<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Chicago Political News and Chicago Politics]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/politics http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.com en-us Fri, 31 Oct 2014 13:36:23 -0500 Fri, 31 Oct 2014 13:36:23 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[This Week in Mudslinging: The Final Report]]> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 13:07:28 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP962049827639.jpg

Can you believe it's almost over?

In a matter of days we'll have a new governor of Illinois: Will it be Pat Quinn? Bruce Rauner? Chad Whatshisface?

Time flies when you're slinging mud.

Lo and behold, my final report of the season:

Rauner vs. Quinn. The GOP nominee thinks the Democratic governor is being a total credit hog by touting Republican-y things like bringing jobs to Illinois. Only Republicans are allowed to do that. You know Team Rauner quietly fumed when Quinn—in a "na-na-na-na-na" move—announced that Amazon will hire 1,000 employees for its new warehouse here. "Together with great companies like Amazon growing and thriving in Illinois, we'll build on this progress and create even more jobs," declared Quinn, rubbing it in and basking in his excellent timing so close to Election Day. But Rauner, who knows from jobs-creation because he is a Republican and a multi-millionaire investor who can make it rain like Leo in Wolf of Wall Street but without the trainwreck, sniffed that the incumbent (whom he's repeatedly blasted a "failure" on the economy) had not achieved "nearly enough" to boost the state's business prospects. Now they're both fighting over who gets props for the new Goose Island-based Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute: Quinn celebrated the facility's Thursday ground-breaking alongside Chicago Mayor (and Rauner pal) Rahm Emanuel; Rauner was so miffed, he released a statement accusing Team Quinn of brazen theft.

"I certainly won’t take all the credit for that project that has had many partners and people to play the role in that project. But I developed that plan, I proposed that project. I went to the mayor of Chicago six years ago with that project, took us a little while to get it off the ground," said Rauner, thumping his chest. "That was my brainchild. I’m proud of it. I don’t take all the credit at all, but it’s an indication we’ve had a governor for six years who hasn’t shown much initiative, who hasn’t come up with any new, innovative ideas. I’ve got a lot."

Quinn countered that he indeed contributed to getting the project off the ground—securing federal funding and the like—and seized another opportunity to slime his opponent as a "bully." (Dear Pat: Playing the victim makes you look kinda weak. Especially in a debate. Bruce has more swagger than you. Where's yours?)

Meanwhile, the money kept rolling in—and with that, extra mud to fling. Together the candidates are on the path to surpass a record-breaking $100 million on this knock-down, drag-out, toss-up of a gubernorial race. Cue a tidal wave of ubiquitous, inescapable television ads

Let there be comfort in knowing that post-election, no nasty real-life political attack spots will distract from your total enjoyment of Alicia Florrick's fictional campaign for Illinois State's Attorney on the Good Wife. That is all that matters.

Durbin vs. Oberweis. Even if you don't support anything Jim Oberweis stands for, you've got to give the GOP ice cream magnate some credit.  There's something Rudy-esque about his tenacity and pluck.  He squared off against U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Downstate Democrat and DC power broker, in one last debate before Nov. 4. Oberweis dubbed Durbin a "walking job killer." Durbin sniped that Oberweis is too "extreme," too tea party-ish for the state.

The Illinois GOP vs. RAMPANT VOTER FRAUD. The Republican Party is going all "code red" on allegedly fraudalent activity at the ballot box. In a robo-call to registered loyalists Thursday, GOP chair Tim Schneider warned: "Across the state we’re seeing electronic voting machines that automatically switch a vote from Republican to Democrat. We’re also seeing news reports of Democrats offering money and prizes for votes. Tampering with voting machines and vote-buying is illegal—it's a felony, and we’re going to make sure anyone who does it gets prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law." Now that sounds desperado, paranoid even, possibly a response to the surge in early voting across Democrat-leaning Cook County, the state's most powerful bloc and an election-decider. But seriously? Robocalls are ridiculously annoying. (Rauner himself is among the "Top 10" biggest robocall-offenders in the nation.)

Is it too late to send out a petition for Alicia Florrick?

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Opinion: Who’s For An Elected School Board?]]> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 12:40:11 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/jesus+garcia+pic.jpg

To be a progressive politician in Chicago these days, most people think you need to be on board with a number of key issues near and dear to progressives across the city.

For one, you need to be for more transparency and accountability in government. For proof, just look at the regular denunciations many progressives make of Chicago’s “rubber stamp” City Council.

