Illinois Democrats are digging a deep hole. Didn’t they learn anything from the Republican debacle?


Nekritz went back to eating her salad.

On November 6th things looked pretty sweet for Democrats.

In Illinois too.

After all, there were several high-profile congressional races that the Democrats won. A couple were really unexpected – like in the 10th CD where Republican Robert Dold had a huge money advantage, but lost to centrist Democrat Brad Schneider.

And the Democrats won veto proof majorities in the state house and senate.

But scratch the surface, look a little deeper and there is trouble ahead.

Back before the election I posted about a conversation I had with Representative Elaine Nekrtiz, Democrat from the north suburban 57th house district.

This was at a luncheon of the North Lakeshore unit of the Illinois Retired Teachers Association.

I suggested to Representative Nekritz that the anti-labor stand of the Governor and the leading role of the state’s Democrats in going after public employee pensions would cause a rupture in the traditional alliance between labor unions and Democrats in the state. I further suggested that if the Republicans nominated a non-Tea Party moderate in the Jim Edgar mold, it would be difficult for a Democrat to hold on to the governor’s mansion.

Certainly not Pat Quinn.

Nekritz shrugged and went back to eating her salad.

She can’t say I didn’t warn her.

The defeat of the Constitutional Amendment gives a hint of what I called a stealth vote when I was on Ken Davis’ Chicago Newsroom last week.

With modest union effort and a grassroots campaign, the amendment  garnered 1.7 million no votes. Given that the wording of the amendment as it appeared on the ballot essentially urged a yes vote, the no votes constituted an informed intentional voting bloc. And those voters are spread out in every legislative district in the state.

Pat Quinn’s unilateral termination of the AFSCME contract with state employees sealed the deal on his reelection. It won’t happen.

And there is more.

Read Glen Brown’s recent post on the theft of public employee pensions.

There won’t be a union voter in Illinois who won’t know about and be ready to retaliate over this attempt at grand theft robbery. Whether the theft is successful or not.

Illiinois Democrats should take no comfort in the November 6th’s wins.

They were mostly the result of Madigan-mandering state and congressional districts – not because of popular support. Without the hugely popular President Obama at the top of the Illinois ticket things will look very different in 2014.

Unless, of course, the Republicans nominate another Tea Party fool.

Former Governor Edgar tells the state on pensions: “Pay up.”

Former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar. “Pay what you owe.”

Crain’s Greg Hinz reports on former GOP Governor Jim Edgar’s views on the pension issue. Edgar finds no common ground with today’s GOP, the Democrats or even the Civic Committee.

Mr. Edgar said he wouldn’t have called that late-August special legislative session that Mr. Quinn called — not without some reason to think that something was likely to happen. All that did is rile up the various factions, he said. Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan “is a smart guy. But he can’t govern the state. Only the governor can.”

 But, the session having been called, Mr. Edgar said he would have adopted an idea of Mr. Quinn’s and pushed a bill to abolish just one of the state’s five pension funds, the one that covers current and retired lawmakers.

 The reason is that the wider bill being pushed by many Democrats, particularly Senate President John Cullerton, may well be unconstitutional because it slashes benefits for those already on the state payroll. Passing the legislators-only bill would have allowed an immediate, low-complications means to begin the inevitable court challenge and see what the judges will allow, he said.

I took that as a shot at Springfield Republicans and the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club, both of which have been pushing an “all or nothing” approach with much deeper cuts in benefits.

 Now, Mr. Edgar is not exactly a disinterested figure here.

 He draws a $132,000 annual state pension, and when he was governor he approved a back-loaded pension plan that put off big increases in state pension contributions until well after he left office.

 Still, the downstate Republican was as tight with a buck as any governor in memory. Which is why I find his bottom line here so distressing: The state ultimately may have no choice except to just pay what’s owed — $83 billion (the current official estimate) up to perhaps $200 billion, depending on who’s counting.

The quiet IEA endorsement of Judy Topinka.

My southside teaching pal sent me a link to the Daily Southtown. It’s a column by Kristen McQuery on the IEA endorsement of Republican Judy Topinka over Democrat David Miller for state comptroller.

What’s a comptroller? No clue. I think it has something to do with keeping the state’s financial books in order. Good luck with that. Just put every number in red and I think you can go home for dinner.

First, the disclaimer before IEA Communications Director Charlie McBarron jumps all over me. Kristen McQuery hates the IEA and is no friend of unions in general. So, take this in that context.

But even, as the saying goes, a broken clock is right twice a day.

The IEA endorsed David Miller in the Democratic primary. He is a young, progressive African-American state rep who has championed HB 174. This is the bill we marched to the state capitol for last April. It would bring fairness and equity to school funding. He was the best received pol to speak at the IEA RA in March.

In the general election the IEA endorsed Judy Topinka. She is a the kind of Republican that the IEA loves. She is part of the Jim Thompson, Jim Edgar soft ideological wing of the state Republican Party. It is the wing that does nothing and stands for nothing but quietly serving the interests of Big Business. The Tea Party right hates them. It is something the Tea Party people believe in that resonates with me.

Look at the IEA web page and you will not see a mention of the Topinka endorsement.

IEA members ought to be embarrassed. By not endorsing Miller, IEA perpetuates Springfield’s status quo – you know, the status quo voters are so mad about.

McQuery is wrong about that. Members have nothing to be embarrassed about. We didn’t endorse her. The leadership did. And on the DL. I doubt most members know the IEA endorsed her. If ever there was a quiet below the radar endorsement this is it.

But the IEA did endorse the wrong candidate again.