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House Downstate Democrats work for the good people of Illinois

With Senate heavyweights Clayborne, Haine leaving, who fills their shoes in Springfield?

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When the new General Assembly is sworn in January, three metro-east state senators who have served several terms won’t be there. State Sens. James Clayborne, D-Belleville, Bill Haine, D-Alton, and Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, all did not run for re-election in 2018.

Clayborne and Haine have decided to retire from the legislature, and McCarter decided not to run again and is awaiting confirmation by the U.S. Senate to be the next ambassador to Kenya. McCarter will be succeeded by Republican Jason Plummer.

However, in the Illinois General Assembly’s upper chamber, Clayborne, who served since 1995, and Haine, who served in the state Senate since 2002, were in leadership positions: Clayborne is the outgoing majority leader. Haine is an assistant majority leader.

State Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Smithton, said he and state Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, who have longer tenures in the General Assembly than the remaining metro-east legislators, would have to work to continue the metro-east’s influence in Springfield. Costello said Clayborne and Haine being in their positions helped make sure the metro-east and Southern Illinois were at the table and voices heard.

“I would tell you it would be shallow to think it would not have an effect, but it means people like myself or Jay, who’ve been around a little longer, Jay quite sometime around longer than I have, (are) going to have to make sure we step up and try to fill some of those shoes,” Costello said. “Obviously majority leader Clayborne and Senator Haine will be sorely missed. They’re terrific people who have brought a lot to the metro-east.”

Haine, who decided not to run again after being diagnosed and undergoing treatment for blood cancer, is being succeeded by Democrat Rachelle Aud Crowe. Clayborne is being replaced by Democrat Christopher Belt.

Hoffman does serve as majority conference chairman in the House, and Costello serves as the chairman of the Downstate Democratic Caucus.

“Those are some folks who were advocates for the metro-east and had the knowledge and seniority to get things done. There will be some big shoes to fill,” Hoffman said of Haine and Clayborne. “Sometimes it’s tough to replace people, but no one is irreplaceable. It’s good we’re going to have fresh ideas with some of the new people coming in, and are coming in from different walks of life.”

Hoffman a leader also makes sure other legislators who joined recently, such as state Rep. LaToya Greenwood, D-East St. Louis, state Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville and state Rep. Monica Bristow, D-Godfrey, are able to bring up concerns for their districts.

“A leader will make sure that the folks in their area that represent their area will have a voice when they’re just getting into the general assembly,” Hoffman said. “I hope I’ve been helpful to LaToya, and Katie, and now Monica, I know the same will be true for the leadership in the senate, who will make sure if there are issues that need to be addressed in a local area that they’ll help Chris (Belt) and Rachelle (Aud Crowe) address them. I know Bill and James will be helpful, even though they’re not elected, in just navigating the legislative process.”

Hoffman added the metro-east legislators will be able to accomplish more for the region as long as they continue to work together, no matter the party.

“You’re always stronger if you can have a coalition like that that can advocate for an area,” Hoffman said. “Not all places in Illinois have that. We’re lucky that we have a significant delegation.”

The state Senate also adopted resolutions honoring Haine’s and Clayborne’s retirements.

“It is a tremendous loss to the metro-east just in institutional knowledge,” said state Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, who succeeded Republican Sen. David Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, who chose not to run in the 2016 election.

Luechtefeld served from 1995 to 2017 and had been a deputy and assistant Republican leader.

“I respect both Senator Haine and Senator Clayborne. I like to think those that are still around have been starting to get a little more experience,” Schimpf said. “I’m hoping I could pick up some of the slack for them. I got myself appointed to JCAR, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, that’s a tremendously important post. I have a good relationship and really all of our downstate delegation has a fairly good relationship, we all work well together. And we’ll be able to continue to lookout for the interests of the metro-east.”

Senate President John Cullerton said there will be a learning process for Crowe, Belt and Plummer as they come in.

“That exists for anyone when they first start at the capitol. What strikes me is that these senators, just like their predecessors, are grounded in the people and issues of their communities,” Cullerton said in an email.

Cullerton said Clayborne and Haine themselves may have been questioned when they first got to Springfield.

“I’ve got to believe people had the same questions when Senators Clayborne and Haine were first chosen to represent the region. History has proven the wisdom of those choices. And now, from what I know of Senators-elect Belt and Crowe, I believe the people of the region have again shown their wisdom in selecting a new generation of leaders dedicated to aggressively representing the people and interests of the metro-east.”

