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The horse race begins in earnest

Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019

* If elected, and that’s not yet certain, Sen. Lightford would be the first woman and the third person of color to be Senate President

Democratic state Sen. Kimberly Lightford of Maywood has emerged as the leading candidate to become the next Illinois Senate president after John Cullerton’s stunning resignation announcement last week.

Lightford, currently the Senate majority leader, would become the first African American woman to preside over a chamber of the Illinois legislature. […]

Two potential candidates to replace Cullerton aligned themselves with Lightford — state Sens. Andy Manar, a former Cullerton chief of staff from Downstate Bunker Hill, as well as Heather Steans from Chicago, who has family wealth to help Democratic candidates.

* More from Amanda Vinicky

“I look at her leadership in the state senate and I see success after success in what is one of the most diverse Democratic caucus in the U.S. Not an easy task. Senate President Cullerton did it – mastered it. That’s what I’m interested in and I believe she has the skill set and the knowledge and the ability to continue that for the Senate Democrats,” Manar said.

Sen. Tony Munoz is also reportedly backing Lightford.

…Adding… I just talked to Sen. Munoz and he confirmed he’s supporting Lightford.

* But not everyone is on board

“I am talking with my colleagues and I am assessing their concerns and interests in the caucus. I expect that I will run for Senate president but I want to keep talking to my colleagues before making any formal announcements,” [Sen. Don Harmon] said. “People are eager for change but people also want to be sure that the next Senate president has all of the attributes to be effective both inside the building in terms of having good public policy, but also in the political spectrum. Our public policy victories are only as durable as our majority.” […]

[Sen. Mike Hastings] says the next president has to be a leader who shapes policy that lawmakers from all of the state’s diverse regions can get behind while also serving as a political operator who can get Democrats elected. That requires having a political operation and the ability, “unfortunately,” to raise money.

“I have all those things,” Hastings said. “I can count … probably five senators that have legitimate political organizations – a base of volunteers to send anywhere in the state, and are able to handle their own district, with no problem taking tough political votes. If you’re going to be the leader you got to lead the whole chamber.”

Sen. Hastings was sued in September by his former district office chief of staff who claimed harassment and retaliation.

As we’ve already discussed Sens. Elgie Sims and Melinda Bush are also interested.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Quibbler - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 9:29 am:

    Good to see Manar has better political instincts than many who comment here.

  2. - lincoln's beard - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 9:33 am:

    What, uh, are the substantive policy differences, if any, between these candidates?

  3. - Wow - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 9:33 am:

    It’s time for JB to put the weight (no pun intended) of his Administration behind Leader Lightford. Make her the first woman Senate President..

  4. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 9:36 am:

    “Make her the first woman Senate President.”

    Agree. It’s a strong and positive message of change.

  5. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 9:39 am:

    === It’s time for… of his Administration behind Leader Lightford. Make her the first woman Senate President..===

    This would be a terrible mistake on many fronts for many reasons;

    Hard feelings with those not name Lightford.

    Divide the caucus by inserting himself in an in-house discussion.

    The executive pushing for a leadership the executive prefers, thus inserting himself in a separation of powers thing

    A Rauner-like interpretation, where some might see the request or choice as a “if you don’t” kinda statement or worry.

    The financial aspect (fundraising) thoughts as to if the caucus chooses another is a possible lens other might want to push.

    The very last thing this Administration or the political folks would want or should be doing is inserting themselves in process, or seem engaged in any part of the process of thus decision.

  6. - Ok - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 9:45 am:

    I think the administration is doing it the right way: not calling out support for Lightford specifically, but making it clear that electing another white male is not something they would support.

  7. - 32nd warder - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 9:46 am:

    OW, I see your points, but I think there are subtleties you ignore. The Governor wouldn’t be weighing in on this race to place a Senate President that would be his puppet. Knowing the governor, I think he would advocate for a qualified woman of color even if the two didn’t always see eye to eye. I think the governor is right to weigh in on this because it is an opportunity to continue to advocate for previously disenfranchised groups (african americans and women) to share in power. Nothing against Senator Harmon, but there is zero upside to him becoming the senate president. Electing Senator Lightford to this post will be historic, and it will empower women and women of color, it will inspire young people, and it will continue the erosion of white male dominance of power positions.

