black, it never goes back." That's the
insistent mantra and the continuing expectation of
the black community and of black Democratic
politicians regarding the occupancy of certain
Chicago and Cook County public offices.
other words, if a black politician occupies an
office, a black politician will occupy it forever.
They "own" it, and any attempt by white
or Hispanic politicians to retake the job is
deemed to be evidence of "racism."
now claim "ownership" of the following
offices: Cook County Board president, held by Todd
Stroger, clerk of the Circuit Court, held by
Dorothy Brown, Cook County recorder of deeds, held
by Gene Moore, and city treasurer, held by
Stephanie Neely. Any attempt to dump or defeat
those black incumbents will evoke a surge of
anger, and since black voters make up almost 40
percent of the Democratic primary electorate in
Chicago and Cook County, few white politicians
will dare oppose them.
when it comes to next January's election to
replace retiring Illinois Senate President Emil
Jones, there are no racial preferences, set-asides
or minority hiring, nor any affirmative action.
is unquestionably the most powerful African
American in state government, and he is a stalwart
supporter of Governor Rod Blagojevich. Jones has
been the Senate president since 2003, and he was
Democratic minority leader from 1993 to 2002 --
enough time for black politicians to think they
now "own" the Senate's Democratic
leadership post. But while Jones can hand off his
Senate seat to his son, Emil Jones III, he can't
guarantee that he will be succeeded as president
by another black politician.
hold a veto-proof 37-22 majority in the chamber,
and they are likely to retain that margin. Jones'
successor must corral the votes of 19 Democratic
state senators. Nine senators are black, and two
black senators, Rickey Hendon (D-5) of Chicago and
James Clayborne (D-57) of East Saint Louis, are
battling for the backing of the Black Caucus.
Hence, the odds of a white Senate president have
grown from possible to likely.
a longtime rival of Illinois House Speaker Mike
Madigan, has made the Senate a bulwark of support
for the governor. With Jones gone, that will
change. "It's a new day dawning,"
predicted state Senator Dan Kotowski (D-33) of
Park Ridge. "We (the Senate) will be the
reformers in state government. The petty bickering
and posturing will cease."
Jones' possible replacements, only Hendon is
vociferously pro-Blagojevich. The 2009 session
will be suffused with politics, as Mike Madigan
plots to undermine the governor in order to aid
the 2010 candidacy of his daughter, Illinois
Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Without an ally
controlling the Senate, Blagojevich will border on
the irrelevant: He can veto whatever he chooses,
but those vetoes will be overridden.
principal white candidate is John Cullerton (D-6),
who represents a district that extends from the
Lakefront through Lincoln Park and west to
Montrose-Sacramento. Cullerton, age 59, has served
in Springfield since 1979, including 12 years as a
representative and 18 years as a senator. The
knock on Cullerton is that he is a Chicagoan and
that he is close to Mike Madigan.
other white candidates are waiting in the wings,
each hoping for a deadlock and offering himself as
a compromise: Don Harmon (D-39) of Oak Park, Jeff
Schoenberg (D-9) of Evanston, Terry Link (D-30) of
Lake Bluff and John Sullivan (D-47) of Quincy.
Harmon and Schoenberg are liberal enough to appeal
to black senators, so as to block Cullerton. If
Hendon is the black choice, then Cullerton wins.
If Clayborne is the black choice, he wins -- but
only if he has the backing of Link, Sullivan and
of the nine black senators are from Chicago, one
is from the suburbs, and Clayborne, age 44, is
from Downstate. At a Sept. 7 Black Caucus meeting,
Hendon played the racial/geographic card,
insisting that Jones must be succeeded by a black
Chicago senator and blasting Clayborne as too
conciliatory. Clayborne responded that 11 senators
are Downstaters, that they would reject Hendon,
and that he, with a black-Downstate coalition,
Democrats, there are three other factions:
Hispanics, comprising four senators, suburbanites
from Cook, Lake and Will counties, comprising nine
senators, and white Chicagoans, comprising five
factor is leadership: The Democrats will choose a
new majority leader (now Debbie Halvorson, who is
running for Congress), five assistant majority
leaders, a caucus chairman and two caucus whips.
If Cullerton cuts a deal with Clayborne for
majority leader, he's in. If Clayborne gets black
backing and cuts a deal with Sullivan and Link,
he's in. However, if Harmon cuts a deal with
Hendon and gets all the suburban white senators
and Chicago black senators, he's in.
are relevant: Jones made Iris Martinez (D-20) an
assistant majority leader, outraging South Siders
Marty Sandoval (D-12) and Tony Munoz (D-1). If a
contender for Senate president promises to oust
Martinez and name one of them, that's two votes.
Northwest Side senators not in the mix are Jim
DeLeo (D-10) and Ira Silverstein (D-8). DeLeo,
from the 36th Ward, has served since 1992, is an
assistant majority leader, and has been a Jones
and Blagojevich loyalist. He's not deemed credible
for the top leadership job, and many expect him to
retire in 2010. Silverstein, a senator since 1998,
is a liberal independent, but he's been eclipsed
by Harmon and Schoenberg as a compromise choice.
bottom line: For Clayborne, the Senate presidency
would boost him onto the statewide political
scene. He is a Barack Obama-type black: moderate,
conciliatory, reformist and no Blagojevich stooge.
He would use his post to expand his visibility,
and he would be certain to run for secretary of
state in 2014, when black incumbent Jesse White
will retire. That would put him on a track for the
Cullerton, the presidency would be the culmination
of a long legislative career -- a job he would
keep for a decade.
Harmon, Link, Schoenberg or Sullivan, the
presidency would be a quick springboard to higher
office, perhaps as soon as 2010.
early prediction: Expect a Cullerton-Clayborne
deal for the top two posts.
in the adjoining vote chart
are the eight area senators, all Democrats:
Cullerton, DeLeo, Harmon, Kotowski, Martinez,
Schoenberg, Silverstein and Heather Steans, who
was appointed in January. All except DeLeo are up
for re-election in November, and all except
Kotowski are unopposed. Kotowski, who won by just
1,434 votes in 2006 in a heretofore Republican
Park Ridge-Des Plaines district, faces a
reasonably tough challenge from Elk Grove Township
Clerk Mike Sweeney, but he is favored over the
can be discerned from the chart, there is
Democratic unanimity on most issues, as Jones
almost never calls controversial matters for a
vote. Two exceptions were the recall of state
officials and the rejection of pay raises, both
opposed by Jones. Silverstein, Schoenberg and
Kotowski backed recall, and all the senators who
were present rejected the pay hike.