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Tuesday, Oct 28, 2008

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Question of the day

Tuesday, Oct 28, 2008

We’ve done it before, but now we’re a week away so let’s do it again.

Your Illinois election day predictions, please.

- Posted by Rich Miller   72 Comments      


Kirk a tossup? Plus: Oberweis goes negative

Tuesday, Oct 28, 2008

* CQ Politics has switched its rating on the Kirk vs. Seals congressional race to “No Clear Favorite”

• Illinois’ 10th District (New Rating: No Clear Favorite. Previous Rating: Leans Republican)

The re-rating of this race isn’t due to any slipup by four-term moderate Republican Rep. Mark Steven Kirk , who hasn’t made any missteps in the rematch of the 2006 race in which he defeated Democrat Dan Seals by 7 percentage points. Kirk is exceptionally well-funded, with $4.8 million raised through Oct. 15, and he’s touting a voting record that is among the most independent-minded among House Republicans. History also shows that many rematch challengers do worse on their second try.

But there is plenty of evidence to suggest that Seals is running closer to Kirk than he did two years ago in a slightly Democratic-leaning swing district that includes some affluent suburbs north of Chicago. Seals began his second campaign not long after he lost his first, which helps explain why he’s raised more than $3 million, one of the highest totals in the nation for a challenging candidate. The DCCC, which gave Seals’ 2006 campaign very limited assistance, has spent more than $1 million on this year’s race. And if there is a coattails effect anywhere from Obama’s presidential bid, it should be in this district in the Illinois senator’s home state — which even in 2004 favored Democrat John Kerry for president over Bush by 5 percentage points.

I don’t know if they’ll run it or not, but after this morning’s event, WBBM Radio asked me for my surprise of the night for next Tuesday. I was caught a bit off guard and pointed to a possible Kirk upset. There are other possibilities, however, so perhaps you can discuss them below.

* The DCCC has a new TV ad attacking Kirk and tying him to President Bush…


* But the Politico names Kirk as one of its “stand-out centrists of 2008″…

Mark Kirk of Illinois: A military man and leader of the Republican Main Street Partnership, this congressman from the suburbs of Chicago has the unenviable task this year of running against a charismatic African-American challenger. But Kirk has shown the mettle to stand up to Bush and Tom DeLay and the vision to set out a “suburban agenda” that is “pro-defense, pro-personal responsibility, pro-environment and pro-science.”

* After saying he wouldn’t do it, Jim Oberweis is now running a negative TV ad. The ad highlights his disagreement with Democratic incumbent Bill Foster on the bailout plan. So far, I’m told, this is just on cable TV, but he also bought radio time…


* Democrat Jill Morgenthaler’s new TV ad…


* Republican Aaron Schock’s leadership PAC got a writeup in CQ

Another would-be House member who has been donating to party candidates is Illinois Republican Aaron Schock, a 27-year-old state representative who set up a “leadership” political action committee after easily winning a primary election in February in the state’s Peoria-centered 18th District. Schock, who is heavily favored to succeed retiring Republican Rep. Ray LaHood , started cutting checks of $5,000 apiece to non-incumbent Republicans earlier this month, including several who are certain to win and therefore vote in freshman class leadership elections.

These young guns are part of a small and very slowly growing set of politicians who have presaged leadership potential by capitalizing on electoral safety and fundraising prowess to raise their profiles before they take the oath of office.

Whether the early giving turns pre-frosh candidates into political players or simply reflects acumen that will serve their ambitions later on, it is a tactic that has been employed by fast-rising stars in the past.

* More…

* 16th District congressional candidates go nuclear on energy

* Greenberg again attacks Bean on financial ties, economy

* 6 Republicans stump for Callahan

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      


Con-con roundup

Tuesday, Oct 28, 2008

* Longtime Statehouse reporter Kurt Erickson backs a constitutional convention

Q: Some pretty well-known and respected special interest groups are trying to convince Illinoisans to vote against the question of holding a constitutional convention. What’s up with that?

A: Everyone likes the status quo. These groups have gotten to be influential under the current system. They help control who’s elected. Why would they want to change that? Remember that when you go to the polls: your voice or their voice.

Q: What would be one reason to vote for a constitutional convention?

A: It should be pretty clear when you go into the ballot box. Because of the way lawmakers have gerrymandered the political map, it makes it nearly impossible for incumbents to lose. Out of 80-some races for seats in the General Assembly, just a handful are actually competitive. Think about what the current crop of incumbents has achieved in the last two years.

* The SouthtownStar’s living legend Phil Kadner also urges a “Yes” vote

Other states have found ways to support their schools without relying so heavily on the property tax. So can Illinois.

But the state constitution needs to be changed to alter the way that legislators are elected, to threaten them with recall and to clarify the state’s responsibility for school funding.

Despite what people tell you, no changes in the constitution can be made without a final vote at the ballot box.

All the corrupt, powerful forces that have controlled this state oppose the constitutional convention.

If you trust them, vote “no” on Tuesday. If you don’t, vote “yes.”

* Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. will support a con-con today. From a press release…

Today, Tuesday, October 28th at 1:30pm Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., and Alderman Sandi Jackson will join Lt. Governor Pat Quinn in endorsing a “yes” vote on the November 4 Constitutional Convention.

