The Spin: Gov. Pritzker signs criminal justice overhaul | Michael Madigan resigns as Illinois Democratic Party chair | Ald. Reilly attacked outside downtown bar

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Lisa Donovan, Chicago Tribune
·11 min read
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Embattled former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has all but left state politics, announcing today he’s stepping down as Democratic Party chair.

It comes a month after he was deposed by Democratic colleagues as speaker, less than a week after he resigned from his legislative seat and the day after he told reporters he wasn’t sure how long he’d remain the state Democratic Party boss.

The move follows a federal public corruption investigation swirling in Madigan’s orbit. His onetime closest confidant and former ComEd executives have been indicted as part of a scheme in which federal prosecutors allege money and do-nothing jobs went to Madigan’s allies in exchange for help with state legislation.

Madigan has not been charged with any wrongdoing and has denied knowledge of the alleged scheme involving Commonwealth Edison, which has pleaded not guilty and agreed to pay a $200 million fine.

After serving a half century in the General Assembly, Madigan was matter-of-fact over the weekend when asked whether he was frustrated about how his political career had fallen: “I’ve always had a very realistic view of service in government and politics.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker today signed into law a massive criminal justice overhaul that abolishes cash bail beginning in 2023, the Tribune’s Dan Petrella reports.

While proponents say this bridges some of the socioeconomic divides in the legal system, some law enforcement groups have panned the measure.

Meantime, downtown Chicago Ald. Brendan Reilly said he was attacked last week outside a bar in his ward, my Tribune colleagues John Byrne and Annie Sweeney report. It comes at a time when the city has seen a spike in violent crime. Reilly said he didn’t call police because he didn’t require medical attention, but it’s a cautionary tale to be “vigilant.”

Activist Jahmal Cole, founder of My Block, My Hood, My Chicago is considering a run for Congress in the 2022 midterm elections — possibly challenging longtime Chicago U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, according to election paperwork filed this week.

And it’s Election Day tomorrow in suburban Cook County and across the region. But some election officials are concerned that the weather and voter fatigue may keep people away.

Welcome to The Spin.

Pritzker signs sweeping criminal justice bill into law

Here’s what the criminal justice bill Gov. Pritzker just signed into law would do: It “will abolish cash bail in Illinois beginning in 2023, require police officers statewide to wear body cameras by 2025, eliminate requirements for signing sworn affidavits when filing complaints against officers, and create a more robust statewide system for tracking police misconduct and decertifying officers who commit wrongdoing,” Dan Petrella writes.

“The package has the backing of organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, advocates for domestic violence victims, and even some prosecutors, including Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx,” Petrella notes.

“But police unions and leadership organizations, including the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association, have broadly criticized the changes.” Read the story here.

A closer look at the governor’s budget proposal last week: “Pritzker wants to close $932 million of what he called ‘corporate tax loopholes’ to help Illinois balance its budget after the fiscal ruins of COVID-19, but the controversial proposal comes as cities and states gear up to attract jobs and strengthen an economy battered by the pandemic,” the Tribune’s Ryan Ori and Lauren Zumbach write.

“The biggest chunk of the additional revenue Pritzker is seeking would come from a proposal to limit to $100,000 the amount of net operating losses a company can deduct from its tax liability, so the amount due the state would be higher,” they explain. Read the full story here.

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Three take-aways from Sunday’s Madigan-led hearing to pick his replacement in the state legislature

From the Tribune’s Dan Petrella: “Former longtime Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan resigned as chairman of the state Democratic Party on Monday, one day after anointing a 26-year-old constituent services worker to fill the legislative seat he held for a half century.”

“Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough, previously party vice chair, will take over on an interim basis, the party announced late Monday.”

But U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Gov. Pritzker issued a joint statement endorsing South Side Ald. Michelle Harris as the next chair.

State election law calls for the 36-member Democratic State Central Committee to meet within 30 days to select a new chair to serve for the remainder of the term.

Madigan’s current four-year term as state central committeeman ends following the March primary in 2022. And he remains a Cook County Democratic Committeeman in Chicago’s 13th Ward.

Over the weekend, Madigan bequeathed his Southwest Side House seat to 26-year-old Edward Guerra Kodatt, a bilingual outreach and budget assistant in the constituent services office run by Madigan and one of Madigan’s top Democratic Party lieutenants: 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn.

Sunday’s meeting to appoint a successor marked Madigan’s first public appearance since the man who became one of the most powerful forces in state government over his 50 years in office was forced to hand over the speaker’s gavel last month.

Two take-aways from Sunday’s Madigan-led hearing to pick his replacement:

*The selection of Kodatt wasn’t unanimous: Of the five committeepersons on the selection panel, Madigan controlled the majority of the weighted vote at 56% and threw it behind Kodatt, with the balance of support coming from Chicago Ald. Derrick Curtis, 18th, who also serves as the committeeperson, and Stickney Township Committeeperson Vince Cainkar. In all, Kodatt won 63 percent of the weighted vote.

The Tribune’s Rick Pearson notes: “State Rep. Aaron Ortiz, the 14th Ward committeeman, nominated Silvia Villa, a professor of Latino studies working in state ‘Welcoming Centers’ for immigrants, and Ald. Silvana Tabares, the 23rd Ward committeewoman, nominated Angelica Guerrero Cuellar, a Latino community services volunteer, to succeed Madigan. They lacked the needed votes and Tabares declined Madigan’s effort to make the appointment of Kodatt unanimous.” Read his deep dive here.

