State House: Endorsements with a Chuckle and a Shake of the Head
The Tribune dislikes Madigan, and splits its endorsements in the Southland's State House races. Hurley, Burke, Alm and Kalnicky are endorsed.
The editorial board of the Chicago Tribune prefers Democrats in the House districts serving the Chicago Southland and Republicans in the districts serving Will County. And in the 22nd District — a democracy-free zone and the stomping ground of House Speaker Michael Madigan — they see nothing to like.
Why? For one, Mike Madigan's Republican opponent is a longtime Democrat. Never mind what his name is. It doesn't matter.
In the 35th, the Trib endorses Fran Hurley, a 19th Ward cutout who worked for Ginger Rugai and Matt O'Shea, over Republican Ricardo Fernandez, of Orland Park, a physical therapist with a doctorate who's taught full time at Northwestern University and Governors State University. When Patch asked Fernandez what sets him apart from his opponent (who didn't bother to answer any questions posed to her) he said: "Unlike my opponent, I actually live in the district I am seeking to represent. The district has been home to me for the past 21 years and I have developed deep community roots and know the issues that are important to my neighbors."
The paper blasts Madigan in its "there's no choice here" take on the 22nd House, and in the next schizophrenic breath acknowledges that the Machine pulled every trick in the book to keep Fernandez off the ballot in the 35th.
In the 36th, the Tribune backs Democrat Kelly Burke for re-election, noting prominently that she bumped off a hand-picked Madigan candidate in the 2010 primary and then failing to note entirely that, after going to Springfield, she fell right in line. She faces Republican Bob Shelstrom, of Palos Park, a frequent candidate who has a lot to say about a lot of things.
In the 86th, the Trib says "hey, let the voters decide, not insiders" in picking the Republican Ryan Alm. (Hey, that same logic could've applied to the 35th!) And in the 98th, the Trib picks Bob Kalnicky, marveling that he's somewhat of a novelty in being a Republican who ran a non-profit.
22nd District: House Speaker Michael Madigan was first elected to the Illinois House in 1970 and became speaker in 1983. He's controlled the House for all but two years since then. In short, he has presided over nearly every bad decision that brought Illinois to its current mess, chasing employers away with higher taxes, watching its credit rating plunge, squeezing money out of valued social services. He is running against Robert Handzik, a 13th Ward denizen who faithfully voted in Democratic primaries until this year when he mysteriously filed to run as a Republican. He's one more Madigan plant to protect the speaker from the fuss of a real election. Voters have no real choice. No endorsement.
35th District: Democrats pulled every lever to make sure Fran Hurley, a first-time candidate anointed by the 19th Ward, ran unopposed. In the end, it didn't work. Republicans were able to keep Ricardo Fernandez of Orland Park, a physical therapist, on the ballot. The Democrats challenged the validity of the signatures he collected, but a court ruled in his favor last month. Both candidates say pensions must be changed. No more gold-plated retirements; no more double dipping. We wish Hurley was more specific on her plans if elected, but she says she would allow the 2011 personal income tax increase to expire as scheduled and roll back corporate tax rates to jump-start job creation. She is endorsed.
36th District: Rep. Kelly Burke of Evergreen Park won a difficult Democratic primary two years ago against one of Speaker Michael Madigan's top candidates. Not many incumbents can say they fended off the Madigan machine. She offers several solid ideas to reform the pension system, including ensuring the money saved through reform goes directly to pay off the state's liabilities. She faces Republican Bob Shelstrom, a Palos Park engineer. Shelstrom is a budget whiz who ran for school board seats several times in the southwest suburbs. He's a true fiscal conservative and we wish he were running in a different district. Burke has earned a second term. She is endorsed.
86th District: It will be a tough road for Ryan Alm, a Joliet Republican, to win this heavily Democratic district. He faces Larry Walsh Jr., the son of Will County Executive Larry Walsh. Democrats appointed Walsh Jr. to the seat in May when Rep. Jack McGuire stepped down. McGuire's nephew, Pat McGuire, landed a similar appointment to the Senate when A.J. Wilhelmi resigned midterm. Walsh Sr. appointed himself to the Senate seat in 1997 before he was elected county executive. Here's an idea: How about voters decide the next representative, not insiders? We endorse Alm, who offers realistic solutions to get the state's budget on track.
98th District: Bob Kalnicky, a Republican from Bolingbrook, would bring a unique perspective to the General Assembly. He oversees a nonprofit counseling agency, the Community Service Council, which recently received state money to launch a foreclosure prevention program. He says he'll transition out of the job if elected and become a full-time legislator. His perspective from the nonprofit world would be useful; he knows how grant funds can be wasted and how to ensure accountability. Our assignment for Kalnicky: Scrutinize every penny that flows from the state to nonprofit providers. Kalnicky faces Democrat Natalie Manley, an accountant from Joliet who also would turn a watchful eye toward state spending. But Kalnicky is more aggressive on reforming the state's pension system immediately. Kalnicky gets the nod.
And if you’ve been looking for the Sun-Times endorsements, the tabloid stopped doing that this year. The paper says you can make up your mind without its help.
Do newspaper endorsements influence your vote? Do you appreciate their arguments and insight or dismiss them as biased shilling? Did the Tribune make the right call?
Share your views in the comments.