The Democrats, who will have a supermajority in the state Senate, plan to nominate Cullerton to be Senate president in the next General Assembly. However, other leadership positions, such as leader and assistant leaders have yet to be determined.

Greenwood said there would be another person who will help care for metro-east issues: Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker.

“What we found out during the campaign trail, is Gov.-elect Pritzker and Lt. Gov.-elect Stratton were in our metro-east area on numerous occasions,” Greenwood said. “More times than I can remember than any other administration that was looking for voters and looking for support in our area. I think that attention will not go away. I’m sure they will continue to support and be concerned about the issues that affect us.”

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November 16, 2018 at 01:46PM

Newsradio WJPF interview with Jerry Costello II

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Newsradio WJPF interview with Jerry Costello II


November 15, 2018
Robert Thies

Illinois State Representative Jerry Costello II (D, 116th House District) joins The Morning Newswatch.

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November 15, 2018 at 09:37AM

Democrat Halpin & Republican McCombie hopeful about new dynamic in Springfield

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Illinois will see a couple of big changes at the top of the state government when the next legislative year begins.

JB Pritzker’s decisive win in the governor’s race signals the state will be moving in a different direction than under outgoing Governor Bruce Rauner.

Pritzker’s win wasn’t a surprise given the polls showed him with a big lead for months.

He won by a comfortable margin of 54 percent to 39 percent. The race was called less than an hour after the polls closed.

Pritzker will enjoy strong Democratic majorities in the House and Senate to pursue his policies.

Another key win for Democrats came in the race for attorney general.

Lisa Madigan’s decision not to seek another term made it a wide open race.

Kwame Raoul kept it in the hands of Democrats, defeating Republican Erika Harold 54 percent to 43 percent.

Democrats added to their stranglehold in the general assembly.

Democrats went into the election with  a 67 to 51 majority in the House. Preliminary results pending potential runoffs show it could end up at 73 to 45 in favor the Democrats.

That would be a two-vote cushion for the 71 supermajority needed to override any veto.

Democrats in the Illinois Senate went into the midterms with a 37 to 22 advantage. That extended to a 39-20 stronghold.

It was a great night for incumbents from the greater Quad Cities area.

State Senator Neil Anderson won a second term in a very tight race against Democratic challenger Gregg Johnson. Anderson with 51 percent of the vote.

The margin of victory was a little more than 1,300 votes.

Republican Tony McCombie made it look easy by comparison, winning second term in the Illinois Statehouse with 59 percent of the vote to defeat Joan Padilla.

Democrat Mike Halpin made it look even easier, coasting to a second term representing Rock Island County in Springfield with 62 percent of the vote over Republican Glen Evans.

It all sets the stage for things to feel different in Springfield for the same people who will be representing the Quad Cities area.

Representatives Halpin and McCombie joined 4 The Record for a conversation.

New dynamic

So the Democrats in Illinois got what they wanted. That’s total control.

McCombie and Halpin talked about what they expect the dynamic to be in Springfield and if Republican voices will be shut out of the process.

They also discussed how much this changes what they do to influence the policies important to their respective districts that have a lot of common interests.

Governor stalemate over?

We saw the stalemate with Governor Bruce Rauner and the Democrats.

Former Governor Pat Quinn didn’t always see eye to eye with his fellow Democrats in the legislature. That was before their tenure. But Democrats are out of excuses.

Halpin and McCombie discussed how they expect things to work with a Governor Pritzker and the legislature dominated by Michael Madigan.

Local 4 News, your local election headquarters, is proud to present 4 The Record, a weekly news and public affairs program focused on the issues important to you.  It’s a program unlike any other here in the Quad Cities. Tune in each Sunday at 10:30 a.m. as Jim Niedelman brings you up to speed on what’s happening in the political arena, from Springfield, Des Moines, Washington, D.C. and right here at home.

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November 12, 2018 at 12:07PM

State reps Manley, Walsh, McDermed re-elected

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Rep. Natalie Manley, D-Joliet, speaks to a crowd of voters Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018, during candidate forum at Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Joliet, Ill.

Eric Ginnard – eginnard@shawmedia.com

Caption

Rep. Natalie Manley, D-Joliet, speaks to a crowd of voters Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018, during candidate forum at Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Joliet, Ill.
Bruce Rauner

Joe Hosey – jhosey@shawmedia.com

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Bruce Rauner
Illinois State Rep. Mark Batinick (right) speaks with more than 100 students from Plainfield Central High School on Wednesday, March 14, 2018, during a forum on school safety at Plainfield Central High School in Plainfield, Ill.

