Whenever a new governor is about to be sworn in, one of the most popular Springfield parlor games is figuring out who is on their way out and who is on their way in.
(The games are usually not played in parlors, but in taverns, restaurants and friendly offices.)
Of course, when a new governor takes office from a different party, the “who is out” part is relatively easy. Pretty much everybody without civil service job protection is out.
And that’s where we find ourselves today. Governor-elect Bruce Rauner is a Republican who just defeated Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. Almost all of Quinn’s people are surely gone.
But who will Rauner bring in to run the government? I cannot tell you how many times I’m asked that question every single day.
Much of the recent local speculation has focused on Republican state legislators, partly because most of the people closest to the outsider Rauner are unknown to the Springfield crowd. Legislators, on the other hand, are very well known. Some of those legislators are not so subtly floating their own names, some are just naturally assumed to be on a short list.
As a result, there are so many rumors going around about so many legislators being “sure thing” appointments that I long ago lost count. It seems at times the number could be half of the Republican caucus.
Some folks were actively spreading rumors for weeks that Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno was in line for an agency directorship, possibly to undercut her re-election bid as party leader. Nothing could have been further from the truth. She never wanted to move into the executive branch. As far as I know, nothing was ever offered.
Earlier this month, a potential 2016 House Republican candidate loaned his campaign fund $250,000 because he apparently wanted to set himself up for a campaign in the wake of widespread rumors that Rep. Patti Bellock, R-Hinsdale, would soon be heading up a state agency.
Rumors are rampant that Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, is in line to run the Illinois Department of Insurance. Syverson added fuel to the fire by indicating his willingness to vote to raise the income tax again after it automatically rolls back from 5 percent to 3.75 percent at the end of this year.
Heck, I’ve even heard that two Downstate GOP legislators are actually fighting bitterly right now over who ought to be the next director of a major state agency.
Last week, Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner was finally asked by a reporter how many Republican lawmakers he’d spoken with about joining his administration.
“None,” Rauner replied.
While everybody and his brother are out there touting themselves or their pals as the next director of an agency or chairman of some state commission, absolutely nobody is a sure thing and Rauner hasn’t yet offered anybody anything.
“Everybody who voted for Bruce thinks they ought to be a director,” cracked one exasperated insider.
Keep in mind that Rod Blagojevich didn’t unveil his new agency directors until a few days after he was first sworn into office in 2003. I think it was late December before we first got word about George Ryan’s nominees.
Rauner could move faster than that. He did act very quickly to put a budget team in place, headed by the highly respected Senate Republican chief of staff Tim Nuding. Blagojevich didn’t announce his budget team until almost a month after the 2002 election.
Once the lists are pared down (and as of last week that process had barely begun), potential nominees will then have to be thoroughly vetted. The one thing Team Rauner doesn’t want is an unpleasant surprise during the confirmation process.
The Republicans have been out of power for a dozen years, so it’s understandable that they’re hungry to get back into the game. And they’re human beings, so like most people they’d like a promotion for themselves or their friends. I get it.
They should probably keep in mind that Rauner said over and over and over until he was blue in the face during the campaign that his top priority was to “shake up Springfield” and bring in new blood. Appointing a bunch of Republican legislators to key administration posts wouldn’t exactly reinforce that message.
Everybody just needs to calm down.