The Most Influential Losing Congressional Candidate in the Country

by Nathan L. Gonzales May 14, 2014 · 9:53 AM EDT

University of Illinois professor George Gollin forced one of Democrats’ top recruits to spend a few hundred thousand dollars to win the primary. Now Gollin is popping up in other House races hundreds of miles away and potentially causing problems for more top recruits.

Earlier this year, Gollin spent nearly $500,000 in the Democratic primary in Illinois’ 13th District, running from the left, including a blistering attack ad against former Madison County Judge Ann Callis, the preferred candidate of strategists in Washington.

“Political insider Ann Callis folded to the Tea Party agenda. Ann Callis said this about cutting Social Security, ‘We’re going to have to see what’s there and what we remove.’ Cut Social Security?” the narrator asked, “Ann Callis wants what the Tea Party wants.”

At the time, Daily Kos Political Director David Nir called the ad, “A very dirty move,” because it lacked context and was arguably even the opposite position that she was trying to articulate.

But Gollin was spending enough money in the race that he couldn’t be ignored. Callis spent about half a million dollars as well and defeated Gollin 55 percent to 31 percent in the March race. Now she’ll have to rebuild her campaign coffers in order to take on GOP Rep. Rodney Davis in one of Democrats’ top targeted races anywhere in the country.

But Gollin is vying for the title of most relevant losing congressional candidate in the country.

On May 8, Gollin sent out a fundraising email on behalf of Pennsylvania Democrat Shaughnessy Naughton in the 8th District, roughly 700 miles from Champaign, Ill. Gollin, a particle physicist, was soliciting support for Naughton, a chemist.

But she is running against Kevin Strouse, one of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s earliest recruits of the cycle. Strouse was in the lede of a Washington Post story over a year ago about DCCC Chairman Steve Israel’s effort to recruit “problem solvers” to run. The Pennsylvania primary is set for May 20.

Now, over the weekend, Gollin popped up in a Tampa Bay Times story which questioned the academic resume of Democrats’ newest recruit, Ed Jany.

Jany, a former Republican, had to run as a No Party Affiliation candidate in November, but Democrats went out of their way to clear the path for him to challenge GOP Rep. David Jolly in Florida’s 13th District, approximately 1,000 miles away from Champaign.

The story criticized the legitimacy of Jany’s degree from Madison University, an unaccredited, distance-learning institution. And in what appears to be an amazing coincidence, Gollin is an expert on, and crusader against, diploma mills and was quoted in the story.

“It’s completely fake,” said George Gollin, a University of Illinois professor who has studied diploma mills. Jany, he said, “must certainly have known it wasn’t legitimate, because they would have just taken his money and given him the credentials.”

So even though he may not have intended to take a jab at the DCCC, who supported his opponent in the Illinois primary, Gollin can take some pleasure in a parting shot at the party’s hand-picked candidate in the Sunshine State. Jany dropped out of the race on Tuesday.