For another, you’re likely to support demands for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to reverse his 2012 decision to shutter six of the city’s 12 mental health clinics without debate or Council hearings.

And you’re almost certain to get behind calls for an elected representative school board, if for no other reason than to wrest control of the city’s schools from the fifth floor of City Hall.

As it turns out, that last issue could well be a problem for Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, the latest candidate to jump in the race for mayor.

On Wednesday, just two days after he announced, Garcia was asked if he favors an elected school board.

Asked Wednesday by a student about whether he favors an elected school board, a cornerstone issue for the progressive movement he hopes to lead, Garcia was noncommittal, saying he has “toiled with this issue.”

“I’m more for an elected school board than against,” he said, then added he has concerns that money could skew the outcome of such an election.

“There’s too much money in politics,” said Garcia, making one of the same arguments as opponents of elected school boards, a misgiving you never heard from Lewis.

The truth is, perhaps no other issue is more at the forefront of a progressive agenda in the run-up to the 2015 municipal election than getting an elected representative school board for Chicago’s public school system.

Chicago is the only city in Illinois without an elected representative school board, and many education advocates and political activists believe school board elections are crucial to bringing democracy back to decisions over how the school system is run.

Members of the Progressive Reform Caucus in Council have been fighting a running battle for years to get the issue on a ballot before voters, only to be beaten back each time by Emanuel’s aldermanic allies. The Caucus’ chairman, Ald. Bob Fioretti (2), who’s also running for mayor, sponsored or cosponsored resolutions in both 2013 and 2014 to get the issue on the ballot.

As well, a coalition of activists groups is currently embarked on a city-wide effort to get the issue in front of voters with a ward-by-ward strategy that places the question on the ballot in each of the city’s 50 wards. 

To that end, activists from organizations such as the Chicago Teachers Union and United Working Families, to name a few, are currently out circulating petitions in an effort to get the roughly 50,000 signatures city-wide needed to get the issue on the ballot.

The question even looks to be an issue in aldermanic races across the city, as some groups are actively working to get aldermanic candidates looking to unseat incumbents to circulate petitions for an elected school board side-by-side with their own nominating petitions.

Not surprisingly, it’s these very groups and others who back the elected school board issue who are also lining up to place their support behind Garcia, should he manage to collect enough signatures and build a campaign infrastructure necessary to make a run.

Which, should Garcia not change his mind and come out more forcefully on the issue, could place some activist groups and financial supporters of Garcia in the uncomfortable position of backing a candidate who’s not 100 percent with them on one of the progressive agenda’s key platforms.

While no candidate needs to move in lockstep on every issue his or her supporters believe in, Garcia’s lack of clarity on the issue could place him outside of a movement that’s already underway and looks to be gathering steam in the run-up to 2015.

That means come Election Day, someone’s going to have to move one way or the other. Especially if it comes down to a choice between simply unseating Rahm Emanuel and working on an issue many believe is vital to change the direction of Chicago and its future.

Photo Credit: NBCChicago.com]]>
<![CDATA[Early Voting in Suburban Cook County Surpasses 2010 Numbers]]> Thu, 30 Oct 2014 19:45:30 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/voting-dfw-generic-01.jpg

The number of suburban Cook County voters who headed to the polls in advance of Election Day has surpassed the number of early voters in the area in 2010.

As of Thursday morning, about 91,000 residents cast their early votes, compared to about 83,000 in 2010, according to the Cook County Clerk's Office.

Numbers were not available midday for the City of Chicago.

Officials from a group called "Raise Illinois," focused on increasing the state's minimum wage, credit their massive get-out-the-vote effort for what they say is a boost across Illinois.

Illinois' minimum wage currently sits at $8.25/hour. A non-binding ballot question asks voters if the minimum wage should be increased to $10.

Incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn is in full support of raising the minimum wage and has made it a campaign issue. His Republican challenger, Bruce Rauner, initially said he supported bringing Illinois' $8.25 rate down to the $7.25 federal level in order to keep the state competitive, but later, and faced with the possibility of voter backlash, he "clarified" his stance and said he would support a minimum wage hike if there were other business concessions.

Early voting is available until Nov. 1

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Illinois Governor Race: Quinn-Rauner Spending Could Surpass $100 Million]]> Thu, 30 Oct 2014 11:34:06 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/452970107.jpg

WARNING: If excessive campaign expenditures on both sides of the aisle makes you queasy, then you might not want to read what I'm about to write.

