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Dillard “strongly preferred” by “Conservative Summit”

Monday, Aug 26, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From a press release…

Key conservatives and pro-family leaders from across Illinois met at the Conservative Summit Conference in suburban Burr Ridge on Saturday.

After hearing speeches and questioning GOP gubernatorial candidates Senator Bill Brady (R -Bloomington) and Senator Kirk Dillard (R -Hinsdale), the group of approximately 40 key leaders of pro-family, taxpayer, and Tea Party groups gave a significant boost to the candidacy of Kirk Dillard by giving him a rating of “strongly preferred”.

Dillard received an overwhelming vote of confidence from the conservative leaders 32-0 with 3 abstentions in the final vote. Many of the participants had supported Senator Brady in the 2012 Primary but switched to Dillard this time.

Previous Summit Conferences have launched the campaigns of U.S. Senate candidate Al Salvi (1995) and Senator Peter Fitzgerald in 1997.

Although both State Treasurer Dan Rutherford and Chicago businessman Bruce Rauner were invited to address the group, they did not attend.

* Pull quotes…

“Illinois now requires the leadership of an authentic conservative who respects, and commands the respect of, a diverse array of constituencies across our state; whose commitment to putting the state’s fiscal house in order is firm; whose competence in government management has been tested and proven; and whose opposition to corruption is unquestioned. Kirk Dillard is such a leader, and Illinoisans should unite to make him the next Governor of our state.” - Joseph A. Morris, Past President, United Republican Fund of Illinois; National Director, American Conservative Union; Convener of the Chicago Conservative Conference.

“I was impressed with Kirk’s ability to articulate conservative principles in a substantive way, and not seem like he’s giving a speech.” - Sheila R. Devall, Co-Chair, Patriotic Voices of Illinois; Peoria-Tazewell Tea Party Alliance.

“In prior elections, I have supported both Senator Dillard and Senator Brady. However, only one showed the passion and focus to win the General Election and lead Illinois out of the wilderness. Senator Kirk Dillard will make a great Governor.” - Jim Nalepa, Hinsdale business executive; Chairman, Phoenix Pac; Former GOP Candidate for Congress, 3rd District).

“Senator Kirk Dillard recognizes the importance of Illinois’ most valuable resource — families — and he understands that our state’s well-being is closely tied to the strength of this resource. I am confident that, if elected as governor, Dillard will work to strengthen and uphold family, marriage, life and liberty.” - David E. Smith, Executive Director of Illinois Family Action.

“It’s in the best interest of pro-life, pro-family organizations to support one candidate and thereby unite our movement for victory. The Summit has decided that Kirk Dillard is that person.” - Mary Anne Hackett, President, Catholic Citizens of Illinois.


Question of the day

Monday, Aug 26, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From the AP

Illinois will lower the required age that students must attend school under legislation signed Sunday by Gov. Pat Quinn.

The law, which takes effect in the 2014-2015 school year, lowers the compulsory age from 7 to 6, a move state officials said puts Illinois in line with about half of U.S. states.

“It’s all about getting an early start on education,” Quinn said at an elementary school on the city’s West Side. He spoke a day before hundreds of thousands of Chicago Public Schools students are expected to start the first day of classes. […]

Opponents, including, Republicans, had questioned the cost of the change. State officials have estimated that lowering the age would cost roughly $28 million.

* The home schooler lobby opposed the bill and encouraged calls to legislators last spring

When you call your representative, your message can be as simple as: “Please vote ‘no’ on HB 2762. It would lower the age of compulsory school attendance from 7 to 6 and make some young adults attend school even after high school graduation. Parents, not the government, know when it’s best for their young child to start formal education. Illinois is in financial trouble. It’s the wrong time to expand an expensive program.”

* The Question: Do you agree with this new law? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.

survey tool


Fair stuff

Monday, Aug 26, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I was standing there when Rep. Rich Brauer ponied up and jokingly encouraged him to sponsor another keg, but was shocked when I heard the price. Finke

Belated credit is due to Brauer for helping to bail out Republican Day at the Illinois State Fair.

Both Republicans and Democrats have some similarities in their annual political gatherings at the fair. Namely, they have food, soft drinks and beer available for the party faithful. And the one thing you don’t want to do is run out of food, soft drinks or beer. Particularly the latter.