* Rep. John Fritchey tackles the pension issue

In 1969 and 1970 when the pension guarantee was debated, it was decided that the particulars of how to fund the pension should be left up to the General Assembly. We have seen the profound error of that decision. In every single year since the ratification of the 1970 Constitution, the General Assembly has failed to put in their promised share of contributions to the pension system. More than once they actually attempted (sometimes successfully) to raid those pension funds.

If this was a problem that only occurred in one budget year, it would have long since been solved. This is a systemic constitutional defect that takes place year and year. It allows the state to delay meeting its obligations while the debt keeps on growing and growing. The state is in debt almost $111 billion (or twice the annual state budget) and a large part of that is pension debt. This debt prevents capital projects moving forward, puts a straying on improving education funding, and has drastic effects all across Illinois.

While some argue that the pensions are “safe” now, how could a system that doesn’t require the state to put up its fair share be considered safe? The fact is, the state is going bankrupt because of the recurring deferral of pension payments. Bankruptcy is the only situation when the pensions can be cut because a federal judge will come in and decide what bills can be paid and what can’t, and historically pensions haven’t done well in that situation.

Simply put, there is absolutely no risk to the pensions should there be a constitutional convention. Most importantly, the voters have to ratify any change that a constitutional convention proposes. Not even a single comma can be modified without voter approval. It is ludicrous to believe that voters will approve a “special interests” constitution.

Bethany Jaeger…

Elena Kezelis, former chief counsel for then-Gov. Jim Edgar, says she interprets the Constitution as protecting those who are fully vested in the pension system as having unalterable rights. She points to the back of the state Constitution, where a “savings clause” would protect every contract in place if a new document were approved. If another convention were called and pension benefits were revised, then she says that provision would grandfather in the existing pension contracts. Prudent drafters would include that kind of language again, she says.

The question is, she says, how delegates and how courts would define the point at which current state employees are vested into a contractual right that cannot be taken away from them.

* Jim Edgar urges a No vote

“Our constitution, regarded as one of the best in the nation, certainly does not require the sweeping rewrite that a convention could produce. Like the U.S. Constitution, it is an enduring, broadly worded document that protects our rights, lays out a sound framework for governing and is insulated from the passions of the moment.”

* Patterson has the top donors to the Alliance to Protect the Constitution…

1) Illinois Federation of Teachers and affiliated: $300,000
(2) Illinois Education Association/National Education Association: $225,000
(3) Exelon: $100,000
(4) Illinois Coalition for Jobs, Growth, and Prosperity: $92,500
(5 - tie) American Insurance Association: $50,000
(5 - tie) Health Care Services Corp: $50,000

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


Morning shorts

Tuesday, Oct 28, 2008

* Burge hearing draws crowd

* Burge Pleads ‘Not Guilty’

* Lottery deal legality questioned

Plans to lease out the Illinois Lottery for billions of dollars could be in jeopardy after federal authorities recently said such deals might be illegal.

On Friday, Indiana’s governor abandoned the idea of privatizing the Hoosier Lottery, pointing to a Department of Justice opinion saying states must retain control over all significant business decisions and equity interest in lotteries.

Federal law prohibits lotteries but has exemptions for those run by states.

* Pontiac distraught as prison closure threat becomes a reality

* More prisoners transferred in Illinois

* Amid budget pain, aldermen try to save “jumping jacks”

Chicago aldermen afraid of catching grief in their wards are looking for ways to keep the “jumping jacks” program that provides bouncy, inflatable playgrounds for children but is slated for elimination in Mayor Richard Daley’s proposed 2009 budget.

“We, as elected officials, are going to hear it,” Ald. Ed Smith (28th) said Monday, contending residents would be upset at the demise of a program that provides entertainment for many children who don’t have much. “People are not going to understand why the program is taken out.”

One alderman said the cut, which is slated to save $800,000, simply would not go through.

* Popular Chicago festivals to be cut

* ‘Power shift’ cuts overtime at 911 center

* Cook Co. hospital system says it will cut 464 jobs

* County Health Bureau Asks for More Money

* Cost of riding cabs going down

At 12:01 a.m. Friday, the $1-a-ride surcharge imposed last spring to provide relief to cabdrivers squeezed by skyrocketing gasoline prices will be reduced to 50 cents.

Noting that Chicago has 6,900 taxicab medallions and 6,800 active vehicles, Reyes said, “We will have done everything we are requierd to do to notify owners and drivers. And if they’re charging more than 50 cents a ride, they will be subjecting themselves to a fine.”

* Chicago Public Libary circulation skyrockets

* U of I gets $2 million for biofuel infrastructure study

* Agreement reached on wind farm

* Boeing, machinists in tentative deal to end strike

- Posted by Rich Miller   2 Comments      


Open thread

Tuesday, Oct 28, 2008

* I am on an elections 2008 panel with Paul Green at the Union League Club this morning, so blog posts will be a bit late. In the meantime, I just wanted to warn you about today’s Sneedlling. Don’t get your hopes (or fears, as the case may be) up too high just yet

Sneed hears a plan is afoot to impeach Gov. Blagojevich following the presidential election next month. Word is the votes are there. Stay tuned.

The House votes have been “there” for a very long time. It’s all about the will and the opportunity.

Staunch Blagojevich ally Emil Jones may be Senate President until January, and the Senate Dems have yet to pick a replacement. Unless there’s an indictment soon, I’m not sure at all that this will happen right away. Down the road? Perhaps. “Following the presidential election” could mean 2010. Or 2013, if he’s reelected.

Anyway, try to keep your emotions intact. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      


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Tuesday, Oct 28, 2008

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