I was in high spirits after pension reform failed roughly two weeks ago. I was in good spirits not because Illinois would still be considered a deadbeat with roughly $83 billion in unpaid pension obligation, but rather, I thought it might be an opportunity for Republicans to gain seats in the General Assembly.
Before the legislature left Springfield two weeks ago, Governor Quinn brokered a deal with House Republican leader Tom Cross to give us pension reform. Pensioners would have to choose either a lower cost of living increase or give up medical insurance offered by the state.
The powerful Mike Madigan had his own plan, similar to the Cross/Quinn plan, however, Madigan’s plan forced downstate and suburban school districts to pay pension obligations for their teachers– currently, the state pays these obligations. Republicans called this portion of the plan Madigan’s poison pill, as it caused pension reform to completely fail. The state GOP was livid over this because to pay for increased pension obligations, downstate and suburban cities would be forced to increase property taxes.
So, the bright spot in pension reform’s failure was the knowledge that Illinois voters know the major problem that is the state’s underfunded pension system while seeing reforms take place in Wisconsin. I thought the failure to get the reforms enacted could be linked to Mike Madigan’s rule over the state (through his Speakership) and that voters may vote Republican in house races this fall to excise the Speakership from Madigan’s grasp.
So last Thursday, when Illinois Dan Rutherford was in my office for an event, I talked up the potential of the GOP ouster of Mike Madigan this fall. I detailed my plan for attack and was laughed at by the party faithful with whom I had a chance to speak.
I was reminded that the Illinois Republicans screwed up so badly in 2010, they prevented themselves from taking power away from Mike Madigan anytime soon.
It turns out the only thing more pathetic than an Illinois Democrat (including Rod Blegojevich) is an Illinois Republican.
It all started in 2009, after a certain Democratic Governor was impeached, Republicans had their best shot at making some gains in the General Assembly and a great shot at taking over the Governor’s mansion. Sometime back in 2009, the DuPage County Republican party screwed up royally. Their colossal blunder gave us Pat Quinn, more Mike Madigan, more unfunded pension debt and higher taxes. The DuPage County GOP did not have enough foresight to pick one of its members to run in the GOP primary. Instead, they allowed five DuPage County Republicans to all run in the gubernatorial primary: Kirk Dillard, Andy McKenna, Jim Ryan, Adam Andrzejewski, and Robert Schillerstrom.
Maybe it’s a good thing the GOP didn’t take control in 2010. It appears nobody in DuPage County had enough brains to schedule a conference call between these five and say the obvious– that if they united behind one candidate that person would be the next governor, rather than splitting the DuPage GOP vote five ways which would pave the way for Bill Brady’s nomination. Apparently nobody else in DuPage County foresaw a Bill Brady nomination meant a Republican loss.
Had someone with a brain in DuPage County prevented just one of the candidates from running, Kirk Dillard would have been the nominee (and likely would be governor today). Bob Schillerstrom– who did drop out of the race– received the least amount of votes of any GOP candidate with 7,420 votes of 767,485 cast in the primary. Kirk Dillard, who ran second behind Bill Brady, lost the primary by 193 votes.
Not foreseeing this scenario is the blunder that gets our state not only four more years of democratic rule in the Executive Mansion, but cements Mike Madigan in the Speaker’s seat until he retires. After the 2010 census, and the Republican losses in the General Assembly and gubernatorial race, the Democrats were able to draw the legislative map for the next 10 years. That map is very good for Democrats. One example– I live in the 5th Congressional District. A Democrat, Mike Quigley, is my Congressman. Before Quigley, Rahm Emanuel was Congressman for my district. Because of redistricting, my district (heavily democratic) extends out to Elmhurst. Elmhurst! So all those Elmhurst Republican voters end up voiceless for the near future– or at least have their voices drowned out by the voices of my Democratic neighbors.
Ultimately, those voiceless Elmhurst Republicans only have themselves to blame. Had someone put in a call to Andy McKenna or Jim Ryan and told them not to run (apparently Schillerstrom took the call, he only took it too late), Pat Quinn would not be governor.
And the redistricting lines– which have huge implications in Washington DC this fall, would not be drawn the way they are. And we would not be paying $1,000 more in income taxes per $50,000.000 earned.
And maybe, we’d have someone in the Speaker’s chair who is more accountable to the voter. And maybe, just maybe, we’d have pension reform.
Filed under: Illinois Politics