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Reader comments closed for the holidays

Monday, Dec 23, 2013

* I’ll be back the Monday after New Year’s Day. I hope everyone has a wonderful and joyous holiday season. I don’t say this nearly enough, but you folks mean the world to me.

* As is our custom, we end the year with three videos. Suzy Snowflake

Frosty the Snowman

And Hardrock, Coco and Joe

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


And the winners are…

Monday, Dec 23, 2013

* The 2013 Wordslinger Golden Horseshoe Award for Best CapitolFax.com Commenter is a tie. Retired Non-Union Guy, or RNUG for short, wins because of his invaluable insights into pension reform…

If I had a vote in the legislature, I would have voted in favor of the pension bill that passed.

But I nominate RNUG anyway.

The biggest issue of the year was pension reform/change, and RNUG was on top of it. As a subject matter expert, RNUG served as a model for others who may be experts on other issues in the coming year.

RNUG made a powerful case for the constitutional questions of the bills being considered. RNUG didn’t just post “UNCONSTITUTIONAL!” Instead, he took the time to explain why he believed this.

He went through the ultimate bill in great detail, and he helped other state employees/retirees out who asked questions. And RNUG admitted when he wasn’t sure about something.

Pension reform is an emotional issue, and RNUG didn’t waste time getting into wars with those who disagreed with him.

I nominate RNUG even though I disagree with him on pension reform/change. Thanks to RNUG, I learned a great deal about respecting the other side’s opinion, as well as the law, and I suspect I’m not the only one.

The man is indefatigable. I asked him to give me a couple of rewrites on his Thanksgiving holiday pension analysis and he braved nasty stares from his better half to comply. I will always owe him.

* 47th Ward also wins for his invaluable insights on pretty much everything…

Brings the “old school” and “new skool” politics in focus like very few do here. Getting his take us probably one of the best temperature gauges for the City, it’s politics, and what I like best, the historic and political perspective. There are far, FAR too many to say I would want to share a barstool with, but since I am nominating him, in that spirit, it only feels right.

I have shared a barstool with him and he’s as insightful and wise in real life as he is here.

* Runner-up goes to MrJM…

Always has a witty, satirical comment befitting of the New Yorker. Definitely appreciate the humor.

* Honorable mention to Soccermom, who is Wordslinger’s favorite this year…

I like her politics, but even more I like the way she makes her case in a smart, concise way while being a model of civility (something I resolve to aspire to).

The kid has it all.

– She’s a progressive who’s also a fiscal conservative (I hear some heads exploding!).

– A loyal advocate for her friends who’s willing to call them out when they’re wrong.

– A committed partisan who respects (or at least doesn’t disrespect) those on the other side.

– A great writer and voice of reason who is witty and wise, and only releases righteous anger when someone really deserves it. Then, look out.

She doesn’t write as much like gasbags like me, but I always look forward to spotting the handle. One of my absolute favorites over the years, she’s long overdue for the nod.

Congratulations to all.

* The complete list, with runners-up in parentheses…

* The Wordslinger Golden Horseshoe Award for Best CapitolFax.com Commenter: RNUG and 47th Ward (tie)

* The Mike McClain Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Statehouse Insider: Dave Vite

* Best Statewide Officeholder: Gov. Pat Quinn (Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka)

* Best State Agency Director: Richard Calica

* Best “Do-Gooder” Lobbyist: Khadine Bennett (Mike Pollak)

* Best Contract Lobbyist: Dave Sullivan (Liz Brown)

* Best In-House Lobbyist: Todd Vandermyde and Rob Karr (tie)

* Best Legislative Liaison: Randy Wells and Shannon Miller (tie)

* Best Illinois Congresscritter: Mike Quigley (Rodney Davis)

* Best Illinois State Senator - Republican: Senate GOP Leader Christine Radogno (Sen. Jason Barickman)

* Best Illinois State Senator - Democrat: Sen. Kwame Raoul (Sen. Andy Manar)

* Best Illinois State Representative - Republican: Rep. Ed Sullivan and Rep. Ron Sandack (tie)

* Best Illinois State Representative - Democrat: Rep. Greg Harris (Speaker Madigan)

* The Steve Brown Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Government Spokesperson: Patti Thompson (Rikeesha Phelon)

