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READER COMMENTS CLOSED FOR THE WEEKEND

Friday, May 26, 2006

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*** UPDATE *** You can watch the full debate here.

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Have a great holiday weekend and I’ll see you Monday.

UPDATE: WHOA!!! Here are some must-see video clips from the debate.

NBC5…. CBS2ABC7

After watching these clips all I can say is Dick Kay is the best and he should reconsider his retirement. Everyone else who hosts a debate this year will be compared to Kay’s effort, and they’ll have a very high bar to hurdle. Those over-regulated, over-scripted, candidate-directed, self-important glorified press conferences that were the staple of the primary season have got to be rejected this fall.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Buried

Friday, May 26, 2006

I happened to check my e-mail just now and saw that the governor signed the horse racing bailout bill. It’s Friday before a three-day weekend at 3:50 pm. Hmmm. Do you think they’re trying to bury this story?

Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed into law two bills designed to help protect thousands of jobs associated with the state’s horse racing industry, and to help Illinois racetracks remain viable and competitive. The Governor signed House Bill 1918, creating the Horse Racing Equity Trust Fund, which will provide $36 million a year for racing purses and racetrack improvements for the next two years. In addition, the Governor signed House Bill 4377, which reduces the state tax due on bets placed at Fairmount Racetrack in Collinsville from 1.5% to .25%.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Leaving now

Friday, May 26, 2006

The AP has a new computer game. The object is to balance a state budget. Played a couple of minutes. Could be fun, but I have real fun ahead.

I’ll come back to the office and close comments at 5 pm. Until then, the lid should be on for any more postings.

OK, one more thing before I go. Congratulations, Aunt Janet!

Remember to check out Illinoize.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Debate update

Friday, May 26, 2006

The first debate is in the can.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich and State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka traded barbs Friday over ethics, campaign finance and a host of other issues in a contentious debate, the first of the campaign for governor.

Topinka, a Republican, accused the Democratic governor of breaking promises and proposing empty programs. Blagojevich said Topinka was “against everything” and “not for anything.”

During the taping of the debate for WMAQ-TV’s “City Desk” program, Topinka repeatedly hammered Blagojevich about state and federal investigations into his administration’s hiring practices.

“I still have a name; you’re Public Official A,” Topinka told Blagojevich. […]

Topinka assailed the well-funded Blagojevich about accepting money from people who get state contracts. The governor countered that Topinka takes campaign donations from banks that handle the state’s deposits.

“Her hypocrisy is breathtaking,” Blagojevich said.

Topinka again dismissed Blagojevich’s newly announced $10 billion education plan, calling it a “gamble.” When asked if she had an education plan of her own, Topinka promised she was working on one and would produce it this summer.

She didn’t miss the chance to take a jab at Blagojevich by saying she’s “not in a rush to buy off someone.”

UPDATE: From a reporter friend:

You oughta track down a copy of the debate…after a slow start, she blistered him. From pillar to post.

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      


Screwed

Friday, May 26, 2006

The boom has been lowered.

One Cub and three White Sox have been disciplined for their participation in a brawl last weekend, according to Bob Watson, vice president of on-field operations for Major League Baseball.

Cubs catcher Michael Barrett has been suspended for 10 games and fined an undisclosed amount for starting the bench-clearing brawl by punching Sox catcher A. J. Pierzynski last Saturday in the second game of the intra-city series at U.S. Cellular Field.

Sox outfielder Brian Anderson was suspended for five games and fined an undisclosed amount for his “aggressive and violent actions.”

Sox third base coach Joey Cora was suspended for two games and also fined.

Pierzynski was fined, but not suspended.

The Cubs start the fight and two Sox players are suspended? And why the heck would AJ be fined? Because he didn’t fall down when he was sucker punched?

And after admitting he made a huge mistake, the cowardly sucker-puncher immediately appealed his suspension.

Oy.

I was at that game and I said then that not only should Barrett have been tossed out immediately (the umps took forever to make the ruling) he should have been arrested. I saw a Chicago cop that I know at the game, and I demanded that he uphold his sworn duty and go onto the field and arrest the fiend. (OK, that’s a joke, just to be clear.)

