August 26, 2020


There are four stages of grief: Anger. Denial. Bargaining. Acceptance. As the dwindling and beleaguered band of 44 Illinois Republican state representatives will soon discover, a fifth stage likely awaits: Inconsequence.

That means invisibility, nothingness, and a permanent mega-minority in 2021 and beyond. They are now a 74-44 super-minority, meaning Mike Madigan's 3/5ths-plus Democratic majority can pass any bill any time, even in override or special sessions. After Nov. 3 the Madigan super-majority may surpass 2/3rds-plus, something in the realm of 80-38 or even bigger.

Republicans lost seven seats in 2018, part of an anti-Trump, anti-former governor Rauner undertow. They were down 67-51 after the 2016 election, which denied Madigan a super-majority during 2017-18. They now hold 37.2 percent of the chamber's 118 seats. They may surpass their modern-day rock bottom, which occurred after the legendary 1964 "bed sheet ballot" fiasco, an at-large (statewide) election for all 177 state representatives.

Each party picked 118 candidates, so the paper ballot measured 18x36 inches and contained 236 names, giving the voter the glorious opportunity to vote for 177 of them. (I kid you not. This really happened.) This mess was caused by the fact that the 1963 Republican-controlled legislature did not redraw House district lines to comply with the Baker v. Carr U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating equal population in all districts. The 1964 results were not a glorious day for democracy. Who stands in a polling place for a half-hour with a pencil putting an "X" next to 177 names, almost all unknown? Insane.

The result was pre-ordained. Most voters just put an "X" in one party's "straight-ticket" box, which meant one vote each for 118 candidates, and then hit the bricks - even though they could have picked up to 59 of the other party's candidates. (The legal permutations are mind-boggling: What if a voter hit straight-D and picked 60 or more Republicans?) Luckily, back then lawyers were less litigious. And Lyndon Johnson (D) buried Barry Goldwater (R) in the presidential race 2,796,833-1,905,946. Can you imagine counting 4.5 million paper ballots with 236 candidates?

Not surprisingly, all 118 Democrats won, and Republicans during 1965-66 languished in a 118-59 super-minority, holding 33.3 percent of the chamber's 177 seats.

"Trump is an absolute anchor" in 2020, said a Democratic source, who added that 15 Republican-held seats are now "competitive," meaning that Madigan money ($23 million) and manpower have been deployed. They include Tier One contests in House districts 20, 41, 42, 47, 52, 54, 65, 66, 68 and 97, all suburban areas in and around Cook County, and Downstate districts 37, 70, 71, 79 and 93. That's 15 possible "flips," which could take Republicans to the low 30s - which would be around the 25 percent level.

This is astounding, given the fact that Republicans control both legislative chambers in neighboring IN, WI, MI, OH. PA, KY, IA and MO. What gives? Republicans in the aforementioned states have money and manpower, but Madigan in Illinois has mastered the art of separation - meaning separating his handpicked and party-funded House candidates from him by focusing attention on the real or manufactured shortcomings of the Republicans. It's the Bogeyman Strategy: This year it will be "Don't Send Trump Republicans to Springfield."

The autocratic Madigan is one of Illinois most unpopular officeholders. It's pay-to-play all the time in Springfield. That's why he has $23 million. And that's why he is being investigated by the feds. Never mind that he is just one of 118 members, and just one of 74 Democrats. Voters just don't (or refuse to) understand that quickest way to get rid of Madigan is to not vote for a Democrat for state rep. Madigan keeps his majority (and speakership) by making sure that they don't vote for a Republican. Madigan-funded Democrats in "competitive" races hypocritically run as "reformers" - but then re-elect him as speaker.

"Our goal is to break even," said a Republican pollster, meaning stay at 44. Republicans foresee gains in three Metro East districts - 111, 112, 116 - which are in and around East St. Louis, in St. Clair and Madison counties. Trump won the districts by over 60 percent in 2016. The Democratic incumbents are Katie Stuart, of Edwardsville, elected in 2016; Nathan Reitz, of Steelville, appointed in 2019; and Monica Bristow, of Alton, appointed in 2017 and elected in 2018. And also in the Republican-leaning DuPage County 45th (Itasca, Bensenville), 48th (Glen Ellyn, Wheaton) and 81st (Downers Grove, Hinsdale) districts, all narrowly won by Democratic women in 2018 - Diane Pappas, Terra Costa Howard and Anne Stava-Murray, respectively. Trump was a heavy drag then and now. Add Mary Edly-Allen, of Mundelein 51st, who won in 2018

Republicans concede that they have five vulnerable incumbents - Brad Stephens in the Chicago 41st Ward/Park Ridge/Rosemont 20th District, Grant Wehrli in the Naperville 41st District, Mark Batinick in the Plainfield 97th District, Tom Morrison in the Palatine 54th District, Deanne Mazzochi in the Elmhurst 47th District, plus the open Barrington Hills 52nd District. "We expect to win all of them," said a Democratic source. Also in the mix is Amy Grant in the Wheaton 42nd District.