* Best campaign staffer - Illinois House Democrats: Kristen Bauer (Julia Larkin)

* Best campaign staffer - Illinois House Republicans: Nick Bellini (Ray Soch and Garrett Hill)

* Best campaign staffer - Senate Democrats: Dovile Soblinskas

* Best campaign staffer - Senate Republicans: Pat Barry

* Best State Senate Staffer - Non Political: Eric Madiar (Caitlyn McEvoy)

* Best State House Staffer - Non Political: Heather Weir Vaught (Brandon Nemec)

* The Beth Hamilton Golden Horseshoe Award for Best House Secretary/Admin. Assistant: Jody Aiello (Kristin Milligan)

* Best Senate Secretary/Admin. Assistant: Anita Colvin-Barth (Abby Walsh)

* Best political bar in Springfield: Boone’s Saloon (The Globe)

* Best political restaurant in Springfield: Sebastian’s (Maldaner’s)

* Best bartender: Adam at No Name Bar (Louie at Gab’s)

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Anti-frackers stage “elf action” on Quinn’s lawn

Monday, Dec 23, 2013

* From a press release…

Monday morning four concerned community members dressed as elves visited Governor Quinn’s Chicago residence and set up a hydraulic fracturing rig with a large red bow attached on the front lawn. The “elves” said they were delivering a present from Santa who has been nervously watching the dangerous practice of hydraulic fracturing or fracking inch closer and closer to becoming reality in Illinois during the past year.

The elves said they were delivering the frack rig because people that live far away from where fracking is planned are the ones making the decision to bring the dangerous practice here. “We are delivering this rig today because if Governor Quinn and the other people that have opened up our state to fracking had to live next to fracking and had to obtain their water from a well I think they would not bring fracking to our state,” said Mike Durshmid of Rising Tide Chicago.

Except that southern Illinois legislators, who will be living near fracking, voted for the bill. I’d love to see those elves head down ‘yonder and put up a rig in Gary Forby’s front yard. Heh.

* I’ve been looking around today for a fresh, year-ending caption contest. This one could be fun. Here’s a photo of the “elf action”…

- Posted by Rich Miller   52 Comments      


Question of the day

Monday, Dec 23, 2013

* Today will be the last regular day of blogging until January. I may write posts if big news breaks, but I doubt comments will be opened.

* The Question: Your thoughts about Illinois’ year in politics?

…Adding… If you’re looking for a refresher, the Senate Dems have a quick list of major new laws and a long pdf file of all new laws here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


Their paths to victory

Monday, Dec 23, 2013

* Paul Green, the Director of Roosevelt University’s Institute for Politics, has penned a long, but interesting look at the history of Republican gubernatorial primaries which includes a preview of how all four candidates could win. He doesn’t include the union involvement aspect, but otherwise it’s pretty good stuff. Click here to read it all. An excerpt…

I believe it’s fair to say that if politics was a poker game, Bruce Rauner would be “all in”. His vast wealth has propelled him into the political limelight against three opponents – all of whom have political experience and governmental records. Thus, Rauner is a wild card – he can use his dollars to attack and not have to worry too much about his political past.

In order to win this political melee – five things need to happen.

    First – Rauner will have to debate his opponents – all of whom are debate veterans. Rauner cannot simply hide behind his commercials. In these debates, Rauner must show both issue and political competence and a thick political skin when the political arrows are aimed directly at him.

    Second – in his all-out assault on Springfield and its politicians, Rauner cannot overplay his “negative” hand; he must also have a “positive” hand as well.

    Third – Endorsements – Rauner will need them. Especially from the state’s major newspapers. This will show that besides his wealth, the editorial writers recognize public policy substance and governmental ability. He would then publicize these endorsements through his various media outlets.

    Fourth – The Rahm Factor. Chicago’s mayor Rahm Emanuel cannot become an issue in the GOP gubernatorial primary. Rauner must convince some fence-sitting GOP voters that he is a real Republican who will be a party player if elected.

    Fifth – Finally, Rauner has to piece together a geo-political vote base that carves deeply into Dillard’s suburban/collar strength and Brady and Rutherford’s central and southern Illinois muscle.

