Capitol - Your Illinois News Radar » Credit where credit is due
SUBSCRIBE to Capitol Fax      Advertise Here      Mobile Version     Exclusive Subscriber Content     Updated Posts    Contact
To subscribe to Capitol Fax, click here.
Credit where credit is due

Monday, Jan 27, 2020

* My weekly newspaper column

Give new Illinois Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) some credit. He’s made a few very solid moves since Jan. 18, when he was elected to his chamber’s top job.

Harmon won a majority vote of his caucus before the full Senate voted. He had at least some support from just about every Democratic faction. Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) is an African-American, but Harmon received several votes from people of color. Downstaters voted for both candidates, as did women. A majority of the “X Caucus,” a loose confederation of more conservative members, went with Harmon, but at least four voted for Lightford. Suburbanites were split and so were Chicagoans.

With the factions all over the place, putting a deal together wasn’t easy. But after several tense and sometimes contentious hours, Harmon emerged victorious.

Hard feelings remain. Some senators apparently just up and lied to Lightford about whom they were supporting. But Lightford will remain majority leader, and her supporters in Senate Democratic leadership were protected. Harmon made peace and he has time to work things out before he has to run again in less than a year.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has denied it, but people close to him were indeed working hard on Lightford’s behalf. The two men have known each other for over two decades, but Harmon endorsed then-Sen. Daniel Biss in the 2018 gubernatorial primary over Pritzker, and things kinda soured after that. The two are ideologically very close, however, so they should be able to work things out, but I’d bet the Senate’s appointment confirmation process, among other things, might get just a wee bit tighter in the near term.

The night he was elected, Harmon sat down with his entire staff. Employees had been fretting about their futures ever since John Cullerton unexpectedly announced in November that he would be resigning soon.

Staff members are people, too, after all. Many have families to support, mortgages and tuition to pay, plus the all-important health insurance. They’d been walking on eggshells ever since Cullerton’s announcement, wondering what their future holds.

Harmon, according to spokesperson John Patterson, told the all-staff meeting “he looks forward to working with everyone and was counting on staff to help him during this transition and heading into what we expect will be another successful and productive session.”

The highly unusual mid-term resignation of a sitting Senate president plopped Harmon into uncharted waters just a week before the General Assembly was scheduled to return from its long winter break. Replacing key staff members in mid-stream would’ve been difficult and perhaps even risky. He needs to get up to speed right away, and he couldn’t do that if he brought in new folks to run the day-to-day operation.

Harmon will eventually have to decide what he wants his staff to look like. But it was a smart, grown-up move to stick with the status quo for a while. The staff Harmon inherited is efficient and capable. There was simply no pressing need to make any major immediate changes.

In some ways, Harmon is old school. He runs one of the few truly active Democratic township organizations in Cook County, and he has indulged in the tradition of working at a powerful law firm while serving. But he’s also the first ever member of “Generation X” to lead a legislative caucus and preside over a chamber here. He loves playing guitar and he attracted the votes of the younger members in his caucus.

Harmon strongly signaled that we’ve entered a new era during an appearance later in the week on Chicago Public Television’s “Chicago Tonight” program.

Harmon has worked at a politically connected Chicago law firm for the past 15 years. He has done bond work for municipalities, and his firm has represented several state agencies. He has said he was as diligent as possible to avoid conflicts of interest, but now that Harmon has the chamber’s top job, it was a sure bet that questions would at least be raised.

So Harmon told Amanda Vinicky during the WTTW interview that he plans to step down from the firm. He’ll avoid any conflicts and he can devote himself full-time to his new role.

This almost never happens in Illinois government. Just the opposite, in fact. When people move to the top of the legislative food chain, they generally ramp up their, um, marketability.

He’s making the right moves so far. We’ll see how he does in the future.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Monday, Jan 27, 20 @ 10:37 am:

    President Harmon seems pretty serious about his new position, and he may stay there for the long run and have this be the apex of his career. For Sen. Lightford, there will be other ways to move up the ladder. The Senate President is not exactly a high profile position either and seem more behind the scenes. If she is ambitious, there will be other position open in the future that may actually serve her even better.

  2. - MG85 - Monday, Jan 27, 20 @ 10:48 am:

    ==he looks forward to working with everyone and was counting on staff to help him during this transition and heading into what we expect will be another successful and productive session.==

    That sounds like top staff will remain in place thru general session and special session.

    I expect shakeups after November.

  3. - Lucky Pierre - Monday, Jan 27, 20 @ 10:49 am:

    We will know very soon if Senate President Harmon is in fact making all the right moves.

    Property tax reform, pension reform, fair maps, and ethics reform are all pressing issues that have been largely ignored for the past 5 years.

    President Harmon has spoke of restoring faith in Illinois government. That will be quite a challenge given the Federal investigation that is sure to heat up.

  4. - Demoralized - Monday, Jan 27, 20 @ 1:04 pm:

    ==is in fact making all the right moves.==

    According to who? You? lol. Not a lot of credibility there.

  5. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 8:31 am:

    Great read, Rich.

    To the Post,

    Ushering in a new day with a leader not working outside the General Assembly should be celebrated and hopefully mirrored in the future. Working in public service means sacrifice.

    As for Gov. Pritzker folks working against President Harmon, it’s disappointing, and in small ways very Rauner-like, but unlike Rauner, Pritzker folks miscalculated the revenge factor of the Jones Boys, and now Pritzker finds himself involved in a healing caucus that saw Lightford, almost immediately after looking like a healer, rip the scab off the wounds an opening them with tales of fractured friends.

    All the best to President Harmon.

    We’ll see how January 2021 works out for that caucus.

TrackBack URI

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

* Coronavirus roundup
* A Fatal Error
* Gaming roundup: No betting on Illini/DePaul tournament games; Indiana's troubles; Harmon's video gaming gusher; Sweepstakes issues
* Pritzker won't have to sit for deposition
* Rep. Delgado qualifications hearing won't happen until after the primary
* Rate Darren Duncan's new TV ad
* Now, here's something you don't see every day
* The Illinois Credit Union League: Helping Credit Unions Succeed By Working Together!
* Underwood is basically on her own
* Open thread
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
* Yesterday's stories

Visit our advertisers...








Main Menu
Pundit rankings
Subscriber Content
Blagojevich Trial
Updated Posts

February 2020
January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004

Blog*Spot Archives
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005


RSS Feed 2.0
Comments RSS 2.0

Hosted by MCS SUBSCRIBE to Capitol Fax Advertise Here Mobile Version Contact Rich Miller