The Illinois Education Association (IEA) has always leaned more Republican than its Illinois Federation of Teachers counterpart, but the IEA's endorsement of one GOP candidate raised a few eyebrows this year.

Conservative state Representative Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) was endorsed by the IEA last month. The Illinois AFL-CIO assigns the Metro East legislator a rating of 36 percent so far this session. The Illinois Federation of Teachers, which is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, endorsed Kay's Democratic opponent, Cullen L. Cullen. The IEA is not an AFL-CIO union.

The Kay endorsement is not what you'd call an everyday occurrence. Yes, the IEA endorses a fair number of Republicans, but it's well-documented that Kay was on friendly terms with the Tea Party when he was first elected in 2010, and the IEA is not enamored with that bunch.

Some recent Chicago Tribune poll results appear to indicate that support for raising the minimum wage in the state's largest city may be enough to increase voter turnout for a non-binding November ballot referendum.

The poll found that 84 percent of registered Chicago voters support a city-task-force recommendation to increase the minimum wage to $13 per hour over the next three years. According to the poll, 78 percent of whites and 92 percent of African Americans and even 71 percent of Chicagoans making more than $100,000 a year back the plan.

Democrats have been hoping to use the referendum - which asks about raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour - as a tool to help spur turnout in what is rapidly developing into a big Republican year. And with the Tribune's numbers backing a much higher minimum wage, it does seem likely that the issue can be effective, particularly among African Americans. Support above 70 to 80 percent is generally seen as having a ballot impact. Get above 90 and it's sure to drive votes. Then again, the comparatively "stingy" state-ballot proposal, when compared to the Chicago proposal, might garner less enthusiasm.

The rich irony of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan denouncing somebody for attempting to be a "king-maker" is so obvious and laughable that I can't help but wonder why a guy who's been a take-no-prisoners king-maker himself for so long in this state would ever think of saying such a thing.

You may already know the story. The Better Government Association and the Chicago Sun-Times took a look at some of Madigan's campaign petition-passers to see if they had government jobs.

What they found wasn't surprising at all. Seventeen of 30 people who passed Madigan's nominating petitions worked for the government. Another 12 had at one time worked for the government.

Nobody ever really knows what's going through the head of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan except for Madigan himself. So the actual purpose behind last week's highly choreographed gun-control and pension-reform debates - ordered up by Madigan - wasn't completely clear to anyone.

That's by design, of course. Madigan prefers to keep people in the dark until he's ready to make his final move.

But I did hear one theory from a Democrat that made quite a bit of sense - at least for a while.

Pages