Editorial Roundup: Illinois

Arlington Heights Daily Herald. June 6, 2024.

Editorial: Judge offers Illinois Democrats a lesson on political integrity; they should take it

A Sangamon County judge blocked implementation of a law that would have prohibited parties from slating candidates for state general election races in which they did not have a representative on the primary ballot. Associated Press file photo

In many ways, the heavily partisan law passed hastily in the final week of the Illinois General Assembly blocking political parties from slating candidates after a primary election was an insignificant piece of procedural tinkering. With a Sangamon County judge’s ruling Wednesday, it could become a significant object lesson in the damage that political hubris can produce.

Because Democrats control all three branches of Illinois government, it took little effort and less than 48 hours to shove through a bill last month that had never been previously discussed addressing an issue that almost no one had previously complained was a problem. The bill prohibited political parties — Democrats and Republicans alike — from seating candidates for a general election if the party had no candidate in the primary for the affected race. And, they wrote the law to take effect immediately, meaning that any party efforts to make competitive races according to well-established past practice would have to be halted.

On Wednesday, Judge Gail Noll ruled in favor of 14 Republican legislative candidates who had been slated to represent their party in November according to this practice.

“Changing the rules relating to ballot access in the midst of an election cycle removes certainty from the election process and is not necessary to achieve the legislation’s proffered goal,” Noll wrote in a 12-page order.

That “proffered goal” was election legitimacy. Attorney General Kwame Raoul argued the bill was passed “to prevent political insiders from having control over which candidates are slated.” Gov. J.B. Pritzker and some other Democrats declared that made the legislation “an ethics bill.”

Yes, an ethics bill created by hollowing out a previously introduced piece of legislation and passed in two days from beginning to end without transparency or discussion in the midst of the end-of-session crush. And one that applied only to legislative races, the ethics of political insidership apparently not being a problem at the federal, county or township levels.

No one was fooled by the euphemism, and everyone could plainly see the arrogant abuse of power and misuse of the mechanics of government.

What was never so clear is why this bill was so important to Democrats and why so urgent. The 14 slated Republicans will be fighting uphill battles just to be relevant in Democratic districts. They have — or before this petty gamesmanship would have had — little chance of challenging the ruling party’s solid majorities in both chambers. And unlike, say, gerrymandering, which the public has been clamoring against for decades, post-primary slating has barely generated a whisper of complaint.

So, in the midst of a period of deep public distrust of elected officials, Illinois Democrats shoved through an all-but-unnecessary piece of legislation whose real impact was to disenfranchise an established election process and limit voter choice, apparently just because they could. The action further deepened distrust of elected leaders generally and Democrats specifically, and perhaps gave those 14 Republicans an issue to run on.

None of this is to say that Democrats didn’t have a point, generally speaking. Post-primary slating is, to be sure, a backdoor means of creating election competition when a party couldn’t get a candidate to complete the simple process of collecting petitions and filing them for a primary ballot position. And, as Judge Noll acknowledged, legislatures certainly have the authority to set up the rules and standards for elections.

But, as she also declared, they shouldn’t have that authority in the midst of an ongoing campaign.

Democrats can appeal Noll’s ruling, but they would do so at the risk of further eroding their limited credibility on true matters of ethics and, worse, injuring the public’s faith in political leaders. They should learn from this loss, and, if the ethics of eliminating post-primary slating is so important, let it take effect in future elections, perhaps in conjunction with other true ethics issues they’ve been dodging for years.

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Champaign News-Gazette. June 9, 2024.

Editorial: Reasonable budget criticism met with unreasonable response

No picking on the governor allowed!

Comptroller Susana Mendoza is a low-level state elected official who longs to move up Illinois’ political ladder. In that respect, the Chicago Democrat is no different than Attorney General Kwame Raoul, Treasurer Michael Frerichs and Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias.

Each of them dreams of a future where they’re addressed as governor or U.S. senator.

At the same time, however, Mendoza is also the person whose duties include paying the state’s bills. In that context, she’s received considerable publicity over the last few years as Illinois wrestled with terrible financial problems.

So it was no great surprise when Mendoza issued a statement addressing the state’s new $53.1 billion budget, due to take effect July 1.

Mendoza noted there was “plenty she likes” in the budget, but otherwise called it “vanilla” and expressed concerns about the high level of spending.

“I would have liked to seen perhaps some more cuts across the board. ... Where do we have bloat? Where are we paying too much for a contract that we can get a better deal on?” she said.

Of course, there is bloat in a $53.1 billion budget. How could there not be in a state as corrupt and incompetent as Illinois?

Still, that’s pretty tepid criticism. But one would never know it judging by the criticism leveled at Mendoza by the hirelings of Gov. Thin Skin, aka J.B. Pritzker.

Pritzker budget aide Emily Miller responded, cryptically, that “more cuts across the board was the other guy.”

She was apparently referring to former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, but inadvertently confirmed that Democrats see their job as spending and taxing.

Miller did point out that “you gotta name specific lines to cut” to justify cuts, a perfectly valid point.

Deputy Gov. Andy Manar was equally incensed on behalf of his boss, stating that “I have yet to see a specific list of bloat, let alone someone doing the work of drafting and filing legislation to cut the bloat.”

No bloat in Illinois’ state spending?

How about creating new programs when the state faces challenges funding current programs?

How about the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to feed, house and care for the many thousands of illegal immigrants state and municipal officials said they would welcome? Texas Gov. Greg Abbott took them up on their foolish offer.

Putting together a budget in a state as big as Illinois is a big job, probably too big. That’s why there’s so much sophistry, venality and horse trading that goes into satisfying competing interests that generally exclude taxpayers.

Mendoza struck the correct note of skepticism about the governor’s record-setting spending plan. The extent to which her moderate comments were flatly rejected as unworthy of concern shows how little interest there is in restraining government’s uncontrollable impulse to spend.

END