UPDATE: From a Major League Baseball press release:

White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski has been fined an undisclosed amount for his conduct during the incident.

His conduct? He was punched!

Jerks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      


Question of the day - Updated and bumped up

Friday, May 26, 2006

UPDATE: The responses to this question were so good that I decided to build my syndicated newspaper column around them. My apologies to those who didn’t make it into the piece. Almost all were good, but space is limited. Also, some arrived after I finished. I won’t be working Monday, but you’ll be able to find the column here.

——————————————————————————————-

Sweet says momentum is building for Obama ‘08:

Chatter is increasing among supporters of Sen. Barack Obama about him jumping into the 2008 presidential race as he cranks up his political operation.

Obama is now being helped by Washington public affairs strategist Minyon Moore, a Chicago native and veteran of the Clinton White House, who will serve as an unpaid adviser to develop an outreach plan for African Americans.

Obama (D-Ill.) is also adding to his team another Democratic strategist, Anita Dunn, to fill in through the end of the year as chief of his HOPEFUND political action committee.

Dunn, an adviser to ‘08 possible contender Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), is close to Obama’s chief of staff.

The 2008 talk is not being stoked by the freshman Obama camp, but is surging from all sorts of backers who see no reason for him to pass up this cycle. One thing Obama’s popularity and big political war chest bring — he would not have to mount a White House bid in order to be considered for vice president on a ticket.

Do you think he should run?

UPDATE: Let’s add another question into the mix… Do you think he should run for governor in 2010 instead?

UPDATE: Sweet updates her column. Obama’s “Hope Fund” has a million dollars cash on hand.

UPDATE: From Obama’s spokesman: “The money in Hopefund can not be used in a federal campaign”

- Posted by Rich Miller   73 Comments      


Too far?

Friday, May 26, 2006

This is one of the more blatantly political state mailers that I’ve seen since Lee Daniels was around.

Republican House Minority Leader Tom Cross fired off a letter to Democrats earlier this month that rips … Democrats.

Cross doesn’t see the missive as political, so the postage was paid by the state, not his campaign fund.

Myron Brick, chairman of the Will County Democratic Party, said it appears the letter dated May 12 was sent to all of his party’s precinct committeemen. Brick received one, too.

In the letter, Cross shreds “the Democrats” for raiding the pension fund, stuffing the budget with pork projects and continuing an “unprecedented streak of borrowing and spending.” […]

Cross said the letter was sent to about 2,000 officials of both parties in Will, DuPage and Kendall counties, just as previous reports from him have been sent to the same group. […]

Dan White, executive director of the State Board of Elections, said the letter appears to abide by a state law that prohibits using public funds on campaign literature. Cross would have had to call on letter recipients to vote for or against a specific candidate or a ballot proposition for it to be inappropriate.

Even so, Brick had one piece of advice for Cross: “If the bottom line is so important to him, he shouldn’t waste stamps.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


Thomas punts questions - UPDATED and bumped up

Friday, May 26, 2006

If you’re gonna sue somebody, you have to expect to be deposed, and you’re supposed to answer the questions. Chief Justice Thomas sees things differently, however.

Illinois’ highest-ranking judge refused to answer 15 questions at a deposition he gave last month — including what medications he takes and whether it is fair to criticize public figures like President Bush.

Chief Justice Robert Thomas faced the grilling in his defamation suit against a suburban newspaper, the Kane County Chronicle. On Thursday, under orders from a Cook County judge, Thomas answered most of them, though some of his answers were immediately placed under seal.

During the April interview — given under oath — Thomas invoked his position as chief justice as a reason not to answer. But legal experts said deposition witnesses are supposed to talk.

“It’s highly inappropriate,” said Ronald Allen, a professor at the Northwestern University School of Law. “Unless there’s some privilege, then he should answer. End of story.”