The Chicago Tribune reports that spending in the already-expensive, uber-competitive Illinois governor's race could exceed an unprecedented $100 million, with cash from labor and business interests flowing into the war chests of Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and his Republican rival Bruce Rauner. The latter, a multi-millionaire, recently added $9 million of his own money into a bid to knock the incumbent out of office Nov. 4. Never has the cost of running for governor in this state been so high.

"As of Wednesday evening, Rauner had collected $63.75 million and Quinn had raised $29.3 million — the balance tilted to the Republican side largely because the Winnetka equity investor has dipped into his own fortune for $26.1 million," writes the Trib's Rick Pearson.

The dollars have gone into a relentless media blitz of negative ads as Democrats deployed extra resources (and star power) to help Quinn curb an ambitious attack from Rauner and a national GOP angling to exploit Quinn's unpopularity—and replace him with a Republican.

"We knew the false attacks would get ugly," says Rauner's wife, Diana, touting her husband in a new TV spot. "Bruce doesn't owe anybody anything, and that scares people in power."

This is Team Rauner's way of spinning his controversial wealth as a political advantage rather than an albatross. While the super-rich often struggle to overcome class warfare in politics—in Rauner's case, combatting (extremely reasonable, disturbing) accusations that he's too out of touch, too removed from everyday Illinoisians—their personal pocketbooks and networks of Other Rich People only serve to give them a leg up over viable candidates with middle-class incomes.

It's unfair. It's why Quinn had to dole out even more dough to match Rauner's spend. It creates a new and troubling paradigm of excess. And it's not going anyway anytime soon. On that note: take it away, Peggy.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto]]>
<![CDATA[Opinion: Will Karen Be A Kingmaker?]]> Thu, 30 Oct 2014 11:21:12 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Karen_Lewis_8-19.jpg

As mayoral candidates, Bob Fioretti and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia have a number of things in common.

Both are true progressives, ready to fight for those left out of Chicago’s political process. Both are mounting fledgling campaigns that need money, volunteers and enthusiasm to reach the finish line. And both have an uphill climb in their quest to unseat Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

But there’s perhaps one thing more important that they both share at the moment: a clear desire to receive an endorsement from Karen Lewis.

It’s easy to see why. Without even announcing a formal candidacy, Lewis generated an almost unprecedented amount of political expectation and hope for a potential mayoral run among a diverse set of supporters across the city.

As president of the Chicago Teachers Union, Lewis was at the forefront of a number of critical battles in Chicago: education policy, pension funding, poverty and social justice. Before she was forced to bow out of the race due to health concerns, just the mere prospect of her running fired up progressives and others in a way the city hadn't seen in many a year.

Plus, she’s a charismatic figure. Which, for all of their own likeability, both Fioretti and Garcia will have a difficult time matching.

As a result, a nod from Lewis could go a long way in helping one candidate or the other garner the kind of support needed to make a serious run at Rahm. While on the surface it may look like any other endorsement, official backing from Lewis would be a clear signal to everyone from progressive activists, union funders and voters to who the larger anti-Rahm coalition building in Chicago sees as their standard-bearer.

As a result, both campaigns are in one way or another seeking Lewis’ endorsement. While Fioretti hasn't explicitly said he’ll ask for her blessing, his campaign has publicly praised her during her illness and recovery. Meanwhile, there’s little doubt a Lewis endorsement for Fioretti could make him a stronger challenger, almost overnight.

For his part, Garcia is more explicit in his desire for Lewis’s public support. In an interview with Carol Marin of NBC 5, Garcia said “I hope to earn her endorsement,” before adding that he has spoken to Lewis about his run and received her encouragement.

Which, behind the scenes, looks to be much the case. While not publicly coming out for Garcia, CTU spokesperson Stephanie Gadlin said the organization is "very enthusiastic about Garcia's possible candidacy," and union members will help him circulate nominating petitions. Garcia has also been invited to speak at a CTU fundraiser this week, without Fioretti.

Should she choose to make an endorsement, questions may arise over whether she does it as a private citizen or in some official CTU capacity. Earlier this month, Lewis temporarily stepped down as CTU president as a result of her health challenges. That means there could be two potential endorsements on the table in the coming weeks—one from Lewis and one from the powerful teachers’ union itself.

Of course, not a lot is known publicly about Lewis’ illness and the pace of her recovery. As a result, any speculation over her endorsement could well be moot.

