Tag: Illinois Senate

Right-wing extremist Kyle McCarter to run in GOP primary against Republican Congressman John Shimkus

Republican Illinois State Senator Kyle McCarter (R-Vandalia) intends to run against incumbent U.S. Representative John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) in the Republican primary in the 15th Congressional District of Illinois.

As a Democrat who lives in the 15th District, I think that Shimkus and McCarter are two absolutely awful right-wing politicians.

Shimkus has been a loyalist to John Boehner, and big-money special interests as a Member of Congress. Furthermore, Shimkus ran his first congressional campaign on a pro-term limits platform, but has now become the ultimate D.C. insider, with Shimkus running for an 11th two-year term in Congress. As a Member of Congress, Shimkus has built up an extremely conservative voting record that reflects the interests of big businesses and bible-thumping zealots, not the interests of the people of the 15th District.

McCarter would be an even worse Member of Congress than Shimkus is. As a state senator, McCarter was one of the most vocal opponents of marriage equality, even going as far as to try to repeal the Illinois marriage equality law. While Shimkus is very conservative on social issues in his own right, McCarter is even more of a Religious Right nutjob than Shimkus is.

If you want proof that the Republican Party is in complete disarray, look no further than the Republican Party in my home congressional district.

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Bruce Rauner tries to buy votes from his own party’s legislators, some Republicans won’t take his money

In May of this year, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner sent out campaign donations, totaling $400,000, to every single Republican member of the Illinois General Assembly. Since there are a total of 67 Republicans in the General Assembly (47 in the state house, 20 in the state senate), that means that the average donation from Rauner to legislative Republicans is, rounded to the nearest cent, $5,970.15; the donations range anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000.

According to a (Decatur) Herald & Review report, several state legislators have refused to cash their checks from Rauner: 22 of the 67 Republicans (16 of 47 in the state house, 6 of 20 in the state senate) have not yet cashed their checks from Rauner. Given that the checks were doled out by Rauner in May, not long before the end of the spring General Assembly session and in the midst of a political stalemate over Rauner’s hostage politics over the state budget that is still ongoing, the Republicans who are claiming that Rauner is trying to buy their votes have every right to make that claim, since it’s 100% clear to this stubborn-headed progressive Democrat that Rauner is trying to buy off members of his own party.

To me, this says two things about Rauner. First, Rauner is a weak politician, since he’s not really trying to work with the Democrats who hold the supermajorities in the General Assembly. Second, Rauner is trying to buy support for his anti-worker, anti-middle class agenda from members of his own party, who are in the minority in both houses of the General Assembly.

Bruce Rauner pushing more unconstitutional pension theft bills in Illinois

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner is publicly pushing for more pension theft legislation here in Illinois, despite the fact that the legislation appears to blatantly violate the Illinois Constitution:

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Wednesday announced a massive pension overhaul bill that he said would save billions of dollars while incorporating reform ideas from various leaders.

The lengthy bill — all 500 pages of it — would cut retirement benefits for police officers, firefighters and public teachers. It would also give local governments a way to file for bankruptcy “as a last resort” after a review or the declaration of a fiscal emergency.

Cutting pension benefits that have already been guaranteed to our state’s public employees is explicitly unconstitutional, according to Article XIII, Section 5 of the our state’s constitutional, which states the following:

Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.

The Illinois Supreme Court unanimously ruled earlier this year that a pension theft bill signed into law by then-Democratic Governor Pat Quinn in 2013 violates the Illinois Constitution because it cut pension benefits that are supposed to be guaranteed to those who are currently publicly employees once they retire. Bruce Rauner, State Senate President John Cullerton, and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle are supporting more pension theft legislation that is likely to get struck down by the courts for cutting constitutionally-guaranteed pension benefits to our state’s public employees. While our state has a major pension debt problem, it should be dealt with without cutting benefits to current public employees and retirees.

PRE-ENDORSEMENT: Daniel Biss for Comptroller of Illinois

Daniel Biss, a Democratic member of the Illinois Senate from Evanston, is currently planning to run in next year’s special election for Comptroller of Illinois. I proudly pre-endorse Biss for the Democratic nomination in the comptroller’s race.

Biss is a mathematician, not a politician. Prior to being elected to the Illinois Senate, Biss was a mathematics professor at the University of Chicago, one of the most prestigious higher education institutions in the entire country. Given that the Illinois Comptroller’s office is responsible for maintaining the state’s financial accounts, this means that Biss has a skills set that fit very well with the duties of the comptroller’s office, which is something we haven’t seen out of a major-party candidate for comptroller here in Illinois in a very long time, if ever.

Biss has at least one primary opponent, Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza, and it’s possible that others may run for the Democratic nomination. Mendoza is a political crony of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel; in fact, Mendoza was a campaign co-chair for Rahm’s most recent mayoral campaign, which was supported by far-right Republicans like Mark Kirk and Ken Griffin. Illinois cannot afford more of Rahm’s corrupt, corporate, privatization-supporting, and progressive-bashing cronies in office. Regarding Mendoza herself, she has a habit of claiming endorsements that she hasn’t actually received, which is what I consider to be a form of blatant dishonesty.

