Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What’s to become of lt. gov?

My initial reaction to learning that several members of the Democratic Party’s state central committee sent a letter to Illinois House Speaker/state Democratic Chairman Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, complaining of the way he took it upon himself to sponsor a proposed constitutional amendment doing away with the position of lieutenant governor was to feel a sense of local pleasure.

That letter was signed by seven of the 38 members of the party’s central committee, including both of the people who were elected from my home district – the Illinois First Congressional.

SO THAT MEANS both Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., and state Rep. Connie Howard, D-Chicago, are in line with my thoughts on the issue – which are that the people who are eager to abolish the position are being a bit short-sighted in the way they think.

I have written previously that I like the idea of knowing exactly who will be first-in-line to take over state government in the event that some calamity befalls the governor. I like the idea of it being someone who was elected for that specific purpose, rather than someone who moves up the line of succession after being elected for another government post.

I know that a part of Lisa Madigan would like to be governor of Illinois someday, but I’d rather see her get the post because she ran a statewide campaign for it, rather than being bumped up from attorney general because something happened to Pat Quinn.

Madigan’s father, the aforementioned House speaker/state party chairman (who in the Chicago-centric world of Illinois politics is less important than the party chairman for Cook County), appears to be willing to have that scenario, even though the constitutional amendment he proposed that would have to be voted on by the General Assembly and by voters statewide would not take effect until 2015.

WHICH MEANS THE Democratic Party still needs to find a replacement for Scott Lee Cohen, whose letter formally declining the party’s nomination for the post officially was received Tuesday by the State Board of Elections, for the Nov. 2 general election, where the yet-to-be-chosen nominee will run against the 27-year-old GOP nominee with what appears to be an incredibly inflated resume.

The letter sent to Madigan this week said there should be a “uniform, comprehensive and transparent” process by which a lieutenant governor nominee should be picked by the party. Even the party insiders see that what is happening here is they ultimately will be pressured to pick whomever Madigan (as in Michael) wants for the post.

And if Madigan’s past electoral record is any indication, it is obvious that the lieutenant governor nominee ultimately will be someone whose appearance on the ballot does not hurt the chances of getting people to vote for a Democrat to represent them in the Illinois House of Representatives.

Forget about whether the person would be fit to govern Illinois if something bad happened to Quinn, or if they bolster the regional or ethnic diversity of the Democratic ticket for state constitutional offices.

THOSE COMMITTEEMEN IN their letter said they think the party’s officials should have been consulted about something as serious as abolishing the lieutenant governor’s post, although Madigan’s aides responded by telling reporter-types that it is absurd to think an individual legislator has to consult with the party bigwigs before he can introduce a bill for the Legislature’s consideration.

I’d take that argument much more seriously if Madigan were just another political schnook. If he were some freshman legislator serving his first term, or someone who came from a part of the state with little political clout, it would make sense that he could do what he wanted, and the people would be free to ignore his desire if they so wished.

But the reality is that anything with the Mike Madigan name on it is going to get high profile just because of its sponsor. Any Democratic legislator who dares to vote against this proposed amendment can probably count on his/her political career withering away into dust.

I remember one time back during the 1990s when Mayor Richard M. Daley reached an agreement with certain legislative leaders to advance a measure the city desired, only for it to die in the Illinois House just after Madigan himself said it was not wise to exclude him from the pre-vote negotiations.

ENVISION THOSE OLD “Chiffon” margarine commercials from the 1970s where “Mother Nature” unleashes lightning bolts because she was “fooled” into thinking that margarine was really butter. Only set them in the House chambers in Springfield.

My point is that you don’t mess with Madigan. He doesn’t even have to say anything intimidating to get support for his measures.

Once it gets to the general public, it becomes a different matter. Will people see this as a “good government” move to abolish an electoral office? Or will it be seen as an attempt by the speaker/party leader to dictate policy to the people.

Which is why I’m glad to learn that some of the state central committeemen (including, among others, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Ill., whom some speculate would like to see his wife, Sandi, currently a Chicago alderman, get the post) is willing to go on record in writing that maybe Madigan is wrong.

AND THE FACT that both Rush and Howard were willing to put their names on this letter makes me feel a bit better about the fact that I voted for them for those central committeeman posts in recent elections.

At least two votes I cast were for people who occasionally can say the right thing.


EDITOR’S NOTES: African-American members of the Democratic State Central committee that ostensibly will pick (,0,5895822.story) the new lieutenant governor nominee have their problems with actions that make it seem that Mike Madigan will single-handedly make the choice himself.

Jason Plummer sounds like someone with a bright future. Perhaps he should be the Republican nominee ( for governor in 2024 (rather than for lieutenant governor this year) once his real life catches up with his resume.

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