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Senate President preview

Friday, Jan 17, 2020

* Tina Sfondeles

Illinois Democratic senators plan to meet Sunday behind closed doors to select one of the most powerful players in state politics.

And it appears the field has dwindled to two heavyweights: Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, and Assistant Majority Leader Don Harmon, D-Oak Park.

Harmon would be the first suburban Democrat to hold the job this century.

Lightford would become the first woman ever.

“There hasn’t been a woman at all, no matter what nationality,” she said. I think it’s time to have a woman’s perspective.”

* Shia Kapos

Other behind-the-scenes drama has a few Black Caucus members feeling pressured to vote for Lightford. Others worry Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s team is taking sides (The governor says not so). Leadership positions are being offered in exchange for votes. Deals are being brokered. One senator said “tensions are high and claws are out.”

The phrase used most often: “It’s fluid.”

Some senators have stayed on the fence because they don’t want to side with the losing candidate and face possible retribution. A secret ballot is their friend.

That sort of pressure is not unusual in a race like this. It happened the last time the Senate had a contested race for president.

* Mary Ann Ahern

The winning candidate will have no shortage of crises to deal with, from federal investigations of several state senators and lobbyists to serious ethical investigations into the conduct of members and their staffers.

The leadership role also requires a candidate who can fundraise for fellow senators, and in that area Harmon has a decided advantage, having outraised Lightford while also donating far more money to other political candidates.

“Don has more money in his coffers, but that’s because he’s been running for the idea of the presidency for a lot longer than I have,” she said.

“On the political side I think I’m in the best position to protect our caucus and to grow it,” Harmon said. “I’ve demonstrated my ability to help my colleagues with their election and raising the resources we need.”

I will open the blog on Sunday during the caucus meeting and subsequent floor vote (if any).

- Posted by Rich Miller        

20 Comments
  1. - Fav Human - Friday, Jan 17, 20 @ 9:42 am:

    Normally you would think fund raising would be a big deal. But is it given the super favorable map?

    If that is taken out of the mix, seems like there will be a lot of “Light” in area politics :)


  2. - Just a guy... - Friday, Jan 17, 20 @ 9:43 am:

    If this was a caucus of a local governmental body (county board, city council, etc.), they would have to do this at a public meeting. However,the General Assembly exempted itself from the Open Meetings Act when it was adopted. This allows them to conduct business in private. Removing that exemption could be step towards addressing the rampant corruption in state government. It would also allow the public to have 48 hours notice before action was taken by the legislature. That could devalue the role of the lobbyist.


  3. - 32nd warder - Friday, Jan 17, 20 @ 9:52 am:

    Anybody care to opine on which of the two a secret ballot helps more?


  4. - TJ - Friday, Jan 17, 20 @ 9:54 am:

    Why would the blurb specify Harmon as the potential first suburban Dem to hold it when Lightford is also a suburban Dem?


  5. - Just Me 2 - Friday, Jan 17, 20 @ 9:54 am:

    I’ve been having flash backs of the leadership fight between Tom Cross and Art Tenhouse. That was no fun at all. It took years for the caucus to recover.


  6. - South of Sherman - Friday, Jan 17, 20 @ 10:01 am:

    From Shia’s piece: “Senators will then vote orally in alphabetical order for their pick. Sen. Neil Anderson, a Republican from, appropriately, Springfield will be the first to vote.”

    That’s a weird detail to focus on — especially since it’s completely wrong.


  7. - Jocko - Friday, Jan 17, 20 @ 10:15 am:

    I forget, is it white smoke or black smoke that pours from the capitol building once they’ve reached a decision? /S


  8. - City Zen - Friday, Jan 17, 20 @ 10:16 am:

    Didn’t Harmon walk into an existing infrastructure setup by Phil Rock in DPOP?


  9. - Responsa - Friday, Jan 17, 20 @ 10:24 am:

    It is my hope that the one chosen to be the next Senate President is the person least likely to be ensnared in a past or future corruption scandal. That it will be the person most capable of providing the leadership that can restore honor and ethics to the Illinois Senate. I hope that is the top priority, too, for the senators and the governor–far above whether the person is a woman or a minority or a great fundraiser.


  10. - Chicago Cynic - Friday, Jan 17, 20 @ 10:30 am:

    “Normally you would think fund raising would be a big deal. But is it given the super favorable map?”

    You’re kidding, right? Fundraising is always critically important in pretty much every election regardless of the map.


  11. - Long memory - Friday, Jan 17, 20 @ 10:35 am:

    Ironic that Lightford is pressuring members of the black caucus to stay united. Apparently such unity wasn’t a concern when she supported Cullerton over Claiborne in the last senate president election.


  12. - NotRich - Friday, Jan 17, 20 @ 10:49 am:

    watch that guy from the 19th Ward
    just sayin


  13. - Faav Human - Friday, Jan 17, 20 @ 10:57 am:

    “You’re kidding, right?”

    No, not at all. I am thinking that anyone holding that job the next few years won’t have much trouble fundraising.

    So the other qualities should rise higher into the mix.

    As for transparency, I think it’s quite ok for political parties to discuss in private how they organize themselves.

    The real vote will be open, and of course just a formality.


  14. - Loop Lady - Friday, Jan 17, 20 @ 11:00 am:

    City Zen: Rock was Harmon’s mentor, but as a long time Dem in Oak Park, I can attest that Don had an infrastructure but has greatly expanded it and had trained hundreds of hit the pavement volunteers for state and federal campaigns not to mention raising oodles of cash for Dem candidates…if I was in the Dem Sen caucus, he’d be my guy…


  15. - TominChicago - Friday, Jan 17, 20 @ 11:00 am:

    Not Rich - which one?


  16. - NorthsideNoMore - Friday, Jan 17, 20 @ 11:23 am:

    Pretty sure the money will cascade in for whoever gets the top spot. Just a matter of from different sources


  17. - West Side the Best Side - Friday, Jan 17, 20 @ 11:25 am:

    “… hold the job this century.” It’s only the start of 2020, not much of the century gone and a lot left to go.


  18. - A Guy - Friday, Jan 17, 20 @ 12:11 pm:

    If stability in rough seas is important to the caucus, Don is the safer choice. By a lot.

    Just don’t know if the caucus will think that way. This is like the team gymnastics in the Olympics. The Team Gold is secondary.


  19. - Dotnonymous - Friday, Jan 17, 20 @ 12:52 pm:

    - 32nd warder - Friday, Jan 17, 20 @ 9:52 am:

    Anybody care to opine on which of the two a secret ballot helps more?

    Looking for someone to be your torpedo?


  20. - SAP - Friday, Jan 17, 20 @ 2:36 pm:

    ==“Don has more money in his coffers, but that’s because he’s been running for the idea of the presidency for a lot longer than I have,” she said.==

    Leader Lightford makes it sound like it is a bad idea to play the long game.


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