this column as an equation: T8.IL.8xT.pol. That
means Top Eight List of Illinois' most tiresome,
tainted, tattered, Teflon-coated, tedious, timid,
torpid, treacherous and tyrannical politicians.
I were to include everybody, it would require a
15,000-word column, so here's my 1,500-word take
on the "Irksome Eightsome."
House Speaker Mike Madigan. Universally described
as the "most powerful" speaker in
Illinois history and generally perceived as one of
the most dominant speakers in the country, Madigan
has run the Illinois House for 29 of the past 31
years, redefining and bifurcating the concept of
power. However, Madigan flunks the "Pelosi
Test," named after the former speaker of the
U.S. House. There is no risk from which Madigan
does not shrink.
to the dictionary, "power" is the
ability to do, act or produce; to control others;
to have influence. "Powerful" is having
much power; to be strong, mighty.
concept of power is all about Number One. His
philosophy is elemental: Do whatever it takes to
keep his job. That means keeping his majority,
which means keeping his Democratic members under
his thumb, which means using his influence to pass
or not pass legislation, which results in raising
the $3 million-plus annually in contributions from
special interests whom he has served, which means
using that cash to elect and re-elect Democratic
state representatives, which means that they are
beholden to him and will vote as instructed. He's
got the system aced.
as for public policy: How about using his 71-47
majority to solve Illinois' $96 billion structural
pension debt? Or cutting state spending? Or
raising taxes to take in $5 billion for unpaid
Medicaid vendors? Not "No-Risk Mike." No
roll-call vote will ever be permitted in his
chamber which will ever jeopardize the re-election
of any of his sycophants.
Madigan to Nancy Pelosi, the much-maligned
Democratic U.S. House speaker from 2007 to 2010.
President Barack Obama wanted to pass his health
care "reform." Rahm Emanuel, then his
chief of staff, counseled against it. Obama
insisted. Pelosi stepped up to the plate. She did
her job. She whipped her majority into line and
put that majority in jeopardy. "Obamacare"
was passed by the House by four votes, and the
Democrats lost 73 seats in the 2010 election.
the "Pelosi Test" -- either use your
power while you have the majority and take the
risk to make serious changes or use your power to
keep your power and take no risks. Madigan ain't
the tyrannical Madigan is exorcised, Illinois will
continue to have a dysfunctional government.
Pat Quinn. The bar has been lowered and a new
standard has been established in the Statehouse:
the governor should be less incompetent than his
predecessor. Quinn has lowered the bar further --
he has proven himself to be more inept than Rod
Blagojevich, who was more inept than George Ryan,
who was more inept than Jim Edgar, who was the
last competent governor. Under the current
trajectory, Illinois' next governor will be one of
the Three Stooges.
be sure, Quinn deserves and gets no respect in
Springfield. He utterly lacks creativity, he shows
no initiative, and he has a propensity for
vacillation that is breathtaking. Just a week
before the General Assembly adjourned on Jan. 8,
Quinn proposed what he called "fundamental
pension reform" which, he said, "has
confounded 12 governors, 13 speakers of the House
and 13 Senate presidents over the past 70
years." No vote was even taken on Quinn's
plan -- the ultimate insult.
torpid and tedious -- that's Quinn. He will run
for re-election in 2014 simply because he's the
governor, and he might win. Why quit? He
confounded the experts by keeping his job in 2010,
and he will employ the same strategy again: Don't
cut any spending for social services, providers,
Medicaid, pensions, state employees or welfare
recipients. That's Quinn's base: Everybody who is
dependent on government. Keep the government
employee unions and the minorities happy. Solve
the state's problems? Not a chance.
Daley. Daley for Governor? That's tiresome. A
Daley has been the mayor of Chicago for 43 of the
past 58 years, John Daley runs the Cook County
Board as its Finance Committee chairman, and now
Bill Daley, age 64, is finally taking the plunge
and likely running against Quinn in the 2014
Democratic primary. The spin is already fast and
furious: Daley is "brainy." Daley can
"fix" Illinois' problems.
the biggest problems are Madigan and Illinois
Senate President John Cullerton. They rule
Illinois. They want a governor who is a dolt, not
a dragon. They don't want Daley. Surreptitiously,
they'll do all in their power to make sure Daley
is not elected. They'd rather have Quinn or a
Republican eunuch in the Statehouse.
