Unseating McAuliffe is ‘business’ for Madigan
by RUSS STEWART
It is said that there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
In the 20th Illinois House District, 20-year Republican incumbent Mike McAuliffe is confronting a whole world of grief, which he refuses to meekly accept. His tenure is at serious risk. Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-22) has decided that a compliant and controllable Democrat must occupy that seat to protect the speaker’s 71-47 super majority. Madigan and his public sector union allies, particularly the Service Employees International Union health care political action committee, are pouring money and manpower into the district. The latter just sent out two anti-McAuliffe districtwide mailings.
It’s just business for Madigan, Rich Miller, publisher of the CapitolFAX newsletter, said. With Jack Franks’ McHenry County seat open and with Donald Trump running 20 points ahead Downstate, the Democrats could easily dip to 67 seats. "He needs to beat McAuliffe," Miller said.
For the speaker, "business" means doing whatever needs to be done to keep his job, his power and his majority. McAuliffe, Chicago’s only Republican state representative, whom Madigan gave a free pass in the last six elections (from 2004 to 2014), is suddenly "unacceptable." Despite a favorable 2011 remap, Madigan fully understands that the 20th District, which encompasses the 41st Ward, a few precincts in the 38th Ward, all of Rosemont and Harwood Heights, north Park Ridge and a few precincts in Norridge, is winnable . . . provided he spends $500,000 and unleashes reams of misinformation and disinformation regarding McAuliffe. He will.
"The lies, distortions and outright fabrications have already started," McAuliffe said. It will be a nasty and expensive campaign. McAuliffe said that robocalls that assert that he "accepts campaign contributions from known sex offenders" have saturated the district. That allegation is based on the fact that in 2002, after McAuliffe was remapped into a district with pro-Madigan incumbent Democrat Bob Bugielski, House Republican leader Tom Cross interceded with then-U.S. House Speaker Denny Hastert to get a $2,000 donation to McAuliffe from a fund controlled by Hastert. "I’ve never met the man," McAuliffe said of Hastert.
Hastert resigned in 2007, after the Democrats retook the House. Earlier this year he was convicted of illegal bank transactions and sentenced to 15 months in jail based on an alleged cover-up of sexual abuses dating back to the 1970s, when he was a Yorkville High School coach. The judge called him a "serial child molester." Expect to see lots of mailers with pictures of Hastert and McAuliffe.
McAuliffe’s Democratic opponent is Merry Marwig, a 31-year-old political neophyte and a self-described "member of the leadership team" of the anti-noise FAIR Coalition, which opposes new O’Hare runways and altered runway use. McAuliffe said that the "lies" will be coming fast and furious over the next 90 days. They will be as follows:
Number One: "Madigan has no role in my campaign," Marwig said. She said she spontaneously decided to run in late 2015 because "things are getting so bad" in Illinois. Everyone knows that the speaker is a philanthropist. He willingly and eagerly spends vast sums of money and deploys trained manpower to elect Democratic state representatives who, of course, can vote as they wish, not as they’re told. Marwig promised that she will "vote the district" if she is elected.
If Madigan and the unions spend $500,000 to elect you and bury the district with negative mailers, there will be no quid pro quo? You won’t feel obligated to vote as you’re told? "I will accept help from my party, from everybody," Marwig said, adding that McAuliffe "is going to get a lot of money" from Governor Bruce Rauner.
McAuliffe said that Marwig "was the sixth or seventh candidate" that the Democratic Party of Illinois, chaired by Madigan, tried to recruit to run against him in 2015. ‘"They wanted a woman," McAuliffe said. She was the first to agree." Marwig admits that it was Tim Heneghan, now the Democratic 41st Ward committeeman and an ally of state Senator John Mulroe (D-10), who collected the bulk of her nominating petition signatures.
Marwig, who has raised $7,960 since announcing her candidacy, just opened an office, three Madigan staffers are on their way, and Madigan has tasked his 13th Ward alderman, Marty Quinn, as the campaign overseer. Marwig works precincts every day, as is obligatory in any Madigan-run effort.
Number Two: "Voters are fed up with career politicians," Marwig said. "People tell me that 20 years is enough." McAuliffe was first elected in 1996 to replace his late father. Voters know how long McAuliffe has been in office? "Voters are very well informed," Marwig said. "They’re tired of the games. They’re tired of the finger pointing. They’re tired of the partisan politics. They’re angry that Illinois has $160 billion in debt."
Aren’t Madigan, who’s been in Springfield for 46 years, majority leader Barbara Flynn Currie, who’s been there for 38 years, and deputy majority leader Lou Lang, who’s been there for 29 years, "career politicians"? Aren’t they among the game players? "I will work for change," Marwig said. "I won’t take orders from Madigan." Both Currie, age 76, and Lang, age 66, are hanging around so they can be speaker when Madigan, age 74, retires, presumably some time before 2030.
Does that mean term limits for members and leadership? "I will look at it," Marwig said.
Number Three: "McAuliffe is not doing his job," Marwig said. "I can do a better job," That’s interesting, inasmuch as Marwig grew up in the East Dundee/Carpentersville area and lived in Wicker Park after college, moving to Norwood Park in 2013 after marrying. So, having lived outside the district for 16 1/2 years of McAuliffe’s 20-year tenure, what is McAuliffe "not doing?" "He’s been anti-labor recently," Marwig said.
Marwig has a valid point. As shown in the adjoining vote chart, McAuliffe did vote "present" on two key SEIU bills. Under past administrations, state workers’ collective bargaining gave them the right to set wages and work conditions. Senate Bill 1229 and House Bill 580 mandated that any contract dispute not mediated by the governor and the legislature must go to arbitration. "Arbitrators always favor the employees," McAuliffe said. Rauner vetoed the bills, and McAuliffe voted "present" on the override, which failed.
McAuliffe also opposed House Bill 5764 to give contract home health care workers a pay raise to $19 per hour. "It would have cost $1.1 billion over 3 years," he said. He also opposed several determination of needs bills that gave providers more money. McAuliffe does support an elected Chicago school board, and he opposes right-to-work provisions.
Number Four: McAuliffe is a stooge for Rauner because he "opposes more taxes on millionaires and billionaires." That’s true. He voted against a bill in 2014 which would have put a 3 percent surcharge on gross incomes over $1 million. Marwig said that Rauner has "slashed vital services, has left unfunded those in need, and has not submitted a real budget." "The (state) Constitution requires a balanced budget," McAuliffe responded. He said that Madigan’s budget has $32 billion in revenues and $39 billion in projected expenditures. "That’s a $7 billion deficit," McAuliffe said. "There can be no budget without either new revenue or spending cuts." Another $8 billion is due vendors.
For Marwig, that’s no problem. She wants to "cut waste and inefficiencies," "repeal all the corporate tax loopholes" and impose a "progressive income tax," with anyone earning less than $50,000 paying 3 percent and everyone earning more than $450,000 paying 9.75 percent. "Middle class families should not be asked to do more," she said. "I oppose any property tax hikes." Gee, that sounds like a plan to find $15 billion.
McAuliffe raised $133,850 in the past year, and he will be heavily funded by Republican sources, including Rauner’s political action committees. The district has a Republican lean, but there is a solid Democratic base of about 40 percent. In 2014 Democrat Mo Khan, who got no help from Madigan, lost 18,879-11,354, spending about $30,000.
If Marwig goes to Springfield, she will be owned lock, stock and barrel by Madigan. McAuliffe will eke out a narrow win.
Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.