State House, Senate endorsements

If voters are offered no choice, is there really an election?

Because of the legislative redistricting process, voters in Illinois will go to the polls on Nov. 6 to elect a brand new state House and Senate — 118 seats in the House and 59 in the Senate.

Those numbers, however, are purely theoretical because the vast majority of candidates in both bodies are running with either little or no opposition, courtesy of the gerrymandering of legislative district boundary lines by House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, both Chicago Democrats.

Thirty (18 Democrats and 12 Republicans) of the 59 Senate races are uncontested while 69 (39 Democrats and 30 Republicans) of the 118 House seats are uncontested. Those numbers, however, only begin to describe the sham nature of the upcoming election because many of the contested Senate and House races are located in districts drawn to strongly favor one party or the other.

In fact, political operatives from both parties recently estimated that only 20 of the 118 House races are competitive while the number of competitive Senate races ranges from 13 to 16 of the 59. In other words, what most voters will confront when they enter the voting booth is not an election for the General Assembly but a fait accompli, reminiscent of voting in some tyrant's fiefdom.

This travesty of democracy results from carefully contrived plans by the state's legislative leaders to take choice away from the public by manipulating legislative district boundary lines and give it to the party in power. In this case, it's the Democrats; Republicans tried to do the same thing when they were in power.

To show how entitled our political masters have become, one need only refer to a comment that state Sen. Michael Frerichs made in a joint public appearance with his Republican opponent John Bambenek. Speaking of the virtues of competitive elections, Frerichs recalled that some of his political associates have told him what a shame it is that he is not running unopposed.

Something has to change if the voters are ever to have any real choice among those who write the laws. The best solution is to adopt a state constitutional amendment establishing a bipartisan legislative map-drawing process aimed at drawing competitive districts. Voters may hear more about that after the election because CHANGE Illinois, a Chicago-based organization with over 2.5 million members, is on the verge of taking up that challenge.

ILLINOIS SENATE

Meanwhile, the election process goes forward in East Central Illinois, and the choices available are as rare here as elsewhere. Only three of nine area races offer even the illusion of choice.

In local races for the Illinois Senate, Republican Chapin Rose is running unopposed in the 51st District, Republican Jason Barickman is running unopposed in the 53rd District, and Republican Dale Righter is running unopposed in the 55th District.

In the 52nd District covering Champaign and Vermilion counties, incumbent Democrat Frerichs faces Bambenek.

There is no question that both men are bright and energetic and possess many of the qualities a legislator must have. Bambenek is running on a reform platform that emphasizes cutting the budget to get the state fiscal house in order and declaring war on Illinois' culture of corruption.

Frerichs is running on his record. Part of that record is the reason The News-Gazette cannot endorse him for re-election. There is much to like about Frerichs, but he is a part of the Democratic Senate majority that has created the financial disaster the state is in, and his first allegiance has been to maintain Cullerton's Chicago-based power structure.

It's worth noting that the local chamber of commerce declined to endorse Frerichs for re-election, as did the Chicago Tribune. He may see himself as separate and apart from the legislative leaders who've spent Illinois into effective bankruptcy, refused to make the mandated pension payments that threaten pensions for teachers and university retirees and generally run amok. But as long as he is a part of the Democratic Senate majority that helped create this disaster, it makes no sense to endorse him.

Bambenek is a bright and energetic reformer with a bull-in-a-china-shop approach to politics-as-usual. But he is running without financial support, party backing or any realistic opportunity to defeat an increasingly entrenched incumbent. We make no endorsement in this race.

ILLINOIS HOUSE

As for local House races, only two of six are contested, and those are in name only.

Republican Bill Mitchell is running unopposed in the 101st District, Republican Adam Brown is running unopposed in the 102nd District, Republican Josh Harms is running unopposed in the 106th District and Republican Brad Halbrook is running unopposed in the 110th District.

In the 103rd District, veteran Democratic state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson of Urbana faces token opposition from Champaign businessman Rob Meister in a district that is one of the mostly heavily gerrymandered in the state.

It's hard to imagine Jakobsson losing in a district so lopsided in favor of Democrats. But The News-Gazette cannot endorse her for the same reason it cannot endorse Frerichs. She has voted repeatedly in the past, and will do so in the future, to elect Madigan as the all-powerful speaker of the Illinois House. He's one of the key authors of the disaster that is state government in Illinois, and the first vote she'll cast after being sworn in to her next term will be to re-elect Madigan as speaker.

During her appearance at a voter's forum last week, Jakobsson defended the legislative process in the House as one that is committee-based and not subject to Madigan's complete domination. We've seldom heard a more inaccurate and duplicitous explanation of how Springfield really works.

Jakobsson is a fine person with a strong record of constituent service. But unfortunately her allegiance to the status quo is unacceptable.

As for Republican Meister, his grasp of the issues is weak. There's no question he could learn, and he may have some future in politics. But it's inexcusable for a candidate for state office to have failed so severely to develop an understanding of the key issues that face Illinois. The News-Gazette makes no endorsement in this race.

In the 104th District, incumbent Republican state Rep. Chad Hays of Catlin is running against Michael Langendorf of Urbana.

The News-Gazette endorses Hays, who shows not just energy and knowledge of big issues but a determination to make the tough decisions to get Illinois back on track. In a House filled with weak sisters and political hacks, Hays is a rare welcome exception.