This further explains why Rauner is pursuing local party endorsements so heavily. His opponents are calling him a Democrat in Republican clothing. If that’s so, he can say, then why are all those GOP organizations backing him? Yeah, they’re getting some cash out of the deal, but as those endorsements pile up it’s pretty tough to say that so many Republican leaders are selling out to a closet Democrat.

Also, few people actually watch gubernatorial debates. It’ll take a big mistake to make much of a difference.

* Here’s his take on how Bill Brady could win

Few could argue with the analysis that State Senator Brady was a very fortunate 2010 gubernatorial primary winner. Among the major candidates – he alone owned vote-rich central Illinois while his collar county foes carved each other up in the northeastern part of the state.

In 2014 Brady’s regional base will undergo a challenge from Rutherford (Livingston county) and Bruce Rauner’s television ads. Four things need to happen for Brady to win another narrow victory.

    First, not only must he hold his central Illinois base but, unlike 2010 he will have to campaign vigorously north of I-80.

    Second, given the above, he needs to use his vote for pension reform (only GOP gubernatorial candidate to support SB-1) to appeal to suburban/collar county Republican voters who in 2010 were frightened by his hard line social issue positions.

    Third, again back to the first point – he must remind voters south of I-80 that he has been a longstanding consistent conservative voice in Illinois politics.

    Fourth, and most iffy, he needs the other three candidates – especially Dillard and Rauner to tear each other up during the campaign debates and in their speeches.

* Kirk Dillard’s shot

Barely lost the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary (193 votes) – due to DuPage county and the rest of the collars having their votes splintered among several candidates - including one who withdrew from the race – Dillard now seeks collar county unity in his rematch with Brady and the other candidates.

In order to win this all-out battle, Dillard needs four things to happen.

    First – he needs to raise enough dollars to compete with Rauner for the suburban and collar county vote. Undoubtedly, he will be out-spent, but he must have enough media to play up his gubernatorial competence against Rauner’s all-out assault on him and politicians in general.

    Second – his mentor, former Governor Jim Edgar, must be more active in this primary than he was in 2010. He needs to remind GOP voters that not so long ago Republicans ruled the state mansion by electing center-right candidates like Dillard and that the ultimate opponent is Governor Pat Quinn.

    Third – geo-politically, Dillard needs to unite remaining collar county and northwest and southwest Cook County GOP organizations behind him arguing on background and experience, he should be their candidate. He needs to close this deal as soon as possible.

    Fourth – assuming all four will participate in televised debates – Dillard needs to kick back hard on his Republican brand as Rauner will definitely go after him on his friendship with current and past Democratic colleagues in Springfield.

Dillard faded in 2010 because he was attacked over his Obama TV ad.

* Treasurer Rutherford’s path

A Republican statewide office holder should have an advantage in a four-way primary against two state senators and a businessman. However, Rutherford in 2010 had a weak opponent in a low publicity race – thereby making it essential in 2014 that he re-introduce himself to Republican voters. It may seem strange to say, but Rutherford – like Rauner – has no specific regional base. His home area is between Brady’s central Illinois and Dillard’s DuPage county.

In order for Rutherford to come out on top, he must do four things.

    First – Needs to make his statewide office a huge positive – thereby contesting all his rivals in all voting regions;

    Second – Given his state treasurer position, he must outshine his debate foes with facts and figures on solving the state’s budget, pension and debt problems;

    Third – Must raise the second most campaign funds to combat Rauner’s media blitz with his own ads showing that governmental competence beats campaign rhetoric;

    Fourth – Needs either Brady or Dillard to garner large margins in their home base areas.

He also needs to drastically refine his theme.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Some story updates

Monday, Dec 23, 2013

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - More on the anti-Rauner push (Use last week’s password)

Monday, Dec 23, 2013

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Former DCFS Director Calica passes away

Monday, Dec 23, 2013

* Sun-Times

Richard H. Calica, who recently left his post as director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, died overnight, Gov. Pat Quinn’s office said Monday morning.

Calica, 67, had been diagnosed with cancer and had undergone surgery in recent months. He had been DCFS director from December 2011 until last month, when he announced his diagnosis. […]

The governor touted Calica’s addition of 138 new investigators to the child-welfare system by eliminating management posts. He also credited him for modernizing the agency’s hotline system, “which has led to a 40 percent increase in the volume of callers who immediately reach a child-protection specialist.”

