The Spin: Duckworth, Quigley now leaning on Madigan | Pritzker in self-isolation after COVID-19 exposure | Will we have a winner soon? | Near record voter turnout and partisan divide

Lisa Donovan, Chicago Tribune
·7 min read

Pundits say the nation may be closing in on a decision in the presidential election that, for now, shows Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden ahead of Republican President Donald Trump by the narrowest of margins in Georgia and Pennsylvania, key battleground states.

No matter who you’re rooting for, here’s something we can all celebrate: Voter turnout for Tuesday’s election is expected to be one of the largest on record in the nation, says Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political science professor who runs the United States Elections Project, which tracks voter turnout. And it wasn’t because of a Democratic wave of voters some had predicted, McDonald said.

“You can’t have one political party showing up to vote and see these kinds of numbers. It was Democrats and Republicans — and I think that’s the main story,” McDonald says.

Add U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth and U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley to the small chorus of Illinois Democrats nudging state lawmaker Michael Madigan to exit his dual posts as state party leader and state House speaker. While Duckworth said it’s time to consider putting someone else in those leadership roles, Quigley said Madigan has “stayed too long,” and criticized him for getting in the way of government reforms.

And Gov. J.B. Pritzker will go into isolation after a potential exposure to COVID-19, his office announced a short time ago. It comes after a briefing at the downtown Thompson Center state office building. The governor has been tested for the virus and once the result comes back, it will be made public, his office said.

Welcome to The Spin.

What near record voter turnout nationally says about partisan divide

Very preliminary voting data from Tuesday shows 160 million or just under 70% of eligible voters cast a ballot in the United States — the highest turnout rate in 120 years, according to the Election Project’s McDonald.

Illinois numbers show 6.1 million cast a ballot, representing just over 67% of eligible voters in the state, according to preliminary data he obtained from election officials here.

“This is an unprecedented number — better than 2016 and the highest turnout rate we’ve seen since the turn of the last century,” McDonald tells The Spin.

There’s plenty of discussion about the country’s political divisions, and McDonald says that could have been a driver in turnout.

“We focus a lot on the presidential race, but you look at some of the unexpected results down-ballot and I think we’re probably not as divided as the stereotypical characterizations that are out there.”

Add U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley to list of Democrats nudging Madigan

“We need a new speaker, and we need a new head of the Democratic Party,” U.S. Rep. Quigley said on WLS-AM’s “Connected to Chicago” politics podcast, released today.

The North Side Democrat said that when he was a Cook County commissioner over a decade ago he tried to pass some government reform packages that needed legislative backing that seemingly stalled in the House.

“I always felt that progress was impaired by the speaker, and I continue to believe that,” Quigley said, saying that the two have had differences and that he’s spoken up about it in the past. “It’s my own personal beliefs because of policy differences I have had with the speaker on government and politics — I wished he would have done something else and left it to someone else decades ago.”

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who was a contender to be Joe Biden’s running mate, was a bit more reserved in a statement: “The ongoing investigation surrounding Speaker Madigan is an unnecessary distraction and makes it harder to carry out the work of helping the people of Illinois. As our nation hopefully embarks on a brighter path with a new president, the Illinois Democratic Party and the Illinois House of Representatives should consider new leadership to continue the progress we’ve made at the state level and build on it.”

Her comments were first reported by the The State Journal-Register.

Madigan said in a statement yesterday he’s not going anywhere. His statements came after U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Gov. J.B. Pritzker blamed Madigan for some of the key losses at the ballot box on Tuesday. Madigan has been under fire by some within his own party since federal prosecutors in July released a deferred prosecution agreement in which ComEd admitted awarding jobs, payments and contracts to Madigan associates in an attempt to win his support for favorable legislation.

As House speaker he sets the legislative agenda, often deciding what issues live and die. And as Democratic Party boss he’s amassed a huge campaign war chest that practically demands loyalty from those in his party who want to keep winning elections. Read my full story here.

State Rep. Marty Moylan, of Des Plaines, blasted Madigan’s critics for resorting to “the same old political games.”

In a statement, he wrote: “As a Democrat who has faced difficult races and won by being upfront with people, I want to be very clear: To criticize Chairman Madigan while Democrats continue to compete and win in districts that Republicans have held for decades is absurd.”

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State Sen. Dan McConchie, of suburban Hawthorn Woods, replacing Brady as GOP caucus leader

A day after Illinois Senate Republican leader Bill Brady of Bloomington, a longtime legislator and former candidate for governor, announced he’d step down as caucus leader in the new year, the Senate Republicans on Thursday chose state Sen. Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods as their new leader.

McConchie was appointed to fill the seat vacated by former Sen. Dan Duffy of Lake Barrington when he retired in 2016 and was elected to a full term that fall. He was reelected for his current term in 2018.

Joining McConchie’s leadership team as deputy leader will be Sen. Sue Rezin of Morris, who ran unsuccessfully in the March GOP primary in the 14th Congressional District.

When the new General Assembly takes office in January, McConchie may be leading a Republican caucus with one fewer member.

According to unofficial election results, Democrat Karina Villa of West Chicago is leading in the race to replace GOP state Sen. Jim Oberweis of Sugar Grove, who ran for Congress in the 14th District rather than seeking reelection. If those results hold, Democrats likely will have a 41-18 majority in the state Senate. (Dan Petrella)

COVID-Another record number of new COVID-19 cases in state

The Tribune’s Dan Petrella reports: Illinois health officials reported a record number of new coronavirus cases for the second straight day on Friday, with newly confirmed infections topping 10,000 for the first time.

The state is now averaging more than 7,900 newly confirmed cases per day over the past week. A week ago, the seven-day average was just under 5,500 cases per day. The new number, however, comes as the state on Friday began reporting both test confirmed and probable cases of the coronavirus in its daily count, based on guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read the full story here.

In a departure from his message in recent weeks, the governor yesterday said he is now considering tougher statewide restrictions to curb the latest resurgence of the coronavirus. Up to now, he had said he would enact tough restrictions on a region by region basis, my Tribune colleague Jamie Munks reported.

Sangamon County judge dismisses lawsuits challenging Pritzker’s coronavirus orders: The plaintiffs claimed COVID-19 does not fit the legal definition of public health emergency in their counties, but didn’t provide sufficient evidence to support their claim that COVID-19 does not fit the legal definition of public health emergency in their counties.

Chicago Public Schools has yet to publicly announce a date for a return to classrooms, even though yesterday marked the final day of student attendance for the virtual fall quarter beyond its plan to offer in-person learning to students in prekindergarten and special education clusters sometime before 2020 is over, the Tribune’s Hannah Leone writes.

Naperville Driver Services office closed until Nov. 19 after employee tests positive for COVID-19 — Read the story here.

RELATED-Unemployment drops to 6.9% as US adds a solid 638,000 jobs: That’s “a solid pace though far fewer than needed to regain most of the jobs lost to the pandemic recession just as new viral cases are setting record highs,” The Associated Press’ Christopher Rubarger reports. Here’s today’s report from the Labor Department is here.

While that may be good news, a reminder that Illinois is reporting the biggest spike in unemployment claims in the U.S., my Tribune colleague Abdel Jimenez reported this week.

Thanks for reading The Spin, the Tribune’s politics newsletter. Sign up here to have it delivered to your inbox weekday afternoons. Have a tip? Email host Lisa Donovan at ldonovan@chicagotribune.com.

Twitter @byldonovan

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