Nevertheless, an endorsement from almost no figure in Chicago politics today carries as much real and symbolic weight as one might from Lewis. And, whether they say so out loud, both campaigns are fully aware what Lewis blessing would mean.

The only question is: Lewis may no longer in the mayoral election game. But will she be in the mayoral endorsement game? 

<![CDATA[Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate Has High Hopes for Election Night]]> Wed, 29 Oct 2014 20:11:25 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000009447867_1200x675_349702723683.jpg Do you know the name Chad Grimm? What happens to him on election night could help decide the next governor of Illinois. Carol Marin reports.]]> <![CDATA[Libertarian Candidate Has High Hopes in Governor's Race]]> Wed, 29 Oct 2014 20:11:52 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/215*120/chad+grimm.jpg

Do you know the name Chad Grimm? What happens to him on election night could help decide the next governor of Illinois.

Grimm, 33, is the Libertarian candidate on the ballot next Tuesday. He currently lives in Peoria but has called Lake Zurich home as well. And Springfield is the place he would most like to live and put into place his ideas of limited government and maximum liberty.

Asked if he really believes he can win the race, Grimm replied, “I honestly do if the message gets out there.”

It is almost a virtual certainty that Grimm won’t win, but in the battle between Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner, where every vote is critical, Grimm may have a say in who gets elected.

If Grimm gets just 2 percent of the vote that amounts to around 75,000 votes. (In the 2010 general election there were 3,729,000 votes cast in the governor’s race).

In politics strange things happen. Especially in Illinois.

In 2010, Scott Lee Cohen ran as an independent for governor and got 135,000 votes in a race Quinn barely won.

Pat Quinn’s margin of victory over Bill Brady in 2010 was just 31,834 votes.

As for Grimm, he is a health club manager who says he wants to roll back the state income tax, does not support an increase in the minimum wage, and is the only candidate who calls himself pro-life, which could attract socially conservative republicans.

With little money, the Libertarian candidate has relied on Facebook and You tube and free media to get his message across as he battles against the odds, not to mention Quinn and Rauner.

What’s wrong with Pat Quinn, he is asked?

“The state of the state speaks for itself,” he said.

What’s wrong with Bruce Rauner?

“Question his motives,” he said, “And he’s too much like Pat Quinn. I don’t see a difference in Bruce Rauner and Pat Quinn.”

Grimm’s campaign has benefited from direct mail fliers sent by Liberty for Illinois, a union backed committee which has raised over $300,000 this fall. It is seen by some as a backdoor bid by Democrats to pull votes away from Rauner.

“I take it at face value,” he said in an interview last week discussing the political help. “I can’t question any time somebody wants to help out in any way, whether it be monetary or whether it be just voluntary. I can’t question everybody’s motivation for helping me out.”

<![CDATA[Woman Shocked by Who Voted Next to Her]]> Wed, 29 Oct 2014 11:22:13 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/rahm-emanuel-early-vote-1.jpg Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel took part in Early Voting on Wednesday, much to the surprise of another woman who was trying to cast her ballot.]]> <![CDATA[Crunch Time for Governor Candidates]]> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 20:04:51 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000009436128_1200x675_349151811858.jpg Bruce Rauner and Pat Quinn have one week left to convince voters. Mary Ann Ahern reports.]]> <![CDATA[Crunch Time for Governor Candidates]]> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 20:05:22 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_gov_pat_quinn.jpg

The timing of Tuesday’s announcement that over the next two years Amazon will create 1,000 new jobs in Illinois has some questioning if it was timed to benefit Gov. Pat Quinn’s re-election effort.

Amazon, however, says that’s not the case.

“It’s very recently, within the last couple of weeks, it all coalesced together,” said Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president of Global Public Policy. “Obviously I’ve been working on this for quite some time.”

Meanwhile, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner challenged Quinn’s opinion on Ebola procedures, calling for a travel ban.

“It’s pretty clear in talking to Senator Kirk’s staff and other folks here in Illinois and around that state, we need to do everything we can, reasonable protections, to protect the health of Illinois voters, Illinois citizens,” Rauner said.

With women’s vote key in the upcoming election, Diana Rauner once again stars in one of the closing ads of her husband’s campaign.

“Bruce doesn’t owe anybody anything and that scares people in power,” she says in the ad.

Diana Rauner runs the Ounce of Prevention, an agency providing early childhood education help to at-risk children. It received $12 million in state grant money last year. Bruce Rauner declined to comment when asked if his wife planned to continue working for the agency.