* Press release…

Governor Quinn today released the following statement on the passing of Richard Calica, former Director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) who led the department from December 2011 to November 2013.

“It is with great sadness today that we announce the passing of Richard Calica, a true public servant in the state of Illinois.

“Richard Calica was a dedicated advocate for our most vulnerable children. He always put their safety and well-being first.

“I send my condolences to Richard’s family and friends. They are in our thoughts and prayers during this most difficult of times.”

* We didn’t have a Golden Horseshoe Award for Best State Agency Director this year because of time constraints. With your permission, I’d like to give it to Calica in memoriam.

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      


The final 2013 Golden Horseshoe Award round

Monday, Dec 23, 2013

* The 2013 Mike McClain Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Statehouse Insider is Dave Vite, who retires this week from the Illinois Retail Merchants Association…

Imagine the conversations and decisions that were made when he roomed with Mike McClain and Greg Baise over the past several decades. There is no better insider than Dave who worked with GOP and Dem Governors, Cullerton, Madigan, and others.

The fact that Quinn, Rahm, Daley, Madigan, Cullerton, Durkin, and Radogno all feted Dave at his retirement says it all.

* The 2013 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Contract Lobbyist goes to Dave Sullivan, again…

There is no doubt in my mind that in the near future, the prize for Best Contract Lobbyist will be deemed the Dave Sullivan Golden Horseshoe for Best Contract Lobbyist. The man is a veritable encyclopedia of knowledge — both institutional and anecdotal. He has earned the deep respect of Members from both parties and in both chambers in addition to the obvious accolades coming from other lobbyists and insiders from every corner of the State House. It doesn’t hurt that Dave is just genuinely a nice guy. My vote goes to Dave Sullivan wholeheartedly.

* Runner-up is Liz Brown…

Dave Sullivan is a great contract lobbyist, but I think he has won this award before (not sure, Rich?) I am going to go with one to watch for the future- Liz Brown. She has done a great job and deserves to be awarded for her tenacious spirit and know how work product. She has built an impressive book of business for herself.

* The 2013 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best In-House Lobbyist is a tie between Todd Vandermyde of the NRA…

Todd Vandermyde had a very good year on behalf of the NRA. He got 95% of what he said he’d get in the concealed carry law. He worked well with some new faces like Sen. Raoul and didn’t let his more passionate supporters derail a well negotiated compromise. As someone who was working on the other side of the CC issue, I tip my cap to Todd. He deserves to win this award.

* And Rob Karr of IRMA…

This guy tracks and lobbies hundreds of bills a session. Every member knows him. He is honest, direct and works harder and longer then just about anyone in the building.

Congrats to everyone.

* OK, it’s time for our final category…

* The 2013 Wordslinger Golden Horseshoe Award for Best CapitolFax.com Commenter

Oswego Willy deservedly won this award last year.

Make extra sure to explain your vote in comments, please. This ain’t about numbers, it’s about intensity. Thanks!

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      


Support strong, but not a deciding issue

Monday, Dec 23, 2013

* Public Policy Polling has a new survey of some targeted congressional districts about the issue of cutting off extended unemployment insurance benefits that we talked about in an earlier post. One of the districts polled was that of freshman GOP Congressman Rodney Davis…

Overall Support for extended benefits: 66/29
Democrats: 85/11
Republicans: 53/39
Independents: 58/40

* While support for extending the benefits is quite strong across the board, it doesn’t appear to be a deciding issue that people will actually vote on. Here are PPP’s numbers of those who would be more likely or less likely to vote for those who cast a vote to cut off the benefits

All: 31/41
Independents: 35/36

* This year’s government shutdown hurt everybody’s poll numbers, including Davis’, whose overall approval/disapproval is 33/35, the poll found.

573 voters surveyed December 19th and 20th, with a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percent.

- Posted by Rich Miller   5 Comments      


Behind the numbers

Monday, Dec 23, 2013

* Finke reiterates something I told you about a few weeks ago

Now that pension reform is on the books, the anti-public union/public employee folks will have to turn their attention in a new direction for a while.

Thankfully, Medicaid fraud is available to take up the slack.

