Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is promoting Richard Goldberg, an employee who may not be a household name in state politics, but is well known for driving Democrats crazy . The vacancy comes as Rauner’s current chief-of-staff, Mike Zolnierowicz, departs the administration to lead Republicans’ efforts to pick up state House and Senate seats in the November election. Currently, Democrats have a supermajority in both chambers.
Goldberg takes over the position of chief-of-staff at a time when the state is about to hit the one-year mark of having no full budget, the future of school funding is completely in the air and relationships between Republicans and Democrats are extremely low.
Last year, Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), who holds a leadership position in the Senate, described Goldberg to WBEZ in this way:
“Rich’s job is to be the governor’s unmentionable anatomy. And he embraces that role with the flare and enthusiasm that can only have been born of years of experience in fraternity houses and undergraduate bars,” Harmon said in 2015.
On Friday, when asked if his impression of Goldberg has changed in the past year, since making those remarks, Harmon said he’s hopeful Goldberg reveal “new talents and abilities that will help us get through this.”
“This could be a real pivotal moment in the Rauner administration,” Harmon said. “I hope that this is a re-commitment to working together to try to reach a responsible budget and I hope this is not the moment when Thelma looks at Louise and they decide to drive off the cliff.”
Harmon described the governor’s chief-of-staff position as critical to building trust between the executive branch of government and the legislature. That issue of trust between Republicans and Democrats has been problematic as this week alone, Rauner and Senate President John Cullerton disagreed over whether political insults affect negotiations.
“I’m hopeful that Rich Goldberg will rise to the occasion and surprise folks who think he’s typecast in his last role,” Harmon said.
In announcing Goldberg’s new role in the administration, Rauner wrote, “No one will work harder to fix the State than Richard. He is extremely smart, loyal and relentless. Richard has my full support and trust. I know he will do a great job in his role.”
Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics. Follow him @tonyjarnold.