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AFSCME snubs Speaker Madigan, backs Gov. Quinn

Monday, Sep 20, 2010 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My syndicated newspaper column is about AFSCME’s huge and not unexpected snub of House Speaker Michael Madigan

The union that represents thousands of state and local government employees, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, was one of the bigger Democratic campaign contributors in the final six months of the 2008 campaign. But this year the union will be sitting out almost all of the Illinois House Democrats’ top races.

The union met in Springfield several days ago to formalize its endorsements. Union leaders announced backing for Gov. Pat Quinn, Alexi Giannoulias for U.S. Senate, Judy Baar Topinka for comptroller and Robin Kelly for treasurer. But it was their legislative endorsements - and their lack of endorsements - that were the most interesting.

The House Democrats haven’t seemed to care about AFSCME’s support all year. House Speaker Michael Madigan led the battle to reduce future pension benefits for the union’s members. Madigan also refused to call a proposed tax hike for a vote, despite demands by AFSCME and other unions. Many of his members now are running on anti-tax platforms and some appear openly hostile to the union.

Madigan reiterated his opposition to a tax hike the Friday before AFSCME finalize its endorsement decisions, which probably didn’t help matters much.

As you might imagine, House Republicans are thrilled with this turn of events and think it bolsters their case that they have a better shot at winning the chamber’s majority than most will allow themselves to believe.

The union endorsed just three House Democrats in varying degrees of tough races, and one of them is not an incumbent. Daniel Biss, who ran unsuccessfully two years ago against retiring GOP Rep. Beth Coulson, of Glenview, got the nod. Biss has been upfront about the need for a tax hike. Also receiving endorsements were Rep. Jay Hoffman, of Collinsville, who was been on the outs with Madigan for years, and Rep. Dan Reitz, of Steelville.

And that’s it. Every other House Democrat in a tough race was snubbed by the union. An AFSCME spokesperson said last week that the Democrats in question were “unendorseable,” either for their voting records against tax hikes and for pension reform, or, in the case of open seat contestants, for their responses to union questionnaires and their interaction with local members.

The union’s cold shoulder was just the latest problem facing candidates such as Dennis Ahern (D-Moline). Ahern won a three-way primary in a heavily unionized district because of Madigan’s late intervention. Madigan got in partly because Ahern said he would oppose any tax hikes.

Republicans have a hard-charging candidate against Ahern, Rock Island County Board member Richard Morthland, but AFSCME did not endorse there. Both oppose tax hikes. That wasn’t the case in other blue-collar districts where unions are important, however.

The Democratic-controlled 98th House District has more state employees than just about any other district outside Springfield, and AFSCME went with Republican Wayne Rosenthal over Democrat Charles Landers. Rosenthal has run a nearly perfect campaign to date, and this seat has looked highly vulnerable to a GOP pickup for months.

In every other seriously contested House race, AFSCME went neutral. Over a dozen Democratic incumbents who might be on the endangered list got the snub.

And because the union has rebuffed the candidates, it’s highly unlikely that it will give much money to the man who pulls all the strings, Madigan. The union gave Madigan $180,000 in the past six months of 2008 and thousands more to his candidates, not to mention their grass-roots work.

The union was much more kind to the Senate Democrats, endorsing Democrats in all but one of Senate President John Cullerton’s most endangered districts. Cullerton’s Senate approved a major income tax hike last year, which then stalled in the House. He got his reward.

AFSCME’s endorsement of Quinn is a signal that unions are starting to climb back on board. After a furious response to the governor’s signature on the pension reform bill, the union apparently has reassessed and realized that a Gov. Bill Brady would probably be far worse.

The Service Employees International Union also is gearing up for a big move on behalf of Quinn, insiders say. The Illinois Education Association already has endorsed Quinn. This means that Quinn probably will have the money to compete down the line, unless the unions decide that he’s completely toast and decide to husband their resources for the Chicago mayor’s race.

AFSCME hasn’t sent out a press release about the Quinn/Topinka/Kelly endorsements, so that may be why nobody, including the SJ-R, has covered it yet.