As part of Medicaid reforms passed a couple of years ago, state agencies were required to review Medicaid rolls to get rid of people no longer eligible for benefits. Face it, if a recipient lives in Wisconsin, Illinois shouldn’t be paying his bills.

The state wasn’t exactly vigilant in dumping ineligible people from the program. Whether this was due to a lack of willpower or lack of manpower is still being argued, although it’s worth noting that the state’s workforce is significantly smaller than it was a decade ago.

Anyway, an arbitrator ruled last summer that the eligibility review work should be done by state employees, not Maximus, the private contractor hired by the state. Last week, the administration announced the results of negotiations to implement the ruling. It includes hiring more than 500 new workers, but also keeping Maximus around in a limited role for a while longer. Immediately, some were predicting doom and gloom because public, rather than private, workers will be doing the work. […]

One number tossed around last week was that Maximus found 40 percent of those receiving benefits were ineligible. At least, that’s how some people characterized it.

Baloney. Maximus reviewed about 497,000 Medicaid cases since the beginning of 2013. Of those, the final review work was completed on about 315,000 cases. And of those, 40 percent were found to be fraudulent and terminated.

So it’s not 40 percent of all Medicaid cases, it’s 40 percent of those checked, which is far less. Also, the ones that were checked first were mostly cases where the state already had suspicions. In other words, easy pickings. Once those are gone, it’s entirely possible the rate of fraud discovered will go down.

It’s more than just entirely possible, it’s almost guaranteed.

* Meanwhile, Crain’s buried a choice nugget deep in a story about business tax credits

Regular EDGE, or Economic Development for a Growing Economy, credits, which reduce a company’s state income taxes, have been awarded to 277 companies, totaling about $800 million, since the program started in 2001. In return, those firms invested nearly $8.5 billion in Illinois and created 49,300 jobs, more than twice the number estimated, according to a spokesman for the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Another 48,320 jobs were retained, slightly more than expected.

But in recent years, nine companies that pay little or no state income taxes, including Sears Holdings Corp., Motorola Mobility Inc. and Ford Motor Co., have won special legislation allowing them to keep part of the personal state income taxes paid by their employees if they invest and keep or create jobs in Illinois.

“Is that fair to a plumbing company with six people?” says Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, who will co-chair next month’s hearing on business tax incentives. “Can they afford the most-connected lobbyists to go after tax breaks?”

Only Motorola Mobility, now owned by Google Inc., has collected on those credits so far, according to a DCEO spokesman. [emphasis added.]

* From an unemployment benefit story from the Sun-Times

This year has seen a trifecta of challenges for Lynn Richards, 30, of Elgin.

In April, she was laid off from her manufacturing purchasing job of 3½ years.

Her unemployment insurance kicked in, then she became pregnant during her job search.

Now Richards, who is married with a son and hasn’t yet found work, is among 80,000 Illinoisans expected to lose federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation on Saturday.

“I’ve been working since I was 20. I’ve never had this much trouble getting a job in my life. I’ve applied to like 200 places. I’ve gotten less than 10 calls and a couple of interviews,” she said. “Unfortunately now, no employer wants to hire someone [who is] pregnant.”

An estimated 1.3 million Americans who are the long-term unemployed are due to have their benefits cut off just after Christmas because Congress didn’t extend the recession initiative in its compromise budget bill passed by the Senate last week.

Another 1.9 million currently receiving state jobless benefits due to run out the first half of 2014 also will be affected, as they would have qualified for the federal compensation.

