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How Pat Quinn's Medicaid Program for Political Careers Works

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How Pat Quinn's Medicaid Program for Political Careers Works
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For some politicians, there’s no such thing as failure. Julie Hamos, who lost the 10th Congressional District Democratic primary to Dan Seals by 959 votes, was just named by Gov. Quinn to head the Department of Healthcare and Family Services.

Hamos wasn't supposed to lose that election.

Dan Seals was a retread candidate whose two defeats at the hands of Mark Kirk had earned him the nickname “Obama Lite.” Hamos, who raised more money and won the endorsement of every newspaper, was a sweetheart of the North Shore’s political, financial and intellectual classes.

How did she lose?

Hamos was desperate for a promotion out of the state House. She originally planned to run for attorney general. When Lisa Madigan decided to seek re-election, that escape route was blocked, so Hamos jumped into the congressional race.

Now that she’s fumbled her first two choices, Quinn is picking her up.

Hamos will probably make an excellent director for the department, as it tries to implement the new health care reforms passed by Congress. But her appointment raises a question.

Will Hamos double dip? Hamos will be eligible to receive her legislator’s pension as soon as she resigns. Hamos voted for a bill that will prevent ex-legislators from receiving their pensions while holding state government jobs. But the bill only affects future legislators. While Hamos is legally entitled to double dip, taking that pension right away would look awfully skeezy. Hamos lives in Wilmette. She’s married to a judge. She doesn’t have any kids. She’s pretty well set.

Hamos’s resignation also meant that the local party bosses, not the voters, will pick her successor. Next Sunday, the 18th district’s committeemen will appoint Robyn Gabel, who won February’s Democratic primary.

Gabel was already guaranteed to represent the staunchly Democratic district, which includes Evanston, Wilmette and Rogers Park. But not every district is so one-sided. Legislators ducking out early to give a fellow party member the gift of incumbency is a Machine hack move.

Of course, Hamos needs to be appointed now. Quinn is trailing Bill Brady in the polls. If he loses, he won’t be able to appoint anyone to head the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. Hamos would end her political career as a losing Congressional candidate.

As a reward for losing the primary, Hamos gets a better-paying job. And the next state rep won’t be chosen by the voters -- which is a good thing, because those geniuses rejected the highly-qualified Hamos in favor of Dan Seals.

Illinois politics still works. For the right people, at least.

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