The Spin: Pritzker says ‘Yes’ it’s time for Madigan to be replaced as Democratic Party Chair | What’s next for Ken Griffin? | Oberweis launches ‘recount fund,’ Underwood confident in tight congressional race

Lisa Donovan, Chicago Tribune

A day after U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin made state Democratic Party Chair Michael Madigan the fall guy for two key losses in Tuesday’s night’s election, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said it’s time for someone else to run the state party.

They’re the strongest words yet from two of the state’s most powerful politicians about Madigan, whose muscle has sagged since the summer, when he was linked to a federal corruption investigation involving utility giant ComEd. Republicans worked to make hay of it in the run-up to the election, bankrolling ads tying him to Democratic causes, and candidates up and down the ballot.

Madigan, who’s been virtually out of sight for weeks now, has not been accused of wrongdoing. But the scandal is likely to test whether he can retain his iron grip as Illinois House speaker. The chamber will hold a regularly scheduled vote in January.

Ken Griffin, the Chicago billionaire and Illinois’ wealthiest resident, put millions into sinking Pritzker’s signature graduated income tax proposal and defeating Democratic Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride’s bid for another 10 years on the bench. Both could reshape the state’s political and judicial landscape, making Griffin one of the big election night winners, even if he wasn’t on the ballot.

So what’s next for Griffin? Could there be a rematch of billionaires in the 2022 Illinois governor’s race? Griffin’s team declined to answer.

We’re still waiting on a handful of states still counting ballots to find out whether President Donald Trump will win a second term or if Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden, who’s leading right now, takes the reins. Read the latest here and updated election results here.

But this is what we do know: Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she isn’t exiting City Hall for a job in the Department of Justice if Biden wins the presidency. When asked about speculation over the matter today, she said: “I’m not going anywhere. I have the one job in public service that I want.” Earlier this week, Pritzker also was asked whether he was being courted for a job in the potential Biden administration, and he said “no.”

Welcome to The Spin.

After Durbin criticizes Madigan over Democratic losses in Illinois, Pritzker says longtime House speaker should step down as Democratic Party chairman

From the Tribune’s Dan Petrella and Rick Pearson: "After the defeat of his signature policy initiative, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday said Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan should no longer be in charge of the state Democratic Party.

“Although he’s said Madigan should answer questions about ComEd’s admission that it engaged in a yearslong bribery scheme to try to win the speaker’s favor, Pritzker previously has stopped short of questioning his role as the head of the state party.” Read the story here.

Pritzker’s comments come a day after Durbin, fresh from a reelection victory, blamed Madigan for key election losses during an appearance on WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight”: “Candidates who had little or no connection with him whatsoever were being tarred as Madigan allies who are behind corruption and so forth and so on. It was really disconcerting to see the price that we paid on that. I hope he takes that to heart and understands that his presence as chairman of our party has not helped.”

Petrella and Pearson point out that Durbin didn’t directly call for Madigan to resign, Pritzker was asked at his daily coronavirus briefing today whether he agrees “with Sen. Durbin that we need new leadership at the party.”

“Yes,” Pritzker said.

What’s Ken Griffin’s next move?

Here’s what Griffin had to say in a written statement after bankrolling a successful effort to derail Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax amendment: “The citizens of Illinois have delivered a clear message to our political leaders in Springfield. Now is the time to enact long overdue reforms to save our state from fiscal ruin. Illinois should forever be a place where people want to live, work and raise a family."

While Pritzker said his proposal to switch to a graduated rate tax system would make the state’s wealthiest residents, such as Griffin, pay more, Republicans and their benefactors balked, saying it could drive businesses and residents out of state.

Griffin, the founder and CEO of Chicago-based Citadel, a hedge fund and investment group, and worth an estimated $15 billion, also put up money to dump Kilbride.

So what’s next?

When I asked Griffin’s spokesman about whether he’ll challenge Pritzker — an heir to the Hyatt Hotels fortune and worth an estimated $3.4 billion — in the 2022 gubernatorial race, the reply back was “no further comment.”

For now, Griffin and other Republicans' winning efforts Tuesday could have a ripple effect on the political landscape and reshape the state’s top court.

Justice Kilbride’s loss could change the philosophical balance on Supreme Court: The Tribune’s Ray Long noted in a piece this week that the retention campaign was pivotal because Republicans view the Kilbride seat as their best chance to eventually knock Democrats out of a 4-3 majority on the state’s high court. Kilbride’s term ends next month, and the court could seek an interim appointment through next year, when his replacement will be decided at the ballot box. One scenario Republicans envisioned is that the six remaining justices — three from each party — deadlock on a temporary Kilbride replacement. That would keep the court evenly balanced until the 2022 election, a race in a nonpresidential year that Republicans hope to win.