Later, in an email, Diana Rauner said, “I do intend to continue my unpaid work at the Ounce when Bruce becomes governor.”

She’s not the only spouse who leads an agency that receives states funds.

For years, the state has funded the Illinois Arts Council, run by Shirley Madigan. Her husband is Speaker of the House Mike Madigan.

<![CDATA[Opinion: Progressives Need Multiple Choice Option to Beat Rahm]]> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 21:44:47 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/tlmd_alcalde_rahm_emanuel1.JPG

For quite a while, those who wished to see Mayor Rahm Emanuel removed from office had complained about a lack of qualified candidates from the left willing to take on City Hall and win. 

Now, those in the anti-Rahm forces have something of an embarrassment of riches to contemplate in the months leading up to Election Day: two seemingly qualified candidates, each with a long history in the progressive movement and an outspoken champion of liberal and progressive causes.
The likely addition of Jesus “Chuy” Garcia to the 2015 Chicago mayoral campaign, along with already-declared 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti, certainly means the race has become more interesting and much less predictable.
The question becomes: can either one win on their own? And can progressives—and more importantly, their fundraising dollars—afford to take a chance on only one or the other right out of the gate?
For his part, Garcia, although a late entry, has already gathered a wealth of enthusiasm for a potential run. It’s easy to see why: he’s a figure who has fought his way up from the bottom, starting out decades ago as an activist and community organizer to become one of the leading voices of Chicago’s Latino community.
Along the way, he made important stops as Chicago alderman, state senator and current Cook County Commissioner, and as a noted ally of the late Mayor Harold Washington.
While he says he’s contemplated a run for a while now, it was only after Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis opted not to run that the enthusiasm for Garcia grew. Behind the scenes, major institutional funders and progressive advocacy groups are jockeying for position in light of the changed circumstances.
Yet, from a policy perspective, it’s not clear exactly what Garcia might bring to the race that wasn’t already there. In many ways, Garcia and Fioretti are on the same page about exactly how the city is, in Garcia’s words, “not headed in the right direction.”
Both, for example were opposed to Emanuel’s decision to close 50 schools citywide, and both are likely to support an elected school board for Chicago. Both oppose what they see as Emanuel’s preference for policies supporting the city’s elite, and believe more resources need to be poured into the city’s neighborhoods to help struggling Chicagoans. And both seek to make crime and neighborhood security a centerpiece of their campaigns.
As well, each candidate can—at least in these early days—expect only a certain level of voter support right out of the gate. While Mayor Emanuel remains a deeply unpopular figure, neither of his opponents are very well known outside of their already-established bases, and both have the challenge of increasing their city-wide name recognition in little more than four months.
To do so takes money. And while each candidate can count on unique contributors, it’s the big money donors, such as unions and national funders, that are currently sitting on the sidelines and waiting to make a decision as to who to back.
As are a number of progressive advocacy groups who can provide the foot soldiers needed to knock on doors, talk about the issues and get out the vote on Election Day.
Yet, if the ultimate goal is to remove Rahm Emanuel from office, then the answer may well be: back both. As of today, neither candidate is likely to be polling above roughly 30 percent, with Garcia still being an actual unknown as a city-wide candidate.
To move from 30 percent to 51 percent is a challenge for any candidate in four months, to say the least. That’s not to say it can’t be done. But while both Garcia and Fioretti may be strong candidates, banking on one or the other to singlehandedly take down Emanuel simply increases the chances the mayor can use his prodigious fundraising to his advantage.
To reduce the field to two candidates, with a third limping along, could easily make the progressive side of the equation seem less viable than two equally strong opposition candidates would in the mind of many voters. And, given the right resources, it’s a lot easier to move a candidate’s support from 30 percent to 40 percent than it is to move it above 50 percent.
For those of you counting at home, that’s 40 percent, 40 percent, and 20 percent. Or, 35, 35 and 25. Or however you want to count it.
But it’s not, say, Emanuel 57 percent, Progressive Candidate A at 35 percent and Progressive Candidate B at under 10 percent.
In fact, from an anti-Rahm standpoint, the real goal could well be a run-off election with two strong, viable progressive candidates.
For progressives, that would certainly be an embarrassment of riches.

Photo Credit: Archivo Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Pastor Corey Brooks Responds to Criticism]]> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 14:25:47 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/corey-brooks.jpg

South Side Rev. Corey Brooks says he's baffled by a Chicago Sun-Times column criticizing his enthusiastic endorsement of Republican Illinois governor candidate Bruce Rauner.

