The Spin: Durbin cites Tinley Park family’s medical bills during Amy Coney Barrett confirmation hearing | About Lightfoot’s ‘fly’ comment in Biden-Harris ad | Trump to attend fundraiser in Janesville this weekend
With Chicago on pace for homicide numbers it hasn’t seen in a quarter century, my Tribune colleagues take a closer look at Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s vow to reinvent crime-fighting in the city. Key to that effort, Lightfoot said as far back as her campaign days, are anti-violence organizations and other outreach groups. She reinforced that she wanted to lean on those groups in a new initiative she announced a few weeks ago.
Roughly 1 1/4 u00bd years into Lightfoot’s tenure and with Chicago on pace to see more than 750 homicides, city expenditures are relatively small. That’s drawn criticism from different corners: nonprofits in the business of interceding before escalating gang disputes turn deadly and some aldermen who’ve raised concerns about taxpayer money in any amount going toward unproven crime-fighting methods.
The Lake County Democratic Party appointed Adriane Johnson, a Chamber of Commerce and Park District leader, to the Illinois Senate seat formerly held by Terry Link, who resigned last month shortly before pleading guilty to federal income tax evasion, the Tribune’s Jamie Munks reports.
Confirmation hearings for President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett opened today, putting on display the deep political divide in the U.S. Senate that reverberates around the country.
Democrats including Illinois U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin made a futile attempt to pump the brakes on the process. Durbin joined with other Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is holding the hearings, in sharing hometown stories and photos of patients whose health care is tied to the Affordable Care Act. Durbin highlighted a family from Tinley Park.
The ACA’s fate will be taken up by the nation’s highest court days after the Nov. 3 election.
And, Trump plans visit to Janesville, Wisconsin, on Saturday
Welcome to The Spin.
As Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing gets underway, Durbin says ‘Obamacare’ helped Tinley Park family facing expensive medical care: Read the Tribune story here.
Side note — Durbin, who is up for reelection, released a new ad today calling Trump a “big bully”: The four-term senator leaves it up to a narrator to call the president the B-word. But the four-term lawmaker laid out his ongoing efforts to stymie the president’s efforts to dump Obamacare and worked to throw up roadblocks as the president shifted money — including some that Durbin said was meant for medical research — to build a wall at the U.S-Mexico border. You can watch the ad, airing on cable and broadcast networks, here. It is airing on cable and broadcast networks, the campaign said.
An expert’s take: With the public paying attention, senators speak to their constituents — not each other — during politicized SCOTUS nomination hearings
With 20 days left before the election and a president who’s bound and determined to make news on the hour, the public’s likely never been more tuned in to Senate confirmation hearings than with Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Coney Barrett, said Steven Macias, the associate dean of the law school at Southern Illinois University.
“They’re already hyper focused on the news — on what President Donald Trump is saying, not just around the issue of the Supreme Court nomination but in general,” Macias said. “Because she’s his personal pick for the Supreme Court, I think it really will focus people’s attention on this in a way that, again, they may not focus on ordinary Supreme Court nominations.”
That is all to say that this week’s hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, a precursor to a full Senate vote, is a political exercise no matter how much Republicans and Democrats clench their fists and say it shouldn’t be. Although, Macias points out, Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham’s opening comments about how the near-unanimous votes to confirm the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and conservative Antonin Scalia underscore that “in the not so distant past there was a time when these Supreme Court nominations were apolitical or nonpolitical,” Macias said.
Senate Republicans — including Graham — are feeling the heat amid criticism (and some polling) they’re shoving the nomination through after putting a brick on President Barack Obama’s nominee months before the 2016 election.
“Republicans are also in an awkward position in the sense that they’re trying to rush through the nomination. … They’re legitimately concerned about what their position will be after Election Day. And it would certainly look inappropriate or undemocratic for them to confirm a (nominee) put forth by a president who was defeated — perhaps confirmed by the votes of senators who were themselves defeated. So I think that more people than usual probably recognize the political nature of this particular nomination.”
And with a captive audience tuning in to the confirmation hearings, expect senators on the panel to ask questions of Barrett that are more about courting voters in the TV audience than sussing out the nominee’s experience and views.
“I think a lot of what we will see this week will be directed at the American people,” Macias said.
