Dear Santa,

As I look back on things, I realized that you've been pretty darned good to me over the years. You brought me that electric guitar I wanted when I was nine, the telescope I begged for when I was 10, the Daisy Pump-Action BB gun with scope I craved when I was 11, etc., etc., etc.

As I grew older, your presents became more sophisticated. Stereos, vacations, computers, cell phones, fine Irish whiskey. I've just been overwhelmed by your generosity and thoughtfulness. I can't imagine what I've done to deserve your grand beneficence throughout these many years, but, trust me on this one: I've appreciated every gift you've bestowed upon me.

In fact, Santa, you've been so overwhelmingly kind that I hope this year you turned your attention to others and showered them with presents instead. Here's my list of what some people need.

After losing five state Senate seats and ending up on the wrong end of a veto-proof majority, there's bound to be a lot of second-guessing and finger-pointing. But Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson probably did himself no favors by going to Europe for 10 days just a month before the November election.

The consensus among insiders seems to be that the departure of Deputy Governor Bradley Tusk this month will mean a less-confrontational administration in the coming years.

Governor Rod Blagojevich has always been someone who thrives on controversy, and Tusk - a young, brash New Yorker - did his level best to keep that spark alive each and every day. Tusk had no history in politics here and never had any intention of ever working in Illinois after he left the administration, so he wasn't all that particular about whose toes he was stepping on. And it showed.

Political columnists usually focus on the dark side of politics, but indulge me today while I say goodbye to three of the best legislators I've ever had the pleasure to know.

All three are hard-working, honest pioneers. Senator Adeline Geo-Karis (R-Zion), born in Tegeas, Greece, was the first woman in Illinois history to become a member of Senate leadership. Senator Miguel del Valle (D-Chicago), born in Puerto Rico, was the first Latino elected to the Illinois Senate and the first Latino to make it to a leadership slot. Senator George Shadid (D-Peoria), born to immigrant parents from Lebanon, was the first Lebanese-American ever elected to the Senate and was also the first Lebanese-American to make it to a Senate leadership position.

Geo-Karis ("Geo" to her friends) lost her primary last spring, del Valle was appointed Chicago City Clerk last week (another Latino first), and Shadid is retiring.

Illinois Democrats won a historic victory at the polls this month. Not since the Franklin Roosevelt landslide of 1936 have Democrats controlled every statewide office, both chambers of the General Assembly, and the Illinois Supreme Court.

But you'd never know it if you were in Springfield last week. Instead of bringing them closer together, the landslide has driven them further apart.

Last week's election gave Illinois Senate President Emil Jones more bragging rights than anyone else at the Statehouse.

Jones' Democrats picked up five seats on Tuesday, giving them one more than the minimum needed for a veto-proof majority. Jones' 37 seats compare to just 22 for the Senate Republicans.

To say that the Senate Republicans are now irrelevant for at least the next two years would be putting it mildly. The Senate Republicans won't be able to stop anything, including bills for new state construction-bond programs, which require a minimum of 36 votes.

Some of the last radio ads aired by Governor Rod Blagojevich's campaign were just about a perfect microcosm of the entire governor's race.

And if, as expected, Blagojevich won Tuesday's election - the Reader goes to press before the polls close - the ads show how to effectively twist an opponent's words.

"Listen as Judy Baar Topinka runs down those who honor our veterans," began one ad.

"I'm a veteran. Served in Vietnam. Proud of my service. I was shocked by what Judy Baar Topinka said. Running down people who honor our soldiers," started the other.

Corrupt political insider Stu Levine was hit with so many federal indictments earlier this year that he was literally facing a life sentence behind bars.

Last week, he copped a plea that will let him walk free after five years and seven months in what will probably be a minimum-security prison - in exchange for his cooperation.

We can discern one of two things from this: (1) Much of the federal case was weak, and letting Levine off relatively easy was a face-saving move by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald; or (2) Levine has agreed to help the feds reel in some very big fish and used that prospect to negotiate a much better deal.

We had yet another strange polling surprise when Rasmussen, a national pollster, decided to take another poll on the governor's race because its last one had been conducted just before Tony Rezko's indictment.

As expected, Governor Rod Blagojevich's support dropped since his pal, confidante, and mega-fundraiser was indicted by the feds. Blagojevich went from 49 percent in the pre-indictment Rasmussen poll down to 44 percent a week later. But Judy Baar Topinka's backing dropped even more, from 43 down to 36. Rod fell five and Judy fell seven. What the heck?

As with George Ryan before him, I'm really finding it difficult to believe that Governor Rod Blagojevich is as clueless as he claims.

Blagojevich says he had absolutely no idea that Tony Rezko was up to no good. Rezko is a very close friend of the governor who raised millions of dollars for his campaign, put lots of people into important positions in Blagojevich's administration, and was a business partner with Mrs. Blagojevich for eight years.

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