* AFSCME’s endorsement set off a barrage in a Downstate legislative contest between Democrat Charlie Landers and Republican Wayne Rosenthal

In a news release, Landers said the endorsement by three unions, which have generally favored Democrats over Republicans, “makes it very clear that Wayne Rosenthal will support a massive tax hike.”

“It was made clear to me (by the unions) that if I didn’t endorse a tax increase, they would not support me,” Landers said in an interview last week. “It appears that (Rosenthal) is talking out of both sides of his mouth. He goes to Tea Party meetings and says he’s against a tax increase.”

Rosenthal says the claim is false. Only after major cuts are made would he be open to the idea of a tax hike. AFSCME weighed in as well…

Anders Lindall, a spokesman for AFSCME Council 31, said “both candidates indicated that they do not personally support a tax increase.”

“Interestingly, both indicated they understand that more revenue is necessary to close the budget hole, despite their own personal opposition,” Lindall added. “Given the similarity in their positions on this issue, I’d say the difference here was that Rosenthal stood out to our members in the interview as someone who better understood and identified with their concerns, and as someone they could talk to and work with even if they didn’t always see eye to eye.”

* Related…

* Marin: Cross leads charge against Madigan: Whichever party wins this pitched battle, one theme seems to be emerging. Rod Blagojevich, the longtime whipping boy for all that is wrong with Illinois government, may ironically have been replaced by his old nemesis when it comes to voters finding a new political voodoo doll in which to stick their pins.

* State GOP hopes to win control of Illinois House: “The only way to remove Mike Madigan as speaker is to not elect Democrat lawmakers,” Cross said. Walker is fully aware of what’s being called “the Madigan factor” in close legislative races this year. He wants it known that he is no “yes man” for the controversial speaker. “If they want to attack Mike Madigan they should go to directly to attack Mike Madigan. I am not that target. I voted against Madigan 70 times on controversial bills in this session and even more than Tom Cross, the Republican leader, did,” said Walker.

* What we deserve to know from our political candidates: Dear Sen. Noland: In the immortal words of the great Paul Simon (the singer — not the late U.S. senator from Illinois), “Who do you think you’re fooling?” The Democrats have enjoyed complete control of Springfield for almost 10 years, and where has that gotten us? I suppose we can always brag about being a bigger national laughingstock than Louisiana or Alaska…. Dear former Sen. Rauschenberger: What are you smiling about? If I hear one more Republican say, “Vote for me, I’m not a Democrat,” I’m going to deck him, which means my editor will have to come up with bail money again and that makes him cranky. I don’t need you or anyone else to tell me about the havoc wreaked by Illinois Democrats.

* State legislative candidates clash on economic fixes

* Quinn touts high-speed rail project: Gov. Pat Quinn joined Illinois legislators Friday in Alton to usher in the era of bullet trains — so-called for their ability to travel at speeds of up to 110 mph. He called the project an economic boon in a region that has had a rougher time during this recession.


  1. - Ghost - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 11:28 am:

    interesting. If canidates get elected without AFSCME support this could open the door to some sweeping legislative changes to limit the unions and there impact on state employment. AFSCME decision to lose potential union supporters over the tax issues may reduce out a lot of their influence. The next 4 years will be…. interesting times.

  2. - Cincinnatus - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 11:32 am:

    Unfortunately for Republicans, MJM is relatively unknown to the general voter or we would see a spate of anti-Madigan ads (similar to those against Pelosi) with reminders that the first vote a Democrat would make in the new GA would be for Madigan as speaker.

  3. - Louis Howe - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 11:33 am:

    I’ve criticized Madigan leadership, especially his demand for Republican votes in May 2009 for any income tax increase. I still think the strategy doomed Quinn, but given Quinn’s subsequent incompetence and clueless staff appointments, perhaps the speaker was right after all. In this political environment, having AFSCME’s endorsement isn’t something a house target should miss.

  4. - Fan of Cap Fax - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 11:40 am:

    Got a little excited when I read Quinn was ushering in “bullet brains”. Surely, bullet brains could get us out of this mess!

    But, no, trains not brains. Go figure.

  5. - Skeeter - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 11:43 am:

    Nice move for your membership, AFSCME, since I expect the GOP will be so good to your cause.

    And Ghost is right. Unless Madigan loses his House, this one is likely bite AFSCME. Nothing like showing Dems that they have one union they can beat on for credibility with the voters.

