May 23, 2018


Democrats in Illinois and Cook County have a logjam of epic proportions on their hands. There are too few available offices to satisfy too many ambitious candidates. If Governor Bruce Rauner loses, there will be no prominent Republican anywhere to beat. For the foreseeable future it will be "hurry up and wait." It will not be "step aside," as no white guys are doing that. And it will definitely not be "have it your way."

Webster's Dictionary defines logjam as an over-accumulation of cut logs in streams on their way to a sawmill. It also defines logjam as "an obstacle formed by the accumulation of many items to deal with," which in Illinois means Speaker Mike Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). They are not stepping aside anytime soon.

In fact, if J.B. Pritzker defeats Rauner in November, both Madigan, age 76, and Cullerton, age 69, will surely keep their legislative leadership positions through 2022, when Pritzker's term would end. The current term of Durbin, age 73, ends in 2020, but he is the Democratic minority whip, and would rise to majority whip if the Democrats make a net gain of two or more Senate seats in 2018. In that event, Durbin would surely want to stick around in the expectation that a Democrat would defeat President Donald Trump in 2020 - making him an even more powerful figure.

Madigan has been a state representative since 1970, and speaker for 34 years. Cullerton was elected state representative in 1978 and senator in 1990, and has been president since 2008. Durbin was elected to the U.S. House in 1982 and senator in 1996.

These guys don't know the meaning of "step aside," even though there is a plethora of eager Democrats who want to replace them. They do, however, know the meaning of "have it my way." Attorney General Lisa Madigan retired after 16 years because her dad would not retire and was a serious impediment to her becoming governor. Durbin is the undisputed kingmaker in statewide politics, having early endorsed Barack Obama for president in 2008, Tammy Duckworth for senator in 2016 and Pritzker for governor in 2018. Durbin is very well known and popular with the Democratic base.

SECRETARY OF STATE: All this leaves a bunch of impatient log jammed wannabes, all of whom recognize multiple roadblocks to their political advancement. The first roadblock to be removed will be Secretary of State Jesse White, age 84, who has been on a procession of public payrolls over his adult life, including state representative (1974-88), Cook County recorder (1992-98) and Secretary of State since 1998. White intended to retire in 2018 but Madigan, the state Democratic chairman, insisted that he run again to avoid a nasty primary fight.

The potential 2018 field would have likely included Walter Burnett, alderman from White's near West Side 27th Ward, Karen Yarbrough, of Maywood, the incumbent recorder whose job will be abolished in 2020, and who was slated for county clerk in 2018. Also likely were state treasurer Mike Frerichs, from Champaign-Urbana, and a couple of Downstate white legislators. Madigan's fear was that the Burnett and Yarbrough would divide Cook County's vote and allow Frerichs to win. And, if that occurred, it would alienate the party's black base, which now deems White's office to be forevermore occupied by a black, and possibly depress black turnout in November.

The current projected scenario is that White will resign after Pritzker is elected, and that the new governor will either (1) appoint Yarbrough, with a Hispanic getting a county post, (2) appoint Frerichs, with a black candidate getting the treasurer's post, or (3) appoint comptroller Susana Mendoza, with a black candidate getting her post. If White, who will be easily re-elected on Nov. 6, resigns before the end of 2019, a special election is required in 2020 (which is also the case if there is a new treasurer or comptroller). If White waits until later, a successor can be appointed through 2022.

As is obvious, Democrats not only have a candidate logjam, but those freed from the logjam must represent the party's core constituencies of women, blacks and Hispanics (and now Asian Indians and Asians). As for white males and Downstaters and those outside of Cook County - they are inconsequential. Of course, if a white guy like Pritzker has $5 million to spend, he becomes very consequential.

The Illinois' population is 12,882,135, of which 14.3 percent is black and 16.1 percent is Hispanic. In the 2018 primary, blacks comprised about 20 to 25 percent of Pritzker's vote, and nearly 40 percent of Kwame Raoul's vote for attorney general. The Democrats' 2018 statewide ticket is racially "balanced," with three blacks, two whites and one Hispanic. It has four men, of which two are black, and it has two women, one black and one Hispanic. However, it is not geographically "balanced," as five of six nominees are from Chicago.