I encourage Illinois voters to vote in the Democratic primary for Daniel Biss for comptroller.

ENDORSEMENT: Tammy Duckworth for U.S. Senate in Illinois

With U.S. Representative Robin Kelly of the 2nd Congressional District of Illinois declining to run for U.S. Senate, I am now endorsing Tammy Duckworth for the U.S. Senate seat that is currently held by right-wing Republican Mark Kirk.

Prior to being elected to the U.S. House, Duckworth served our country in the Illinois Army National Guard, losing both of her legs when a Black Hawk helicopter that she was co-piloting over Iraq in 2004 was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and shot down. Duckworth has served the people of the 8th Congressional District of our state, located in the western Chicago suburbs, with honor, having supported background checks on gun sales, supported reproductive rights, supported raising the minimum wage, and, best of all, sharply criticized a federal contractor for falsely claiming that he was a service-disabled veteran.

Duckworth currently has one primary opponent that I know of, Andrea Zopp. While Duckworth isn’t exactly an Illinois progressive’s dream candidate, Zopp represents most of what is wrong with Illinois politics. First off, Zopp has the backing of Bill Daley, who was a member of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner’s transition team prior to Rauner being sworn into office. As an appointed member of the Chicago school board, Zopp voted for Rahm Emanuel’s plan to close dozens of Chicago’s public schools. That means that Zopp is aligned with three of the most odious people in Illinois politics: Bill Daley, Rahm Emanuel, and Bruce Rauner. Additionally, State Senator Napoleon Harris (D-Flossmor) is considering running against Duckworth and Zopp. However, Harris refused to vote for the Illinois marriage equality bill, meaning that LGBT Illinoisans can’t trust Harris to fight for and protect their rights.

I encourage my fellow Illinois Democrats to cast a Democratic primary ballot for Tammy Duckworth next year.

Democratic Party officials pick Scott Bennett to replace Mike Frerichs in Illinois Senate

Scott Bennett, a Champaign County Assistant State’s Attorney from Champaign, has been selected to replace Illinois State Treasurer Mike Frerichs in the 52nd Legislative District seat in the Illinois Senate, and Bennett will serve the final two years of Frerichs’s current term and intends to run for a full four-year term in the state senate in the 2016 elections.

However, Bennett’s remarks before and after accepting the appointment from Champaign County Democratic Party Chairman Al Kurtz (officially, there were two people who were on the 52nd Legislative District Democratic replacement committee, but Kurtz had a majority of the weighted vote, so, in effect, he single-handedly picked the replacement senator) have me very concerned about what his voting record would look like as a state senator.

In a public forum held in Champaign last week where Bennett and the 11 others who sought the appointment were publicly vetted, Bennett publicly bashed Champaign, Urbana, and Danville, the three largest cities in the district that have the vast majority of the district’s population, and claimed that he was seeking the appointment to serve the smaller communities and rural areas of the district, something which Republicans normally do as a coded way of stirring up racial resentment among voters:

“I bring that up because the 52nd District is more than just Champaign, Urbana and Danville. It also includes a lot of farms, and includes over a dozen small communities that have concerns and needs very different from its urban neighbors,” said Bennett. “And I believe I’m one of the only candidates on this slate that understands the concerns and the needs of those communities.”

Apparently, Scott Bennett thinks that he’s responsible for representing a small minority of the district’s population and not the entire district. It’s worth noting that the entire district has 217,468 residents according to the 2010 U.S. Census, and Champaign, Urbana, and Danville combined have a total of 155,332 people, or 71.43% of the district’s total population. To put that another way, Bennett thinks he’s responsible for representing 29.57% of the district’s total population, when, in reality, he’s responsible for representing 100% of the people who live in the district.

Bizarrely, Bennett claimed to be conservative and progressive at once:

His background, Bennett said “is conservative, but I have a long history of working with progressive candidates and their causes.”

Bennett’s background is certainly conservative: he comes from a conservative family that also includes a far-right Republican state representative-elect, Tom Bennett, although it’s commonplace here in Illinois for family members, even close family members, to have completely different party affiliations and political views, in fact, I have relatives who I disagree with politically on many issues, so just because someone has conservative relatives means absolutely nothing about that person’s political views. Regarding Bennett’s claim of having a “long history of working with progressive candidates and their causes”, I want to make two points about that: Bennett never cited any examples of his history of working with progressive candidates and causes that I am aware of, and just because someone supports a progressive candidate for public office doesn’t make one a progressive.

Regarding issues that Bennett views as important, education, which is indeed a very important issue in this part of the state, appears to be the issue that Bennett regards as most important to him:

“We are failing our citizens in so many ways,” he said. “You invest in education. You make sure that we all have a fair and equitable chance at technology and training so that it shouldn’t matter, your opportunities shouldn’t be dependent on what Zip Code you were lucky enough to be born into. It’s also to make sure we reinvest in vocational training in our high schools so those students who are interested in a four-year degree can still get job training so they can support their families after they get out of school.”

