In case you missed it, Mayor Lori Lightfoot wore a “Rona Destroyer” costume, complete with a cape, a Lone Ranger-style mask and a picture of Clorox wipes as a faux shield, for a news conference on how to safely mark Halloween amid the pandemic. Check it out here. Wait for the memes.
The Commission on Presidential Debates, which determines the rules of engagement with a nod from the candidates, is considering a mute button for the next faceoff between Republican President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden.
Yes, America, that’s where we are.
No doubt, debates are, well, facing debate. Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s announcement that she’s forgoing future debates with GOP challenger Pat O’Brien, a former judge, was a one-two punch. In addition to pulling the plug on a televised showdown that would surely remind viewers of the criticism over her handling of the Jussie Smollett case, Foxx suggested O’Brien would offer a performance similar to that of Trump’s on the debate stage Tuesday night.
Republicans and Democrats turned up the heat on powerful Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan this morning.
With the Commonwealth Edison public corruption scandal swirling around Madigan, four-term Democratic state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit of Oswego announced this morning she will challenge the Southwest Side Democrat to lead the chamber when the new General Assembly is seated in January.
The House speaker, chosen on the basis of majority party in the chamber, plays an outsize role in what legislation lives and dies, and where tax dollars are directed. While he’s hoping to expand that majority in the November election, Kifowit’s move could complicate that.
Meantime, a few Republican lawmakers announced this morning that they’re pressing ahead with a plan to subpoena Madigan to testify before a bipartisan legislative panel investigating his conduct in the alleged Commonwealth Edison bribery scheme.
It’s likely a futile attempt, but they invoked Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker as an ally of sorts. Yesterday, the governor told reporters he thought it might be a good idea for Madigan, who chairs the state Democratic party, to jump into the hot seat in the name of transparency.
Welcome to The Spin.
The public is flooding the Commission on Presidential Debates with ideas about bringing some sense of order to the next round of Trump vs. Biden after Tuesday night’s chaotic faceoff in Cleveland, Chicago attorney Newton Minow, who sits on the commission, tells The Spin.
The organization announced yesterday it would be enacting new procedures to try to ensure order, and Minow says giving the moderator a mute button to silence a candidate repeatedly interrupting, as Trump did to Biden, “is on the table," while pointing out that Chris Wallace, the “Fox News Sunday” anchor who’s now taking heat about how he moderated the debate, doesn’t like that idea. (Minow offered some of the same insights in an interview that aired last night on WTTW.)
Indeed, Wallace told the New York Times: “As a practical matter, even if the president’s microphone had been shut, he still could have continued to interrupt, and it might well have been picked up on Biden’s microphone, and it still would have disrupted the proceedings in the hall,” he said.
Minow has been involved with every presidential debate since Kennedy-Nixon, and helped launch the Commission on Presidential Debates in the 1980s. As they have in the past, the candidates agreed to the ground rules of Tuesday night’s debate, but clearly things went off the rails.
“I was disappointed — and that’s a soft way of putting it,” Minow said. “After more than 40 of these debates, this is the first time — first time — anything like this has happened ... to me it was outrageous.”
Debates 'useful — even the one Tuesday night’: Now in his mid-90s, Minow is the former Federal Communications Commission chairman who famously described television in 1961 as a “vast wasteland.” Considering what unfolded on televisions across the nation and even the globe Tuesday night, I asked him whether debates are useful given the tenor of politics right now.
“The point of these debates is to give the viewer an opportunity to get as much information about the candidates as possible, to see how they react on their feet, so I think they’re useful — even the one Tuesday night, which was a disaster,” Minow said.
Pointing to recent editorial interviews between the two, Foxx’s spokeswoman Alex Sims issued a statement stating: “We learned during the recent Ed board interviews, that the State’s Attorney participated in with Mr. O’Brien, that he will instead use the time for Trump-like name calling and fear mongering,” Sims wrote. “During this nationwide crisis, she will not sit across the stage from a Republican that exploits tragedy to win a campaign. We had plenty of that last night. Voters deserve better.”
O’Brien issued his own statement, saying: “This campaign is one of the most important and high-profile races in the state. It is my belief that voters deserve to know the substantial differences between the candidates. I am ready and eager to debate Ms. Foxx on the record. After last night’s chaotic presidential debate, the voters of Cook County want and deserve nothing less than a real debate on the issues.” My Tribune colleague Alice Yin has the details here.
