Ten years in the minority often frustrated the Illinois Senate Democrats to no end. They would sponsor bills that had passed the House with huge bipartisan majorities - and often with significant public support - only to watch them quietly die in the Senate Rules Committee, which was controlled with an iron fist by the Republicans.

Every now and then it might be healthy for a reporter/columnist to get slammed in the media and have his motives and integrity questioned. It could be a humbling experience for those of us who make our livings routinely and cynically questioning the motives and integrity of others.

Every new governor has problems getting started. But Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has had to learn some hard lessons during his first two weeks on the job.

Most of the problems center around Blagojevich's penchant for absolute secrecy.

As you might have observed by now, Illinois governor-elect Rod Blagojevich promoted himself last year in an almost presidential manner. As soon as the election was over, a sympathetic scribe or two in the media even suggested that our governor-elect might have some presidential material in him.

Some top Illinois Republicans are making a lot of noise lately about finding a candidate to run against Senator Peter Fitzgerald, a fellow member of the GOP, in two years. But is their publicity barrage against the incumbent freshman a warning that he faces defeat, or is it just a shot across his bow to remind him that he needs to start being more cooperative in Washington, or, at least, be a little more quiet?

Whatever.

You've probably heard by now that Illinois Governor George Ryan has ordered almost all state agencies under his control to come up with 2-percent budget cuts.

The idea is to find $250 million in savings to make up for a drop in state revenues.

From the totally pro-life Jim Ryan, to the tough-talking, pro-life, pro-gun prosecutor Joe Birkett, to the "Let's attack Iraq today!" U.S. Senate candidate Jim Durkin, the right wing got its head handed to it last week in Illinois.

You'd think that all four state legislative leaders would have busted their humps this fall to win every possible race.

But it actually looked like a couple of those leaders threw some races, albeit for different reasons.

No real drama was expected out of Illinois House campaigns this year.

The Democrats have a lock on the chamber. A combination of a new and loss-proof legislative-district map and the political might of House Speaker Michael Madigan's campaign operation guarantee that the Republicans can't take the House for the next 10 years - barring a cataclysmic political event that would have to surpass the Great 1994 Republican Landslide.

I have been writing about Illinois politics for more than 12 years now, and, believe it or not, I've never called anyone a liar. That's a pretty harsh thing to say about someone, even a politician. But I'm starting to wonder whether Republican attorney general candidate Joe Birkett is capable of telling the truth.

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