‘Rauner agenda’ could place McAuliffe at risk
by RUSS STEWART
Needing is not necessarily getting. Back in 2008, Barack Obama’s theme and promise was "change we need." Eight years later, voters are as dissatisfied — if not more so — than they were in 2008.
"There’s a lot of anger out there," said state Representative Mike McAuliffe (R-20), who spends considerable time walking precincts in his Northwest Side district, which also includes the adjacent suburbs of Park Ridge, Rosemont, Norridge and Harwood Heights. McAuliffe said that, talking with constituents door to door, he encounters "significant hostility toward Obama, Emanuel, Preckwinkle and Madigan," the Democratic president, Chicago mayor, county board president and Illinois House speaker. "They feel that government is out of control, that spending is out of control, and that nobody knows how to fix it," McAuliffe said.
Will voters’ alleged anger translate into a 2016 anti-incumbent wave? Not likely. In fact, Democrats’ anger over Republican Governor Bruce Rauner’s perceived "anti-union" agenda may actually redound to the benefit of Madigan and Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, who already have three fifths super majorities in the House (71-47) and the Senate (39-20). They can pass whatever they want, and they can override any governor veto.
Why hasn’t a 2016 budget, due June 30, been passed? "Madigan hasn’t got the votes," McAuliffe said. "Not a single Republican will vote for his budget," which cuts spending by 2 percent, as opposed to Rauner’s 4 percent. In addition, McAuliffe said that several Democratic House members, including Marty Moylan, Jack Franks and Scott Drury, "won’t vote for any tax hike."
Madigan has a solution to the problem: Raise more money from special interests. Beat more Republicans. Grow his majority to 75 or even 80. Ignore Springfield dysfunction and focus on demonizing Rauner. Atop Madigan’s 2016 "hit list" will be McAuliffe, who has been given a "free pass" by Madigan since 2006. McAuliffe was first elected in 1996.
"He’s anti-labor," one union operative said. Wait, hasn’t McAuliffe had a pro-labor voting record for the past 19 years and been endorsed by police, firefighter and trade unions? Wasn’t his father and predecessor, the late Roger McAuliffe, a Chicago cop, pro-labor during his time as state representative (1973 to 1996)? However, the operative said that McAuliffe has "embraced the Rauner agenda." That now makes him anti-union.
What is the "Rauner agenda"?
Term limits: Rauner wants a four-term (8 years) limit for House members, a three-term (10-years) limit for senators and a two-term limit for statewide office holders, including the governor. Madigan has been in office for 45 years, and he has been the speaker for 31 years. Cullerton has been in the General Assembly for 37 years and a senator for 25. Both can raise up to $1 million to elect a Democratic member, who will be a puppet. They don’t want their puppets termed out because they’ll need to spend more money, but they won’t be termed out, as the prohibition would apply only to newly elected members.
McAuliffe, who admitted that he doesn’t expect to voluntarily retire any time soon, said that he’s for term limits. Madigan/Cullerton will never allow term limits.
Remap Commission: The art of "packing" does not just apply to meat products. Madigan and Cullerton keep their lopsided legislative majorities and ensure an Illinois congressional delegation majority (now 10 Democrats and eight Republicans) by packing as many Republicans as possible into as few districts as possible after each census. Creativity trumps contiguity. The last remap was in 2011. Rauner wants a bipartisan commission, not Madigan, to draw future maps, as is the case in Florida, California and Arizona. The Democrats are livid. McAuliffe is for it, even though Madigan drew him a favorable district in 2011.
Minimum wage: The state is at $8.25 per hour, and Chicago increased its minimum wage to $10. The Democrats want to raise the state level, which McAuliffe supports. Rauner is opposed.
Budget: Revenue for fiscal year 2016, beginning July 1, is projected at $32 billion, with budgeted expenses of $37 billion. There is a backlog of $7 billion in unpaid vendor bills. Rauner wants cuts of $2 billion, while Madigan is adamant that cuts not exceed $750 million, with a patchwork of borrowing, fund sweeps and putoffs until fiscal year 2017, and reinstatement of the 2013 income tax hikes, which lapsed Jan. 1, closing the $5 billion hole. McAuliffe supports Rauner.
Right to work: This is especially noxious to union leadership, particularly public sector unions, which rely on members’ dues to fund their palatial lifestyles and use those dues to fund their political action committees, which donate heavily to Democrats, who vote to prevent mischief by Republicans like Rauner. Generous collective bargaining agreements are the main reason why the state’s unfunded pension debt is $70 billion. The unions didn’t raise a stink when Democratic politicians, over a span of several decades, didn’t fully fund state pensions and used the money for other social welfare schemes, which generated Democratic votes.
