Millionaire may shake up race with independent bid in race for Obama’s old Illinois Senate seat

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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Mike Niecestro plans to file next week to run as an independent for the Senate in Illinois, another example of a political novice using his personal fortune to take a shot at shaking up a hotly contested campaign.

Niecestro, 51, a mortgage banker and political newcomer, says he’ll run as an independent for President Obama’s old U.S. Senate seat — and spend $1 million of his own money to do it. He said he will file to run Monday, and expects to turn in almost twice as many signatures as the required 25,000.

This election season several largely unknown millionaires have made splashes in their individual races: In Florida, billionaire Jeff Greene came out of nowhere to run as a Democrat for the Senate and Republican Rick Scott, another self-made moneyman jumped in the race to run for governor (though he’s known in conservative circles for his opposition to President Obama’s health-care bill). After a few months of campaigning off their personal fortune, both Greene and Scott are surging in the polls.

But who is this self-described non-drinking, non-smoking wannabe senator who plans to show up with 50,000 signatures on a petition?

“I’m just an average guy, who worked his butt off to raise a family and give them a good start in life which is really what the American dream is supposed to be,” he said in an interview with The Daily Caller. “And that’s who I am.”

DePaul University political science professor Michael Mezey — who said he’s “never heard of the guy” —  was doubtful that Niecestro’s candidacy could catch fire, even given his ability to self-finance the first $1 million dollars. “This race is going to be a lot more expensive than that,” said Mezey.

Niecestro said he understands that, and plans a “heavy amount” of fundraising after he qualifies. But to show he’s beholden to no one, he said will not accept more than a $500 contribution from individuals, and will not accept any money from PACs or interest groups.

As for how the everyday man made his money, the mortgage banker of 29 years said he’s owned stocks in a number of IPOs in the 1980s and most recently made money with Ford. “I invested well,” he said.

The outsider may be able to benefit from the fact that both major party candidates, Democratic State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Rep. Mark Kirk, have faced embarrassments since winning their nomination. Kirk has been fighting accusations of misrepresenting his military career, and Giannoulias — who has boasted of his business background — has worked to downplay how the government seized his family’s bank this year.

Niecestro said he won’t go negative. “They both have baggage,” he said, “But that’s not important.”

He said he plans to run to the Kirk’s right, claiming the Republican candidate is too liberal on many issues. “Right now in Illinois, the people of the state of Illinois don’t have a legitimate difference in a choice between Kirk and Giannoulias. They’re both the same individual. The only difference is one has a ‘R’ behind his name and the other has a ‘D’ behind his name.”

Kirk spokesman Lance Trover, reached by phone, declined to comment because Niecestro hasn’t filed yet.

On the issues, Niecestro said he strongly believes in term limits and voting against cap and trade. He’s also a social conservative who believes in God and traditional marriage. He said it’s a shame how “we’ve taken God out of everything.” He says we should “get rid of social security” and close down the border with Mexico. “I have no problem saying that,” he added.

Niecestro said he gets his political education by watching Fox, CNN and MSNBC. “I watch all three — I get everybody’s perspective.”

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