September 4, 2002


After 36 years in Springfield, the last ten as the Illinois Senate’s powerful president, and the previous 12 as Senate Republican minority leader, Pate Philip is leaving the Illinois political scene with a whimper, not a bang.

It’s not that Philip has overstayed his time or his welcome. Instead, through sheer luck, the Democrats won the lottery to determine which party drew the legislative remap, and Philip’s current 32-27 Republican majority will disappear after the 2002 elections -- as will Philip, who will resign next January when the Democrats take over the chamber.

Arguably one of the shrewdest of the state’s politicians, Philip molded his cohesive majority behind a simple, coherent program – namely: no tax hikes, and no new liberal social programs. He constructed a money-raising machine, hired talented staffers (who then managed campaigns), raised close to $6 million every election cycle, recruited viable candidates, and spent lavishly to re-elect his incumbents. In ten years, the Democrats were unable to move beyond a high of 27 senators.

A staunch fiscal conservative, Philip viewed himself and his colleagues as a bulwark against any tax hikes. When Jim Edgar proposed raising the income tax in 1997, Philip’s Senate bottled it up in committee, and it never came up for a vote. Under George Ryan’s big-spending administration, the governor wisely acknowledged that any tax hike, if proposed, would never pass – so he didn’t bother.

But the Democrats’ remap makes a Senate majority a likelihood, if not a certainty. That, coupled with a Democratic governor and a Democratic majority in the House (which is now 62-56 Democratic), and the current state revenue shortfall, makes an income tax hike in the next several years also a  likelihood, if not a certainty.

A total of ten current Republican senators (out of 32) are either retiring or have been defeated by another incumbent in the March primary. The Democratic map put eight Republican senators in four districts, with four of them battling each other in two districts in the primary, and the rest retiring. One, the Northwest Side’s Wally Dudycz (R-7), an 18-year veteran, was placed in a district with Democratic incumbent Jim DeLeo (D-10), and Dudycz chose to retire. Overall, Democrats took the districts of 14 Republican senators, excised all the Democratic voters possible from those areas, and created eight mega-Republican districts; they then used the leftover territory to shuffle the boundaries of existing Democratic districts and create six new Democratic-leaning districts. Even though Illinois’ population growth was in the collar-county suburbs, the Democratic map still managed to create one new black-majority Chicago district, and two new Hispanic-majority districts, at the expense of eliminating only one Chicago Democratic district (Lisa Madigan’s).

A total of 17 Democrats are unopposed for senate seats, and another ten are cinches to win. An independent black, James Meeks, could beat Bill Shaw on the South Side, but Meeks will caucus with the Democrats. That makes 28 sure Democratic seats.

On the South Side and in the south suburbs, two new Democratic districts were drawn, and will be won by Democrats Maggie Crotty and Ed Maloney. A new district was drawn in the north suburbs. Republican incumbent Kathy Parker, of Northfield, will run there, but is the underdog against Susan Garrett, a Democratic state representative from Lake Forest. If Garrett wins, that’s 31 seats, and a Democratic majority.

Two Democratic incumbents – Pat Welch of Peru and Bill O’Daniel of Mount Vernon – are vulnerable. O’Daniel, age 78, faces John Jones, a popular Republican state representative, and will likely lose. Welch will beat Republican Rod Thorson. In an open Republican seat, in the Peoria-Galesburg area, the Democrat, Knox County State’s Attorney Paul Mangieri, could upset Republican Dale Risinger.

But the bottom line is that, in a worst-case scenario, Democrats will have 30 seats; and, in a best-case scenario, they’ll have 34. So it will be bye-bye Pate. He’ll quit and be replaced as Republican leader by Kirk Dillard, of Hinsdale. And the minority Republicans, over the next decade, will struggle mightily (as did the Democrats in the 1990s) to raise money and recruit candidates to retake the Senate, and, like the Democrats in the past decade, they’ll fail mightily and become irrelevant players in state government.

The adjoining vote chart lists the local senators, including Northwest Side Chicagoans Dudycz, DeLeo and Ira Silverstein (D-8), as well as Lakefront Democrat John Cullerton (D-6), and Park Ridge Republican Dave Sullivan (R-28). All except Dudycz  will win another term. Note the unanimity and the lack of controvery on the roll-calls. Every vote is a no-brainer, as every bill that comes up for a vote (even Ronald Reagan Day) is so obviously acceptable to everybody that everybody votes for it. That’s typical of the current Springfield climate: controversial bills passed by the House get buried in the Senate’s committees, and vice versa. The party leadership does not want their minions to go on record on a divisive issue, and no divisive bills get called for a vote.

But, with Pate’s majority withering into history, the next legislature, with its Democratic majorities, will be much different. The Democrats will have an agenda, and there will be no gridlock to stymie it.