    Either way, expect the next two years at least that AFSCME will be getting kicked around (either by the GOP that doesn’t like the union, or by the Dems that no longer need that union).

  6. - Draznnl (Rhymes with orange) - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 11:43 am:

    Off topic, but…I got push polled by the Maher for County Board campaign this weekend. Anybody else?

  7. - Anders Lindall - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 11:46 am:

    AFSCME members made their endorsement decisions the same way they always do: By looking at the candidates’ records and gauging their understanding of the issues of importance to them and all Illinois working families. With respect to legislative races, in general, incumbents with an AFSCME voting record better than 70 percent were endorsed; those below that mark were not.

  8. - Ghost - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 11:52 am:

    Yeah, you wouldnt want someone who supported AFSCME 50% of the time elected over somone who will support AFSCME 0% of the time….

  9. - Obamarama - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 11:58 am:

    ===Unfortunately for Republicans, MJM is relatively unknown to the general voter or we would see a spate of anti-Madigan ads (similar to those against Pelosi)===

    Spot on. The few polling numbers I have seen show roughly half of voters either don’t know or don’t have an opinion of them. Of those that do, most are either active Democrats who are aware of him in his role as state party leader or rabid Republicans. Not exactly a bloc of persuadable voters.

  10. - Justice - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 12:00 pm:

    Madigan has usually stood for the people. I like his style in that regard and like his stand against the ‘all for me’ union. I also do not think there should be unions of any form in government or education.

    Looks to me like the unions have the mistaken impression that they wield more power than they do and they will pay dearly for their move against Madigan.

  11. - wordslinger - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 12:11 pm:

    Maybe AFSCME figures they’re in for the long game, regardless, and the day is getting closer than it used to be when Madigan will no longer be speaker.

    Unless Madigan has negotiated an Eternal Speakership maneuver with a higher power.

  12. - Skeeter - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 12:15 pm:

    The long game seems to prefer getting kicked around for two years. In a best case scenario for the union, the non-endorsed candidates all lose proving how vital the union’s support is to the candidates. It seems to assume that the damage done in those two years will simply be reversed later.
    If that’s the move, then it is pretty gutsy. Stupid, but gutsy.

  13. - Are Ya Kiddin' Me? - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 12:24 pm:

    AFSCME endorses Quinn, because Brady won’t help them, yet they don’t endorse House Dem’s??? Are they thinking the House Repub’s will help them???
    Good Luck with that…..worst case scenerio for ASCME….Brady wins, MJM keeps Majority…can you see it coming?

  14. - fedup dem - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 12:25 pm:

    It would appear to me that the leadership of AFSCME is so arrogant that they have forgotten that there are other unions representing various other groups of public employees within this state and its governmental subdivisions. Such arrogance can easily lead to a move to decertify ASCME as the union for the employees it currently represents, as those workers seek out alternative representation that is more in tune with their interests, representation from someone less interested in boosting thier own egos!

  15. - DoubleDown - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 12:26 pm:

    Hi, pardon my lack of knowledge. Could someone please explain why Judy Baar Topinka got a endorsement. I am new to Illini politics and this seems kinda strange.

    Thank You

  16. - Rich Miller - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 12:26 pm:

    Miller voted for the pension bill and JBT has a long, positive relationship with AFSCME.

  17. - wizard - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 12:28 pm:

    Rich, This is part of the error code mentioned a few months ago. Code appears when “clicking” on comments.

  18. - DoubleDown - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 12:28 pm:


    Thank You

  19. - Jim - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 12:30 pm:

    The real question is if Madigan will not back a tax increase how will the budget be balanced. We are reidding ourselves of a huge problem in Chicago, it would be great if we could do the same in Springfield.

  20. - Louis G. Atsaves - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 12:30 pm:

    Why do public employee and teachers unions think they are so popular right now with the general public?

    Give Madigan his due. He figured that one out and is acting accordingly.

  21. - Newsclown - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 12:33 pm:

    My thought turn to Madigan whenever I watch the movie “Braveheart”. Specifically, the scene where Robert The Bruce goes to his Patriarch for permission to unite the clans and fight off the English. And eery time, the leprous old patriarch says, no, wait, not the time yet, we’re doing really well, let things mellow a bit longer.

