Republicans have waited a long time for some good news in this state, and it finally arrived last week. U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald announced he wouldn't run for re-election, and former Governor Jim Edgar hinted that he just might enter the race.

The cacophony of angry voices has started rising to a fever pitch in the wake of Governor Rod Blagojevich's state budget address last Wednesday. Most of the complaining is coming from three areas: riverboat owners; elementary and secondary educators; and higher-education institutions.

A new source of cash fell into the laps of Springfield lobbyists this past week.

Several New York-based stock-trading firms have hired statehouse lobbyists. But they don't want the lobbyists to lobby for or against anything.

The state's new deputy governor, 29-year-old New York native Bradley Tusk, evidently has a lot to learn. Tusk was appointed to the important job not long ago even though he has absolutely no Illinois political experience and has never managed anything larger than a tiny staff.

You might have heard that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich wants to "re-finance" some state debt, which will supposedly free up $1.9 billion to help close the state's massive $4.8-billion budget deficit.

But the media coverage of this plan has been ill-informed, at best, mainly because the governor has done a good job of obfuscating the issue.

Back in the day, Ray Frias was one of the sharpest political operators at the Illinois statehouse.

The Chicago south-sider was first elected to the Illinois House in 1992 after securing the unlikely support of the Illinois State Medical Society, a usually Republican-leaning group with very deep pockets.

The general reaction to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's appointment of Bradley Tusk as his new deputy governor to replace Doug Scofield is not exactly drawing rave reviews.

Scofield resigned as deputy governor to "spend more time with his family" after less than two months on the job.

Just when you think you've seen it all, Pat Quinn hits the mute button - a device nobody ever thought he possessed.

Lieutenant Governor Quinn, a self-styled consumer activist, has for well over 20 years raged against the political clout wielded by the company formerly known as Ameritech, then Ameritech/SBC, and now just plain ol' SBC.

Illinois State Representative Julie Hamos (D-Chicago) begged me last week not to make her out to be some kind of lone-wolf hero or get her in trouble with her fellow legislators. But what she did rates a notice.

Just one month into his term as governor, Rod Blagojevich has already alienated legislators and other politicians who should be completely in his corner.

Last Tuesday, a group of 20 elected African-American officials from Chicago's west side, including U.

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