In a Monday-night dispatch entitled "Preachers belong in the pulpit, not in politics," columnist Mary Mitchell argued that the "level of respect" for religious leaders in the African-American community dissipates when they enter into the political arena, as Brooks has done with his vocal support for the wealthy North Shore investor.

"Well, obviously she doesn't read the Bible," Brooks told me in an interview Tuesday, calling Mitchell a member of the Democratic Party's "status quo." "Obviously she doesn't know scripture. And obviously she doesn't know her history because were it not for the African-American church being involved in the political process, we wouldn't have had such civil rights reformers and abolitionists as we had, so I don't know where she's coming from with that."

Brooks' New Beginnings Church was burglarized Saturday, and afterward the pastor said he thought an $8,000 theft from a church charity box and death threats he received last Friday were related to his backing of Rauner over the Gov. Pat Quinn, a Chicago Democrat. As a result, he vowed Sunday to curb political appearances at the pulpit, saying he didn't want to put New Beginnings "in jeopardy."

After temporarily moving his family to a safe location, Brooks said that he was back at home where he's installed a new surveillance system. He said he's not received any threats since someone with an altered voice made slur-filled calls to his cell phone; the calls, as well as the robbery, are under investigation by Chicago police.

"We've never had a break-in in 14 years of our church, and for us to all of a sudden have this break-in, just seems ... strange," he said. "But do I know who broke in? Absolutely not. Do I think these two things are (related) to each other? I don't know. I would hope not, and I would pray not."

Brooks is among several prominent pro-Rauner African-American supporters on Chicago's staunchly Democratic South Side, home to Quinn's core voter base. Rauner has eagerly courted black voters in an attempt to disrupt the incumbent's influence there and tip the balance of the election outside the powerful Windy City bloc. In a recent debate, Rauner argued that Quinn is "taking the African-American vote for granted," while Quinn asserted: "All my opponent does is grow his bank account and that hurts everyone." A September Tribune survey revealed Quinn out-polling Rauner among African-Americans, with 86 percent touting the governor above his GOP rival.

Mitchell wrote, "even in this Democratic stronghold there are black Republicans. The difference between Brooks and his fellow black conservatives is they don’t let themselves get dragged into a street brawl. ... Religious leaders are supposed to serve the community, not serve up the community to politicians."

Said Brooks in response: "I thought it was the political process, and so how is she making it a street brawl? I know street brawls. I see those on the streets of Chicago every day ... so she must not know what a street brawl is because the political process, (politicians) talking about each other and having words, is definitely not a street brawl."

He said he won't let his politics bleed into New Beginnings services.

"I certainly understand that I'm speaking for Corey Brooks. I'm not speaking for New Beginnings Church," he said. "Never at any time have we told our church to vote for such-and-such. ... I don't stand up and preach political sermons. But I do ... reserve a right to say who I'm voting for and who I'm going to endorse. Do I hope that people will follow my endorsement outside of my church and inside my church? Absolutely. That's why I made the endorsement. But is it something that I try to force upon people? Absolutely not."

Asked whether he's spoken with Quinn, Brooks recalled how the governor snubbed him following a debate against Rauner.

"I tried to shake Governor Quinn's hand after the debate, the last debate, and he refused to shake my hand, told me he was too disappointed with me as if I was his son. But I wanted to tell him I'm a grown man, I definitely have the opportunity to vote for who I want to, and so if he wouldn't even be a respectful, honorable governor and shake the hand of an individual, then I definitely don't expect to hear from him or anyone on his team. And I'm OK with that."

He added: "I understand how they feel—they feel like I'm going against the status quo, they feel like I'm going against them directly, and so they have every right to feel the way that they feel."

Mary Mitchell declined to comment for this article. 




<![CDATA[Differences Show in Gov. Debate]]> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 12:01:36 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/214*120/Baker+Coakley+Debate.jpg

On Monday, Republican Charlie Baker and Democrat Martha Coakley showcased their differences in the Massachusetts gubernatorial debate moderated by NECN's Latoyia Edwards at Worcester's Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts.

Coakley addressed reports that she is behind in some polls in a state that has favored Democrats historically; however, earlier Monday, the New York Times placed Coakley with 45 percent in favor of the Democrat and 41 percent in favor of the Republican.

"I believe this race is pretty close right now," Coakley said. "I'm confident we're going to win on Nov. 4."