Governor Sheila Simon. If Illinois government were
a pageant, Simon would be crowned "Ms.
Timidity." The daughter of the late, beloved
liberal U.S. Senator Paul Simon, her tenure can be
summarized by bastardizing Winston Churchill's
phraseology: Never has so much been expected by so
many and so little delivered.
lost a 2007 race for mayor of Carbondale. When
2010 primary upset winner Scott Lee Cohen was
forced off the Democrats' ticket because of
domestic battery allegations, Simon was picked to
run with Quinn. She was a woman, she had a brand
name, and she was innocuous. She's still
innocuous. Her most memorable headline was that
she was "pretty proud" of having sewn
her inauguration suit. In Springfield she is a
lamb in a den of lions, and she is going nowhere.
of State Jesse White. White, who will be 80 years
old in 2014, has evolved into an iconic figure,
and he indisputably runs a competent ship. His
job, which entails supervising driver's licenses
and business services in a state with a population
of 12.8 million, is a time bomb. Any
sticky-fingered rogue employee can trigger a
scandal. White has held his job for 15 years, and
nary a whiff of scandal has attached to him. Given
the sordid exploits of predecessors such as George
Ryan and Paul Powell, White deserves plaudits from
every Illinoisan. He's "Mr. Teflon."
White's base of support a mile wide and an inch
deep, and it is predicated on the pillars of good
work, goodwill and good luck. The only plausible
scenario for his defeat in 2014 would be if a
white, liberal self-funding woman runs.
Republicans' "Tattered Trio." The
Republicans in Illinois have a propensity for
loving losers. Try again is their mantra. The much
reviled (at least by the news media) Jim Oberweis
finally won a state Senate seat after four losses
for state and congressional office.
the Republicans lose all Cook County, and most
statewide, elections, the party's 2014 bench is
crowded with losers. The gubernatorial field
consists of state Senator Bill Brady, who lost to
Quinn in 2010 by 31,834 votes, state Senator Kirk
Dillard, who lost the 2010 primary to Brady by 193
votes, and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, who won
his current office in 2010 by 161,049 votes, lost
to White in 2006 by 1,045,399 votes, and ran the
2012 Romney campaign in Illinois, losing the state
by 826,965 votes.
only non-loser is mega-wealthy businessman Bruce
Rauner, who can self-fund $3 million to $4 million
to win the primary. Similar Republican richy-rich
types won the governorships in Michigan and
Florida in 2010.
Dick Mell. Mell, age 73, makes both Machiavelli
and Chicken Little look like amateurs. The
alderman has a stellar history of political
treachery. He was a top precinct captain for John
Brandt, the 33rd Ward's five-term alderman and
Democratic committeeman, who was elected as a
state representative in 1968. In 1972 Mell
challenged Brandt for committeeman and lost. In
1975 he beat Brandt's choice for alderman. In 1976
he beat Brandt, but he backed Brandt for his House
seat, narrowly defeating Dan Walker operative Al
Ronan by 2,621 votes. By 1978 Mell had made a deal
with Ronan, dumped Brandt, and Ronan got the House
seat. In 1992 Mell dumped incumbent Myron Kulas
and gave his son-in-law Rod Blagojevich his House
seat. In 2008 Mell muscled out 12-year incumbent
Rich Bradley and gave his daughter Deb Mell his
years Mell has been tiresomely promising or
threatening to quit and promising his chief of
staff Chuck LaMantia the alderman's job. Nobody
takes Mell seriously anymore. The sky has not
fallen. The alderman reportedly wants Deb Mell to
be the alderman, shunting LaMantia into the House
growing consensus among ward voters: Shut up and
do the job or quit. Serving us is a privilege, not
County Assessor Joe Berrios. Berrios views an
ethical taint as no different from a shaver's nick
or cut. It's part of the job. Raise millions of
dollars from property owners and their attorneys
as Board of Review commissioner. So what? Put
family members on the assessor's payroll. So what?
won the 2010 three-way primary with 39.2 percent
of the vote. He won't have that luxury in 2014.
He'll face a credible "independent" --
Forrest Claypool, David Hoffman or Scott
Waguespack. In a one-on-one race, he'll lose.