* County by county list of those who lost their benefits…

Adams 258
Alexander 33
Bond 92
Boone 328
Brown 13
Bureau 205
Calhoun 27
Carroll 50
Cass 76
Champaign 789
Christian 233
Clark 62
Clay 62
Clinton 158
Coles 218
Cook 38,260
Crawford 92
Cumberland 55
DeKalb 538
DeWitt 89
Douglas 59
Du Page 4,965
Edgar 92
Edwards 13
Effingham 165
Fayette 146
Ford 52
Franklin 349
Fulton 243
Gallatin 39
Greene 68
Grundy 320
Hamilton 43
Hancock 52
Hardin 34
Henderson 10
Henry 226
Iroquois 146
Jackson 233
Jasper 39
Jefferson 227
Jersey 130
Jo Daviess 52
Johnson 66
Kane 3,086
Kankakee 838
Kendall 717
Knox 281
La Salle 933
Lake 3,546
Lawrence 54
Lee 206
Livingston 147
Logan 134
Macon 1,161
Macoupin 291
Madison 1,618
Marion 231
Marshall 71
Mason 95
Massac 48
McDonough 87
McHenry 1,642
McLean 572
Menard 55
Mercer 40
Monroe 88
Montgomery 191
Morgan 187
Moultrie 58
Ogle 326
Peoria 1,546
Perry 131
Piatt 78
Pike 59
Pope 10
Pulaski 34
Putnam 44
Randolph 152
Richland 73
Rock Island 515
Saint Clair 1,667
Saline 220
Sangamon 1,059
Schuyler 38
Scott 26
Shelby 113
Stark 29
Stephenson 337
Tazewell 891
Union 101
Vermilion 533
Wabash 19
Warren 53
Washington 56
Wayne 65
White 62
Whiteside 351
Will 4,474
Williamson 440
Winnebago 2,388
Woodford 193
Total 81,867

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


Unions gearing up while Rauner lays the groundwork

Monday, Dec 23, 2013

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

It’s no secret that Republican primary voters in Illinois have been almost rigidly hierarchical when it comes to choosing gubernatorial candidates. They pretty much always choose the candidate who can best demonstrate that it’s his or her “turn.”

In 1990, after eight years as secretary of state, Jim Edgar was the clear choice. Indeed, he barely had opposition. The same went for two-term Secretary of State George Ryan eight years later. In 2002, it was clearly Attorney General Jim Ryan’s turn and he bested two other high-profile candidates in the primary. In 2006, Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka beat three lesser-known opponents to win her primary race, although it wasn’t as easy.

Things weren’t as clear in 2010. Wealthy Republican contributor and former state party chairman Andy McKenna spent a fortune early on and led in most polling until near the end, when primary voters began to sour on him. They quickly turned to Sen. Kirk Dillard, a former Jim Edgar chief of staff, but then almost as quickly turned against him when McKenna unleashed ads blasting Dillard for appearing in a TV ad for Barack Obama. Sen. Bill Brady, a strong conservative who ran an underfunded but somewhat credible campaign four years earlier, ended up beating Dillard by less than 200 votes.

And that brings us to 2014, where three of the four candidates are relying mainly on the “my turn” logic to prevail. Sen. Brady’s main pitch to voters, other than his recycled 2010 rhetoric, is that he learned valuable lessons in his 2010 loss to Pat Quinn and is now the most viable choice. Sen. Dillard’s pitch is that he was a proven manager under Jim Edgar and would’ve won in 2010 had he not lost to Brady in the primary and so he’s the best choice. Treasurer Dan Rutherford’s almost singular raisson d’être is that he is the only candidate in the race who has ever won statewide.

McKenna was the second rich guy in a row to attempt to break the “my turn” cycle. Wealthy GOP contributor Ron Gidwitz ran four years earlier and lost badly. You can draw a direct line from Gidwitz to self described “outsider” Bruce Rauner, who is running a well thought-out, well-funded and highly sophisticated primary race in an attempt to reset the “my turn” system, which essentially flowed from the mighty statewide organization built by political newcomer Gov. Jim Thompson, who is now backing Dillard.

If the primary was left to its own devices, Rauner might very well walk away with this thing. None of the other candidates have any real money and none are making much of a persuasive case for their respective campaigns.

But organized labor is moving ever closer to jumping into this primary battle, sources say. The idea, as I’ve told you before, is to spend a relative few million bucks attacking Rauner in the primary rather than being forced to spend tens of millions to fend him off in the fall. His close ties to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, for instance, have been shown by polling to be a killer political issue with GOP primary voters.

Rauner’s anti-union rhetoric and his (by many) unexpectedly strong Republican primary campaign have convinced unions that they need to step up soon. Plus, some public employee unions are so hostile to Gov. Pat Quinn because of pension reform that they don’t want to give the incumbent any money or help in the fall. So, this is all about knocking off “Public Enemy Number One” as early as possible.

Rauner has spent $300,000 a week on TV ads since the beginning of November, mainly to begin the process of inoculating himself against the expected labor union advertising blitz. He’s pushed his poll numbers up and has continued to freeze out his GOP rivals.