"All the (vulnerable Republican) incumbents are running well ahead of Trump" in polling, said the Republican pollster. That means a fifth to a quarter of Biden-Harris voters must make an effort to mark for them. Madigan will use his money to relentlessly demonize them as pro-Trump. Minority leader Jim Durkin (R) has only $2,601,310 on-hand (as of 6/30), so those guys are essentially on their own.

While Madigan focuses on creating a "Trump connection," Republicans will focus on three issues: Law & Order, as in street protests and riots; Madigan's investigation; and the 2019 vote for putting a graduated state income tax on the ballot (called "Fair Tax"), which will be voted upon on Nov. 3. Virtually all Democrats support it.

20TH DISTRICT: Incumbent Mike McAuliffe (R) was unopposed in 2018 and won 25,739-20,142 (56.1 percent) in 2016, spending $2 million in Rauner-raised money. He ran 10 points ahead of Trump, who got 46 percent in the district. McAuliffe resigned in 2019 and was replaced by Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens, who has been invisible due to a winter hip injury. Democrat Michelle Darbro, a firefighter/EMT, is working precincts daily, has had three mailings, and has Madigan money and staff. Trump will be no drag, especially since Stephens will get FOP endorsement; he has had one mailing - a legislative newsletter. Outlook: Madigan/Darbro will go negative on Stephens in October, so Durkin/Stephens needs to define her as the speaker's ally soon. Stephens needs to spend $1 million to win. Outlook: Toss-up.

METRO EAST: In the 111th District, Bristow (D) won 19,095-18,739 (50.7 percent) in 2018, a margin of 356 votes. Her 2020 opponent is Amy Elik, a CPA. Bristow backs the Fair Tax. Outlook: Republican pick-up. In the 112th District, Stuart (D) won 24,807-20,239 (55.1 percent) in 2018 in a rematch against Dwight Kay, who she unseated in 2016, a margin of 4,570 votes. Her 2020 opponent is Lisa Ciampoli, a nurse. Trump got 60 percent in 2016. Outlook: Toss-up. In the 116th District, Jerry Costello Jr. (D), son of the longtime area congressman, won 22,429-19,480 (53.3 percent) in 2018, a margin of 2,949 votes. Costello resigned to take a Pritzker administration job in 2019 and his replacement was Reitz, son of a former legislator and a Fair Tax supporter. The Republican is 2018 loser Dave Friss. Trump got 66 percent in 2016. Outlook: No-brainer. Friss wins.

WEST SUBURBAN: In the 41st District, Wehrli (R) won 24,798-22,890 (52 percent) in 2018, a margin of 1,908 votes. His 2020 opponent is Janet Yang Rohr, who seeks to capitalize on the area's anti-Trump, pro-woman trend. Outlook: Trump will tank and Werhli will be gone. In the 45th District, Pappas (D) won 20,383-19,711 (50.8 percent) in 2018, a margin of 672 votes. Her 2020 opponent is Mike Camerer. Outlook: Toss-up. In the 47th District, Mazzochi (R) won 26,515-24,938 (51.3 percent) in 2018, a margin of 1,577 votes. Her 2020 opponent is Jennifer Zordani. Outlook: Edge to Mazzochi. In the 42nd District, Grant (R) won 26,381-24,122 (52.2 percent) in 2018, a margin of 2,259 votes. Her 2020 opponent is Ken Mejia-Beal. Outlook: Grant wins.

In the 48th District, Costa-Howard (D) - who got over $300,000 from Madigan's DPI (the state Democratic Party) in 2018 and now calls for Madigan's ouster as speaker - won 26,820-23,313 (53.5 percent) over incumbent Peter Breen (R) in 2018, a margin of 3,507 votes. Breen, a social conservative who is pro-life on abortion, is back for a rematch. Distancing from Madigan is shrewd. Outlook: Costa-Howard wins. In the 97th District, Batinick (R) won 22,480-21,890 (50.7 percent) in 2018, a margin of 590 votes. His 2020 opponent is union official Harry Benton. Outlook: Toss-up, but likely Benton. In the 81st District Stava-Murray (D), a Madigan remover, won 25,124-24,194 (50.9 percent) in 2018 over complacent Republican David Olsen, a margin of 930 votes. Her 2020 opponent is Laura Hois. Outlook: Hois wins.

NORTHWEST SUBURBS: The key race is in the 54th District where Tom Morrison (R) beat Maggie Trevor 22,490-22,447 (50.1 percent) in 2018, a margin of 47 votes. Outlook: Trevor will win the rematch.

Prediction: It will be 77-41. Republicans have entered the "Land of Inconsequence."