    This is Madigan, guarding his majority, preserving it well and always looking strategically, but never putting it to REAL USE.
    What good is a tool you’re afraid to ever use? Madigan should back a responsible tax hike and help fix this state, NOW, or all his majority is in charge of is ashes. You’ve got to risk now and then, to achieve something worthwhile. It is Madigan’s selfishness in this matter that cripples his true worth.

  22. - Way Way Down Here - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 1:12 pm:

    ===Unless Madigan has negotiated an Eternal Speakership maneuver with a higher power.===

    An apple a day . . .

  23. - ZC - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 1:38 pm:

    Give organized labor this high praise: they are talking sense (about the inevitable need for some tax increases) when a great deal of the Republican, media and even Democratic establishment is falling over itself to pander to voters with fiscal fantasies.

    And I’m writing another check to Daniel Biss this weekend. Courage deserves support.

  24. - Cincinnatus - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 2:03 pm:


    Many liberals complain that it is not intellectually honest for Brady to claim he will not support a tax increase. I say it is more intellectually dishonest for liberals and unions to claim that somehow tax increases will save the day. Until massive, sustained cuts in spending, including salary and benefits of public employees are made, there is no way an increase in taxes does anything significant. There are not enough dollars available in the state, at any tax rate, to balance the systemic shortfall of revenue to sustain current and future spending levels.

    Chris Christie has shown a balanced budget can be achieved, and his newly announced pension reform puts that element of the NJ budget on track to sustainability.

    Unions and special interests must be taken head on before any tax proposals can be considered valid by the electorate.

  25. - Skeeter - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 2:06 pm:

    Good point, Cincy, because NJ is exactly like Illinois.

  26. - fedup dem - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 2:11 pm:

    Cincinnatus must be concurring with Bill Brady’s plan to balance Illinois’s budget… to have the Budget Fairy leave some $14 billion under Brady’s pillow before he wakes up on Inauguration morning!

  27. - Cincinnatus - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 2:29 pm:

    Skeeter and fed up dem,

    NJ is very similar to Illinois, at least it was before Christie was elected.

  28. - wordslinger - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 3:01 pm:

    New Jersey is nothing like Illinois, by any measure. It’s all New York/Philly suburbs (dirt poor to big money), The Shore, horsey country and some isolated, weird wilderness spots.

  29. - chicago 7 - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 4:16 pm:

    Newsclown’s observation about how MJM doesn’t put his power to use is spot on. Here’s how it looks:

    State officials’ power was/is comparable to a car that could have driven them somewhere - that is, to a legacy. Instead, this is how various leaders use/used it:

    Emil Jones used his car to give his friends rides.

    Blago didn’t want to drive his car - he just wanted to be seen in it.

    Madigan just wants to tinker with his car. He’s not interested in driving it anywhere.

    Cullerton wants to do whatever Madigan does.

    Quinn wants to leave his new car in the garage and drive his old beater instead.

  30. - Skeeter - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 4:26 pm:

    Chicago 7,
    And then we have Brady, who has a massive SUV but claims tells everybody that he needed to walk to work.
    Me? Power? Nope. None.

  31. - ZC - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 5:26 pm:


    To be fair, I never said that tax increases alone would solve the problem. You are correct; in the long run, restructuring and changing of the state’s future pension benefits I agree must be part of the solution. And I’d support some restructuring of current retirees’ actually, so I’m not exactly AFSCME’s friend here, but unfortunately it’s probably off the books thanks to the Constitution.

    But - you definitely have a point here, no question.

  32. - PoxOnBoth - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 5:57 pm:

    Dr. Madigan has the ability to channel more money into select campaigns, for obedient candidates, than virtually any labor union - hence, I doubt he is losing much sleep over the AFSCME ’snub’. The ‘new’ ethics/campaign finance legislation puts an inordinate amount of power in the hands of Madigan and, his local barking dog, Joe Berrios - as chairs of the state and county party respectively. A quick look at D2’s reveals millions being moved from one to the other by way of multiple campaign committees - with the ‘new’ legislation, it will increase exponentially.

