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“The only thing you have is your word”

Thursday, Feb 13, 2020

* Tina Sfondeles at the Sun-Times

A “present” vote on a measure to expand abortion coverage in Illinois may cost an Orthodox rabbi — freshman state Rep. Yehiel “Mark” Kalish — his seat in the state House.

That’s if the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, and other abortion rights supporters have their way. Cassidy, alongside activists and elected officials such as Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago Commissioner Debra Shore, is planning a “Kalish Lied To Us” news conference on Wednesday morning in Chicago.

The group says Kalish said he’d vote in favor of the bill as part of a requirement of his appointment to the seat. Kalish is the first ordained rabbi to serve in the Illinois General Assembly. […]

But Cassidy isn’t going after any of the other Democrats who either voted no or present. She said she’s singling Kalish out because he’s the only Democrat who changed his vote after making a promise to vote for it.

Cassidy says Kalish told her on the morning of May 28 that he would not be supporting her bill after previously making a commitment to do so. Cassidy also said Kalish spoke to Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan to tell him of his planned “present” vote and even offered up his resignation over it.

* Jonah Meadows at the Patch

“In Springfield, the only thing you have is your word. And if you go back on your word, you have nothing,” Cassidy said. “Whether you agree with the fundamental substance of the bill, if you know a member has gone back on a promise like this you can’t trust him to ever make a promise again that you can count on.”

Kalish told Patch he did not believe that his reversal on the RHA had cost him credibility with his fellow legislators.

“I took 5,000 votes this session. We’re talking about one vote that I flip on. Every other vote was consistent. Every other vote. And there were some big votes,” Kalish said. “It hasn’t hindered as of now, I don’t think it will hinder in the future, and if there’s somebody who’s concerned maybe they’ll double check with me and make sure. But I hope that, as my career continues in this, that I’ll have the ability to continue proving myself.”

* Hannah Meisel at the Daily Line

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), the lead sponsor of Reproductive Health Act, said Kalish’s decision blindsided her, especially since he made calls to generate support for the measure. For most of the legislative session, the bill languished in committee.

“In that moment I, quite frankly, really just wanted to get to my roll call and make sure that I could afford to lose that vote,” Cassidy said. “I wanted to go back to preparing for what was going to be a four-hour debate. But I shared a few thoughts with him in that moment, most significantly that I was watching someone I considered a friend throw away a political career.”

Cassidy said Kalish gave her his word that he would support the bill.

“When you make a promise like that, it should be binding,” Cassidy said. “Lots of folks will tell you that in Springfield. The only thing you have is your word.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - reddevil1 - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 9:12 am:

    This is some Madigan level retribution…hope she is held accountable for that.

  2. - Oak Parker - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 9:13 am:

    DPI & labor are still with him 100%

  3. - Thomas Paine - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 9:18 am:

    If Kalish were a principled man who’d had an epiphany and realized the bill was morally wrong, I’d still be against him but I would respect that.

    That’s not what happened.

    He didn’t vote No, he cast a weasley Present vote.

    Someone came to him and promised him something or threatened him with something and he took a dive.

    The fact that he hasn’t taken a dive on 4,999 other bills does not make him a man of more or less high integrity. It just means no one has approached him yet and made the right offer.

    But one day, they will.

  4. - Skokie Man - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 9:23 am:

    “DPI & labor are still with him 100%”

    I don’t necessarily disagree, but can you explain why you say this? Kalish has not received any donations from unions that I can find other than one from the “Chicago Land Operators Joint Labor-Management PAC.” Denyse Wang Stoneback, his opponent endorsed by the Niles Township Democrats, just got a 20K donation from the North Suburban Teachers Union earlier this month. I’d love to know more of the background.

  5. - DTAG - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 9:24 am:

    I tell people in politics you get to lie exactly one time so make it count. This is not an endorsement of lying, just the opposite.

  6. - Been There - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 9:27 am:

    Well at least he told her ahead of time and she had time to go through her roll call. It’s way way worse if you put the bill on the board and then those numbers don’t show up as expected.

  7. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 9:28 am:

    === He didn’t vote No, he cast a weasley Present vote.===

    That’s truly the ball game.

    Your word is everything, and then some, in Springfield. It’s the measure of a legislator, it’s the mettle legislators *should* want to measure themselves.

    I rarely have an issue on a “flip” if, and only if, a flip like this is “all-in”, and it’s Red or Green, explained also to the essence of turning on their own word, thoughtful to the bill and issue.

    Ya can’t be “Present” like this, because in reality, he’s not present, he’s absent of his word and absent to what it means to keep his word.

  8. - Jocko - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 9:29 am:

    ==his reversal on the RHA had cost him credibility ==

    Umm, that’s a punt…not a reversal.

  9. - Nadigam - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 9:32 am:

    What I see is a newbie legislator thrown into the fire that changed his mind. I’m not discounting the importance of the vote. Rep. Kalish was at least honorable enough to tell the sponsor and even the Speaker and offer to resign. Flipping on votes I would think would be dishonorable if they flipped and the sponsor found out about the flip when the vote was cast. I don’t see the Rabi as a guy that lied to get the appointment. I would rather Personal PAC just say they want one of their own in there and be done with it.

  10. - Shrill in Skokie - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 9:35 am:

    In a town hall weeks after this vote, Kalish said that even if his present vote tanked the bill he would have voted present. In subsequent patch articles and constituent forums he said that he disagreed with the preamble of the bill. His appointment was contingent on a yes vote, so he applied for appointment and agreed to vote yes without having read the bill? As a lobbyist at the time of appointment, that smacks of incompetence.