“They said we’re shutting down. We’re out,” Brauer said. “There were quite a few people left there. I said put me down for one.”

That’s one as in one keg of beer. Brauer said he offered to buy the keg of beer to keep the festivities going. Or in Republican Day political parlance, Brauer said he offered to sponsor a keg. The price tag was $240.

Both Brauer and I flinched a little when the price was announced. We were told that the State Fair gets a big cut of every keg sold. Ouch.

* Meanwhile, the Du Quoin State Fair opened last week. Gov. Pat Quinn was there for a bipartisan ribbon cutting


Quinn also publicly hugged Glenn Poshard during his visit, which was odd considering that the two men have been at each others’ throats over the SIU board of trustees for a year or so. Bygones be bygones and Quinn has a tough primary ahead, I suppose.

* Related…

* DCFS to honor the Poshard Foundation for Abused Children at Du Quoin State Fair

* Du Quoin State Fair sets opening day attendance record


Quinn reacts to pension ideas

Monday, Aug 26, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Gov. Quinn was cautiously optimistic about the pension reform committee’s work product so far...

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn called the outline of a pension overhaul proposal floated by a bipartisan panel “positive” and “progress,” but he shied away Sunday from saying whether he’d fully back it.

The so-called conference committee — a 10-member panel formed in June to come up with a solution to Illinois’ nearly $100 billion crisis — is considering a framework that would, among other things, end automatic 3 percent cost-of-living increases for retirees. Increases would instead be linked to the rate of inflation.

“It appears … that some progress is being made,” Quinn told reporters after an unrelated Chicago event. “We still have to get to the finish line but I think the concepts … are very positive indeed.” […]

He said although some of the concepts in the plan are familiar and his own budget office is heavily involved in the committee’s research, he wants to see final details of a plan before he weighs in.

* Background on the framework, from Friday’s post

A bipartisan panel tasked with solving Illinois’ multibillion-dollar pension crisis is considering a framework that would save the state about $145 billion over 30 years, largely by ending automatic 3 percent cost-of-living increases for retirees. […]

It calls for setting retirees’ annual cost-of-living increases at half the rate of inflation, though it would set both floors and caps — which were not included in the outline — for what the rate would be. That formula would likely equate to smaller adjustments than the current 3 percent increases, compounded annually.

Employees would contribute 1 percent less to their own retirement, according to the document. But their annual pension benefit would be based on their salary over their career, rather than on the higher amount they’re making right before they retire.

It would reduce the state’s nearly $100 billion unfunded pension liability by about $18.1 billion and fully fund the retirement systems within 30 years.

Keep in mind here that there’s no deal yet.

* Also keep in mind that when Gov. Quinn talked to reporters over the weekend, he wouldn’t commit to actually putting votes on the bill, which is a demand of House Speaker Michael Madigan. Listen…

From the audio…

“Well, uh, it has to get to my desk. They still have to vote on it, the Legislature. I sure hope that they can expedite that. If the members of the House, the Senate pass the bill, put it on my desk, that does the job, erases the pension liability, moves us forward, then I’ll be able to sign the bill into law.”

* And, of course the Tribune editorial board didn’t care for the ideas

Led by state Sen. Kwame Raoul, the pension committee has been hyperfocused on meeting the constitutional wording that pensions cannot be diminished or impaired. But without more ambitious reform that would save the pension system more money, the benefits may not be there for retirees at all — or taxpayers may have to pay more.

The committee’s draft plan assumes: 1) The state can and will continue to afford to make huge payments annually into the pension system. 2) The legislature will honor that “savings” commitment long after paying off old debt and not spend the money elsewhere. 3) All pension investments will meet an annual return of 8 percent … for three decades.

Taxpayers would be on the hook if any of those assumptions fail.

The pension committee continues to work out the details of the proposal, which its members hope to unveil the week of Sept. 9. So far, their proposal does not include giving workers the option of a 401(k)-style plan. That idea should be resurrected.

Committee: You’ve come this far. Keep going. You can do better than this. Give taxpayers and public sector workers a more ambitious plan that will stabilize the system. No wings, no prayers — just basic math.

The Tribune led the charge against Senate President Cullerton’s A-B plan, which could’ve solved this problem months ago. If they actively try to kill the pension reform compromise which eventually emerges from the conference committee, then they should be looked at as part of the problem here. You just can’t pass everything. There comes a time for compromise.


