Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Investigate Ozinga in sex-text scandal

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By Ray Hanania

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Vicious text messages and robocalls were flying targeting state Sen. Michael Hastings (D-19th) in the year leading up to Hastings re-election bid on Nov. 8, 2022.
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The messages were sexually explicit and sought to disparage Hastings, who was also in a contentious divorce with his wife. He was also falsely accused of bullying an obnoxious female state lobbyist.
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Although most media saw through the clear political exploitation of Hastings’ problems, yellow journalists at WBEZ and a few others fueled the fake stories, never reporting on the endless barrage of vicious text messages and robocalls being sent out by his political rivals to fuel Hastings’ election loss.
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I know this well because I briefly did work for Hastings during that campaign, one of the ugliest election battles I have seen in 46 years of political writing and consulting.

RayHanania

Ray Hanania

The sex-focused texts and robocalls were designed to help weaken Hastings’ popularity among women voters to help elect Patrick Sheehan, the Republican challenger, a close ally of Hastings rival, state Rep. Tim Ozinga (R-37th), the co-owner and executive vice president of Mokena-based Ozinga Brothers Inc.
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Despite the insidious political mudslinging against Hastings in the campaign, Hastings won re-election, defeating Sheehan by nearly 1,000 votes.
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Many months after the election battle, Ozinga “mysteriously” resigned from office on April 8, 2024. Four days later, Ozinga played a major role with GOP committeemen in naming Sheehan as his successor.
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Ozinga and others declined to comment on the reasons for stepping down.
This week we now learn that Ozinga’s chief of staff, Tim Pawula, has been formally charged with misdemeanor harassment through electronic communication, transmission of obscene messages and obscenity by the Illinois State Police.
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Pawula is accused of being behind all of those politically-focused text and robocalls that targeted Hastings but that in a bigger picture were intended to exploit women in a way to anger women voters.
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Legislative chief of staffs have huge power that comes from their bosses. In this case, Ozinga is Pawula’s boss, and Sheehan’s friend.
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It’s not enough to just focus on Pawula. The state police and the legislature should immediately probe whether or not Ozinga and Sheehan, who were critical in the anti-Hastings re-election campaign, had any knowledge or possibly involvement.
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It’s not beyond reason to assume that, given Ozinga’s sudden resignation from office.
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In his concession speech, Sheehan thanked Ozinga for his assistance in the election, according to the Chicago Tribune.
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In his statement to the news media, Hastings, who has served the 19th Senate District since 2013, suspected others were involved.
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The 19th Senate District includes all, or parts, of the communities of Arbury Hills, Country Club Hills, Frankfort, Frankfort Square, Hazel Crest, Homer Glen, Homewood, Joliet, Lockport, Matteson, Mokena, New Lenox, Oak Forest, Olympia Fields, Orland Hills, Orland Park, Richton Park, Tinley Park and University Park.
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The attack against Hastings are even more offensive coming after this Memorial Day weekend when we celebrate, not slander our service members.
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Michael Hastings received two BS degrees, one in leadership and management, the other in civil engineering, from the United States Military Academy at West Point. Hastings also earned an MBA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his law degree from the John Marshall Law School.
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Hastings is a former Army captain, where he served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and earned the Bronze Star. He is also the former vice president of high school District 230 in Illinois.
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Ozinga and Sheehan need to clear the air and they owe the voters an explanation. They shouldn’t be allowed to hide.
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Ray Hanania is a former Chicago City Hall reporter and award-winning columnist. For more opinion, visit hanania.com.

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