Eric Ginnard – eginnard@shawmedia.com

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Illinois State Rep. Mark Batinick (right) speaks with more than 100 students from Plainfield Central High School on Wednesday, March 14, 2018, during a forum on school safety at Plainfield Central High School in Plainfield, Ill.
Rep. Larry Walsh Jr., D-Elwood, speaks to a crowd of voters Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018, during candidate forum at Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Joliet, Ill.

Eric Ginnard – eginnard@shawmedia.com

Caption

Rep. Larry Walsh Jr., D-Elwood, speaks to a crowd of voters Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018, during candidate forum at Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Joliet, Ill.

Local Illinois General Assembly incumbents appeared to have a good night in contested races.

Manley vs. Benford

Incumbent Democrat Natalie Manley defeated her Republican challenger Alyssia Benford, taking 64 percent to 36 percent of votes with 87 percent of precincts reporting for the District 98 state representative seat, according to the Associated Press.

Manley was first elected in 2012. She won her first two races by about 23-point margins and ran unopposed in 2016. Bolingbrook accountant and DuPage Township Trustee Benford ran on issues like property tax relief.

Batinick vs. Freeman

State Democrats were really hoping to pick up this 97th District seat, but they were apparently unable to this year.

If you asked Rep. Mark Batinick, one Democrat in particular wanted to knock him off. 

Batinick has been vocal in connecting Mica Freeman, a Plainfield mother and former teacher, to House Speaker Michael Madigan. Batinick narrowly defeated her, by a margin of 692 votes, according to Will and Kendall County records.

McDermed vs. Hunt

Margo McDermed won her first election in 2014 by 37 points and ran unopposed in 2016.

This year, she has touted the support of the mayors of Frankfort, New Lenox, Homer Glen and Mokena and defeated her opponent — Frankfort insurance agent Matthew Hunt.  McDermed won with 59 percent to 40 percent of votes in Will County and 55 percent to 44 percent in Cook County for the District 37 seat.

Walsh Jr. vs. Laib

Larry Walsh Jr. was also first elected in 2012, won by a comfortable margin and ran unopposed in 2016. This election was no different, with Walsh winning 73 percent to 27 percent of Will County votes in District 86. 

Walsh’s name is a known commodity in his district and he’s been a visible presence with issues important to residents, like in his native Elwood, where truck traffic has become a big issue. This year, Army Reserve veteran and Will County Sheriff’s Sgt. Rick Laib, who firmly positioned himself as a conservative alternative, challenged him.

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November 7, 2018 at 12:15AM

Moeller has decisive early lead in House District 43

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Democratic incumbent Anna Moeller holds a decisive early lead in Tuesday’s election against Republican challenger Andrew Cuming.

Moller had 7,713 votes to Cuming’s 3,093 with six of 12 precincts reporting in Cook County and 12 of 54 precincts in Kane County, unofficial results showed.


The House 43rd District includes most of Elgin and portions of Barrington Hills, Carpentersville, East Dundee and South Elgin. Both live in Elgin.

Moeller, 46, is a former Elgin City Council member who was appointed to the legislature in March 2014 and elected a few months later.

Cuming, 31, manages several properties in Elgin and twice ran unsuccessfully for Elgin City Council.

Both were unopposed in their primaries.





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November 6, 2018 at 09:05PM

Manley Attends Ceremony for Valley View Early Childhood Center

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This post was contributed by a community member.

Romeoville, Ill. – State Rep. Natalie Manley, D-Joliet, attended a special recognition ceremony on November 1st to honor Valley View Early Childhood Center for receiving the ExceleRate Illinois Gold Circle of Quality Achievement. Parents, students and Valley View School District officials were also present for the ceremony.

"I’d like to congratulate Valley View Early Childhood Center and its staff for earning this great achievement," said Manley. "Early childhood education and early intervention is vital in ensuring that our children have the resources they need to succeed in their academic careers and beyond. I look forward to continuing to work with the Valley View School District to make sure our children have the best tools to help them thrive."

ExceleRate Illinois is the state’s quality rating and improvement system for early learning programs. The Gold Circle of Quality Achievement designation is the highest ranking for such programs that have met or exceeded quality measures in the areas of learning environment, instructional quality, program administration, child/teacher ratios, staff qualifications and professional development. This designation remains in effect until the Early Childhood Center’s next Illinois State Board of Education monitoring cycle.

