Moylan prime target in plan to cut Dem margin
by RUSS STEWART
Bruce Rauner isn’t spending $50 million to be "Governor Eunuch."
For Rauner and Springfield Republican legislative leaders, the northwest suburban 55th Illinois House District, encompassing Park Ridge, Des Plaines and parts of Elk Grove Village and Mount Prospect, is "Ground Zero" in their no-eunuch strategy.
The Republicans, mired in a 71-47 House minority, are impotent and inconsequential. Being one vote beyond a 60 percent super majority, Speaker Mike Madigan and his Democratic majority can pass any bill they desire, even in overtime session, and override any gubernatorial veto. Rauner has promised to "shake up Springfield," but unless the Republicans nudge up their House contingent to 49 or 50, there won’t be any "shake up." Whatever he vetoed would be promptly overridden by the House and Senate (which is 40-19 Democratic, also a super majority). Rauner would be little more than a ceremonial figurehead.
Rauner’s mega-million dollar campaign understands the importance of neutering Madigan. That’s why he has opened 21 campaign offices throughout Illinois and is integrating his campaign with local Republican House candidates. Rauner’s money and message is everywhere apparent in the 55th District, where Republican Mel Thillens, the Park Ridge Park District Board president, is attempting to piggyback to victory on Rauner’s campaign. Thillens’ Rauner-like theme is "Take Back Illinois," meaning from Madigan, Governor Pat Quinn and the Democrats. Change won’t come to Springfield as long as "Madigan puppets" remain, Thillens said.
The 55th District’s incumbent state representative is Democrat Marty Moylan, a former Des Plaines alderman and mayor (from 2009 to 2912), an electrician by profession who was once a Republican precinct captain. "I’m a fiscal conservative," Moylan said, noting that he "didn’t raise property taxes" while he was the mayor and saying that he cut 68 jobs, saved $8 million to $12 million annually, and reduced the city’s indebtedness from $80 million to $34 million. Of course, having the Rivers Casino in the city helped, bringing in $8.8 million yearly, but Moylan is liberal on social issues, supporting gay marriage, abortion rights and some gun control (no concealed carry and no assault rifles).
Moylan’s path to Springfield in 2012 was filled with lucky breaks. The district is historically Republican, having had a Republican as state representative continuously from the 1870s.
First, the incumbent in 2012 was Republican Rosemary Mulligan, a vociferous abortion-rights advocate and the Maine Township Republican committeeman. Mulligan was first elected in 1992, beating the equally vociferous anti-abortion Republican Penny Pullen. In late 2011 Mulligan, of Des Plaines, submitted a paltry number of nominating petition signatures and was knocked off the 2012 ballot. She blamed Tom Cross, the Republican House leader, for not sending Springfield staffers into the 55th District to gather signatures. A 20-year incumbent and the township Republican committeeman, and she couldn’t get 1,000 petition signatures? How pathetic.
However, there was a path to victory. Mulligan could wage a write-in campaign. If she got 500 write-in votes she would be the nominee, but Cross, sensing an opportunity to get rid of the irritating Mulligan, recruited Susan Sweeney of Park Ridge, who now works for the conservative Illinois Policy Institute. Sweeney was anti-abortion. Cross funded her write-in campaign, and she topped Mulligan 2,223-46. Mulligan then endorsed Moylan.
Second, Madigan made the 55th District a "tier-one" race. That meant an influx of money and manpower. The 2011 remap sliced out the north half of Park Ridge, making Des Plaines the dominant municipality. Moylan proved to be a disciplined and relentless door-to-door campaigner. "Democrats walk, Republicans mail," joked Moylan, noting the past success of Democratic state Senator Dan Kotowski, who spent 18 months walking precincts to win his job in 2006. In Des Plaines, which contains 31 of the district’s 66 precincts, Moylan was well known and well liked.
Madigan’s genius, and the reason he has been speaker for 30 of the past 32 years, is that he recruits and funds candidates who "fit" the district — even if they don’t necessarily "vote the district" after winning. Local mayors, not well heeled attorneys, are the best recruits. Cross and conservative groups pumped in $660,000 to elect Sweeney, Madigan spent nearly $1 million to elect Moylan, and the pro-choice Personal PAC deluged the district with anti-Sweeney mailers.
Third, 2012 was a Democratic year. The northwest suburbs are no longer reliably Republican. Obama beat Mitt Romney 26,638-22,185 (with 55.5 percent of the vote) in Maine Township and 17,462-14,155 (with 54.4 percent) in Elk Grove Township.
