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Basta survey sparks tension in race against Cassidy
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times

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Reports of a phone survey from 14th District residents have spurred tensions between Illinois Representative Democratic candidates Paula Basta and Kelly Cassidy.

The two, both out lesbians and longtime community activists, are engaged in a tight battle for the post, which Cassidy has held since her May 2011 appointment.

On Jan. 19, Basta's campaign issued a press release accusing Cassidy of implying through a phone-survey question that Basta's campaign was in violation of federal law.

Cassidy's campaign, however, denies any participation in or knowledge of the survey.

According to Marty Rogo, Basta's campaign chairman, a handful of 14th District residents have reported a phone survey, during which the caller accused Basta of working on her campaign while on the job as the regional director for the Levy Senior Center. Basta's position with the center is one of a city employee, making it illegal for her to campaign on the job.

In the release, the Basta camp calls on "Kelly Cassidy to pull a misleading survey being used across the district against challenger Paula Basta implying to voters that Basta is under federal investigation for conducting political work while on the job."

Neither Rogo nor Basta have heard the actual survey call, they both said.

One who reported being surveyed was Sue Augustus. Augustus, who is hosting an event in support of Basta, said she did receive the call, which lasted several minutes. Augustus said the survey started off by asking questions about other Democratic politicians, such as Governor Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The surveyor also asked Augustus if she was a lesbian, which she confirmed.

Towards the end of the survey, Augustus said, the caller asked something to the effect of, "Are you aware that, or what if you knew that, Paula Basta may have violated federal law by fundraising for her campaign while still working at the senior center, which receives federal funds, thereby jeopardizing the senior center funding and all the services that are provided to hundreds of seniors?"

Augustus said she could not remember if the caller identified himself, nor was she certain it was someone affiliated with the Cassidy campaign. She did add, however, that her neighbor, who also identifies as a lesbian, reported receiving the same call.

Basta denied the implication that she has mixed campaign work with her career.

"I am very clear and very meticulous about my work," she told Windy City Times. "From 8:30 to 4:30, I am a city employee."

Basta said she did not reach out to the Cassidy campaign regarding the survey. She also confirmed that she approved the press release regarding the survey before it went out.

The Cassidy campaign denied conducting the survey.

"I have no idea what it is," said Lauren Peters, Cassidy's campaign manager. "I even called around myself [to find out who did the survey]."

Windy City Times researched the phone number Augustus provided back to Mountain West Research Center, an Idaho-based company that does political polling and other research.

The company does not appear to be on Cassidy campaign expenditures, although Rogo believed the survey was conducted after quarterly reports were due.

Peters said that the Cassidy campaign has not asked any survey questions that implied Basta had mixed work and campaign time. The campaign is using another pollster entirely, Peters said.

"We are solely focused on screaming positive things about Kelly Cassidy," she said. "My guess is that they're using this to try to knock Kelly off her game, which is not going to happen."

Rogo accepted the possibly that Cassidy's campaign did not run the survey. Still, he said, Cassidy should speak out against it.

"I think if not directly by the campaign, it is still on behalf of the campaign, and they should still denounce it," he said.

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