Thomas — a former kicker for the Chicago Bears — sued the Chronicle in 2004, alleging columnist Bill Page wrote false stories about his role in the case of Meg Gorecki, the former Kane County state’s attorney whose law license was suspended for four months. According to Page, Thomas agreed to a lower penalty for Gorecki if her supporters backed a judicial candidate he favored.

Thomas says he suffers “stress” and a damaged reputation because of the stories.

“I have been terrifically stressed out as a result of that,” Thomas said in the deposition. “You kind of feel like your blood pressure’s going up.”

His reputation is so “damaged” that he was elevated to Chief Justice. Must be a difficult life.

UPDATE: Chief Thomas had a different outlook when speaking to the graduating class at St. Ambrose University this month:

“God is a God of restoration, and he is calling all of us to restoration. If there are broken friendships or hurt feelings, go to that person before this day is out,” he urged.

I highly doubt that Thomas talked to Bill Page after that speech. Maybe he should heed his own advice.

- Posted by Rich Miller   5 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - That Chuck Schulz poll I wrote about this morning is now posted here (use same password, all CAPS)

Friday, May 26, 2006

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Enter your password to view comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Kevin Joyce; Halvorson; Osterman; Tenhouse (Use all CAPS in password) UPDATED

Friday, May 26, 2006

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Enter your password to view comments      


Morning shorts

Friday, May 26, 2006

OK, I’ve relented. But from now on Morning Shorts won’t be nearly as long as before. That was just getting out of hand.

· Friday beer blogging and Friday deer blogging.

· Green Party candidate says the guv’s education plan is a “bigger disappointment than the ‘Da Vinci Code.’”

· Dick Kay’s last City Desk show is this weekend. Too bad it’s a holiday weekend, because not many people will see it, but NBC5 usually posts the programs online. I’ll put up a link next week. The show should be great because it’s a debate between Blagojevich and Topinka.

· Luntz has advice for Republicans on immigration (pdf file - hat tip: Kos).

· Map your Zip Code’s political donors. (Hat tip: Jake)

· Backyard Conservative: “An invitation to corruption on our dime.”

· The fake news that isn’t funny

· “While no association between marijuana smoking and cancer was found, the study findings, presented to the American Thoracic Society International Conference this week, did find a 20-fold increase in lung cancer among people who smoked two or more packs of cigarettes a day.” Good thing I quit.

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      


Lottery plan roundup

Friday, May 26, 2006

My Sun-Times column this week is about the governor’s new education/lottery plan.

I figure Gov. Blagojevich’s new education plan will probably end up like that bench-clearing brawl at White Sox Park last weekend: a lot of hype, a flood of media analysis, much huffing and puffing from all corners — all over an initial punch that didn’t even knock down the intended victim.

‘’No. Not at all,'’ A.J. Pierzynski said the next day when asked whether he was still feeling the dastardly sucker punch thrown by Cubs catcher Michael Barrett.

I’m just not convinced yet that this education plan will ever amount to anything other than much-ballyhooed political fisticuffs.

The paper now has a permalink to all of my columns, which can be found here.

Also, Steinberg isn’t pleased with the plan.

Did Gov. Blago and the Rev. Meeks really need eight hours to agree upon that plan? My third-grader can spout that strategy at a moment’s notice: Let’s eat all the cookies now and not worry about spoiling dinner.

The whole point of government is to restrain the public’s childlike yearning for immediate gratification, not offer new ways of indulging it. What’s next? Come winter, the governor will suggest we heat the schools by setting them on fire.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      


New feeds

Thursday, May 25, 2006

In addition to the Stateline Illinois feed I told you about earlier today, I’ve added two more news feeds to the blog.

The CBS-2 feed is a combination of local news, video and political stories.

The Illinois Channel has a blog of sorts that posts press releases from government officials and campaigns.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Stroger sells his house

Thursday, May 25, 2006

This is really getting to be too much.

Cook County Board President John Stroger’s South Side Chicago home has been sold, real estate listings indicate.

The home on East 91st Street was put on the market April 20 at an asking price of $289,000, the records from the Multiple Listing Service indicate. Tuesday, the home was placed under contract, meaning that someone put in a bid and it was accepted. It was not known what the house sold for or when the closing will be.