It’s abundantly clear that none of the other Republican candidates has the money to attack Rauner. Two of the three barely have enough cash to sustain their own day-to-day operations. And Rutherford only has enough for about a month of TV ads, if that. The only way that any sort of negative message about Rauner can be effectively advertised is if somebody else takes him on.

While Rauner leads in two recent polls, he’s still an almost completely unknown quantity to voters. His numbers are, in other words, wide but not deep. Shocking voters with some revelations about his background could very well knock him out. But his campaign has seen this union attack coming for a long time and they undoubtedly have at least some counter-measures planned. He won’t go away quietly.

Subscribers know more about this pending attack. Lots more.

* And this Cook County GOP development has a lot to do with the beginning of my column. As noted above, Illinois Republicans don’t like nobody what nobody sent. It’s why Rauner has concentrated so hard on winning local party endorsements. He’s trying very hard to look like the historically acceptable “it’s my turn” candidate. But pretty much everyone has missed that angle

The Cook County Republican Party, beset by a lack of money, internal feuding and a long losing streak, has endorsed wealthy Winnetka businessman Bruce Rauner for governor in the March primary election.

But the impact of the county GOP backing, announced Saturday, is questionable. The group reported less than $8,500 in its campaign fund as of Oct. 1, and carried a $400 debt to Aaron Del Mar, the county’s GOP chairman.

Moreover, while Cook County traditionally represents about 21 percent of the Republican primary vote in Illinois, the party lacks any significant organization to be able to deliver ballots. Some Republicans indicated privately that among the group’s 50 ward and 30 suburban townships, local groups still could back their own preferred contenders.

* It’s not about that handful of votes. It’s about how Rauner is quickly building an image of party elder acceptability. He’s been endorsed by several county and township parties this year. And that’s why candidates like Sen. Kirk Dillard are trying to discredit the endorsements. From a Dillard press release…

State Senator Kirk Dillard released the following statement today regarding the Cook County Republican Party endorsement:

“Today’s endorsement is yet another sad example of Bruce Rauner buying the election. Ask yourself: why would Cook County GOP bosses support Rauner, knowing that he voted democrat, gave millions of dollars to state and national democrats, is a Rahm Emanuel insider, AND hired a convicted Blagojevich insider to win state contracts? There’s only one explanation — the Bruce Rauner money machine was at work again. Only in Illinois would the legitimate concerns of rank-and-file, grassroots republicans be dismissed so brazenly. Welcome back, pay-to-play!

Our campaign is confident that we have the support of grassroots republicans, as we did in the last election when Cook County had an open convention which I won in a straw poll.”

* Also, check this out

Maine Township committeeman Rosemary Mulligan, a former state representative, said she was personally lobbied by both Rauner and Dillard, who’s from neighboring DuPage County. She said she ultimately chose Rauner because of his close relationship with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel; the two men are friends and worked together on Chicago school reform issues.

That’ll make some heads explode.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


The political story of 2013: Quinn’s remarkable resurrection

Monday, Dec 23, 2013

* My Sunday Sun-Times column

Without a doubt, the biggest Illinois politics story of the year is how Gov. Pat Quinn went from hopelessly lame duck to sitting pretty.

I mean, who woulda thunk a year ago that Quinn would not be facing a serious primary challenge?

Heck, go back six months to the May 31 end of the spring legislative session, when the Statehouse collectively crashed into a brick wall.

The gay marriage bill wasn’t called for a vote in the House, and Quinn looked foolish by claiming (wrongly) that the votes were there to pass it.

The pension reform bill went nowhere and Quinn looked completely impotent.

Quinn refused to engage in talks on a federal appellate panel’s order to rewrite the state’s public gun carrying laws and ended up vetoing the bill — a true abdication of leadership.

By the end of the spring session, Attorney General Lisa Madigan was about to conclude a six-month fund-raising binge, which sure made it looked like she was gearing up to oppose Quinn in the primary.

Democratic gubernatorial contender Bill Daley visited the Statehouse near the end of session to loudly denounce the governor’s comically inept attempts at leadership.

Quinn was the guy who couldn’t get anything done. And he looked like he was toast to pretty much everybody.

But then, unexpectedly, things started going his way. Lisa Madigan decided not to run after (she claimed) she couldn’t convince her powerful House speaker father to retire.