It didn't take long for the candidates to begin disputing the hot topic of the Massachusetts economy. Baker said that the difference between him and Coakley is he will not raise taxes for the citizens of the Bay State.

"He has a typical Republican playbook of cut taxes for big businesses," Coakley said, adding that she will invest in the people, rather than give breaks to corporations.

Another topic that has the state divided is the question of Boston hosting the 2024 Olympics. Baker said he believes it's a great planning exercise, while Coakley supported the plan fully.

"I say go for the gold," Coakley said.

Health care and the problems that Harvard Pilgrim have faced was another point of disagreement. Coakley told Baker that the turnaround resulted in layoffs and lost care, as he made choices Coakley said she would not have made.

"You look at the bottom line and don't see people," Coakley explained.

"So, you don't have any suggestions about how you would have dealt with the problems at Harvard Pilgrim?" Baker asked Coakley, prompting an applause from his supporters.

"That's not the point," Coakley said. "You are always looking at the bottom line, and so that's one example of it."

The candidates soon segued into Baker's quest to seek 100 percent support of Massachusetts voters, specifically the support of women.

"I don't have a group called 'Men for Martha," Coakley shot back. "I look at the people who haven't had a seat at the table."

There were a few questions that Baker and Coakley agreed on in the lightning round, including support of the casino law and the freezing of coalition rates. In addition, both candidates said they will stop running for public office if they lose the 2014 gubernatorial race.

NECN, the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, Telegram & Gazette and Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts hosted Monday's debate.

Photo Credit: NECN
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<![CDATA[Cook Co. Commissioner Jesus Garcia to Run for Mayor]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 19:48:23 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/jesus+garcia+pic.jpg

Cook County Commissioner Jesus Garcia is making it official: he will challenge Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the February election.

The former Chicago Alderman, State Senator and current Cook County Commissioner cites Emanuel’s lack of progress in the city’s neighborhoods as the reason to run.

“People in this town are hurting as it relates to the direction of the city,” he said when asked what’s wrong with Emanuel.

The 58-year-old politician and activist says his decision is linked to CTU president Karen Lewis’ announcement to end a run due to health issues.

“I hope to earn her endorsement,” he said, adding that he has spoken to Lewis about his run and received her encouragement. Garcia says he will also seek the support of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle as well as Congressman Luis Gutierrez, who has already stated he is backing the mayor. “I’m going to ask him to consider Chuy Garcia,” Garcia said sitting in the backyard of his Little Village home.

In taking on the first term Mayor, Garcia, who goes by the nickname “Chuy”, cites failures in public safety, city finances and Chicago’s public school system as key issues.

“If anything he’s created an environment of insecurity, uncertainty and fear where bullying has taken place against teachers, against principals, against parents, against other stakeholders,” he said. Asked if he was calling the mayor a bully, Garcia responded, “I’m saying he has failed on the commitments he has made.”

Emanuel’s nearly $9 million campaign fund dwarfs the $15,000 Garcia has in storage. He’ll need, he says, $3 million to be competitive.

“I think by the time that I register as a candidate we will be at least half way there,” he said. He is working he said with long time political strategist Don Rose, who helped Jane Byrne defeat Michael Bilandic in 1979.

Garcia supporters are poised to begin passing petitions in order to secure 12,500 voters who want his name on the ballot. They have about a month to accomplish this.

Asked about a possible run by Garcia today Mayor Emanuel said he will gladly take on any challengers.

Garcia joins 2nd ward alderman Bob Fioretti, the only other major candidate in the race.

Garcia served in the Chicago City Council, an ally of Mayor Harold Washington. He was the first Mexican-American elected to the state senate.

This will be the most daunting of his political career… a fact not lost on Garcia.

“I am a cock-eyed optimist,” he said when asked about his chances.

Photo Credit: NBCChicago.com]]>
<![CDATA[David Axelrod Suggests Obama Could Be More Emotional]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 12:07:51 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/david+axelrod+obama.JPG

David Axelrod's candid interview with a Bloomberg Businessweek reporter is rustling some feathers in the Obama administration.

The household-name political consultant, who heads up the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics, became famous as the mastermind of Barack Obama's presidential campaigns and a White House senior adviser dubbed "Axe" on the Beltway circuit. His quotes are sprinkled throughout journalist Joshua Green's Oct. 23 article, "Obama Is Too Cool for Crisis Management," wherein Axelrod intimates that the president's brainy, introverted style can backfire amid crises (like Ebola and the panic thereof) that require more public expressiveness of a leader.