    The 16th may not have always liked the way Lou Lang voted, but he was always up front about the why and he ALWAYS took calls after he did something people didn’t like. Kalish shut off his phone and went on vacation after his present vote.

  11. - Forest - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 9:53 am:

    Legislators change their mind on bills all the time. The rule of thumb is they need to tell the sponsor that they changed, particularly if there is going to be a close vote — “no surprises” on the roll call is the key. Seems like Kalish did that, maybe not in the most ideal manner, but he did do it.

    I think the problem here for Kalish is he was appointed to the post and his support for the bill was one of the conditions of that appointment. He “flipped” on Lou Lang and those involved in the appointment process in a much more egregious manner than he “flipped” Cassidy. But I’m not sure Lou Lang is the guy you want front-and-center at a press conference calling him out.

  12. - Centennial - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 10:00 am:

    Side bar. Kalish is CEO of a lobbying firm?

  13. - Louis G Atsaves - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 10:21 am:

    The Sun-Times article also stated: “Kalish, however, says he was not given the exact language of the measure when he made a commitment to be “pro-choice.” At issue is language in the bill that states that a fertilized egg, embryo or fetus does not have independent rights.

    “They asked if I would be pro-choice,” Kalish said on Tuesday. “The answer is yes. They didn’t put this information in front of me and say, ‘Would you vote on that bill?’”

    So does this mean that he was not “Pro-Choice” enough when push came to shove? Everything is called a “lie” in politics these days which is probably a topic for another discussion, but Kalish may have a point here.

  14. - nadia - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 10:25 am:

    Similar instances happen more often than one might believe. Committing to a vote to get appointed makes this worse. During time lobbying we had 2 so called friendly legislators tell us they would support a bill only to have them take a walk when the bill went on the board. In another instance we had a firm commitment from a legislator to hold a bill on 2nd reading if we let it out of committee and were told that it wouldn’t be moved without amending the bill back in committee; naturally we tracked the bill closely and low and behold the bill was moved to 3rd reading without even notifying us. Realizing it’s not the same as lying to a fellow legislator but if “your word is the only thing you have in Springfield” lying is lying regardless who is being mislead.

  15. - Oak Parker - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 10:25 am:

    Between Rep Kalish and the Arroyo replacement, we really need to look using special elections for vacancies instead of committeepersons. They can’t be that expensive. It’s an easy populist move that would likely get 80+% approval when the Amendment is put to the voters

  16. - Anonymous - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 10:48 am:

    “The group says Kalish said he’d vote in favor of the bill as part of a requirement of his appointment to the seat.”

    Cassidy should be careful. It’s not legal to say to a potential legislative appointee: We will support your appointment if you agree to support this bill.”

  17. - Donnie Elgin - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 10:52 am:

    Litmus test partisan votes vs. a religious leader answering to a higher power. He had a tough choice.
    I am sure the angst in the Dem chamber is huge, to his constituent voters perhaps not so much. He had problems with the language in the bill and he voted present which isn’t a No vote. Seems defensible

  18. - Responsa - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 10:53 am:

    Politics ain’t beanbag but it shouldn’t have to be this ugly.

  19. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 10:57 am:

    === He had a tough choice.===

    LOL, he voted “Present”… that’s not a choice.

    If that’s the case, no one should ever say voting “Present” is chickening out.

  20. - Hey - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 10:57 am:

    I do not agree with Rep. Cassidy going against a sitting member of her own party. Also, for her to state she knows his district better than he does. Karma will come back to bite.

  21. - Mike - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 12:01 pm:

    Mark Kalish: “In any campaign the first and foremost quality is ‘honesty.’ If you are not honest, your career is over. It’s just over and nobody will trust you.” Chicago Jewish News March, 2019.

  22. - Ashland Adam - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 12:17 pm:

    On a related note:

    Rep. Kalish, the budget impasse, and Rauner:

    Kalish (laughs) and says “the state has already saved a lot of money by not having a budget for the past six months,” (4:00). “Rauner may be in the right in coming up with a plan to get us back on track,” (4:12). We may look at this thing (budget impasse) as a positive thing instead of a negative thing,” (4:20).

    December 2015: Kalish on the Rauner state budget impasse –

  23. - @misterjayem - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 12:27 pm:

    “Litmus test partisan votes vs. a religious leader answering to a higher power. He had a tough choice.”

    Kalish didn’t have to ask to be appointed to the partisan office, and he didn’t have to promise to vote for the litmus test RHA as part of his ask.

    If Kalish found himself in a tough spot, it was entirely of his own making.

    – MrJM

  24. - Demoralized - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 12:45 pm:

    ==I do not agree with Rep. Cassidy going against a sitting member of her own party.==

    You can’t trust liars, whether they are from your own party or not. Legislating requires making deals. Trusting the word of someone is necessary. He provded his word is no good.

  25. - StellaRauner - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 1:40 pm:

    Cassidy seeking retribution against a fellow lawmaker is very Madigan…

  26. - Bourbon Street - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 2:02 pm:

    According to the Sun-Times, “Kalish, however, says he was not given the exact language of the measure when he made a commitment to be ‘pro-choice’.”

    Reading a bill before publicly announcing support for it seems to be a lost art in Springfield. First, Lilly. Second, Kalish.

  27. - Shytown - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 2:03 pm:

    This >>> OW: “Ya can’t be “Present” like this, because in reality, he’s not present, he’s absent of his word and absent to what it means to keep his word.“

  28. - NotBecky - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 7:08 pm:

    Kalish was literally running phone banks in support of the RHA until a week before or so. For him to pretend he didn’t know what was in the bill is completely disingenuous.

    He mad a commitment. Over and over again. And the at the last second flipped and didn’t uphold his commitment.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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