Then Bill Daley abruptly decided he just wasn’t cut out for the political life and dropped out as well.

Hillary Clinton jokingly referred to Quinn as the “luckiest politician” on the planet. She wasn’t far from wrong.

But Quinn made some of his own luck. He came up with the idea of appointing a rare “conference committee” to deal with the pension issue. The idea was to get the negotiations out of the hands of the legislative leaders, who were basically at each others’ throats back then, and let some respected rank-and-file members handle it.

Speaker Michael Madigan initially hated the idea, but eventually allowed the committee to be appointed. He warned the governor, though, that Quinn would have to find the votes for whatever his new project came up with.

The committee idea worked. Members moved the ball forward in a spirit of compromise while the legislative leaders had time for their own tempers to cool off. One of the committee’s members, Sen. Kwame Raoul, seriously considered running for governor after Lisa Madigan dropped out, but decided against it because, he said, he needed to finish the pension reform work he’d started. Keeping a prominent African-American out of the race was a huge and unexpected side benefit for Quinn.

Eventually, the leaders took the issue back from the committee, came to an agreement and with a bit of help from Quinn (and, despite his earlier warnings, a lot of muscle by Madigan) passed it over the strong objections of three of the four Republican candidates for governor — another Quinn win.

And in the meantime, the House had passed the gay marriage bill, with an assist from Quinn. The governor signed the legislation into law in front of a packed Chicago auditorium, TV cameras everywhere.

The governor appears so silly at times and so inept that it’s always easy to count him out. But he held off Dan Hynes in the 2010 primary and won the general election during the worst Democratic year since Harry Truman’s days. Yes, his poll numbers still aren’t good, but you just can’t ever count this guy out.

* I’ve received some e-mail feedback from Sun-Times readers, including this gem…

Rich,
Who paid you to write this hogwash??? Political comeback really, you mean when underlying reasons(Madigan) for others to dropout. Do you really think there’s enough staunch dems left to go along with the Crook County and lakefront liberals to elect this phony??? We call him the lying taxing proclamation man!!! He’s lost almost all union support and will cost the state millions in legal fees to fight his attacks on Illinois constitutional backed pensions. Which he did nothing for. Gun rights supporters hate him and as well as the educators. Let see you write about who doesn’t like him.
I hope im wrong when a long time precinct worker told me ” voters have the shortest memories”. Lets play it out!!! I can’t wait to leave this state.

Informed reader

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      


Today’s numbers and a morning reading assignment

Monday, Dec 23, 2013

* New York TImes

Across the country, public schools employ about 250,000 fewer people than before the recession, according to figures from the Labor Department. Enrollment in public schools, meanwhile, has increased by more than 800,000 students. To maintain prerecession staffing ratios, public school employment should have actually grown by about 132,000 jobs in the past four years, in addition to replacing those that were lost, said Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington.


* Meanwhile, the Chicago Sun-Times
has a must-read story today about how a charter school with ties to the Turkish Gulen movement received the first and only state approval to open a school after the Chicago Public Schools turned it down. Ties to Speaker Madigan, Madigan’s son, a former Caterpillar CEO, etc. abound. Here’s just a taste, but make sure and read the whole thing

Madigan has taken four trips in the past four years to Turkey as the guest of the Chicago-based Niagara Foundation — whose honorary president is Gulen — and the Chicago Turkish American Chamber of Commerce, according to disclosure reports the speaker has filed.

State records show Madigan’s visits were among 32 trips lawmakers took to Turkey from 2008 through 2012. The speaker and members of his House Democratic caucus took 29 of those trips, which they described as “educational missions.”

Turkey was the destination of 74 percent of all foreign trips Illinois legislators reported receiving as gifts during the five-year period.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      


PREVIOUS POSTS »
* Uh-oh
* Today's quotable
* AFSCME goes with Quinn
* Paranoia will destroy 'ya
* Rauner blasts medical marijuana law
* Bost responds to "rant" ad
* Another day, another Rauner deal under the microscope
* Rauner lashes out at Quinn over IDOT scandal
* Dueling ads are no contest
* Paying the price for making bad hires
* Entrenched party portrays itself as the "reform" party
* Starting to gear up a bit
* Yesterday's blog posts

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