Tuesday, January 6, 2009

It’s replacement season in Illinois

The Illinois Senate has a new member, and people who live in Illinois’ 5th Congressional district (the northwest side and some surrounding suburbs) now have a clue as to when they will get a new member of Congress.

But we still don’t know who is going to replace Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate, as District of Columbia bureaucrats put would-be Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., through the motions of showing up on Capitol Hill – only so they could turn him away.

HOW THAT SITUATION will ultimately be resolved has yet to be determined, although I would expect Burris will need a court or two to intervene on his behalf to pressure political people to accept the one-time Illinois attorney general.

Political people took the actions Monday required by law to fill vacancies caused by two government officials who are moving up the ranks of Washington politics.

Democratic officials from south suburban Cook and Will counties, along with rural Kankakee and Iroquois counties, picked a replacement for Rep.-elect Debbie D. Halvorson, D-Ill., who gave up her seat in the Illinois Senate in Springfield to move up to Washington.

It would appear that the party officials decided to go along with the wishes of Halvorson, as they chose her former chief of staff, Toi Hutchinson, to be the new Democratic state senator.

THE KANKAKEE DAILY Journal newspaper reported that Hutchinson got a unanimous vote of support over two other officials – one of whom is a member of the Will County Board. Officials claim that Hutchinson’s knowledge of the Statehouse Scene is what gave her the edge.

In one respect, the suburban and rural folks are a notch ahead of their city-based political counterparts. Halvorson formally resigned her state Senate seat on Monday, and a replacement was picked promptly.

Hutchinson literally took the oath that made her state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, by noon of the same day.

Approving a replacement so quickly provides a sense of confidence for the residents of that legislative district, in that they know there was no gap in political representation and that the local officials who pick the replacement had a sense of what they were doing.

BY COMPARISON, THE rest of us are living in a clueless era.

All of Illinois has no clue who its junior senator will be. And those people who live in the Illinois 5th Congressional know they have some dozen or so people who want to represent them in Congress.

But president-elect chief of staff Rahm Emanuel’s refusal to promptly resign his seat in Congress created a situation where nothing could be done to fill the vacancy.

Seriously, we have known for two months that a new member of Congress from Chicago was needed. Yet it is only now that the dates are being set for special elections.

IT IS BECAUSE of that delay that there will be some extra expense in coordinating the campaigns.

For 2009 in Cook County, elections are being held Feb. 24 and April 7. Those elections will be dominated by suburban communities that will be picking their local mayors/village presidents, along with clerks and trustees/aldermen.

Had Emanuel acted promptly (instead of behaving in a manner that gave the appearance he was scheming to keep his congressional post along with his White House job), it would have been possible to hold the special elections on those same dates.

That would have resulted in a certain convenience for local elections officials who already are gearing up for the casting and counting of ballots on those dates. It would have made Chicago’s wards in the Illinois 5th just a few more election precincts that needed to be counted.

YET THERE ISN’T enough time between now and Feb. 24 to schedule a primary election (which is the one that actually matters, the Cook County GOP isn’t strong enough to actually have a shot at taking that Congressional seat) that will coincide with other elections.

So Chicago and the surrounding suburbs that are included in the Congressional district will have to have their own primary election on March 3.

Those people who think of individual neighborhoods as separate entities and can’t appreciate the big picture will probably not get this. But we’re literally going to get cases of suburbs that will have one set of elections on Feb. 24, then another a week later on March 3, then a final general election on April 7 (which does coincide with the general elections to be held throughout the rest of Cook County).

I’m glad I don’t live in any of those suburban communities to the northwest of Chicago that are in the Illinois 5th Congressional. With that many elections to have to endure, I think I would go batty. I definitely don’t know if I would be in the mood for showing up to cast votes in each and every one of them.

AND THEN PEOPLE wonder why some don’t think it worth the hassle to show up at their polling place to vote. Of course, compared to the mess that has become the replacement process for a U.S. Senate seat from Illinois, it is downright coordinated.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich scheduled the dates for the Illinois 5th Congressional elections without hassle from Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, unlike the legal battle that White instigated when he refused to certify the proclamation making Blagojevich’s choice of Burris official.

White claims that his approval of documents setting election dates is just a bureaucratic procedure. Some would argue that all he was asked to do with regards to a Senate proclamation was engage in the same act of bureaucracy.

But that would be too easy. It is what allowed officials on Capitol Hill to turn away Burris on Monday. How hard-line an approach Congressional leaders continue to take with Burris will provide the political “entertainment” of coming days – much to the embarrassment of Illinois.


EDITOR’S NOTES: Officials in the south suburbs acted promptly in filling a political vacancy (http://daily-journal.com/archives/dj/display.php?id=433459). It’s too bad their counterparts in other parts of Illinois couldn’t learn from their example.

Chicago elections officials will have to spend about $3.8 million this year to accommodate the special elections needed to pick a new member of Congress (http://www.cqpolitics.com/wmspage.cfm?docID=news-000003002877) from the Northwest Side.

No matter what Pat Quinn or other Illinois officials eager to impeach the governor want to believe, Rod Blagojevich (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/sns-ap-illinois-governor-quinn,0,7501589.story) is not the only reason Illinois has become an “international laughingstock.”

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