Com­mon ground get­ting more elu­sive

At­tacks, ex­treme views make it harder to work across the aisle

Daily Southtown - - FRONT PAGE - Ted Slowik

South sub­ur­ban res­i­dents won­der­ing how Tues­day’s elec­tion re­sults will af­fect them can look at the po­lit­i­cal land­scape in a few dif­fer­ent ways.

One view is that not much will change in terms of taxes, health care costs, job op­por­tu­ni­ties and other is­sues that mat­ter to peo­ple. Democrats al­ready held vir­tu­ally ev­ery state leg­isla­tive seat rep­re­sent­ing the re­gion.

The South­land is such a deep shade of blue that Repub­li­cans didn’t run for most state House and Se­nate seats in the area.

An­other view is that Demo­cratic gains at lo­cal, state and fed­eral lev­els might help south sub­ur­ban elected of­fi­cials bet­ter serve their con­stituents. Come Jan­uary, U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Mat­te­son — who has rep­re­sented the 2nd District since 2013 — will be­come a mem­ber of the ma­jor­ity party in the House for the first time.

“We’ll be mak­ing the rules, set­ting the agenda,” Kelly said by phone Wed­nes­day. “We’re the ones in charge. There are go­ing to be checks and bal­ances.”

Kelly is a staunch advocate for re­duc­ing gun vi­o­lence and said she is look­ing for­ward to the prospect of ad­vanc­ing poli­cies sup­ported by a ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans.

“I’m hop­ing we’ll see some gun-safety leg­is­la­tion, (such as uni­ver­sal) back­ground checks,” she said.

In Spring­field, Democrats took back the gover­nor’s man­sion and held the at­tor­ney general’s of­fice and ev­ery other statewide of­fice. Democrats re­gained a su­per­ma­jor­ity in the Illi­nois House and held their su­per­ma­jor­ity in the state Se­nate.

“I’m pleased with the re­sults all across the board,” state Rep. Will Davis, DHome­wood, said Wed­nes­day. Davis has served in the General As­sem­bly since 2003 and was un­op­posed on Tues­day.

J.B. Pritzker’s win over first-term Repub­li­can Gov. Bruce Rauner means Illi­nois is un­likely to see a re­peat of the years-long bud­get im­passe, Davis said.

“We will pass a bud­get and the gover­nor will sign a bud­get,” Davis pre­dicted.

Davis has been a lead­ing advocate for ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing re­form. The leg­is­la­ture re­cently en­acted re­forms that make low­er­in­come school dis­tricts in the south sub­urbs and else­where el­i­gi­ble for in­creased state fund­ing.

“We have a mech­a­nism for prop­erty tax re­lief,” Davis said.

Democrats achieved bi­par­ti­san sup­port for re­form in part by al­lo­cat­ing $50 mil­lion in tax-credit schol­ar­ships for par­ents who en­roll their chil­dren in pri­vate schools. The “vouch­ers” ap­pealed to Repub­li­can law­mak­ers and have made a dif­fer­ence.

Last month, Chicago Catholic re­ported that en­roll­ment at St. Bene­dict School in Blue Is­land in­creased to 176 stu­dents this year from 154 a year ago. The school cred­ited the schol­ar­ships for grow­ing kinder­gart­ner en­roll­ment to 22 pupils this year from eight a year ago.

“I want to reach across the aisle” and work with Repub­li­cans on fund­ing in­fra­struc­ture, so­cial serv-

ices and other needs, Davis said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

State Sen. Michael Hast­ings, D-Tin­ley Park, was not up for re-elec­tion this year. I asked him Wed­nes­day whether he agreed with the view that blue states are be­com­ing more blue and red states are be­com­ing more red. Many be­lieve the par­ti­san di­vide in Amer­ica is be­com­ing worse with each elec­tion.

“I think the sub­urbs are chang­ing,” Hast­ings said. “The pen­du­lum in pol­i­tics is swing­ing fur­ther to the left and fur­ther to the right.”

Usu­ally, the pen­du­lum re­sets it­self, he said, but nega­tive at­tacks are drown­ing out more mod­er­ate views.

“It isn’t healthy,” Hast­ings said. “The views get more ex­treme and that makes it more dif­fi­cult for peo­ple to work to­gether.”

State Sen. Bill Cun­ning­ham, D-Chicago, said Demo­cratic su­per­ma­jori­ties won’t guar­an­tee har­mony among law­mak­ers and the gover­nor.

“Peo­ple tend to for­get, when talk­ing about the pro­gres­sive in­come tax, that Speaker (Michael) Madi­gan pro­posed a mil­lion­aire’s tax a few years ago,” Cun­ning­ham said. “He needed all 71 (Demo­cratic) votes in the House be­cause there was no Repub­li­can sup­port, and he came up short.”

Lo­cally, Democrats swept coun­ty­wide of­fices in Will County and seized the ma­jor­ity on the county board.

“I was kind of sur­prised. I didn’t ex­pect it to be a blue wave. I thought there would be a red wave,” Repub­li­can District 7 mem­ber Steve Balich of Or­land Park said Wed­nes­day.

Balich won re-elec­tion Tues­day. He’s been a lead­ing con­ser­va­tive voice in the Homer Glen area since he helped es­tab­lish one of the state’s largest Tea Party groups a decade ago.

Repub­li­cans may have sus­tained heavy po­lit­i­cal losses through­out the sub­urbs in this elec­tion, he said, but Balich re­mains com­mit­ted to con­ser­va­tive prin­ci­ples.

“I’ll keep fight­ing for lower taxes, less reg­u­la­tion and smaller govern­ment,” Balich said. “Peo­ple should know there’s still go­ing to be some­one out there who cares about their pock­et­books.”

Repub­li­can Sean Mor­ri­son, of Pa­los Park, with­stood a chal­lenge from Demo­crat Ab­del­nasser Rashid, of Jus­tice, and held on to his Cook County Board seat rep­re­sent­ing the 17th District. Two of the board’s four Repub­li­cans were de­feated.

Mor­ri­son led the fight to re­peal the county’s un­pop­u­lar tax on sweet­ened bev­er­ages.

“I’ve worked hard over the past three years to pro­tect the in­ter­ests of Cook County tax­pay­ers by tak­ing on and de­feat­ing ter­ri­ble tax poli­cies and ir­re­spon­si­ble spend­ing,” Mor­ri­son said Wed­nes­day in a mes­sage thank­ing sup­port­ers.

In a state­ment after win­ning re-elec­tion Tues­day, U.S. Rep. Dan Lip­in­ski, D-Western Springs, ex­pressed a de­sire for more ci­vil­ity in pol­i­tics.

“This was a par­tic­u­larly hard-fought elec­tion across our na­tion be­cause peo­ple are con­cerned about where our coun­try is go­ing,” Lip­in­ski said. “They are sick and tired of the hate­ful rhetoric and fear-mon­ger­ing. We need a change in rhetoric and the change must start at the top, be­cause all lead­ers and those who want to lead have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to treat ev­ery per­son with dig­nity.”

Lip­in­ski’s Repub­li­can op­po­nent, Art Jones, was de­nounced for his an­ti­Semitic views yet re­ceived more than 55,000 to­tal votes and car­ried two precincts in Will County.

AN­TO­NIO PEREZ/CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Demo­cratic can­di­date for gover­nor J.B. Pritzker cam­paigns at the 95th Street Red Line sta­tion on Elec­tion Day in Chicago.

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