House Democrats getting nervous

House Democrats getting nervous

A defeated state House Democrat says his party has a problem.

Democrats in the Illinois House have had it pretty easy in recent years courtesy of a comfortable arrangement with House Speaker Michael Madigan.

They pledge their votes to him anytime Madigan needs them, and he protects them from defeat at the polls. Using gerrymandered districts and almost unlimited campaign funds from his supporters in organized labor and trial lawyer organizations, Madigan has been able to keep up his end of the bargain.

That's just one of the reasons why the 74-year-old Madigan is the longest-serving leader of any state legislative body in the history of the United States.

But Madigan fell short in the November election. Aided by millions in campaign funds provided by billionaire Gov. Bruce Rauner, Republicans targeted a handful of vulnerable Democratic House members, wrapped Madigan around their necks in scores of television advertisements and defeated four incumbents on Election Day.

The most prominent Democrat to fall was veteran state Rep. John Bradley of Marion, a member of Madigan's leadership team. Another who went down was state Rep. Mike Smiddy of Hillsdale. He lost badly to Republican Tony McCombie, the mayor of Savanna whose television ads portrayed Smiddy as one of many Madigan stooges in the Illinois House.

Despite the unusual setback, Madigan still will have a formidable majority in the House, holding 61 seats to the GOP's 51. But Madigan, who is expected to be re-elected speaker when the new General Assembly takes office in mid-January, lost his 71-47 supermajority.

Further, if news reports are accurate, other House Democrats are worried they might be defeated in the 2018 election if Madigan continues to present an image problem for themselves and their party.

That's one of the reasons some Democrats are starting to have second thoughts about Madigan's strongman control of the legislative process.

"I think he's kinda outlived his usefulness in Springfield," Smiddy said in a recent interview with the Quad City Times.

Of course, Madigan doesn't share that view. Indeed, he's intent on retaining and expanding his already vast power. Further, Madigan has stated that he has overwhelming support in his campaign to be re-elected speaker.

In fact, no Democrat has stepped forward to challenge him, although state Rep. Scott Drury of Highwood, a former federal prosecutor, has indicated that he's looking into an effort to do so.

Nonetheless, Madigan's style has begun to wear thin with some of his colleagues, and for the most self-interested of reasons — they consider him hazardous to their political health.

Madigan certainly hasn't flinched in the face of his 18-month standoff with Rauner over the budget. But it's not his re-election in his solid Democratic Chicago House District that's the issue. It's the re-election of other House Democrats who answer to Madigan in Springfield and then pretend otherwise when they return to their home districts spread across Illinois' 102 counties.

That, of course, depends on what the Legislature does when it returns to Springfield next week.

The temporary state budget, a halfway measure worked out after Rauner and Madigan could not agree on a permanent budget, expired Dec. 31. There's no real indication anything will change on the budget front, ruinous though it would be for the people of Illinois.

But failure followed by more failure has implications for more than just taxpayers. The political futures of our elected officials — Rauner, Madigan and scores of legislators — also are at risk.

That's why some House Democrats are getting nervous, even if they're keeping their heads down and their comments off-the-record. Smiddy is the exception in terms of speaking publicly, but he's on the way out and none too happy about it.

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Sid Saltfork wrote on January 04, 2017 at 11:01 am

Please reference opinions, editorials, and guest commentary as "political opinion", "political editorial", and "political guest commentary".  Consider "Sunshine Year" instead of the poorly "Sunshine Week".  Otherwise, the N-G will become just a one party propaganda tool.

td5775 wrote on January 04, 2017 at 1:01 pm

Truth hurts doesn't it Sid?

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 04, 2017 at 4:01 pm

What is the "Truth"?  One sided partisan media swipes versus seeing an issue presented in a non-partisan perspective leads to the Cubs vs. the Cards mentality.  It, also, leads to heckling versus discussion.

Should Rauner drop his "Turn Around" demands for a budget to be created?  Should Madigan abandon his responsibility for education, labor, social services, and Medicaid?  Everyone, except idiots, knows that a tax increase is needed.  Rauner has acknowledged it, and Madigan has acknowledged it.  Should tax loopholes be closed?  Should a progressive income tax be passed on the wealthiest?  Should everyone pay for the increase in state income taxes; or should there be a sales tax increase?  Maybe, all are needed. 

The citizens do not want to accept responsibility for services, or the politicians they voted into office.  The citizens want the state's money for their area's needs, and wants; but they want to blame the political parties when they do not get what they want.  Without a partisan media, citizens would get all the truth about state problems.

Now, you can provide a five word heckle like before.

CommonSenseless wrote on January 05, 2017 at 10:01 am

Sid, you are correct. A tax increase will eventually be needed. The difference between Madigan and Rauner is "when" the tax is increased. First the state needs a drastic haircut. I'm talking about a boot camp buzz cut. Only then will I, and many like me, support a tax increase.

That increase needs to come with tax reform, e.g. progressive income tax, eliminating deductions/"loopholes". You are also right when you say the citizens of this state need to check their wants vs. needs. There are too many redundant governments/taxing bodies in this state. Too much graft and corruption in all of them. Too many unnecessary government initiatives that sound great until the bill comes. Illinois spends the most per student on think we are getting our monies worth there?

We have one of the most regressive tax systems in the a state that has been controlled by the democrats for decades. Prevailing wage rules and rates that are beyond ridiculous. The list goes on and on, and you are correct, this is far more complicated than a Dem/Rep aka Cubs vs Cards argument.

The question remains, what are we going to do about it? Whine about Rauner for 2 more years then fight to get some puppet that will tilt nipple to Chicago (Madigan) then plunge us even deeper into the financial abyss?  What if we changed the only common denominator this next time?  Oust Madigan as an experiment.....what is the worst that could happen?

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 05, 2017 at 1:01 pm

How about ousting both Madigan, and Rauner?  How about the citizens dropping their stupid political identification?  Why democrats, and republicans?  Why not voting on the issues instead of political personalities?

All issues should be discussed with a non-partisan media just presenting the facts.  Citzens might change their stereotypical views, and unite for change. The problems remain inspite of political partisanship.  The partisanship only inhibits the communication needed for problem solving.

David Prochaska wrote on January 05, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Jim Dye is correct that gerrymandering in Illinois is unfair and distorts the electoral process. Eliminating gerrymandered districts would be good government.

But Dye has made what should be a bipartisan, good government issue a politically partisan one.

For the last several years he has criticized gerrymandering in Illinois that favors Democrats, but he has not breathed a word about Republican gerrymandering, especially in the South, that guarantees a right-wing Tea Party lock on the House.

Dye and the News-Gazette make a good government argument against Illinois gerrymandering, but have been silent on the much more extensive and deleterious Republican gerrymandering elsewhere. In so doing, they reveal that their political partisanship trumps any good government claims they make.

In blue-state Illinois, Democratic popular vote totals are relatively magnified by the number of Democratic state and congressional legislators. Nationally, the opposite is the case. In 2014 and 2016 the percentage of Democratic House seats was lower than the percentage who voted Democratic, and the percentage of Republican House seats was lower than the percentage who voted Republican.

In 2012, the first congressional election after the last round of gerrymandering in 2010, Democratic House candidates won 1.37 million more votes than Republicans, but got fewer House seats: 201 to 234 Republican seats.

What do you have to say about that, Mr. Dey?