Elections 2012: They love ya 'til they don't; lame-duck session ahead in Springfield

Elections 2012: They love ya 'til they don't; lame-duck session ahead in Springfield

Here's a roundup of election and political news that had us folks at The Chicago Reporter talking this week:

• Derrick Smith might have swept the floor with challenger Tom Swiss in the Democratic primary for 10th District state representative, but he's probably not doing much celebrating. That's because the West Side legislator's star has likely peaked. The same Democratic establishment that groomed him for Annazette Collins' vacated seat, and up until Tuesday poured tons of money into his bid for re-election, is now taking steps to give him the boot.

A week ago, Smith was arrested and slapped with federal charges of bribery. During the election high-ranking Democrats who had previously supported Smith refused to say anything about the charges. And movers and shakers like House Speaker Michael Madigan worked behind the scenes to get Smith re-elected, just so a handpicked successor could be chosen. Those wheels are now in motion. A House Special Investigative Committee composed of three Democrats and three Republicans has been put together to investigate Smith's alleged misconduct.

And, now, many of the same Democrats who refused to say anything about the accusations against Smith before the election, are calling for him to step down. The pressure's coming from Secretary of State Jesse White--Smith's one-time political mentor-- and Governor Pat Quinn, among others. Meanwhile, Smith might be taking the hint: He hasn't shown his face around Springfield for the past two legislative session days.

• Almost all of the results from Tuesday's contests are in. But in the 39th District state representative Democratic primary, Will Guzzardi is refusing to concede victory to incumbent Toni Berrios. Berrios, the daughter of Cook County Democratic boss Joe Berrios, leads Guzzardi by 111 votes. Several hundred absentee ballots haven't been counted, nor has the race been certified, Guzzardi told NBC Chicago's political blog Ward Room. For those reasons, and because the race is so close, Guzzardi said he will not step aside until "every single vote gets counted." Guzzardi touted a progressive, reformist agenda during his run.

He criticized Berrios for voting on the side of corporations and special interestsinstead of taxpayers. In response, Scott Cisek, an employee of the Cook County Democrats, which Berrios' father Joe Berrios chairs, said the following: "If [10th District congressional candidate] Ilya Sheyman’s ‘progressive’ supporters in the city of Chicago had not wasted so much time, effort, and treasure trying to take out Toni Berrios, a pro-choice, pro LGBT progressive Latina, with one of their rich white college buddies [Guzzardi] from out of town, Sheyman might have been able to pull it off." Guzzardi countered by pointing out that his grassroots campaign was supported by a diverse group of people.

• The 7th District state representative race between Hillside attorney Emanuel "Chris" Welch and Rory Hoskins, is not over yet, either. Only 15 votes currently separate the two candidates vying for the statehouse seat in this western Cook County district. Welch outspent Hoskins nearly 10 to 1, and had the support of many local village chiefs. But several allegations of hiring scandals at Proviso District 209 schools, where Welch is board president, a domestic violence arrest, a sexual harassment lawsuit and subsequent order of protection are among a few things that dogged Welch during this soap opera of a race.  Provisional and mail-in ballots still have to be counted, and the race will not be certified by the Cook County Clerk's office until April 3. There is also the possibility that one of the candidates could ask for a recount.

• Passing tough legislation like pension changes and Medicaid reform might be a whole lot easier than it was just a week ago. Following Tuesday's primary, there are now 29 lame-duck legislators in Springfield. And some might find it easier to cast votes in favor of the aforementioned reformist bills since they won't be returning to the capitol--at least not next year. The measures that the General Assembly is discussing taking up include slashing state contributions to Medicaid. Those changes could include cutting services and lowering doctors reimbursements. Governor Quinn said he wants $2.7 billion cut from the program. State lawmakers are considering a number of ways to deal with public pensions too. Quinn has recently talked about asking local school districts to kick in more to teachers' pensions.

Similarly, state lawmakers have also proposed that public employees contribute more to their pensions. Currently, the state's pensions are underfunded by $83 billion. Sixty-fifth District State rep. Rosemary Mulligan, who was disqualified from running because she improperly filed her candidates' paperwork, described the situation to FOX Illinois as such: Legislative "leaders will ask will ask [lame-duck legislators] to take the tough votes to protect other people in the fall." As for Mulligan, she said she'll continue to "do what I darn well please."

© Community Renewal Society 2012

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