The Tribune’s Dan Petrella and Rick Pearson write: “Kifowit is one of a handful of House Democrats who have called for Madigan’s resignation since Commonwealth Edison admitted to federal prosecutors earlier this year that it engaged in a yearslong bribery scheme aimed at currying favor with the speaker."
Kifowit said she sees the controversy swirling around Madigan as “an opportunity to move into a new future, where residents can be proud again of our state, and have faith in their elected officials to do the right thing.” Madigan, who chairs the state Democratic Party, says he’s just focused on the election.
Petrella and Pearson add: “(Her) decision to challenge Madigan a month before the election puts vulnerable House Democrats and Democratic candidates, particularly in the suburbs, in an even more awkward position leading up to the election — whether to back Madigan, her or someone else."
“It is a question many were hoping to wait out until after the election despite repeated attacks by Republicans on the issue. But her run provides new fuel to the issue.” Read the full story here.
Three Illinois House Republicans push to subpoena Madigan to testify before legislative investigative committee: The House speaker has begged off of a request to appear before the special House committee convened to examine his conduct amid the alleged ComEd alleged bribery scheme. Today, three GOP members held a news conference to announce they’ve drafted subpoenas that would compel the House speaker to testify. Those drafts have been sent to the special committee’s chair, Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, a Democrat. The Sun-Times' Rachel Hinton has the story here.
Embattled video gambling owner was in line for $2.5 million, taxpayer-funded windfall by flipping land. Now it’s off the table: Read the Tribune story here.
Chicago City Hall: Chicago aldermen to consider rolling back part of city’s elected official lobbying ban - The Tribune’s John Byrne has the details here.
When the doors opened in downtown Chicago, the line snaked past North Dearborn Street and almost reached West Randolph Street. Voters, wrapped in coats as the first chill of fall crept in, brought foldable lawn chairs and books to pass the time until the doors opened. Alice Yin has the details here.
Across the region: Early voting started last week in DuPage, Lake, Kane, Kendall, McHenry and Will counties, and some voters reported facing hourslong wait times because of the large number of people who came out to cast their ballots in person, Yin notes in her piece. Election officials reported Wednesday that the state was approaching 2 million vote-by-mail applications.
Politico sightings: “Two-time mayoral candidate and businessman Willie Wilson also strolled around the line before polls opened, bumping fists with people who recognized him,” Yin notes, adding: “He is running a third-party challenge against U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, but not everyone seemed to be aware.”
Also former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was on the scene.
Other news: US appeals court blocks Trump from shutting down census early - But a firm deadline hasn’t been set. Read the story here.
The White House is floating a $1.6 trillion aid package that includes a $400-per-week pandemic jobless benefit in a last-ditch, pre-election negotiation, the Associated Press is reporting.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the administration is still far short on aid to state and local governments. And she said she won’t agree to take half a loaf now.
The Democrats' plan calls for reviving a $600-per-week pandemic jobless benefit and sending a second round of direct payments to most individuals. It would scale back an aid package to state and local governments to a still-huge $436 billion, send a whopping $225 billion to colleges and universities, and deliver another round of subsidies to businesses under the Paycheck Protection Program.
It also contains $3.6 billion to assist voting during the pandemic, $15 billion for the Postal Service and additional billions for treatment and vaccines. Read the full Associated Press story here.
Also: Airlines would get another $25 billion in aid to prevent a wave of layoffs expected this week.
In Illinois, 2,166 new COVID-19 cases, 25 more deaths: Read the updates here.
Cook County Board commissioner tests positive for COVID-19: Alice Yin has the story here.
Chicago ‘Tamale Guy’ Claudio Velez discharged from hospital after monthlong stay for COVID-19: My terrific Tribune colleague Louisa Chu has the details here.
Chicago won’t cancel Halloween, but Mayor Lightfoot has some rules: The Tribune’s Gregory Pratt and Alice Yin have the details here.
Christkindlmarket cancels outdoor holiday markets in Chicago, Milwaukee; will begin selling online instead Nov. 1: My Tribune colleague Abdel Jimenez has the story here.
Illinois launches small business COVID safety program to help workers and customers returning to the office: The Tribune’s Robert Channick has the details here.
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