  8. - Steve - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 9:46 am:


    What exactly does “Rauner-like” have to do with picking a leader ? Who in contention is like Rauner in viewpoint, looks,demeanor, or money? The real risk for Illinois Senate members is : will the next leader have some legal problems? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone does. My guess is Bruce Rauner just isn’t that important.

  9. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 9:52 am:

    - Steve -

    Are we going to go they your lack of institutional knowledge again, or…

    Like, for example what happened to Rep. Anderssen when he whipped the Brave 15 and the Perfect 10?

    Your lack of what the intent of my thought on that continues to be not because of the lack of institutional knowledge, it’s the giddy excitement you want towards “corruption”

    I fed you, move on from me. Thanks.

  10. - DealCutter - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 9:54 am:

    Sen. Harmon has to be able to articulate his votes to other members and make an argument that the current leadership structure should change. Two others to watch are Sens. Sims & Hastings. Sen. Sims can bring a few others with him if he decides to cut a deal with Lightford. And Sen. Hastings, he went from the Chairman of Energy and Public Utilities to be the Chairman of Executive Committee in a year. It is obvious he is a deal cutter and can handle himself.

  11. - Steve - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 9:57 am:


    There’s nothing to be giddy about(even when eating hot pockets). Especially when many Illinois state Senators expect to get more money out of wealthy people which might not be doable.

  12. - Thomas Paine - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 9:58 am:

    Oswego Willy is correct.

    The governor and his staff do neither themselves nor Lightford any favors by inserting themselves into the process or tipping the scales in her favor.

    A capable Senate President needs to be able to capture that flag on her own, to hold the caucus together for one term and prosper for ten years.

    As we saw under Rauner and Blagojevich, the public is not well-served when legislative leaders are subsidiaries of the governor’s office.

  13. - 17% Solution - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 10:00 am:

    “ but making it clear that electing another white male is not something they would support.”
    When did that happen?

  14. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 10:02 am:

    - Steve -

    Move on from me.

    - Wordslinger - already discussed, far better that me, why folks move.

    === - Wordslinger - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 6:10 pm

    For anyone interested in a shorthand illustration of the changes in the share of the American population among the states, can clue you in very quickly, based on reapportionment maps.

    No shocks there. Over the last 60 years, the greatest movement, by far, has been to three states: California, Texas and Florida.

    Fifty years ago, Florida had fewer people than Alabama.

    Does anyone seriously think marginal state government decisions have anything to do any of it?

    We’ve got issues in Illinois. But they ain’t going to be solved by repealing sunshine, air conditioning, jet planes, the interstate highway system, the TVA, or Hoover Dam.===

    Go to an IPI website or Facebook, I’m done

  15. - Dybalaton - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 10:09 am:

    Great, another tax and spending Senate leader.

  16. - Monadnock Pigeon - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 10:15 am:

    ==As we saw under Rauner and Blagojevich, the public is not well-served when legislative leaders are subsidiaries of the governor’s office.==

    Louder, for the people in the back (banned punctuation)

  17. - Thomas Paine - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 10:17 am:

    === Great, another tax and spending Senate leader. ===

    Oh, how Rebuplicans long for the days of conservative, borrow and spending leaders like Pate.

  18. - Watchmen - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 10:22 am:

    I think that Lightford is making great progress in garnering support, but the two important questions to ask are:

    1.) Will anyone in the Lightford supporters fall to a FBI indictment and/or have a federal search warrant served on them?

    2.) Will that have an effect on the outcome or shift the dynamic in this race?

    With all of these Senators negotiating their requests to various candidates, someone has to be watching.

  19. - {Sigh} - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 10:29 am:

    @Watchman- lets not forget Lightford stood by President Cullerton when he failed to take immediate action after Sandoval was raided.

    “Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, on Wednesday joined Senate President John Cullerton in taking a wait-and-see attitude on Sandoval, whose Chicago home and Senate offices in Cicero and Springfield have been searched by federal agents.”

    So, an important question for Lightford: will you call on Sandoval to step down?