Chicago Alderman Todd Stroger did not return calls for comment. After initially making his father’s doctors available for comment, Todd Stroger has declined to get specific about his father’s medical condition after his March stroke.

Jay Stewart, executive director of the Better Government Association, said the sale does not raise questions about Stroger’s residency status in regards to the presidency, but it does call into question his commissioner status, which requires him to live in his 4th District. The Chicago Tribune has reported John Stroger is now staying in a downtown condo, far outside the 4th District.

More here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      


Question of the day

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Morning Shorts has always been a pain in the rear to do and then hardly anyone ever comments. So, I’m done with it. It’s over. Kaput. Finished.

Instead, after some initial difficulties getting it to work, I’m posting Stateline’s Illinois news feed on the right side of the page. They do a great job of finding all Illinois-related news items so I don’t have to.

The only way MS gets a reprieve is if you demand it in comments today. Otherwise, it’s history.

Use this Question of the Day to comment on the demise of Morning Shorts and suggest other things you’d like to see on the blog.

UPDATE: How about if I highlight the Stateline feed in a post of its own every day? Like this:

Stateline IL

- Posted by Rich Miller   48 Comments      


Back and forth

Thursday, May 25, 2006

So far, this story is just a he-said, she-said. It’s difficult to tell what’s really going on here, retaliation or individual corruption.

A state worker fired by the Blagojevich administration for allegedly rigging job applications complained about the number of outside contractors her agency was hiring, then weeks later found herself the subject of an investigation.

Dawn DeFraties, who was personnel director for the Department of Central Management Services, argued in a November 2004 e-mail that a review of her bureau duplicated work that was already under way by another consultant.

“Why do we have to do this again?” DeFraties asked in an e-mail obtained by The Associated Press.

Her boss, Ed Wynn, responded that the work done by the other contractor - The Revere Group Ltd. - wasn’t what the department needed. He said he wanted a consultant he knew from a private-sector job to do it correctly.

But…

“Dawn didn’t want someone looking at her bureau,” DeJong said. “I don’t believe this is evidence of duplicative work; in fact, it’s not. This is evidence that Dawn had something to hide.”

Administration officials say Simmons’ work uncovered irregularities that prompted an investigation by Blagojevich’s inspector general, who found that DeFraties and Casey altered civil-service grades to favor some applicants and graded preferred applicants before others to get them hired more quickly.

Then again…

However, state documents are not clear about Simmons’ role.

Three main witnesses against DeFraties and Casey told investigators that they had either not talked to Simmons, did not discuss special treatment of some applicants with her, or took their concerns directly to Wynn.

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      


Alderman wants $20K pay hike

Thursday, May 25, 2006

You’ve gotta be kidding me.

Aldermen would get a $20,000 pay increase spread over their next four-year term under an ordinance introduced Wednesday that is expected to start the debate over what constitutes appropriate compensation for Chicago’s City Council.

Mayor Richard Daley has not signed on to the proposal, nor have his colleagues, said Ald. Bernard Stone (50th), sponsor of the measure.

But Stone insisted that aldermen are worth the raise, which would increase salaries of council members by more than 20 percent, to about $118,000 a year in 2011.

“I think we deserve it,” asserted Stone, who was first elected in 1973. “At least I know I deserve it … I think my constituents think I am entitled to it.”

I have a feeling his constituents are thinking no such thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      


You have to play to win

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Sun-Times runs a story that looks into whether the state can really get $10 billion for the lottery.

“No one will give them $10 billion,” said Kip Peterson, president of Transnational Market Development, a Georgia consulting firm that has helped start 16 lotteries worldwide.

Because the lottery only generates $500 to $600 million in profits annually, it would take nearly 20 years to earn back the initial investment, he said. “It just doesn’t make sense financially.” […]

“There seems to be a market,” said Ted Damutz, a vice president with the Chicago office of Moody’s Investor Service. “Lots of European companies are already in the market for privatizing lottery systems. But it’s hard to know about this $10 billion. They still have to work out a lot of details.”