*** UPDATED x1 *** Here come the lite guvs

Monday, Aug 26, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From the Twitters

* The AP ran a story over the weekend about lite guv announcement timelines

“My No. 1 priority was would this individual both in reality and perception-wise (among voters) be able to succeed me,” said state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, a Chenoa Republican who said he’s already picked someone and will make the name public in the next few weeks.

Brady said he expects to announce his running mate around Labor Day, and an adviser to state Sen. Kirk Dillard said the Hinsdale Republican plans to make his choice public around then, too.

Mike Schrimpf, a spokesman for Bruce Rauner, said the Republican businessman’s campaign likely won’t have an announcement until later in the year. He said Rauner mainly is looking for someone who shares his willingness to “take on the special interests in Springfield.”

Quinn, who became the first Illinois lieutenant governor in more than three decades to ascend to the state’s top spot when now-imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was booted out of office, is looking for a replacement for Simon, who’s running for comp-troller. He said he’s looking for “a people person” who can relate to ordinary citizens, adding that he’s heard from a lot of potential running mates and plans to sit down and talk with them.

Former White House chief of staff Bill Daley, who’s challenging Quinn in the Democratic primary, would like a running mate with private sector management experience who’s also worked with elected officials, spokesman Pete Giangreco said.

Failed 2010 attorney general candidate Steve Kim is apparently on the radar screen for Rutherford in addition to retiring state Rep. Kay Hatcher. We’ll see.

* Jim Nowlan’s take

Gov. Pat Quinn is unpopular downstate, but more than 60 percent of the Democratic primary vote is cast in Cook County alone, so he may want a black or Hispanic from Cook. His present lite guv is Sheila Simon of Carbondale, daughter of the late U.S. senator, who is running for comptroller.

Quinn will have a tough time finding a running mate, as he is so unpopular with legislators, whose salaries he vetoed, among other slams against lawmakers.

Chicagoan Bill Daley, of the Democratic Daley clan, will want either an attractive black such as state senators Toi Hutchinson or Kimberly Lightford, who do not face re-election in 2014, or a downstater, where his name is not playing well.

On the Republican side, Bill Brady of Bloomington is probably vetting suburban women, a region and gender where Brady fared badly in his narrow loss to Quinn in 2010.

(By the way, gender was not even a consideration back in 1972 when I was a candidate; times change quickly.)

State treasurer Dan Rutherford of Pontiac will also probably want a suburban woman, though I have no idea who that might be.

State senator Kirk Dillard of suburban DuPage County is probably looking for a downstate woman. Karen Hasara comes to mind; a former state senator, mayor of Springfield and member of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, Karen would be an attractive match.

Wild-card megabucks financier Bruce Rauner is thought of as a Chicagoan, where his business is located, but he grew up in the suburbs. Several downstate senators with free rides such as former prosecutor Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, might make attractive complements.

Any ideas?

*** UPDATE *** Chuck Sweeny thinks retiring Rep. Jim Sacia may run for lt. governor...

“I’m very seriously contemplating a run for another office,” he said. It won’t be a legislative office, because “I’m not going to run against (state Sen.) Tim Bivins (R-45),” he said.

Through a process of elimination we narrowed things down to a statewide office, and that’s as far as he would go at revealing future plans. Whatever it is, Sacia gave indications that he’s preparing for an all-out, full-time campaign.

“To me, running for office is like being in office. It’s a full-time job. Had I stayed in the House, I would have not been devoting full time to my legislative responsibilities. Not only that, but you lose some effectiveness as a lame duck.” […]

Treasurer Dan Rutherford, a Republican, is running for governor; at least two Republicans, Michael Scott Carter and Bob Schillerstrom want that job. That might be a possibility for Sacia.

And then there’s lieutenant governor, the office I think he’ll seek. The office will be open because Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, a Democrat, is running for comptroller.

Um, the office will be open because it’s an election year. Other than that, he may be right.


Words of wisdom

Monday, Aug 26, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I couldn’t agree more with Chris Mooney

[Gov. Pat Quinn’s] political obituary was half written twice in 2010 before he narrowly won difficult primary and general elections.

“You would think that an incumbent with his low approval level would be toast,” said Chris Mooney, director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois at Springfield. “But every election is not about ideals, it’s about choices.”