  20. - Back to the Future - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 10:29 am:

    Like Sen. Mike Hastings. West Point guy. Has a good base of volunteers.
    Frankly seems a lot more on the ball than the other options and has the backbone to stand up to Pritzker.

  21. - HeyThere - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 10:30 am:

    Thomas Paine - Please try again, without the weak “whataboutism”.

  22. - Nagidam - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 10:33 am:

    I’m not sure I would want to be horse trading to help elect the next leader. Maybe I am wrong but if senator X says I will support senator Y for leader but senator X asks to be put on the leadership team, I think that could be problematic with the Feds. I realize this has happened since the beginning of time but follow my logic here as to why I ask the question. Senator X is asking for something in return for a political vote, electing someone leader of a political caucus. That request comes with a monetary payout paid by taxpayers as leadership positions come with an added government stipend.

  23. - education first - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 10:42 am:

    I notice that Melinda Bush is testing the waters. What do you think her chances are?

  24. - TNR - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 10:43 am:

    == What, uh, are the substantive policy differences, if any, between these candidates? ==

    Doesn’t matter. These things are determined by personal relationships, deals over other leadership/chairmanship positions, the ability to raise campaign cash, and a few other factors that have little to do with policy.

  25. - Truthiness - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 10:51 am:

    Wow @ 9:33am “It’s time for JB to put the weight of his Administration behind Leader Lightford.”

    That is absolutely the wrong idea. The Senate President is picked by the Senate members, not the governor, not the voters. The Republican Senators get more of a say in this than JB. He can’t just come in and buy every election.

    If Lightford is really the best, let her caucus pick her without outside interference.

  26. - Get Real - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 11:12 am:

    ==Like, for example what happened to Rep. Anderssen when he whipped the Brave 15 and the Perfect 10?==

    Former Rep. Anderson was indeed a member of the Brave 15 and perfect 10. He was not, however, a leader in the effort and/or “whipping” votes.

    All R’s close to that dynamic know this to be truth. Anderson was not trusted enough among the R’s to possibly be a “leader” in the effort. The Dems loved him. The R’s thought he wanted to be a Dem.

    It was a very organized and beautiful play by those involved. Anderson was definitely not the mastermind.

    Critical players = D. Harris, Hays, Fortner, B. Mitchell, Hammond, et. al. These folks had much more standing within their own caucus than Anderson.

  27. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 11:20 am:

    === The Dems loved him. The R’s thought he wanted to be a Dem.===

    Raunerism is like that.

    === These folks had much more standing within their own caucus than Anderson.===

    … and yet, it was Andersson who took the fall.

    Real stand up folks ya got there, LOL

  28. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 11:23 am:

    - Get Real -

    Your beef is probably with Leader Durkin, and not me, lol

    === Following the conclusion of the spring and early summer legislative session, I decided that it would be in the best interest of the Republican Caucus to go in a new direction with the position of our Floor Leader. This afternoon, I asked Representative Andersson to step down from the position. He agreed, stating he also believed it would be in the best interest of the caucus. I hope to make an announcement on a new Floor Leader in the coming weeks.===

    Those masterminds, what cowards then they are…

    Anything else?

    Remember, it’s when the Executive decides they can control caucuses is where the problems begin.

  29. - Been There - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 11:31 am:

    === I notice that Melinda Bush is testing the waters. What do you think her chances are?===
    I don’t think. Yah would have enough support to make it to Pres. That being said I think the newly elected suburban women could be her base and if she can keep them together with her she could use that for leverage. If it gets dragged out who knows she may be able to use that to get herself the votes.
    On another note does anyone know what Pres Cullerton’s plans are? Is he just going to resign as president and still have a vote for his successor? Or will he resign both beforehand and have his replacement (Feigenholtz??) in the seat already?

  30. - Get Real - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 11:32 am:


    Not doubt following Rauner was folly.

    Just pointing out that you don’t know what you are talking about in terms of the dynamics of the budget deal.

    Anderson craved the attention. The others were anything but cowards.

    Sometimes you simply don’t know what you are spewing Willy. Quit while you are behind on this one.

    All on this blog understand your take. Those that were intimately involved in that dynamic understand that you sir, were not there and have no earthly idea what you are talking about.