"It was so great to have State Representative Natalie Manley visit Valley View Early Childhood Center today," said Jacqueline Brown, principal of Valley View Early Childhood Center. "Her presence demonstrates her passion and commitment to the importance of quality early childhood education for our community. We are sincerely grateful for her attendance today and her compassion for our youngest learners."

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November 4, 2018 at 08:51PM

Our view: Scherer gets the nod in the 96th

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Sue Scherer is either pragmatic or disingenuous regarding her thoughts and actions about Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan.

While individual voters’ feelings or fury about Madigan may have already helped them make up their minds in the race to represent the 96th District in the Illinois House of Representatives, we’re endorsing Democrat Scherer for another term as representative.

In the Betsy Dirksen Londrigan-Rodney Davis race, the candidates have made the campaign for the 13th Congressional District an extended referendum on President Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi, minority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. Likewise, voters in the 96th District are using Scherer as a mirror of Madigan’s policies and decisions.

Scherer has represented the district since 2013. The district covers parts of Christian, Macon and Sangamon counties. She was unopposed in 2016 after the withdrawal of Cindy Deadrick Wolfer four months before the election.

Herman Senor, a Springfield alderman and administrator at the Illinois Department of Transportation, is challenging Scherer. But he’s not really running against her. He told the Herald & Review, “I really haven’t seen anything that she has done that we can talk about what she has or hasn’t done. I’m not running on her record, I’m running on things I want to do and hopefully create a better quality of life for the constituents in the 96th District.” But he offers no specifics. He thinks retaining Illinois’ populace is a good idea, but no one is campaigning in favor of the state losing citizens. Too often, Senor’s answers are essentially “I’ll decide that after I get elected.”

There are voters determined to never vote for a politician who’s voted to raise their taxes. Some legislators who voted to override Rauner’s veto clearly understood that and it almost certainly played a part in their decisions to walk away from public service. Scherer voted in favor of the increase that helped settle last year’s budget battle, saying she had two “unfortunate” choices, and decided to “support a deal I didn’t fully agree with.”

Scherer also points out that Madigan “didn’t like my vote on pro-life, he didn’t like vote on gay marriage, he didn’t like my vote protecting state workers, he didn’t like my vote protecting state pensions, and I could go on and on."

Scherer says she has always cast her votes in the General Assembly based on the majority opinion of the district, and said she will continue to do so if re-elected.

Which begs the question, for whom will she cast her vote for speaker of the house. In the past, she has voted for Madigan, despite an apparent undercurrent of angst in the district against the powerful Chicago Democrat. She points out that "nobody else ran but him."

When confronted directly about Madigan this time around, she did not say directly whether she would vote again for him to remain as speaker.

We’ve been generally pleased with the way Scherer has worked for the district. If her claim about listening to the majority opinion of the district is accurate, we expect to be even more pleased.

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November 3, 2018 at 09:02PM

Candidates for Illinois state representative open up ahead of election

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Candidates for Illinois state representative took time to weigh in on the issues ahead of the Nov. 6 election to help give voters a chance to make an informed decision.

In the race for the 86th District seat are Republican candidate Rick Laib and incumbent Democrat Lawrence “Larry” Walsh, Jr.

As for the 98th District, those vying for votes are Republican nominee Alyssia Benford and incumbent Democrat Natalie Manley.

Among the issues candidates discussed were property tax relief and the State of Illinois’ pension system.

“The most pressing issue is the property taxes primarily, of course, because of the lack of education funding,” Benford said. “It’s impact the home values. We have a lot of foreclosures in our district, but we do have a lot of homeowners who have had difficulty selling their homes because of the property taxes.”

Benford said one obstacle to creating property tax relief is the state of Illinois’ pensions.

At a recent forum held in Joliet, Benford asserted that, if elected, she will not opt in to take part in the system. Benford’s remark at the time drew some praise from members of the audience.

“I do still stand by that,” Benford said. “I will not accept a state pension. The last study I saw showed that a current state representative contributes about $180,000 into pension system. They receive a total of $2 million over their lifetime, based on the actuarial study. If they’re contributing $180,000, obviously we know the rate of return is not going to [even out.] The taxpayers are paying for that.”

Benford suggested the more lawmakers are encouraged not to participate, the more money the State of Illinois will have to spend.