On the other hand…

Blagojevich staffers says they’ve considered those variables and stand by their $10 billion figure, saying it’s based on the value of current earnings. The $1.8 billion Skyway lease is 60 times the value of its annual earnings. They only expect to bring in 15 times the value of the lottery’s earnings.

“We have complete confidence in our numbers,” said Becky Carroll, Blagojevich’s budget spokeswoman.

That’s a good point about the Skyway.

Meanwhile, the Sun-Times editorial page doesn’t like the idea.

This latest idea from the desk of Gov. Blagojevich is long on merit but short on a real solution for long-term funding. […]

But this funding plan would last only until 2024, and then what? Luckily for the governor, he doesn’t have to worry about that because he won’t be in office then. […]

We have to wonder, along with state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger (R-Elgin), that if this were such a splendid program, why was it not introduced while the General Assembly was in session. “To do this now seems so overtly political and self-serving,” Rauschenberger says. “There is a lot of cynicism out there already.” Cynics are most apt to believe that after four years Blagojevich will be long gone but the lawmakers in Springfield will still be scratching their heads about how to invest in our schools, and the real losers will be our grandchildren.

And a Tribune story today begins the nit-picking that the plan will surely be bombarded with over the next few months (if it even survives that long).

Virtually every aspect of the agenda–from state takeover of failing schools to merit pay for teachers to mandated after-school tutoring–has its skeptics and detractors.

And Krol makes a point so well that I’ve had to rework my Sun-Times column.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich is no stranger to calling for radical changes to education in Illinois - but he’s also frequently backed away from his plans.

In the past three years, the freshman governor has advocated doubling the number of gaming positions to generate money for schools, legalizing Keno to pay for building schools, giving parents of college students $1,000 tax credits, and getting rid of the State Board of Education. None of those proposals became reality, with Blagojevich eventually backing down on each of them.

So, it’s understandable that a day after proposing the sale of the Illinois Lottery to get $10 billion up front to give more money to schools, one question that loomed large was whether Blagojevich is serious this time.

Bernie makes the same sort of argument.

But it’s possible that the Blagojevich plan could actually work to Topinka’s advantage. If the governor’s proposal is seen by the larger electorate as merely a ploy to sidetrack Meeks and give the governor another issue on which he might not deliver, there could be a backfire factor.

After all, in 2002, Blagojevich talked a lot about a new venture capital fund to create jobs. He advertised its benefits. But he never got it through the legislature. Even this spring, the governor advertised that he was fighting for his “jobs” plan, using a dubious figure for the number of jobs he wanted to create. The legislature didn’t pass that either.

UPDATE: YDD makes some interesting points. Read the whole thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      


The Stroger beat

Thursday, May 25, 2006

This seems like a reasonable demand.

Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica on Wednesday demanded a photograph or tape recording to prove that County Board President John Stroger is “alive and well enough to function” after the stroke that has sidelined him for 2-1/2 months.

“With 165 days to go before the election, with the county budget looming on the horizon, with over 40 union contracts to be negotiated, numerous executive appointments to be made, we can’t wait until the end of October when Clerk David Orr has set the deadline to decide whether or not he’s going to be the candidate,” said Peraica, Stroger’s Republican challenger.

But Mayor Daley doesn’t think so.

“Everybody has illnesses in their family. Let’s not already dig their graves. I know you want to dig people’s graves. But I hope you would never do that to your own family.”

And neither does Ald. Beavers.

“There’s always a double standard when it comes to black folks and white folks. Old man [Richard J.] Daley had a stroke and was off for a year. Nobody said one word. They were even afraid to whisper that he was sick around here,” Beavers said.

That’s a good point, but that was then and this is now. There ought to be some sort of deadline on this leave of absence. And we really ought to know who is actually running Cook County in Stroger’s absence.

Meanwhile, African-American politicians are pretty divided over who should replace Stroger.