    Just stop.

  31. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 11:38 am:

    === Just pointing out that you don’t know what you are talking about in terms of the dynamics of the budget deal.===

    If you’re explaining the cowardice of those you want to exalt as Rep. Andersson took the fall, and recognized by Leader Durkin as such… “ok”…

    They’re a bunch a frauds and phonies that we’re so strong, they hung out Rep. Andersson?

    Maybe you should stop.

    === All on this blog understand your take. Those that were intimately involved in that dynamic understand that you sir, were not there and have no earthly idea what you are talking about.===

    Then those folks owe Rep. Andersson an apology, you know, for making him take the fall?

    No one will be holding their breath. Honest.

    It’s still quite true, Raunerism ruled the day, and when phonies are controlled by the executive, it’s not good for any caucus.

  32. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 12:02 pm:

    Oh - Get Real -, lol

    You’re just angry now that you outed the utter phonies and pretenders that in a cowardly way hung Rep. Andersson our to dry.

    Huh, probably why I never…

    …when any of the Perfect 10 or Brave 15 leave… I remind they were part of the problem of the 99th GA… yeah, probably.

    Myths are created because the truth hurts those who are the ones less inclined to be as brave as portrayed, or as perfect as one would like.

    I do appreciate you exposing those, it helps. It’s a reminder. Rauner controlled so much, it was important to still be a coward and have someone at the rest to take the blame.

    Any others you want to expose as phonies, or someone you can’t trust if they can find a scape goat?

    Again, the thing to keep in mind, as the SDems pick their new leader is if the Executive has influence, the process of governing within the branches is impeded.

  33. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 12:08 pm:

    Let’s get back on topic and let’s stay there, please.

  34. - Nadigam - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 12:44 pm:

    Gosh darn it Richard I just popped some popcorn.

  35. - TNR - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 1:27 pm:

    My memory is lousy, but aren’t there some parallels to the last succession battle? A lot of folks thought Clayborne had a leg up because he supposedly had the black caucus and downstate caucus behind him. That coalition started to fray when, ironically, Lightford went with Cullerton. Lightfoot seemingly has a leg up now, but she’ll likely have to hold the black caucus and most of the women members together to pull this off.

    As I stated above, personal relationships seem to matter a lot in these battles. The fact that Cullerton was probably the best liked candidate 11 years ago was an important part of his victory.

  36. - On topic - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 1:59 pm:

    If it is accurate that Manar, Munoz and Steans are with Lightford, this is mostly a done deal and a stinging rebuke of Harmon. Truthfully, it makes sense. She has the personality and honesty to lead. Don Harmon is sharp and savvy, but he cut corners and shrewdly undermined certain efforts that cemented him in the senior ranks. Those same tactics will keep him from landing the top spot. My bet’s on Lightford.

    Beyond the statehouse dynamics, it isn’t lost on anyone that a highly qualified black woman is a better pick than a qualified white man. Manar and Steans are honorable for recognizing this. Harmon would be wise to read the tea leaves sooner than later.

  37. - The 647 - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 2:48 pm:

    The financial aspect should be interesting. Harmon had 1.2 million in the bank on 9/30, compared to Lightford having less than 200k.

  38. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 2:49 pm:

    Last year Sen. Don Harmon’s law firm cashed $9,000,000 worth of state contracts. I do think Senate Democrats need another self-serving lawyer raiding our taxes. At least Lightford won’t be serving two masters. Stop outside political income when you are supposed to be serving Illinois’ taxpayers.

  39. - Full picture - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 3:04 pm:

    ==The financial aspect should be interesting. Harmon had 1.2 million in the bank on 9/30, compared to Lightford having less than 200k.==

    It’s not that interesting. Harmon was the presumed next president until things fall apart. He amassed most of that money in the past. He is a skilled fundraiser, but he benefited from the perception of inevitability to replace Cullerton - until things caught up with him quite recently. Any presumed chamber leader will have a formidable fundraising advantage.

  40. - Future Senator - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 10:25 pm:

    So TNR are you saying that Lightford did not support Clayborn for Prez last time out? So she will truly understand if the Black Caucus doesn’t support her this time.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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