*Madigan’s successor was hard to pin down on the issues: After each candidate made their presentation, the committeepersons got a chance to question them. It was clear when Tabares began grilling Kodatt about everything from his legislative priorities to how he would have voted on the criminal justice bill Pritzker signed today, that he was the front-runner. He didn’t have a lot of answers, the Tribune’s Pearson noted.

Tabares also asked whether he’d handle the job differently from Madigan, to which Kodatt said: “Well, I certainly learned a lot from the former speaker and Ald. Quinn. I would obviously continue to deliver these great services and be responsive as they are to the community. But also I’m my own person. So I would deliver, you know, new ideas, new perspectives and just build on what I already know and how to deliver the services. But go down my own path.”

Merrick Garland expected to sail through confirmation hearing for attorney general post — that’s the easy part

Confirmation hearings for President Joe Biden’s attorney general nominee Merrick Garland, Chicago-born and Lincolwood raised, began today in the Senate Judiciary Committee now chaired by Illinois U.S. Sen Dick Durbin.

Illinois U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth introduced Garland, laying out his distinguished career that included an earlier stint at the Department of Justice where he lead the prosecution of Timothy McVeigh, who later would be executed for his role in the Oklahoma City bombing.

“Garland is widely expected to sail through his confirmation process with bipartisan support,” The Associated Press reports.

That’s an about-face from five years ago when the federal appeals court judge was snubbed by Republicans for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Garland’s failed nomination to the Supreme Court wasn’t far from lawmakers’ minds, with the bitter partisan feelings over the 2016 confirmation battle apparent in the hearing room,” the AP noted. “Sen. Chuck Grassley, who was chairman of the panel at the time and carried out GOP leader Mitch McConnell’s directive to block Garland from the court, defended his role, saying he took a position and ‘stuck to it.’ He then criticized Democrats over their handling of Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation.”

“Garland will face the immediate task of overseeing hundreds of cases stemming from the Capitol riot on Jan. 6 — which led to Trump’s second impeachment,” The Washington Post writes. “Democrats are likely to press him on his willingness to investigate or prosecute Trump and his allies in connection with inciting the rioters, while Republicans will seek to ensure that he wouldn’t use the Justice Department’s muscle to tamp down conservative ideas.”

Tomorrow’s primaries: Suburban Cook County races include mayoral contests in Evanston, Dolton

As noted in this newsletter before, two of the most closely watched races will be the mayoral contest in Dolton, where elections tend to be a brawl, and Evanston, which will get a brand-new mayor after incumbent Steve Hagerty decided against running again.

*Evanston races: Former Illinois state senator and onetime Democratic gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss, local activist Lori Keenan and Purdue University student Sebastian Nalls are all running to replace outgoing Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty in the consolidated primary election. The elected posts of clerk as well as 8th and 4th Ward aldermen also are on the ballot in the northern suburb.

The rules: If the mayor’s race has two or more candidates, there’s automatically a primary. A candidate wins outright with 50% plus one vote, according to Evanston election officials. But like the Chicago mayoral and aldermanic elections, if there’s a line of candidates for the seat and none of the candidates reach that threshold, then the two top vote-getters advance to a general election.

*Three candidates have lined up looking to unseat fellow Democrat and Dolton’s two-term Mayor Riley Rogers. Among them is former Chicago Ald. Robert Shaw, along with two Dolton village trustees — Andrew Holmes, a well-known community activist, and Tiffany Henyard. Dolton voters also will have to pick a clerk as well as three trustees from a candidate field of nine.

The rules: Because there are no Republicans running, whoever wins the Democratic primary will become the next mayor.

*Meantime, in west suburban Cicero, Larry Dominick, the controversial town president with staying power, is making a bid for a fifth term. With no competition on the ballot, Cook County election records show, it’s likely a foregone conclusion. Seats for clerk, supervisor, assessor, collector and trustee also are on the ballot.

*Beyond Dolton, Cicero and Evanston, here’s what voters in municipalities will see on their ballots tomorrow: In Berwyn — mayor, clerk and select aldermanic seats; in Calumet City — several aldermanic seats; in Lynwood — village president, clerk and trustee; in Riverdale — village president; in Berwyn Township — supervisor; and in Norridge — trustee. Take a closer look at who’s on the ballot tomorrow here.

*What’s on the ballot tomorrow in Waukegan, North Chicago: Stave Sadin with the Lake County News-Sun has the details here.

Activist Jahmal Cole poised to enter political arena, may challenge U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush

Chicago activist Jahmal Cole has filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to create a campaign committee to raise funds for a potential run for Congress — specifically for the Illinois 1st Congressional District seat currently held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush. The district stretches from Chicago’s South Side to the south suburbs of Cook and Will counties.

Cole’s activism ranges from leading efforts to shovel snow and delivering groceries to the homes of elderly residents to calling for peaceful protests here last summer amid the unrest over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd to setting up funds for small businesses to make repairs after their outlets were looted.

My Tribune colleague Rick Kogan has a piece out about a new documentary featuring Cole and examines his 8-year-old organization My Block, My Hood, My City, which — as Kogan writes — has an “ambitious aim to provide opportunities for the disenfranchised young people of the city’s disenfranchised neighborhoods and otherwise heal what ails us.” Read more about the documentary here.

Politico was first to report that Cole filed paperwork with the FEC.

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