Too many pundits characterize elections as “referenda” on incumbents or the party in power. They’re not. Elections, in the end, are almost all about how the choices are defined between the candidates on the ballot. Pat Quinn’s job approval rating was just 24 percent in a late September, 2010 Public Policy Polling survey and 28 percent in an early September, 2010 Tribune poll. He still won, mainly by defining his opponent as potentially even worse than he was.

Never forget that.


*** UPDATED x1 *** Puppy tourism

Monday, Aug 26, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* After his bath yesterday, Oscar the Puppy toured the Statehouse grounds…

* With Abe…

* One last look…

Oscar is not allowed inside the Statehouse, so that’s about as close as he’ll get to where I work during session unless somebody changes the rules.

*** UPDATE *** Oops. I meant to add some related links to this post and completely forgot. Here they are…

* $50 million Capitol west wing renovation almost done

* Photos: Statehouse renovation project

* What Happens To ‘Puppy Lemon Law’ Dogs?


This ain’t another Gidwitz

Monday, Aug 26, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner has focused like a laser on his absolute disgust with public employee unions like AFSCME, the Illinois Education Association and the Illinois Federation of Teachers. The wealthy former business executive claims the unions are the root of most of Illinois’ problems and has decried the “corrupting” influence of their campaign cash on both political parties.

Illinois Republicans appear to overwhelmingly agree with Rauner.

“Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for a Republican candidate for governor who received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from public employee unions? ” 1,614 likely Republican primary voters were asked August 21st in a Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll.

An overwhelming 80 percent said they’d be less likely to back such a candidate, while a mere 8 percent said they’d be more likely to do so.

The Rauner campaign claims that rival candidate state Sen. Kirk Dillard has received over $400,000 from public employee unions during his long career. Dillard has defended his friendship with the unions by saying they should be worked with, but has also pointed to his support for union-opposed pension reform bills. Even so, that labor cash appears to be a no-go for Dillard.

Rauner’s other two opponents, Treasurer Dan Rutherford and Sen. Bill Brady, have also received significant contributions from public employee unions, and Rauner’s campaign has made it clear those ties will be used against them as well.

Rauner has also formed a new, well-funded political action committee to push for term limits. When asked if they’d be more or less likely to support a GOP gubernatorial candidate “who supports a constitutional amendment limiting the number of terms state legislators may serve,” 76 percent of Republicans said they’d be more likely, while a mere 13 percent said they’d be less likely and 12 percent said it made no difference.

Sen. Brady says he supports legislative term limits, but he was first elected to the General Assembly 21 years ago. Treasurer Rutherford and Sen. Dillard are both on record opposing term limits.

Both Brady and Dillard voted for a bill which allowed illegal immigrants to apply for state drivers licenses. A whopping 83 percent of likely Republican primary voters said that this vote would make them less likely to support those candidates.

It’s unlikely that Rauner would make a campaign issue out of those immigration votes, since he’d have a tough time winning the fall election if he “goes there.” The Latino vote, as I’ve pointed out time and time again, has gained incredible strength in this state. But Rauner has already benefited from third party TV ad spending, which helped drive Congressman Aaron Schock out of the race, and some of his supporters, including ultra-conservative millionaire Jack Roeser, are probably in a position to “help” make this an issue if necessary.

Roeser, by the way, wasn’t happy that Rauner admitted to being pro-choice earlier this year. But the activist has stuck with Rauner, likely because of his outright hostility toward the teachers’ unions. Roeser has long despised those unions.

A July 16th We Ask America poll found that Republican primary voters aren’t all that uniform on the issue anyway. Just 45 percent said they’d be less likely to vote for a pro-choice gubernatorial candidate. But 32 percent said they’d be more likely to vote for such a candidate and 23 percent said the issue made no difference, meaning that Rauner’s position doesn’t really hurt him with over half the primary electorate.

Since a recent poll found that 83 percent of GOP primary voters would be less likely to vote for Rauner because of his close ties to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Dillard and Brady have amped up their criticism of that relationship

But, so far, neither Dillard nor Brady have shown they can raise the kind of money needed to run an effective negative paid media campaign.

And while those other candidates struggle to raise the money necessary to get on the air, Rauner can run all the ads he needs to tout the issues that put him on the same side of the vast majority of Republican primary voters, and connect his opponents to the opposition.