“Republicans and the nominee herself I think we’ll be speaking to the people trying to sell the story that Amy Coney Barrett is a well-respected lawyer and now judge who certainly has personal political, social and religious views, but that those have nothing to do with her work while wearing a robe and her work while on the court and that she simply applies the law as written.”
“I think what Democrats are hoping is that they can show from their perspective the dangers posed by the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, and maybe enough people will call their senators — especially some of the senators that are clearly vulnerable — that maybe that will get them to change their votes,” Macias said, adding a big caveat: “On the other hand, some of these senators that are vulnerable, do seem to be willing to sacrifice their seats for this” nomination.
President Trump plans to travel to Janesville on Saturday, two weeks after he canceled a rally there and in Green Bay following his positive coronavirus test, The Associated Press is reporting.
Trump’s campaign today announced a fundraiser on Saturday, with donations starting at $1,000, the AP notes. No details on public events.
Lightfoot among African American mayors in new Biden-Harris ad: As I wrote over the weekend, Mayor Lightfoot is among roughly a dozen African American mayors from around the country featured in a series of new campaign spots for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and running mate Kamala Harris reminding Black voters about the power of their voting bloc.
Biden and Democratic officials are looking to boost Black voter turnout this year in key battleground states, such as Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin, following a decline four years ago that helped sway the race from Hillary Clinton to President Donald Trump.
In a 30-second spot, Lightfoot along with a handful of African American women running some of the largest cities in America link activism to participating in the political process. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms opens the ad, saying, “Black women have always been on the front lines of social justice” from making phone calls and organizing to running for office.
For her part, Lightfoot punctuates those contributions with a chuckle-worthy, even timely, one-liner: “All while being fly.” The Biden camp scripted that remark and her spot was filmed in September, which feels like two pandemics ago in campaign years — but obviously before the vice presidential debate between Pence and Harris where a pest landed in his snow-white hair long enough to set social media on fire. Read the rest of my story here.
With tongue firmly in check, Gov. J.B. Pritzker tells President Trump where to go … see what Illinois has to offer: It came after Trump this morning rapped Illinois and two other states with Democratic governors and urged voters to give him a second term.
In rapid fire succession, the Republican president sent out three tweets starting with “California is going to hell” then “New York has gone to hell” and finally “Illinois has nowhere to go.” All three were punctuated with the phrase “Vote Trump!”
Pritzker fired back, tweeting from his political account: “While I’m surprised to see someone who slapped his name on a Chicago skyscraper say ‘Illinois has no place to go,’ I want to offer @realDonaldTrump five exciting places to go in the great state of Illinois.”
The governor starts with Chicago’s The Wiener’s Circle – whose sign regularly flings insults at the president. He then draws Republican Abraham Lincoln into it “Looking for what real presidential leadership looks like? Visit our capital city of Springfield to see Honest Abe’s home, an adjective that will never be used to describe you.” And ends with “In all seriousness to voters across America (President Trump) has failed us and continues to embarrass our nation with his petulant tweets. Make a plant vote ….” You can read the president’s tweet here and the governor’s Twitter thread here.
Speaking of hotdogs and politics, Democratic state House candidate took to Twitter to say he wanted to set the record straight after the Republican lawmaker he’s challenging sent out a mailer suggesting he wanted to do away with a Chicago institution that could end even the best of political careers. “I don’t want to take your hot dogs away ... nothing could be further from the truth,” Ken Mejia-Beal declared on Twitter. Mejia-Beal, of Lisle, is challenging first-term Republican Amy Grant, of Wheaton, for the 42nd District House seat.
Hillary Clinton, Jane Fonda among headliners at upcoming Personal PAC virtual awards luncheon: The former secretary of state and first lady, along with actor and activist Fonda, former Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx are the “special guests” at the Oct. 21 luncheon hosted by the powerful political action committee, dedicated to helping elect pro-abortion-rights candidates. Toi Hutchinson, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s top adviser on cannabis control and a former state senator, will be honored at the event. Ticket prices range from $100 to $50,000. More here. H/T Alice Yin.
Julian Castro to be keynote speaker at Cook County Democrats' fundraiser Thursday — The former Democratic presidential candidate and Obama-era U.S. housing secretary will be part of the hourlong virtual event hosted by Cook County Democratic Party Chair Toni Preckwinkle and honorary co-chair Mayor Lightfoot. More details here.
ICYMI — Opinion: Push to unseat Judge Michael Toomin is nothing but an unsupported hit led by Preckwinkle’s Dem party: The Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown touts Toomin’s 40 years on the bench, writing: “They are doing so primarily in retaliation for Toomin embarrassing State’s Attorney Kim Foxx by appointing a special prosecutor to reopen the botched Jussie Smollett investigation. The special prosecutor, former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb, further embarrassed Foxx by re-indicting Smollett and issuing a report that, surprise, said Foxx and her office botched the investigation." That’s Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown’s take. He writes: Using misinformation, half-truths and outright whoppers, the Cook County Democratic Party and a hit team of “advocates” are teaming up in an effort to remove Toomin from the bench.” Read the full column here.
Will County coroner race focuses on new morgue, COVID-19 counting method: Alicia Fabbre has the details in this Daily Southtown piece.
From the Tribune’s Dan Hinkel, Madeline Buckley, Gregory Pratt and Jeremy Gorner: "Two weeks ago, the mayor committed to leaning more on groups other than the police in a sweeping report on her plans to suppress bloodshed.
“That’s a vision for the future, but the present day finds Lightfoot in a familiar position for a Chicago mayor — mostly using police to try to turn around a violent year.”
“Pressure has built to change public safety spending, as activists incensed by police brutality have demanded that Lightfoot give less money to cops and more to services that could address the root causes of violence,” my colleagues write. But with a $1.2 billion budget gap brought on by COVID-19, it’s not clear there’s additional money out there.
Leadership, too, is in flux: A top mayoral aide on public safety, just on the job a year, announced her resignation earlier this month, days after the mayor announced a new crime-fighting initiative.
Arne Duncan, a former Chicago Public Schools CEO and later education secretary in President Barack Obama’s administration, is now running an anti-violence group and says it will take a few years to see results but that the city must commit to this effort.
Other Chicago news: National Museum of Mexican Art wins $3.5 million grant for being a ‘cultural treasure’ — My Tribune colleague Steve Johnson has the details here.
The seven-day average for new known cases reached 2,643 today, up nearly 35% from a week earlier, the Tribune’s Dan Petrella and Jamie Munks report. That’s a new high. The previous high was 2,565, set on May 4 and tied on May 7. At that time, however, statewide testing for COVID-19 was significantly lower than it is now.
Petrella and Munks note: "State health officials announced 2,742 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Monday, the sixth day in a row with more than 2,600 cases. There have now been 321,892 known cases statewide since the pandemic began. Officials also announced 13 more fatalities, bringing the statewide death toll to 8,997.
“The percentage of coronavirus tests returning positive results has been increasing in recent days. The average statewide positivity rate was 4.3% for the week ending Sunday, up from 3.4% a week earlier.” Read the rest of the story here.
CDC: Teen gave COVID-19 to 11 relatives across 4 states, including Illinois, during a family vacation. My Tribune colleague Angie Leventis Lourgos notes the case is a cautionary tale as holidays approach, experts say. Read the full story here.
Yesterday, “Gov. Pritzker came out of self-isolation, his staff said. It had been 14 days since Pritzker last had contact with a staff member who later tested positive for COVID-19, according to the governor’s office,” Petrella and Munks note.
Also: Trump’s doctor says the president has received a negative COVID-19 test as he returns to the campaign trail: - Read the Associated Press story here.
Wisconsin judge upholds Gov. Tony Evers' order requiring masks to be worn in enclosed spaces: Read The Associated Press story here.
The AP’s John O’Connor takes us back half a century, when then-Illinois Secretary of State Paul Powell unexpectedly died and days later $750,000 was discovered among his personal belongings — including a Marshall Field & Co. Christmas box — in what would become the “Shoebox Scandal,” the most notorious, unsolved political corruption mystery in Illinois history.
Money was found in a hotel and in Powell’s Capitol office. “Subsequent investigations led to the eventual imprisonment of a former governor and some of the state’s first campaign-finance disclosure laws,” O’Connor writes. Read the full story here.
Good one: “When Powell died, Adlai Stevenson III, who was the Democratic state treasurer and three weeks from being elected to the U.S. Senate, told a reporter: ‘His shoeboxes will be hard to fill.’”
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