President Obama's decision to house Guantanamo Bay terrorist suspects at a rural Northwestern Illinois prison is drawing criticism from both sides of the political aisle -- and turning Thomson into the state's biggest political football heading into primary season.
State GOP leaders led the outcry, with Congressman Mark Kirk -- who's running for Obama's former senate seat against Alexi Giannoulias -- saying the administration's plan forces Illinois residents to accept "unnecessary risk" without vote.
Congressman Ray Manzullo, who represents the county containing Thomson Correctional Center, said though he's always supported opening the Thomson as a full-fledged state or federal prison, he continues "to have serious reservations about moving Guantanamo Bay terrorists to Thomson."
Also joining the fray was Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes -- Gov. Pat Quinn's primary competitor in the upcoming Democratic gubernatorial primary -- who says the decision may have been rushed.
While Hynes maintains that he has "full faith that President Obama would weigh this decision carefully," he hammered away at Quinn over his recent handling of an inmate early release program.
"At the same time the Governor is asking the people of Illinois to trust him on this difficult issue, which understandably causes some unease, it turns out his administration is secretly releasing criminals, some violent, from prison early, and worse, the Governor didn’t seem to know anything about it," Hynes said in a written statement Tuesday, referring to a controversial prison release program.
"Governor Quinn’s bungled handling of and obfuscation on this program does nothing to instill a climate of competence and confidence that the people of Illinois need at a time and situation like this."
Quinn suspended the program on Monday after learning that more than 850 inmates had been released since September. Some of them served as few as 11 days.
Other state Republicans echoed Hynes and said the decision to move detainees to Thomson happened too quickly.
"If nothing else, it deserves a public airing and debate within the legislature" so that lawmakers could put their positions on the record," said Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington).