Turelli battles back against Neerhof charge as campaign nears close
Lauren G. Turelli
Updated: March 29, 2012 4:12PM
As far as Lauren Turelli is concerned, the flap raised by her opponent about her education at Cambridge University is helping her campaign more than eroding her support base.
“I’m getting calls from perfect strangers supporting me. They don’t like the negative campaign tactics at all,”Turelli said.
Turelli and Dr. Mark Neerhof are two Lake Forest residents battling for the Illinois state house seat in the 58th District now occupied by State Rep. Karen May (D-Highland Park). The race has been flooded with allegations from Neerhof’s camp that Turelli claimed to have a degree from the university in England that she didn’t have. At least two mailings to voters in March have suggested as much.
Turelli said she did not intend to mislead anyone about her education and had successfully completed coursework and her thesis for a master’s of philosophy from Cambridge in September of 1994 but did not choose to participate in graduation in June, 1995. Unlike universities in the United States, Cambridge requires you to be present to accept your degree, Turelli said. The university told a local Web site recently that a degree is given once coursework is completed.
Last week, Turelli contacted Cambridge to request a review of her transcripts.
“The bottom line is, it could take 28 days for them to go into (paper) archives and get back to me,”she said.
Turelli said she hopes the allegation raised by Neerhof doesn’t affect her vote count on March 20, but Neerhof thinks it will and should.
“I think it’s an issue,”he said. “She’s claiming to be something that she’s not. That speaks to credibility.”
In her biographical information submitted to Pioneer Press months ago, Turelli did not include any studies at Cambridge. Turelli said she stopped citing Cambridge University in her education background in June 2009 when she discovered fellow students at Cambridge from the U.S. who did not participate in graduation also never received confirmation of a degree.
“I’ve seen a lot of people inflate resumes, and I’ve been trying to keep it honest,”Turelli said.
Turelli said she had used the Cambridge degree on her resume prior to 2009 and took immediate action to delete the reference.
Turelli said she would like to stick to the issues.
“The biggest issues in the district is spending in Springfield and the serious reform of pensions and Medicaid,”she said. “We need to get to a zero-balanced budget and look at how education is funded.”
Neerhof is a high-risk obstetrician who said he will stay in Springfield as long as he is needed to fulfill his mission. He lists Medicaid reform as the No. 1 issue affecting the state, following by repealing the tax increase and pension reform.
”Medicaid reform -- that’s where I am primarily focused and uniquely qualified to provide leadership for Medicaid reform in Springfield,”he said.
No physician has ever been elected to the General Assembly, he said.
“I think it’s very important to have a physician in that process of reforming Medicaid,” he said.
Neerhof said his three missions supersede any district issue.
“If we don’t solve these things, then we, as a state, are in trouble,” he said.
The annual salary for the 58th District seat is around $60,000 plus medical and pension benefits.