December 22, 2010


For over a century, the New York Times proclaimed that it was the repository for “all the news that’s fit to print.” This column prides itself on voluminous political analysis, or 1,500 words per week. This week, with more analysis than space, it’s print to fit. Here’s three mini-columns:

Number One: Democrats’ Downstate debacle gives Republicans hope for 2014.

            The most consequential, but largely ignored political story of 2010 is the cultural and ideological rejection of Democrats by Downstate Illinoisans, and their embrace of the Republicans. South of I-80 and west of Route 47, Democrats were thrashed. Bill Brady, the hapless Republican candidate for governor, won 98 of Illinois ’ 102 counties, and still lost by an official 31,834-vote margin.

            Brady beat Pat Quinn (D) in the 5 collar counties ( Lake , Kane, DuPage, McHenry and Will), and won 93 of 96 Downstate counties. Outside of Cook County , Brady beat Quinn by 468,719 votes; in Cook County , Quinn trounced Brady by 500,533 votes.

            In the 2010 U.S. congressional elections, Republicans gained 63 House seats, with 22 of that number from the South. Of the South’s 145 districts, Republicans now hold a 104-41 majority; of the Democrats, 15 are black, 5 Hispanic, and 21 white. Virtually every Democrat is from an urban area. Rural white Democrats are now extinct. Southerners saw the face of the Democratic party as Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton, and the policies of the Democrats as anti-gun, pro-abortion, pro-gay, pro-tax and pro-spending – and they rejected it.

            That’s what happened in Downstate Illinois. Downstaters saw the face of the state Democratic party as Rod Blagojevich, Todd Stroger, Rich Daley, Mike Madigan and Alexi Giannoulias, and their legacy as corruption, cronyism, big-spending liberalism, tax hikes, and a capitulation to public sector unions – and they rejected it. Culturally and ideologically, being a Democrat and voting Democratic is now repugnant.

            In the U.S. House, where Republicans now have a 240-195 majority, 104 of the Republicans – or 43 percent – are Southern conservatives. In the Illinois House, where Democrats have a reduced 64-54 majority, 31 of the Republicans (58 percent) are from Downstate, while just 12 of the Democrats (19 percent) are from Downstate.

            In November, Republicans ousted four Downstate Democratic state representatives, including Jay Hoffman, who was Blagojevich’s floor leader, and won two open seats held by Democrats since the 1980s. Since the Civil War, the farming areas south of Springfield have been heavily Democratic and socially conservative; in the last century, union strength around Peoria , Decatur , Quad Cities and East Saint Louis has augmented the Democratic vote. But now, other than the state’s southern tip, and black-majority areas around Rockford and East Saint Louis , the bulk of districts are now Republican. In 2010, Republicans won seats in Peoria and its suburbs, the East Saint Louis suburbs, and the Quad Cities’ area.

            For the Democrats, the obverse is occurring in the Cook County suburbs. At present, of the 27 House members from Chicago , 26 are Democrats, and 14 are minorities. Of the 27 suburban seats, Democrats hold 23. Every south suburban district is held by a Democrat, as is every North Shore seat. Democrats won Beth Coulson’s (R) Glenview district in 2010, but Republican David Harris beat one-termer Mark Walker (D) in the Mount Prospect district. However, Republicans failed to regain seats in the Schaumburg area, or in eastern Lake County ..

In the collar counties, Republicans hold a 18-3 majority. Among the 12 Democratic Downstaters, two are black; of the ten white incumbents, all are sweating 2012. Obama will be atop the 2012 ticket, and Downstate votes will be needed to pass any income tax hike.

The Democrats in Illinois , as exemplified by state House members, are dominated by Chicagoans, minorities and liberals. Over the next several cycles, Republicans will keep snaring Downstate seats, and they have few Cook County seats to lose. In the 118-member House, 64 seats – a majority – lie Downstate and in the collar counties. If present trends continue, Republicans will gain a majority.

Number Two: It’s not over until it’s over. Judicial creativity will keep Rahm Emanuel on the Chicago mayoral ballot. And he will be elected mayor.

            This columnist, as the attorney for one of the objectors to Emanuel’s candidacy, had the opportunity to directly examine Emanuel on Dec. 14 at the city electoral board hearing. A Stipulation entered by Emanuel’s lawyers conceded that he and his family were “principally present” at a Washington , D.C. rental home from June 30, 2009 to October 1, 2010.