In a 55th District turnout of 40,032, Moylan beat Sweeney 21,321-18,711 (with 53.3 percent of the vote). Moylan won Maine Township’s 40 precincts 11,930-10,653 (with 52.8 percent of the vote). Moylan won every one of the 31 Des Plaines precincts but only one of the 20 Park Ridge precincts. Moylan won Elk Grove Township’s 25 precincts, which contain west Des Plaines and Elk Grove Village, 7,426-6,034 (with 55.1 percent). Sweeney won the four Park Ridge precincts south of Higgins Avenue, in Norwood Park and Leyden townships, and Moylan carried the three Chicago precincts west of Cumberland Avenue and south of Higgins. Moylan won his Des Plaines base by 55-45, while Sweeney won her Park Ridge base by 53-47. Since 75 percent of Des Plaines is in the district, but only 50 percent of Park Ridge, that was enough to ensure a Moylan win.
The 55th District is symptomatic of the ills afflicting Illinois. Park Ridge (population 37,480) is crammed with upscale housing stock but has no commercial base. Property taxes are out of control. Des Plaines (population 58,364) is more blue collar, with less expensive houses and more mixed-use commercial and industrial sites. Property taxes are much lower. Elk Grove (population 33,127), built in the 1950s, has extensive industrial parks and newer housing stock. Their property taxes are half of Park Ridge’s. "People in Park Ridge are suffering," Moylan said. "When I campaign there, all I hear about is (aircraft) noise and taxes." Thillens, of Park Ridge, concurs. "We have to stop the spending and rein in the pensions," he said.
So is Moylan beatable in 2014? As an incumbent, Moylan can tout a bunch of "accomplishments" — which Thillens derides as "gifts" from Madigan. "He always lets endangered incumbents slap their names on helpful bills," Thillens said.
During his first term, Moylan was neither unseen nor unheard. He says he:
Opposed every proposed state tax or fee increase, opposed making the 67 percent 2011 state personal and corporate state income tax hike permanent, and voted "70 times" against floor amendments to the 2015 budget offered by Madigan
Sponsored a bill to terminate free health care for life for retired state office holders. After 10 years in office, that freebie vests. "That lavish perk must end," Moylan said.
Refused to accept the legislators’ automatic 3 percent annual cost-of-living pay hike and is donating all income over $67,000 to charity. When the courts ruled that legislators could not mandate 12 unpaid "furlough days" annually for themselves, Moylan also donated those 12 salaried days to charity.
Supported a minimum-wage hike to $10.10 per hour.
Sponsored two term limit bills which would amend the state Constitution. One would limit legislators to three terms, the second to 10 years. "I opposed Madigan," Moylan said. Of course, Moylan’s bright ideas were dead on arrival after he filed them.
Reacted to the hazing scandal at Maine West High School, sponsoring a bill to make observers who do not report the incident as liable for criminal prosecution as the perpetrators.
Backed a moratorium on the creation of any more governmental units in Illinois. They now number 7,000.
Supported gay marriage.
Opposed the "FAIR" tax plan, which would have made the flat state income tax progressively higher on those who earn more.
Sponsored a bill to freeze property taxes for home owners in the O’Hare noise corridors.
Sponsored a bill to increase the home owner’s real estate tax exemption to $7,000 and the senior tax exemption to $5,000.
Supported Madigan "pension reform" bill, which as been partially invalidated.
Thillens, who runs the armored car money-delivery service founded by his grandfather, knows he can’t beat "Friendly Marty" in a personality or popularity contest. He has to focus on the state’s 7.1 percent unemployment, the second highest in the country, the outmigration of businesses and jobs, the high taxes, the hostile business environment, the $85 billion in unfunded pensions, the $44.7 billion in bonded debt, the $7 billion in unpaid bills, and the fact that Illinois spends $3 for every $2 in revenue. He has to make voters blame the Democrats for Illinois being "bankrupt."
However, the deluge awaits. Madigan has $1 million to squash Thillens. Thillens has $400,000, but his candidacy is undefined. By late September, tales of the "Park Ridge Youth Campus" will be dumped into tens of thousands of mailboxes. The 11-acre site on Prospect Avenue, south of Oakton Street, was purchased by the Park Ridge Park District Board for $6.4 million in September of 2012 and plans to spend an additional $6.8 million to develop the site. The voters approved the purchase in April of 2014.
The mailers are ready. The park board’s revenues are $22.9 million, its expenditures are $29.5 million, and its bonded debt is $11.6 million. Gee, doesn’t that sound a lot like Illinois? Thillens may soon regret that he’s running.
Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.