Rep. Danny Davis continues to lobby ward bosses behind the scenes in the event that Stroger decides to retire. Davis is supported by Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) and possible mayoral challengers Jesse Jackson Jr. and Luis Gutierrez. They are determined to stop Stroger’s son, Ald. Todd Stroger (8th), from replacing his father.

And Sneed has this:

Sneed hears the Rev. James Meeks, who successfully flexed his considerable muscle recently against Gov. Blagojevich, would back Cook County Board Commissioner Bobbie Steele for board president over . . . U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.).

“I would [support Steele] if she put herself out there,” Meeks told Sneed. “I’m hoping she and Congressman Davis can work something out.”

*Hold the phone, again: Sneed hears the Rev. Jesse Jackson would also be in Steele’s corner.

“I am a great admirer of Bobbie Steele,” said Jackson. “She would make a fine board president.”

Your thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      


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        * Chris Mooney: More Evidence-Based Policymaking Needed
        * African Drumming At Southwind Park On Saturday
        * Investors gather in Chicago seeking cannabis businesses
        * Climate, Space Create Challenges For Local Food
        * Can A Governor Really Create Jobs?
        * How do you find high school dropouts?


        * GOP's Rauner gets another $1M from hedge fund CEO
        * Former Illinois prisoners get help reintegrating
        * Court: Lincoln inmate must use $20K settlement to pay incarceration costs
        * Deadline ahead for Illinois marijuana businesses
        * Gov. Quinn picks up Sierra Club endorsement
        * Our Opinion: Springfield needs Magro project
        * Angie Muhs: Open government is worth fighting for
        * Statehouse Insider: Rauner hit with double whammy
        * Statehouse Insider: Rauner hit with double whammy
        * Bernard Schoenburg: Bull flies in 13th Congressional race


        * Success: Belleville grills 200-foot bratwurst to commemorate city's 200th birthday
        * Parkland Volleyball vs Johnson County
        * Davenport man charged in fatal crash
        * Janet Rayfield Postgame Purdue 9-21-2014
        * Father McGivney to break ground on new school building Monday
        * Day Foundation leader to retire
        * Local Scoreboard
        * Mac volleyball takes two
        * New Berlin takes second
        * Lomelino 25th


        * U.N. General Assembly to focus on Islamic State this week
        * Joint Chiefs chair: Arab nations needed to attack Islamic State on many fronts
        * Islamic State winning social media war in Arab states
        * Islamic State recruits Americans with online media
        * Eagles go 3-0 with win over Washington

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        * US House of Representatives Unanimously Pa...
        * Elizabeth Roskam Paints Capitol for Ukrain...
        * Illinois vote: Dems split on aid for Syria...
        * Democratic candidate Mason says he's 'flip...
        * Hultgren, Roskam to Host Service Academy D...
        * Ask Peter: Obamacare's Broken Promises - I...
        * Peter Roskam pushes for Alzheimer's resear...
        * Congressman: 'Some good stuff is going on'...

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        * Horizon Pharma Moves Overseas Defying Lawm......
        * Horizon Pharma Moves Overseas Defying Lawm......
        * Horizon Pharma Moves Overseas Defying Lawm......
        * Northwestern gets grant to prevent sexual ......

        * Diplomats: Iran receptive to new nuke prop......
        * Diplomats: Iran open to softened US nuke p......

        * Some Concepts About College You Must Know
        * No More Trouble in Completing Difficult Writing Assignments
        * The Highland teachers strike. A great editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
        * Sunday reads.
        * Gov. Mike Huckabee Endorses Mike Bost for U.S. Congress
        * Rauner says he'll make administration picks based on qualifications, not favors
        * 'Suicide fanatics' facing demonstrators in Chicago
        * Eric Metaxas to Christians: As the world darkens, share the Truth
        * Callis releases new negative ad on Davis
        * LAUSD 2014 Professional Development.


        * Quinn still refusing to fire 20 political cronies
        * Illinois Chamber of Commerce Endorses Rauner for Governor
        * Rauner Web Ad: “Cut from the Same Cloth”
        * Illinois Department of Human Rights Commemorates International Day of Peace
        * Quinn Misleads Public on IDOT Again




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