Common ground getting more elusive
Attacks, extreme views make it harder to work across the aisle
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.
Democratic candidate for governor J.B. Pritzker campaigns at the 95th Street Red Line station on Election Day in Chicago.