Kilbride, of the Third Judicial District, is the first sitting member of the state’s highest court to lose a bid for retention.

The tax amendment’s failure shows a chink in Pritzker’s armor, erodes confidence in Madigan — the state’s two top Democrats: Christopher Mooney, a political scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told the Tribune’s Pearson that the election results show Pritzker is not “a dominating figure” despite pouring $58 million of his personal wealth into the pro-amendment campaign.

Related: “There may be one Republican considering a Pritzker challenge — state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington, who ran unsuccessfully in the GOP primary in 2006 and won the nomination but lost narrowly to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in 2010,” the Tribune’s Rick Pearson writes. Yesterday, Brady announced he was stepping down as Senate Republican leader — but not from politics. Downstate ABC-TV affiliate WSIL is reporting that Republican Sens. Jason Barickman of Bloomington and Dan McConchie of suburban Lake Zurich are top candidates to fill the post.

Oberweis announces “recount fund” as he maintains razor-thin edge on Democratic U.S. Rep. Underwood in 14th Congressional District race

The Tribune’s Patrick O’Connell writes: “With a razor-thin lead, Republican Jim Oberweis claimed victory Wednesday in the 14th Congressional District campaign against first-term Rep. Lauren Underwood.

“But with an undetermined number of mail-in votes still to be counted, the incumbent Democrat said it is premature for anyone to declare victory. The candidates are separated by a mere 895 votes after the tallies of the votes received and counted so far, according to unofficial results.”

Today, the Oberweis campaign announced a “recount fund” “to defend against any and all Democrat attempts to undermine the integrity of this election.”

If Underwood, a first-term Democrat who flipped a Republican seat in 2018, wins, it would underscore the west and northwest suburban and exurban district’s move to the left. An Oberweis victory might suggest 2018 was a blip.

As Republicans mount legal challenges to presidential results, hundreds march through the Loop demanding all votes be counted: Read the Tribune story here.

Gov. Pritzker considers further restrictions as state reports biggest one-day count of new COVID-19 cases; also sees biggest spike in unemployment claims in U.S.

The COVID-19-related death toll in Illinois surpassed 10,000 today with the daily count of new cases again hitting a new high of 9,935, as the resurgence of the virus continues to escalate. Pritzker is warning that unless we turn a corner, tighter business and other restrictions could be in the offing.

During an afternoon news conference, the governor said local elected leaders and law enforcement must ensure that businesses are adhering to regulations aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.

“When the don’t enforce them, people die,” Pritzker said.

As my colleague Jamie Munks notes in her story: With 86,015 tests conducted over a 24-hour period, the seven-day statewide positivity rate for new cases as a share of the total tests conducted was 9.1% for the period ending Wednesday, up from 7.3% a week earlier and up from 3.5% on Oct. 1.

“We’re heading down a very, very dark path toward where we were at last spring,” the governor told reporters.

From the Tribune’s Abdel Jimenez: Illinois reported the biggest weekly increase in initial claims for unemployment benefits in the country, according to the U.S. Labor Department. More than 53,000 initial claims were filed in Illinois for the week ending Oct. 24, an increase of 6,190 from the week before.

Michigan had the second largest weekly increase, with 5,442 more initial claims filed during the same time period, according to the Labor Department. Read the full story here.

Sangamon County judge dismisses lawsuits challenging Gov. Pritzker’s coronavirus restrictions and orders, the Tribune’s Jamie Munks reports.

Mayor Lightfoot announces $10M grant program for bars, restaurants struggling with COVID-19 shutdown. Read the full story from the Tribune’s John Byrne and Gregory Pratt here.

From the Tribune’s John Byrne: Summertime 2021 is a distant mirage in Chicago, but if you’re making warm weather plans to help you get through the winter, don’t put Taste of Chicago or the Air and Water Show in your calendar.

With the COVID-19 pandemic expected to continue making large public gatherings dangerous for the foreseeable future, the city has not budgeted next year to run either of the big summer events that draw huge crowds to the lakefront. Read the full story here.

Other city news: Aldermen question special downtown taxing district for Mag Mile area that suffered looting - The Tribune’s Byrne also reports that a city-sponsored special downtown business tax to help pay for security for businesses hit by summer looting ran into turbulence from aldermen who said

Mayor Lightfoot’s planning director doesn’t work with them enough on projects in their wards. Read the story here.

City fixes curbless Depression-era streets that led to Chicago alderman’s no vote on Obama Presidential Center, the Tribune’s Gregory Pratt reports.

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Twitter @byldonovan


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