Manley referred to Benford’s idea as being “a disingenuous, heroic measure” and said that opting out of the pension plan leaves lawmakers to participate in a defined benefit plan, which is oftentimes more costly in the long run.

Last year, lawmakers in Springfield considered enacting legislation to eliminate new member eligibility to the General Assembly’s retirement system, but no law is currently on the books.

Manley touted her record of backing bills that, if passed, would introduce a property tax freeze to help relive the burden on taxpayers in that fashion.

“Freezing property taxes would compel those local governments that make up the property tax bill to come to the table and actually have discussion on how we can do this,” Manley said. “This is local government problem. I want the local governments sit down with the state to figure it out.”

A property tax freeze is a measure that many school boards in the area have called into question.

Manley disputed the concern, saying, “The state has nothing to do with property tax other than … the fact the state is not funding the schools to the level it should be.”

Manley referenced the state’s effort to introduce the evidence-based funding formula as it regards education and said lawmakers did their part to equip the model with new revenue.

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October 31, 2018 at 10:32PM

ELECTIONS 2018 Sam Yingling re-election campaign focused on economy

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Rep. Sam Yingling—an openly gay Democrat in the Illinois House’s 62nd District—faces familiar challenges this year as he seeks re-election.


Following his original election in 2014, Yingling focused his efforts on the economic health from attempting to address the budget crisis to tackling the property tax issues in his district.


Heading into the 2018 election, he faces criticisms from Republican opponent Ken Idstein similar to those in prior election campaigns.


Windy City Times: Should you be elected to another term, what types of legislation should your constituents expect to see over the next two years?


Sam Yingling: I will continue to be an independent voice in Springfield for the people of my district. I’ll keep fighting to rein in property taxes, consolidate government, and improve equitable funding for public education.


WCT: Your opponent, Ken Idstein, says one of his primary campaign issues is property taxes—an issue you’ve attempted to tackle with legislation that would have allowed a referendum on making the Lake County assessor an elected office. How do you respond to his proposed strategy, and what are your future plans to address this topic?


SY: Lake County has one of the highest property taxes in the country and people are being forced out of their homes. We have an unaccountable and regressive property tax system that forces homeowners to choose between keeping their homes and paying for other basic needs like utilities and healthcare. This is unacceptable and it must be changed.


I have been leading efforts to lower property taxes and make our property tax system more accountable to the voters. As the Chairman of the Government Consolidation and Modernization Committee, I fight to make it easier for local governments to consolidate and save money on duplicative services. I also voted to fix the school funding formula to bring more state money to local schools and provide a way for local school districts to lower their property taxes. I also introduced legislation to help homeowners and businesses impacted by historic flooding Lake County experienced last summer.


This year, I passed SB2544 with bi-partisan super-majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly. The bill would have given the voters of Lake County the opportunity to vote this November on the question of whether to elect the Lake County assessor. That position is currently appointed, leaving the people with no way to hold the Assessor accountable for decisions that impact how much they pay in property taxes. It was supported by good government advocates, Republicans and Democrats on the Lake County board, the Lake County Township assessors, and thousands of Lake County residents who made phone calls, signed petitions, and testified at local hearings on the bill.


Unfortunately, Gov. [Bruce] Rauner denied the taxpayers of Lake County their right to vote this November on whether to elect the Lake County assessor. Lake County homeowners pay some of the highest property taxes in the country, but Gov. Rauner denied voters the power to hold the Lake County assessor accountable for decisions that affect how much they pay. That’s wrong, and I will keep fighting to hold our property tax system accountable.


WCT: Much like your 2016 campaign, criticism of your connections to, support from and of House Speaker Mike Madigan is prevalent. How do you respond to charges that you are “Madigan’s go-to guy?”


SY: I am proud to be an independent Democrat who will continue to put the priorities of my constituents first. I work across the aisle on the issues most important to my constituents, including property tax relief, government consolidation, and government accountability.


WCT: With the installment of [Brett] Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, LGBTQ-specific federal precedents like Obergefell may now be in danger. What is the path forward in protecting the civil liberties of LGBTQ people in your district? Do you believe the state legislature can adequately tackle issues like LGBTQ employment, housing and public accommodation non-discrimination protections?


SY: I will always fight to protect equal protections and equal opportunity for LGBTQ people in the legislature.


For more information about Sam Yingling’s campaign, visit SamYingling.com .

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October 31, 2018 at 09:01AM