You could physically feel the political ground shifting last week as Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley announced he would no longer accept campaign contributions from city contractors and members of their immediate families.
The reaction by the Religious Right to the passage of a gay-rights law in Illinois has been predictably loud and aggrieved. But the law's critics have universally zeroed in on one key argument - a claim that churches and religious institutions will now be forced by the government to hire gays and lesbians.
Red Burchyett is getting his wheelchair and his job back. That's good news for Mr. Burchyett, who was laid off several weeks ago from his mechanic's job at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Politics is a numbers game. And votes, dollars, and favors are the only numbers that matter. The boys who play politics at the street level never forget their numbers. They can tell you how many votes they pulled out of Precinct 22 three elections ago, or how much money they raised for some nobody judge in '96, or the name of their neighbor's mother's cousin that they helped out of that jam that one time.
Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich tends to bring out the worst in people. A good example of this would be a malicious and false rumor that made the rounds about the governor a couple of months ago. My phone rang off the hook for days as people called to fill me in about the latest variation on the theme.
The ongoing Illinois drama over the medical-malpractice-reform debate intensified last week when President George W. Bush paid a visit to Madison County. Yes, that Madison County - the favored courtroom home to many of the nation's wealthiest trial lawyers, made universally infamous by the multi-billion-dollar class-action lawsuits filed over asbestos and Marlboro Lights, and the focus of a multi-million-dollar Supreme Court race last year that featured both candidates accusing each other of being soft on child molesters in front of a backdrop of stories about small-town hospitals closing their doors and doctors fleeing to neighboring states, and ending with the trial lawyers' hand-picked Democratic candidate losing both the campaign and his appellate court seat, which then spun off a bizarre sequel when the loser immediately filed a nine-figure defamation lawsuit against his opponent's financial backers.
In my opinion, 2004 was the weirdest year in Illinois political history. January: Governor Rod Blagojevich used most of his State of the State address to blast the State Board of Education for being a "Soviet-style" bureaucracy - the first time a sitting governor red-baited a state agency.
It was probably no accident that Governor Rod Blagojevich chose a Naperville school last week to unveil his proposal to criminalize the sale or rental of violent and sexually explicit video games to minors. If he had used an impoverished inner-city school as a backdrop, the assembled parents might have asked him about the real-life violence that their children face every day.
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is widely believed to be the teachers' unions' best friend. Madigan passed the "temporary" income-tax surcharge years ago, which earmarked half of the new money for schools.
The dust isn't even settled yet from the 2004 campaign, but candidates are already lining up for the 2006 race. You and I might be sick of campaign news, but to these people the game is just beginning. Joe Birkett, the DuPage County state's attorney who narrowly lost the 2002 attorney general's race to Democrat Lisa Madigan, sent a letter to Republican leaders late last month telling them he is looking forward to being on the statewide ticket.

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