will miss,” Schmidt said of Weinhoeft.

Schmidt also said Weinhoeft had let him know he was interviewing for the post. He said it “speaks volumes” about the professionalism of both Weinhoeft and Cox that both understood the need for Weinhoeft to conclude the Marrero trial. Weinhoeft said he expects the trial to begin Jan. 14, take about two weeks, and include about 45 witnesses.

Cox, by the way, has represented African-American police officers in Springfield, including former officer RENATTA FRAZIER, in discrimination cases brought against the city. He was appointed the top prosecutor for the southern Illinois region this fall.



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U.S. RAY LaHOOD apparently isn’t a fan of the campaign manager of state Rep. AARON SCHOCK, the fellow Peoria Republican who is among three people running in the Feb. 5 primary for the GOP nomination to succeed LaHood.

Schock’s campaign manager is STEVEN SHEARER. Shearer, who interned with former U.S. House Minority Leader BOB MICHEL of Peoria, went on to work for the Republican National Committee, for former U.S. Sen. CHARLES PERCY, R-Ill., and for U.S. Rep. JERRY WELLER, R-Morris.

“On two occasions, in personal meetings that I had with Aaron, I had expressed my concern about his campaign manager,” LaHood said last week. Asked if he was referring to campaign tactics, LaHood said, “I guess it’s probably more prudent for me not to get into that.”

Schock said Shearer ran both his winning campaigns for state representative, and Schock is “very proud of the type of positive campaigns” he’s run.

“I’m always respectful and willing to listen to others’ input,” Schock said, but “I have to make the decision on running my campaigns, and that includes the staff that I hire and the message we put out.”

LaHood made his comments in an interview in which he also criticized the Schock campaign for using his name without permission in campaign materials.

Schock is joined by JOHN MORRIS and JIM McCONOUGHEY in the Feb. 5 primary race for the Republican nomination to succeed LaHood in the U.S. House seat from the 18th Congressional District.

LaHood said last week he’s not making an endorsement, but that didn’t stop him from criticizing Schock for use of LaHood’s name on campaign materials without prior approval, and for Schock’s abortive proposal to sell nuclear arms to Taiwan. LaHood also criticized Morris for talking about deporting all illegal aliens after the country’s borders are secure.

Shock later admitted going too far in talking about selling nukes, and Morris said he knows there’s no “magic wand” to set up deportations.

One of the Schock mailings that included LaHood’s name several times was a letter from House GOP leader TOM CROSS, R-Oswego, singing Schock’s praises.

“Many legislators expected this bright young man that they had heard so much about would come to office in Springfield and sit back and be overwhelmed by being in the House of Representatives as he learned the ropes,” the letter, paid for by the Schock campaign, states. “Not Aaron.

“He skipped that step as he learned House procedure in his first week and began sponsoring substantive legislation. Then we watched in awe as we saw Aaron on the House floor selling the merits of his bills one by one to his colleagues. Aaron worked his bills through passage into law – 18 in all so far.”

That number fits a Schock TV ad, which states that Schock was “elected and re-elected state representative, passing 18 bills.”

I’ve written before that the ad leaves the impression the bills became law. However, Schock has said the ad means only that the bills passed the House. In any case, the Cross letter is inaccurate.

“What happens is, we send a letter and Tom Cross’s people review it and they change it, and then we change it,” Schock said. “I don’t know … whose words on every line got included.”

The numbers are even more confusing because Schock actually sponsored 22 proposals that passed the House, including two virtually identical ones in different sessions. He has said he used the “18” number to be safe. But only 13 of the measures got to the governor; 12 became law, and one was vetoed. Five of the bills that became law were originally sponsored by Schock. The others were Senate bills he carried in his chamber.

DAVID DRING, spokesman for Cross, said, “Maybe we could have been more clear that it should have meant bills passed out of the House,” but “it doesn’t take away from the accomplishment Aaron has had in a Democratically controlled House and legislature.”


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U.S. Rep. JOHN SHIMKUS, R-Collinsville, has made a lateral move in his assignment as a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Shimkus had been the ranking member on the environment and hazardous materials subcommittee, and now is the top Republican on the oversight and investigations subcommittee.

The assignments were announced by U.S. Rep. JOE BARTON, R-Texas, who is the ranking Republican on the committee. Democrats are the committee chairs because they control the House.



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Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH recently got a new scheduling chief.

RICH HANSON, 37, of Chicago has been with the governor’s office since January 2003, and recently moved up from deputy director of advance operations and protocol to acting director of operations and protocol.

Hanson worked for Jasculca/Terman and Associates in Chicago, a public affairs and strategic communications firm, before joining the governor’s office. He is a native of Salisbury, Md.

He replaced JEANNE ARENS, 48, of Glenview, who moved to the Blagojevich campaign as finance director. Arens had been paid $91,088 annually. Hanson makes $60,000 annually.



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MATTHEW MAU, who showed his enthusiasm for running for alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention recently by sitting outside the State Board of Elections all night to be first to file, has joined the Sangamon County circuit clerk’s staff in an entry-level job.

Mau, 24, filed Nov. 28 to be an alternate delegate pledged to the presidential aspirations of U.S. Sen. JOHN McCAIN of Arizona.

Mau is a GOP precinct committeeman and lives in rural Chatham, where he helps his parents with the family farm. He started his $21,040-a-year job in the vital records department of the circuit clerk’s office in September. He said he saw the job posting and applied.

Circuit Clerk TONY LIBRI is Sangamon County GOP Chairman. However, Libri said such jobs are posted. “I’m not involved in any of the interview processes,” he said.

Mau said he was paid for work on only one campaign, for state Rep. RON STEPHENS while when he attended Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. He said his other campaign work, including for state Sen. DAN RUTHERFORD, R-Chenoa, for secretary of state and former state Treasurer JUDY BAAR TOPINKA for governor, and Springfield-area state lawmakers, has been as a volunteer.



Bernard Schoenburg is political columnist for The State Journal-Register. He can be reached at (217) 788-1540 or Bernard.Schoenburg@sj-r.com.