Friday, January 4, 2013

Illinois’ absentee boys on verge of filling their vacancies in Congress

One of the big stories of 2012 was the fact that two members of our state’s Congressional delegation missed significant amounts of time.

For Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., it was a stroke that took him out of action for a year, while it was a bipolar disorder that caused Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Ill., to have to take a leave of absence that stretched from June until the week in November when he decided to just chuck it all and resign.

WHICH IS WHY I found it intriguing Thursday that both vacancies were on the verge of being filled.

In the case of Kirk, the man himself was able to return to the U.S. Senate. He had the television cameras on hand to record the moment that he walked up the 45 steps of the Capitol – with his congressional colleagues cheering him on.

He even had fellow Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., helping him up the steps, and Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., ready to shake his hand when he got to the top.

Kirk isn’t fully recovered from the stroke he suffered early last year. But he seems ready to go back to work and take on a limited schedule, while representing (along with Durbin) the interests of the people of Illinois when they come before the U.S. Senate.

NOW JACKSON WILL not get anything close to a welcome like that. In fact, I haven’t the slightest clue where he was on Thursday. And I doubt that anybody except the U.S. attorney staffers who are trying to bolster their careers with his criminal prosecution cared what he was doing.

But that vacancy in the House of Representatives took a significant step toward being filled on Thursday when the Illinois State Board of Elections began accepting nominating petitions from people wishing to get on the ballots for the Feb. 26 primary elections.

There are more than two dozen people who have said they’d like the Democratic Party nomination for the Illinois Second Congressional district seat, while a few Republicans and a couple of political independents also have said they may run.

But any clown can put out a statement expressing interest in running for any electoral office they can dream about.

IT IS THE people who go through the process of putting together nominating petitions who ought to be taken seriously.

Petitions will be accepted through Monday night, so there is still room for more people to come forth. In fact, some of the names of people who supposedly have a serious chance of winning have yet to file petitions.

Yet let’s look at the five candidates who were actually at the Elections Board offices when they opened at 8 a.m. – all in hopes of getting their names printed atop the ballot when it is finally compiled.

I know one political observer-type person who seriously believes only those candidates deserve to be taken seriously, because their ability to get their petitions filed so early shows a special dedication to the office.

IF THAT IS the case, then 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale, state Sen.-elect Napoleon Harris, D-Flossmoor, state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields (who on Thursday boasted of the $130,000 she raised for her campaign just in the past month) and former state Rep. Robin Kelly of Matteson are the ones who should be at the head of the pack.

Oh yeah, Clifford Eagleton of Harvey also was among the early filers. Although I doubt that even this will gain him any significant attention.

We’ll have to wait until 5 p.m. Monday to see how the ballot shapes up. Although I got my kick out of seeing one of the later filers on Thursday – former Rep. Mel Reynolds, who filed his petitions for a political comeback and indicated that he wants to be identified as Mel “MR” Reynolds.

Does he seriously go about calling himself “MR” (as in his initials)? Or is he going to demand that we all call him “Mr. Reynolds” (instead of all those thoughts we have about him based on his past criminal convictions)?

ONE OF THESE people (or maybe one of the other people such as former state Rep. David Miller of Lynwood or former Rep. Debbie Halvorson of Crete) is going to get to fill the vacancy we have had in our state’s delegation for seven month-and-counting.

Somehow, I doubt any of them will make as much of an impression upon their arrival in Washington as Kirk did on Thursday. Who else will be able to tell us (as Kirk did) that he had a near-death experience so close that he heard angels speaking to him – in Noo Yawk-type accents.

It reminds me of that episode of “The Sopranos” where actor Michael Imperioli’s “Christopher Moltisanti” character told of his brush with Hell (or was it Purgatory?) – where every day is St. Patrick’s Day, and the Irish get to rule over the Italians.

Which makes me wonder what a politician’s version of “Hell” would be – probably a place where the “goo goos” get taken seriously, and public policy is meant to benefit public – rather than political – interests.


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