Langendorf is running to offer the voters a choice, and he has run a credible campaign. We salute his willingness to participate, but endorse Hays.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion
Categories (2):Editorials, Opinions
Tags (1):2012 election

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Sid Saltfork wrote on October 21, 2012 at 1:10 pm

The News Gazette endorses one Republican, Chad Hayes; and does not endorse the others.  Yet, it's editorial trashes all of the Democratic candidates.

What is the purpose of headline?  Why not have the headline: "News Gazette Endorses Chad Hays"?  Is the explanation of the non-endorsements that important? 

 

fflkommish wrote on October 22, 2012 at 10:10 am

"But he is running without financial support, party backing or any realistic opportunity to defeat an increasingly entrenched incumbent. We make no endorsement in this race."

No backing and no financial support is no reason not to endorse someone.  Do you agree with him on the issues?  Do you think he is a man of integrity?  Do you think the area and/or the state would be better off if he won the election?  If so, maybe your endorsement could give him a realistic opportunity.  Isn't that the point of making endorsements?

thelowedown wrote on October 22, 2012 at 5:10 pm

 

Not a surprise that the narrow-minded, backwoods News-Gazette chose to slip into irrational irrelevancy rather than admit the truth: the majority of the state's population is in the Chicago-area. Thus, the Chicago-area will have more influence in a one-man, one-vote system. These battles were fought years ago and decisively ended by the Supreme Court of the United States. 

 

If the N-G wants downstate to feel the love, then it might encourage citizens to better communicate the issues important to them and to develop actual connections to Chicagoland policymakers rather than engage in petty, childish demagoguery. And for heck’s sake, the N-G might want to recognize that downstate Illinois is a net tax-eater, stealing money from the Chicago suburbs to prop up ancient relics of state fiscal gravy, like the developmental institutions and prisons.

 

Of course, the N-G can’t endorse the Republican opponents against Frerichs and Jakobsson because it knows that the Republican Party of Illinois has done nothing to advance the state, is completely transparent in its hypocritical calls for tax reform and spending cuts, and that the disaster would be just as bad under Bambenek and Meister, each of whom would vote to keep the hapless Radogno-Cross structure in place.

 

As for the N-G trashing Jakobsson’s “duplicitous explanation” of how lawmaking works in Springfield, it is the N-G who is duplicitous. Madigan does not control the governorship. He does not control John Cullerton. He does not control the Illinois Republican Party, which was unable to capture the governorship in the largest GOP landslide on the national, state, and local level since the Truman era because it nominated a candidate so far out of the mainstream that he was unable to beat Pat Quinn, quite possibly the most feeble incumbent governor in America in 2010. If the N-G bothered to adequately cover the statehouse, it might learn that most of the work is done in committees, where the chair remains king. Any work done directly under the control of leadership is done through the executive committee in each chamber.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on October 24, 2012 at 11:10 pm
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They're right about the two parties being evil and self-serving.  So why, then, do they call for a "bipartisan" commission.

 

John, John, Jim: Bipartisan = the two parties.

 

You want to further entrench government -- by constitutional fiat no less -- into a two-party system as a cure to party political discontents? That's crazy.

 

We don't need anyone to concoct map. Draw the districts based on population and geography. Make a line down the middle of the state, and divide west and east, with districts on either side dlineated from north to south by population. The longitudes would never change, and the latitudes could be adjusted every ten years per census results.

 

You'd still have 11 or 13 districts in Cook & the Collars, but if the lines were drawn straight across (from the border to the median longitude) there'd be no accounting for polling by party.

 

There'd be five or seven districts for the rest of the state, five west of the median, and two east. Or three and two

 

Champaign would be in the southeastern district, perhaps the (geographically) largest district in the state. Only the most southwestern district (or two) would vote for Democrats, and that would be the same conservative, pro-life, gun-toting United Mine Workers of America crowd that's elected Jerry Costello since forever.

read the DI wrote on October 23, 2012 at 9:10 am

So when there's financial problems in Illinois, it's the Democrats in the State houses who are to blame, despite about a million straight years of Republican governors?

But when there's financial problems at the federal level, it's Obama to blame, despite about a million straight years (almost) of Republicans controlling the House?

 

Oooooooooookkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkaaaaayyyyyyyyy.......

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on October 25, 2012 at 3:10 am
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It's not a terrible point. 

 

George Ryan's "Illinois First" program was, in my opinion, a disaster of indiscriminate spending from its inception. On the other hand, Rod Blagojevich's social programs cost a lot of money.

bmwest wrote on October 24, 2012 at 9:10 pm
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Rather than put bandaids on redistricting and campaign finance, both of which are likely to be re-corrupted over time, I'd like to see sortition adopted as a statistically representative citizen check and balance on our elected officials.  Basically, the idea is to randomly select members of the House in the General Assembly from registered voters in that House district rather than by election. This would be administered in a similar manner as jury duty where participation would be required but there would be an opt-out for hardship reasons. Although ideally members would serve only one weekend a month and two weeks a year like Guard duty, their regular employer must give them the time off to serve just like jury and Guard duty. The Senate would continue to be an elected position so voters will still have elected representation on every piece of legislation but the randomly selected House will serve as an unbiased and uninfluenced check in the process. They would have much less incentive to cater to special interests or gerrymander maps and they'd be unelected and therefore uninfluenced by campaign financing.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on October 25, 2012 at 2:10 am
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If the glove don't fit, you must acquit.

johnny wrote on October 25, 2012 at 3:10 am

What a copout.  The Democrats are terrible, but the Republicans don't have enough money to run on.  So we decide not to decide.

EL YATIRI wrote on October 25, 2012 at 6:10 am
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Another vapid, worthless editorial from our neocon/teatard rag.