Rauner seems to have a very deliberate, poll-tested victory strategy. He’s no lock, but he has a workable plan.



Raoul by the numbers

Monday, Aug 26, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The problem with most pundits when it comes to estimating Sen. Kwame Raoul’s chances in a Democratic primary is that they speak from the gut instead of using any actual polling numbers or recent history. Ergo, my Sun-Times column

A debate of sorts is raging about whether state Sen. Kwame Raoul would be a “spoiler” for Bill Daley if Raoul ran for governor.

The assumption is that Raoul, who is black, can’t win, but that he would take away so many African-American votes from Gov. Pat Quinn that Quinn would lose to Daley, who supposedly does so poorly with black voters that a Raoul candidacy wouldn’t hurt him.

I’ve commissioned some polling that should be helpful here.

A Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll of 1,394 likely Democratic primary voters on July 19 found that Quinn was leading Daley 38-33. In that poll, the governor was getting less than half — 47 percent — of the black vote, while Daley was getting 26 percent, which isn’t bad when you figure that another quarter of the black vote was still up for grabs.

I commissioned yet another poll of 1,528 likely Democratic primary voters on Aug. 6 and added Sen. Raoul’s name into the mix. In that Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll, Raoul was identified as a state senator and “an African-American attorney from Chicago.” Daley was identified as a former White House chief of staff and Quinn was identified as the governor.

The results showed Quinn led Daley by four points, 27-23, with Raoul getting 13. The Quinn-vs.-Daley spread barely changed from the July poll, belying the notion, at least so far, that Raoul is an automatic spoiler for Daley. Quinn’s lead over Daley dropped a lot among black Democrats with Raoul in the race, but Quinn went from trailing Daley among whites by two points in July to leading Daley by five when Raoul was put into the mix.

And Raoul’s score of 13 percent right off the bat is pretty darned good, especially considering that Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner has spent $2 million on TV and radio ads and is polling at about the same level as Raoul is now.

Why is that? Well, one reason is that history shows black voters tend to support legitimate black candidates, so Raoul doesn’t need to spend huge money to get himself into contention as long as he’s running a solid campaign.

Another big reason can be found in another poll I commissioned on Aug. 12, which found that 48 percent of 1,538 likely Democratic primary voters were dissatisfied with their choice between Quinn and Daley and 9 percent were unsure. So a clear 57 percent majority were either unhappy or ambivalent about the two announced candidates.

Among black Democrats, just 31 percent were satisfied and a huge 57 percent were dissatisfied with their two choices.

It’s pretty obvious that lots of Democrats want somebody else to run, and black Democrats are particularly eager to see another candidate get into the race. If Raoul can satisfy that very clear Democratic hunger for “somebody else,” then he has a real shot at winning.

With the help of most of his Democratic state Senate colleagues throughout the state and Senate President John Cullerton’s fund-raising and campaign infrastructure assistance, I think the numbers we have so far show that Raoul could overcome a somewhat late start and very well win this thing.

And what if Raoul loses and Daley wins? Nobody can totally rule that out. But a June 13 Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll of 1,322 likely Democratic primary voters found that just 28 percent of African-Americans approved of Pat Quinn’s job performance, while 40 percent disapproved. Blacks gave Quinn the lowest approval rating and the highest disapproval rating of any race or ethnicity. So, African-American Democrats obviously don’t care much for the governor’s tenure anyway.



Rutherford pledges not to go negative

Monday, Aug 26, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Greg Hinz

He won’t go negative, says Mr. Rutherford, perhaps hoping that one of the other candidates, state Sens. Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady, will do the job for him, or perhaps knowing that attacking Mr. Rauner would invite massive retaliation from a man who plays hardball.

Rather, he says, it will be by playing his own game: working the precincts and county board chairs, carefully spending his $1 million war chest and emphasizing his success as one of only two Republicans to win statewide office since 2002. (The other is Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka.)

“The Republican Party base is looking for someone they have a relationship with,” he says. “I’m the guy who’s won. I got more votes than Pat Quinn did last time.”

Good idea or not?


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Monday, Aug 26, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

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* Isabel’s afternoon roundup
* Despite reported shortage, state claims city has not requested diapers for migrant babies since October
* IVF debate takes a weird political turn
* ComEd Four sentencing will be delayed
* It’s just a bill
* Open thread
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Isabel’s morning briefing
* Live coverage
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