Illinois Politics: Dem Debate, ‘Unbecoming’ Behavior, And A Lawsuit Laid Bare
A slate of state political news came out of Springfield this week:
- We witnessed the first, fiery debate among Democratic Party candidates for governor.
- We read an emoji-laden inspector general’s report that cleared State Sen. Ira Silverstein of Chicago of sexual harassment charges — with a caveat.
- And we reviewed a recently-unsealed lawsuit that alleges Bruce Rauner took private business meetings during his time as governor.
WBEZ’s politics team broke down the latest state and local elections news for our weekly Illinois Elections 2018 podcast. Below are highlights.
When asked, Chris Kennedy wouldn’t say something nice about J.B. Pritzker during the first televised debate
“I’m challenged in this election because I think that, as Democrats, we believe government can be our ally, and when J.B. emerges as the poster child of all that’s wrong with the corrupt system in our state, it’s difficult for me to heap praise on him.”
- Candidate for governor Chris Kennedy during Tuesday’s debate
State politics reporter Tony Arnold: Kennedy, after the debate was over and the mics were off, told reporters that he actually apologized to Pritzker for not saying something nice about his work on early childhood education, but the fact of the matter is he’s been very critical of Democratic Party leadership in Illinois and Cook County — leadership that has, for the most part, supported J.B. Pritzker’s campaign. So while it’s not an untypical moment, it does illustrate a lot about what kind of campaign Kennedy’s run.
Keep in mind this is the Democratic Party primary, and these are supposed to be, eventually, allies once a nominee is selected by the Democratic voters.
A new report cleared State Sen. Ira Silverstein of sexual harassment charges, but derided his behavior as ‘unbecoming of a legislator’
State politics reporter Dave McKinney: Back in October of last year, State Sen. Ira Silverstein from Chicago’s North Side was publicly outed by a victim rights advocate named Denise Rotheimer. In open committee, she basically laid out a series of “inappropriate contacts,” where — at a point when Silverstein was carrying legislation on her behalf — they were corresponding back and forth, late at night, early in the morning, over and over again, 444-some pages of Facebook messages.
On Thursday, we got findings here. Silverstein, I think, is very happy that the legislative inspector general Julie Porter did not find him guilty of engaging in sexual harassment.
For Silverstein himself, he didn’t get a clean bill of health by any means. Porter found that he engaged in conduct that was “unbecoming of a legislator.” She went on to say that that was a violation of state ethics laws. And so while there’s no punishment for that legally, there could be punishment at the ballot box.
A recently unsealed lawsuit alleges Bruce Rauner took private business meetings while serving as governor
Arnold: Rauner, when he took office, said that he’s putting his investments in a blind trust, so that there wouldn’t be conflicts of interest for how he ran the state of Illinois compared to where he’s making his money from.
According to this lawsuit, Rauner had a meeting on the back porch of the governor’s mansion [and] he also had a meeting in a swanky downtown Chicago club about this lawsuit. So it’s really raised questions as to how blind is this blind trust, really.
When Rauner says there aren’t going to be conflicts of interest because he doesn’t know where his investments are — but he’s having meetings on the back porch of the governor’s mansion about where his money is — that’s a problem for him.
Tape of the week
Here’s gubernatorial candidate Robert Marshall, who proposes splitting Illinois into three separate states, telling reporters after the Democratic debate that he was just happy to be there.