That kind of statement on education policy could be used by virtually any politician of any political party and ideological persuasion. Bennett’s remarks on education could describe a very progressive pro-public education policy, such as increasing funding for public schools, establishing a fairer formula for allocating state funds to local school districts, and holding schools, administrators, and teachers accountable based on curriculum and academic standards, not standardized tests. However, Bennett’s remarks on education could describe a very conservative anti-public education policy, such as privatizing public schools, establishing charter schools and school vouchers, implementing academic standards that emphasize standardized testing and overemphasize career preparation, giving big business interests more control over education, and shaming and cutting funding from poorly-performing schools.

While Scott Bennett will be my state senator for at least the next two years, what his voting record will look like two years from now is a huge mystery, given that his previous job involved prosecuting criminal cases, a job that generally doesn’t involve making public policy decisions, and he’s given no real indication of what his ideological leanings are. I would strongly encourage Senator Bennett to hold public listening sessions in every part of the district over the next two years in order to better know the voters, taxpayers, citizens, and people of the 52nd Legislative District. I think that he’ll find that the people of this district have very progressive values.

Anti-abortion Democrat Michael Puhr seeking appointment to Illinois State Senate seat currently held by Mike Frerichs

In just a few weeks, Mike Frerichs, who represents me in the Illinois State Senate, will be sworn in as the new Illinois Treasurer. This will result in a vacancy in the 52nd Legislative District of Illinois, which is a microcosm of the state and includes parts of Champaign and Vermilion Counties, including the cities of Champaign, Urbana, and Danville.

Three Democrats have publicly acknowledged that they are seeking the state senate appointment:

  • Danville Alderman Michael Puhr
  • Former Champaign County Board Chairman C. Pius Weibel
  • Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing

Additionally, several other Democrats, none of which have been publicly named by anyone, are seeking the appointment as well.

The fact that Michael Puhr is considering a state senate appointment isn’t surprising, as he ran in the 104th Representative District (areas of the 52nd Legislative District outside of the heavily-Democratic areas of Champaign and Urbana) in 2010, losing to far-right Republican candidate Chad Hays in an open-seat race. However, during his state house campaign, Puhr campaigned as an socially conservative Democrat, opposing abortion and gun control. I remember seeing newspaper ads paid for by Puhr’s state house campaign which touted Puhr as a “pro-life” and “pro-2nd Amendment” candidate, indicating that Puhr is opposed to the idea of women having the right to make their own reproductive health care decisions and is opposed to most, if not all, forms of gun control designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and abusers. While Puhr’s socially conservative views would probably be necessary for a Republican-leaning state house district to be won by a Democrat, Puhr is seeking an appointment to a seat in a state senate district that is a microcosm of a Democratic-leaning state where it is very difficult for politicians who publicly oppose women’s rights to get elected, in fact, if Puhr were to be appointed to the state senate, he’d probably lose a competitive primary once the seat comes up for election in 2016.

The only other Democrat who is publicly seeking the state senate appointment that I know quite a bit about is Laurel Prussing. Prussing, who is currently the Mayor of Urbana, the second-largest city in the district, has been a political figure in East Central Illinois for over four decades. Prussing has publicly stated that she wants to eliminate property tax exemptions on at least some non-profit hospitals in Illinois, such as Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana. I like this idea, since, given how much money hospitals make (even many non-profit hospitals have large cash reserves), hospitals like Carle are effectively moochers since they receive corporate welfare (in the form of a property tax break) from the state.

I know virtually nothing about C. Pius Wiebel, as I’m not all that familiar with Champaign County politics.

The Champaign County and Vermilion County Democratic Party chairmen should appoint someone who will represent the people of East Central Illinois well to serve the last two years of Mike Frerichs’s term in the Illinois Senate. Hopefully, that isn’t a supporter of the Bruce Rauner-Mike Madigan War on Women like Michael Puhr.

Illinois House Democrats fail to pass minimum wage increase

How I feel about Illinois House Democrats failing to pass a minimum wage increase (image credit to National Football League, CBS Sports, and C.J. Fogler; views expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author and not those of Tom Brady, C.J. Fogler, the New England Patriots, the National Football League, CBS Sports, or any other person or entity)

On November 4, an overwhelming majority of Illinois voters voiced their support for increasing our state’s minimum wage to $10 per hour.

However, despite the fact that the Illinois Senate passed a minimum wage bill, the Illinois House of Representatives adjourned without passing legislation to raise our state’s minimum wage, presumably because one or more Raunercrats in the state house oppose raising the minimum wage. This is a major failure by State House Speaker Mike Madigan and the rest of the Democrats who have a supermajority in the state house because they completely ignored the will of the people of this great state.

Raising the minimum wage would boost our state’s economy by putting more money into the pockets of the working poor, enabling them to spend more money on goods and services. Furthermore, raising the minimum wage would make Illinoisans less reliant on social safety net programs like foodstamps and heating assistance, saving taxpayers money while keeping our social safety net intact for people who need it.

The fact that Democrats in this state can’t pass a minimum wage increase proves how gutless the Democratic Party of Illinois is.