U.S. SENATOR: Durbin, a brutal and relentless partisan and Trump critic, aspired to be Democratic senate leader, but that post was won by New York's Chuck Schumer in 2016, who is 6 years younger. Those aspiring to Durbin's seat when he retires include (1) Mendoza, a former state representative and city clerk, who has been outspokenly critical of Rauner as comptroller. She presently has $1,108,857 on-hand. (2) Raoul, who won the AG's race with 30.2 percent, has a solid black base in Chicago, and took Barack Obama's state senate seat in 2004 when he was elected U.S. Senator. He raised and spent $2.8 million during 2017-18. And (3) Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-8), who won Duckworth's west suburban seat in 2016 and has $3,563,898 on-hand.

If Durbin sticks around until 2026, that would presumably be the end of Pritzker's second term, so Raoul, if still attorney general, could run for governor, as could Mendoza, if Secretary of State. The latter office offers enormous visibility, with the occupant's name stuck on all documents relating to driver's licenses, license plates and emission tests. White has mastered the opportunity. Dating back to the 1920s, no incumbent Secretary of State has ever been defeated. Four - Louis Emmerson, Alan Dixon, Jim Edgar and George Ryan - went on to be governor or senator. Two others, Charles Carpentier and Mike Howlett, have failed for governor.

STATE LEGISLATURE: Madigan is the longest-serving speaker in Illinois history, his 34 years easily eclipsing runner-ups David Shanahan's 12 years and legendary "Shoeboxes" Paul Powell's (D) six years. His majority leader since 1996 is Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25), age 78, who was first elected in 1978 and has $99,010 on-hand, and his two deputy majority leaders are Lou Lang (D-16), of Skokie, and Art Turner (D-9). Lang, age 68, the Niles Township Democratic committeeman, has been waiting to be speaker for nearly forever, has $1,464,481 on-hand, but must defer to Currie. That old military term, "hurry up and wait," aptly defines the succession situation.

If Madigan maintains his 67-51 majority in 2018, or perhaps increases it, he will stick around for at least another 4 years. 2020 looms as a huge anti-Trump, pro-Democratic year in Illinois, so his majority is safe, no matter how many taxes Pritzker-Madigan-Cullerton increase. The speaker controls his majority because he funds his majority, channeling funds through the Democratic Party of Illinois (of which he is chairman), Friends of Madigan, and the Democratic Majority Fund to their campaigns, and sending in staffers to run them. Madigan gets his minions elected, and they then vote as he instructs.

What will surely happen, given the continuing influx of women into the House Democratic majority, is that Currie will be speaker after Madigan retires sometime in the 2020s, provided that she is still there. It would be honorific, given that she would have waited for over 45 years. Lang is out of the picture. The real speaker-in-waiting is Sara Feigenholtz (D-12), age 61, from Lincoln Park, an assistant majority leader. When Madigan and Currie are gone, Feigenholtz, first elected in 1994, will be in. Thereafter, the only white male to be speaker will be a Republican.

In the Senate, Cullerton's reign shows no sign of termination. He has a 37-22 majority, which won't diminish in 2018 or 2020. His likely successor is president pro tempore Don Harmon (D-39), of Oak Park, age 52, a senator since 2002.

ATTORNEY GENERAL: The ubiquitous Pat Quinn, former governor who has run for statewide office nine times since 1986, finally ran out of gas. In the March 20 primary for AG featuring eight candidates, and with Quinn being first on the ballot, he got just 27.2 percent (352,425 votes). The other candidates' votes were 390,472 for Raoul, 164,364 for Sharon Fairly, 123,446 for Nancy Rotering, 102,193 for Scott Drury, 70,158 for Jesse Ruiz, 51,902 for Renato Mariotti, and 39,10 for Aaron Goldstein.

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