Indiana and Wisconsin have right-to-work laws, which means an employee need not join a union as a condition of employment and need not pay dues. McAuliffe opposes right to work, which, if enacted in Illinois, would neuter the Democrats. Right to work is dead on arrival.
Pension reform: Grappling with a $111 billion shortfall in five pension systems, the General Assembly passed a 2013 law that cut cost-of-living increases for current pensioners and raised the retirement age. That was struck down by the Illinois Supreme Court. The state pays $1 billion in annual interest on bonds sold to pay past pension debt. Unlike Chicago, which the legislature mandated become current on its $37 billion in unfunded pensions in 15 years, the state can delay and delay. "You can’t violate the Constitution," McAuliffe said. Nobody knows what to do.
Tort, unemployment comp and worker’s compensation reforms: Rauner thinks Illinois is business unfriendly, and he has proposed "reforms" to cap medical malpractice judgments and limit state benefits to the jobless and injured. The Democrats resist. McAuliffe backs Rauner.
Petition circulation for the March 15, 2016, primary election began on Sept. 1. Thus far, no Democrat has announced against McAuliffe, who reported $11,112 in campaign funds on hand as of June 30. That’s not an impressive sum. If Madigan recruited a candidate against McAuliffe and poured $500,000 into the district, with a flurry of mailings denouncing the Rauner-McAuliffe "anti-union team," the Democrat would have a chance. The 20th District, which includes Edison Park and Norwood Park, teems with city workers, cops and firefighters.
McAuliffe, age 51, has three advantages. First, he has substantial name identification. His father, who died in a 1996 boating accident, was a popular state representative who was on the ballot 12 times from 1972 to 1994. McAuliffe succeeded him, and he has been on the ballot 10 times since 1996, when he won narrowly over Madigan’s candidate. In Springfield, like his father, he is a "go along, get along" legislator, stirs no controversy, and has no ambitions beyond his current office. That "Mr. Nice Guy" persona resonates well in the district.
Second, the district is half suburban, an area where Rauner is not reviled. Of 86 precincts, 44 are suburban, casting 15,956 votes in 2014, and 42 are in Chicago, casting 14,924 votes in 2014. McAuliffe won the 35 Park Ridge-Rosemont-Des Plaines precincts over Mo Khan 7,171-5,808, with 55.2 percent of the vote. He won the nine Harwood Heights-Norridge precincts 2,111-770, with 73.2 percent of the vote.
In Chicago, 35 precincts are in the 41st Ward, McAuliffe’s base, where he is the Republican committeeman. He won 8,543-4,714 (with 64.5 percent of the vote). He won the seven 38th Ward precincts, along Cumberland Avenue, 1,054-613 (with 63.3 percent of the vote). Overall, in a good Republican year, McAuliffe prevailed 18,879-11,354 (with 62.4 percent of the vote) against a Democrat not funded by Madigan and not supported by state Senator John Mulroe (D-10) and 41st Ward Democratic Committeeman Mary O’Connor.
Third, McAuliffe campaigns constantly. "People tell me: ‘Are you back here again?’" he said.
McAuliffe’s previous winning percentages were 60.5 in 2012, unopposed in 2010, 59.4 in 2008, 60.4 in 2006, 59.2 in 2004, 53.7 in 2002, 61.7 in 2000, 66.5 in 1998 and 52.4 in 1996. Madigan spent heavily to elect Tom Needham in 1996, and he Madigan redistricted Democratic incumbent Bob Bugielski into McAuliffe’s district in 2002. Democratic incumbent Ralph Capparelli moved back into McAuliffe’s district in 2004. McAuliffe prevailed in each election.
If McAuliffe has any problem for 2016, it is the collapse of the Mulroe-O’Connor-McAuliffe "nonaggression pact." The deal was that McAuliffe not field or support a candidate against Mulroe or O’Connor, and they would give him a free pass for state rep. McAuliffe’s longtime ally and office mate, Brian Doherty, lost to Mulroe in 2010 and retired as alderman in 2011, being succeeded by O’Connor, who had a pro-Emanuel record in the City Council.
For this year’s election, Doherty signed on as a "field organizer" for Anthony Napolitano, who upset O’Connor by 715 votes in the April runoff. McAuliffe was uninvolved, which made him no friends, but all’s well that ends well. O’Connor is retiring as the Democratic committeeman, and she and Mulroe are backing Timothy Heneghan, an Edison Park resident and an Elmwood Park firefighter. The Napolitano forces are backing Andy DeVito, a retired labor foreman with the city Department of Aviation. Tom Cook also is passing petitions for committeeman.
The outlook: McAuliffe will not back anyone against Mulroe, and Mulroe will reciprocate. Napolitano will not run anyone against McAuliffe. That’s 41st Ward politics: It’s let’s make a deal, with "nonaggression" always in bloom.
Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.