    On the bright side, the Old Guard is under fire and significant legal challenge. The federal lawsuit in which Berrios, Rogers Jr., Houlihan and some senior staff at the Board of Review find themselves defendants is shining a spotlight on the pay-to-play, contributions for assessment reductions, and the nefarious relationship between property tax lawyers, their lawfirms, and the BoR - a relationship in which Mr. Madigan, his firm, his legislative position and Mr. Berrios takes center-stage. The lawsuit’s charges include a RICO count that sets out bribery, extortion and money-laundering at the BoR.
    Berrios has been taking a battering over his incestuous relationship with Madigan and the pay-to-players. Unfortunately, it has over-shadowed any reasonable examination of his opponent in the race for Assessor - Forrest Claypool.
    Claypool has staked out a resonant position as the self-anointed ‘reformer’. He’s no dummy; in a change cycle, the ‘reformer’ always has a leg-up. Claypool, however, has as much baggage and Old Guard history as does his opponent - he has had the public feedbag tied on for decades.
    Even more revealing is the fact that, at base, Mr. Claypool is just as ruthless, relentless and bereft of integrity as any of the pols he is making a campaign of condemning. The fact that he, his campaign manager and his campaign PAC are defendants in a state court lawsuit charing them with defamation and libel of a private citizen for political advantage speaks volumes about his ‘reformist’ bona fides. Using manufactured facts, and sources to support them, Claypool, etal., trashed a private citizen. It is demonstrative of his ethical bankruptcy that Claypool and his campaign, removed the name of the private citizen,from his attack website, just before it would have been ordered by a judge hearing a petition for a TRO against Claypool, his mgr and his PAC. Hardly the traits one would look for in a ‘reformer.’ The lawsuit charging dishonesty, defamation and libel is moving forward.

  33. - steve schnorf - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 6:20 pm:

    Cinci, to say that Gov Christie has shown that a balanced budget can be “achieved” is a little hyperbole, don’t you think. Perhaps proposed comes closer.

    His budget this year isn’t balanced (pensions?) and his pension fix is “proposed”, as is Governor Quinn’s tax increase and Senator Brady’s cuts. “Proposed” is a start, but it can be a long way from “achieved”.

  34. - downhereforyears - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 7:16 pm:

    AFSCME should never ever take on Madigan. Game set match!

  35. - DuPage Dave - Monday, Sep 20, 10 @ 8:07 pm:

    Please stop with the Chris Christie love on CapFax. Yikes! He gimmicked the state budget by failing to make pension contributions- the same old trick they’ve used in Illinois since forever. No real innovation by Christie- just budget sleight of hand like the other Governors.

    Plus, NJ is now in legal trouble with the feds. From the NYT 9-18-10 “The S.E.C. accused New Jersey of securities fraud, saying the state had manipulated its pension numbers to look like a better credit risk, while selling some $26 billion worth of bonds.” That’s Chris Christie’s leadership right there. So let’s please stop pretending he’s reinvented the wheel.

    Illinois will likely be next to be accused of fraud. “An official with the S.E.C. declined to comment on Illinois’s maneuver.” Not to worry, though, Kelly Kraft says so.

  36. - FDR - Tuesday, Sep 21, 10 @ 12:04 am:

    Has Michael Madigan done anything “Democratic” in his entire career?

  37. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, Sep 21, 10 @ 7:32 am:

    DuPage Dave,

    Nice try on the “Blame Bush - Jersey Shore edition”

    The SEC filing is against Corzine and the Democrat state legislature practices.

    In the New Jersey case, the SEC said in its complaint that the wrongdoing began in 2001, when the state legislature boosted public pension benefits, and continued through part of 2007.

    And yes, I expect SEC to take a look at the behavior of Blago/Quinn and the Democrat GA practices.

  38. - Paxx - Tuesday, Sep 21, 10 @ 9:32 am:

    The State of Illinois has the smallest number of employees per capita than any other state - look it up- and it also has an aging workforce that is very close to retirement.
    We can’t afford to lay-off the workers that we have because we need them to carry on the business of government. The workforce continues to shrink just by attrition. The workers who are retiring are making more than the younger ones. Lay- offs - not really in the picture at all. No deal needed.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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