Thursday, March 5, 2015

Why I think Judy would be “crying” at political partisanship done in her name

It seems that on the day most of us were ignoring the Chicago mayoral race (only 34 percent voter turnout that day), a state legislator from the far northwest suburbs was trying to slip a change into state law purely out of partisan political spite.

Feb. 24 was the day of the mayoral election. It also was the date that state Rep. Michael Tryon, R-Crystal Lake, introduced a bill for consideration by the General Assembly this spring to change the way in which governors can fill vacancies.

SPECIFICALLY, TRYON WAS concerned with the outcry that developed following the death in early December of state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka.

Eventually, Gov. Bruce Rauner filled the spot with Leslie Munger. But for the month that existed between Topinka’s death and Rauner’s inauguration, former Gov. Pat Quinn long-time political ally Jerry Stermer to be the comptroller.

Now anyone with common sense sees nothing wrong with this. The former governor filled the immediate vacancy, and the current governor got to fill the new term that began when they were inaugurated in mid-January.

There was no interruption in the services provided by the state Comptroller’s office. There was no problem.

EXCEPT IN THE mind of Tryon and other political people who want to put partisanship above all other concerns. Hence, Tryon is trying to get a change in the law.

Specifically, he says a governor must be required to replace a vacancy with someone “of the same leading political party.” Because Topinka identified herself as a Republican, her replacement must also be a registered GOPer.

During the month that Stermer was comptroller, the constitutional office was headed by a Democrat. Which the Illinois Review website that spins all news from a conservative ideological viewpoint says was somehow wrong.

Actually, it’s just the way government operates, and ought to operate. Governors across the nation get the authority to make appointments and fill vacancies as they see fit. It’s one of the perks of the position.

IT ALSO IS a reason why people should take such elections seriously. Picking a governor impacts more than just who gets the right to call the Executive Mansion in Springfield home.

And yes, if Pat Quinn had managed to win re-election back in November, he would have had every right to pick a Democrat over a Republican – regardless of the fact that Topinka defeated Democratic comptroller nominee Sheila Simon back in November.

There certainly is precedent. Back in the early 1980s, Democrat Alan Dixon won the first of his two terms in the U.S. Senate half-way through his term as Illinois secretary of state.

Democratic partisan interests were hurt when then-Gov. James R. Thompson chose fellow Republican (and gubernatorial aide) Jim Edgar to replace Dixon. Those are the breaks, and Thompson had every right to make that choice.

I’M SURE THAT Tryon isn’t old enough to have been politically active back in the early 1980s (I was in high school back then), but I suspect he and his ilk would be screeching and screaming at anyone who would have dared to challenge Thompson’s appointment – which impacted our state by putting Edgar into the position by which he eventually springboarded to two terms of his own as governor.

Considering that Topinka was a Republican partisan who always managed to draw significant political support from Democrats as well, I’d like to think she would appreciate this very fact. I’d like to think she herself would not be taking seriously this bill – which I personally hope manages to get lost in the shuffle of legislative activity this spring.

The sooner that knuckleheaded partisan ideas like this fade away, the sooner we all can get around to having serious governing on our behalf.

Then, maybe I can get the late Lesley Gore song “Judy’s Turn to Cry” out of my head, because it was among the first thoughts that popped in there when I learned of this measure.


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