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Remembering Abner Mikva

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Abner Mikva

File: Rep. Abner J. Mikva (D-Ill.), accepts a congratulatory phone call in his Washington office on March 8, 1979, after it was announced that he has been selected by President Jimmy Carter to be a federal judge. Mikva, a five term congressman, is slated for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia.

John Duricka

Abner Mikva, a liberal voice and stalwart of Illinois' political landscape for decades, has died. He was 90.

Mikva, a prominent figure of liberal politics, was initially turned away by the Chicago Democratic Machine when he first arrived in the city. Mikva often recounted his experience of trying to break into Chicago politics, saying he was told by a Democratic operator that ‘we don’t want nobody nobody sent’ and that Mikva’s help on the campaign wasn’t needed.

Mikva went on to become a state lawmaker, congressman, federal appellate judge and White House counsel to President Bill Clinton. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014. He also started the Mikva Challenge, which teaches Chicago-area students about civic engagement.

Brian Brady, the head of Mikva Challenge, says Mikva died Monday in hospice care at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Brady says he learned of the death from Mikva's daughters.

Most recently, Mikva was active in pushing for the U.S. Senate to consider the nomination of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.

Brady calls Mikva "the ideal public servant" who was saddened by growing bitter animosity between the parties in Washington.

“He was the kind of person who inspired legions of precinct warriors to go out and do battle. He was the kind of politician who was rejected by many of the establishment and bosses because nobody sent Ab Mikva into the political scene,” said Illinois U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin Tuesday morning. “Thank goodness he arrived and made a difference for Illinois and for the nation.” 

We talk with David Axelrod from University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, and Sanford Horwitt, a former aide to Mikva.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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