            I asked Emanuel whether “principally present” meant that he “lived there” for that period. Answer: Yes. I asked if he “resided there.” His lawyers objected.

            I asked if Emanuel was “principally present” anywhere else. Answer: No.

            The Chicago Municipal Code mandates that a candidate is “not eligible” for municipal office unless he/she is a “qualified elector” – meaning voter – and has “resided” in Chicago for one year prior to the Feb. 22, 2011 election. Emanuel re-registered to vote and took up physical residence at 754 N. Milwaukee Avenue on Oct. 5, 2010. Under city ordinance, he needs to prove “residence” since Feb. 22, 2010.

            I asked Emanuel, who was the White House chief-of-staff, how many times he was physically president in Chicago from February to September 2010. Answer: Twice. He said he flew in for a political event, and stayed overnight at a hotel.

            Emanuel, of course, rented his Ravenswood home for a year from Sept. 1, 2009, and extended the lease to June 30, 2011. Had he kept the home vacant, and his belongings present, Emanuel would not have this “residency” problem

             But Emanuel is the sole remaining white candidate on the 2011 ballot, and a phalanx of political insiders have a vested interest in his election. They cleared out the white field for Emanuel, and don’t relish the prospect of a Hispanic or black mayor. The electoral board decision will be appealed by the loser to the Circuit Court, and by that loser to the Illinois Supreme Court.

            Judges can fit the law to the facts, and ignore the facts as they relate to the law. When Emanuel voted by absentee ballot in the 2010 primary, he did so from his rented home, where he clearly did not reside. A city statute states that if one has “lost his residence” due to “business of the United States,” then his vote is valid. Emanuel was not in the U.S. military. He was a political appointee of the president.

            My prediction: The Illinois Supreme Court has a 4-3 Democratic majority. Expect a ruling that Emanuel’s non-residence was due to federal “business,” akin to military service, and that he is entitled to ballot placement. When that occurs, the election is over. Emanuel will be the next mayor.

            Number Three: Welcome to the 2014 governor’s race, which began on Nov. 3. If “creativity” defines the Chicago mayoral situation, “toxicity” will characterize the 2014 contest.

            According to official returns, Quinn beat Brady by 1,745,219-1,713,385, in a turnout of 3.6 million. In 2006, Blagojevich won by 1,736,731-1,369,315, in a 3.5 million turnout. So, despite the trauma of Blagojevich’s impeachment, and Quinn’s tax increase promise, Quinn got more votes than his predecessor.

Expect this: Within a year, massive “Quinn fatigue” will surface. From fiscal 2010, the state owes over $4.5 billion to vendors, and will be indebted for a like amount when fiscal 2011 concludes next June. Illinois’ revenue shortfall is projected to be $13 billion, in a $55 billion budget. A one percent hike in the state income tax generates $3 billion. Hikes and cuts will be necessary

And that will present a delicious spectacle: Speaker Madigan cherished dream is to make his daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, governor in 2014. And that presents a quandary. The presumed strategy was to elect Quinn, let him take the rap for tax hikes, and shove him out the door in 2014 after Illinois’ economy rebounds and revenues are flush, and install Lisa Madigan.

That means Madigan’s House will have to enact a tax hike, jeopardizing Downstaters in 2012, and precipitating two lose-lose scenarios: If Quinn’s policies are successful, then either Quinn or incoming lieutenant governor Sheila Simon will run for governor in 2014, undermining Lisa Madigan’s chances. If chaos and fiscal catastrophe ensues, and Obama is still in the White House, then a Republican is certain to win the governorship.

The Republicans’ 2014 strategy is simple: Let Democrats fix it. Speaker Madigan insists that Republicans “sign on” to any tax increase, and provide votes. They won’t.

My prediction: By 2014, Quinn will be toxic. Simon, from Carbondale , will run to succeed him, setting up a nasty primary with Lisa Madigan. If Speaker Madigan in any way impedes Quinn, Democratic liberals will take their vengeance on Lisa Madigan. Democrats will be divided, and voters ready for change. The Republican nominee will be incoming state treasurer Dan Rutherford, a Downstater.