"He responds in a very rational way, trying to gather facts, rely on the best expert advice, and mobilize the necessary resources," he tells Green of Obama, adding: "There's no doubt that there’s a theatrical nature to the presidency that he resists. Sometimes he can be negligent in the symbolism."

Axelrod references ex-President George W. Bush's dramatic response to Sept. 11 ("I still remember where I was when Bush took the bullhorn at Ground Zero") and laments the mishandling of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill ("I still have searing memories of the leak and our response").

Indeed, Obama's slow-burning, somewhat cloistered approach to events that give Americans pause for alarm often obscures the long-term success of his agenda. See: The post-crash economy, on the up and up; Obamacare; Osama. "Bush didn’t get bin Laden—Obama did," Axelrod observes.

How does the White House respond to Axe's comments? Not with applause.

Crain's Chicago Business columnist Greg Hinz reports Obama spokesman Josh Earnest as saying the president "said almost exactly the same thing word for word" during a prior sit-down on Meet the Press, and that "this is an assessment that (he's) acknowledged before in terms of his occasional inattention to the optical aspects of his role."

Earnest continued, "It has not escaped the attention of those of us at the White House that what the president is focused on can, on occasion, be different than what others might be focused on. The president and his administration, at the direction of the president, comes in and, through a lot of hard work, puts in place a solution. But by the time that solution is put in place, everybody has sort of moved on to something else."

<![CDATA[Jeb Bush Still Hasn't Made Decision on 2016]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 09:19:41 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/474646291.jpg

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush still "has not made a decision" about whether he'll run for president in 2016, a spokesperson said after the GOP politician's son seemed to suggest over the weekend that a bid is likely.

"Governor Bush has not yet made a decision on whether or not he will run in 2016. He will thoughtfully consider it following the mid-term elections, and make a decision late this year or in the early part of next year," Bush's spokesperson, Kristy Campbell, told NBC News.

But in an interview with ABC News' John Karl, son George P. Bush said his father is " still assessing it."

"I think it's -- it's more than likely that he's giving this a serious thought and moving -- and moving forward," George P. Bush said.

"More than likely that he'll run?" Karl asked.

"That he'll run. If you had asked me a few years back, I -- I would have said it was less likely," the younger Bush responded.

In an interview with Fox earlier this month, former President George W. Bush said he thinks his brother "wants to be president."

"Yes, I think he wants to be president," he said. "I think he'd be a great president. He understands what it's like to be president -- for not only the person running or serving, plus family," he said.

Jeb Bush, 61, was Florida's governor from 1999 to 2007. He has been popping up in recent ads supporting current Florida Gov. Rick Scott in his re-election bid.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Opinion: Why Oberweis Is Pivoting on Gay Marriage]]> Fri, 24 Oct 2014 19:00:48 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/10P_PKG_OBERWEIS_LUNCHEON_13786509_1200x675_196265539512.jpg

In a stunning turnaround, Jim Oberweis has revealed that he would support a federal law for gay marriage though he'd rather states have the final say on the issue.

Previously the Republican state senator voted against legalizing same-sex marriage in Illinois, so this apparent evolution in his mindset comes as a surprise—or does it? Consider where Oberweis made the statement: Onstage during his first official debate against Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, whom he's trying to knock out of office despite insurmountable odds. Durbin, by all accounts, will easily win a fourth term in the Senate on Election Day Nov. 4; he's out-fundraised the Sugar Grove dairy mogul by the millions, and bull-dozed him in a recent pseudo-debate at the Chicago Tribune's editorial board.

Oberweis dropped his gay marriage bombshell while the candidates sparred on the subject Wednesday night, saying recent court decisions paved the path for legalization in several states and he'd now back a federal law.

"Time has passed and I believe courts have said that that is the law and I will uphold the law of the land," declared Oberweis, later refusing to elaborate when reporters noted afterward that, no, there's actually not a federal law authorizing marriage equality across the nation.

Durbin, who has sought to link Oberweis to the tea party, said gay marriage should be legal in each state and on the federal level, too.

Given his dire circumstances—the election is right around the corner and he's got nothing to lose—Oberweis may have thought that a high-profile, media-attracting debate was be a pretty good time to steal some shine from Durbin and announce his pivot on the subject.

It perhaps had less to do with personal philosophy than with politics: After all, Republicans in 2014 are trying to shake off a negative view of the party as backwards and out of touch, especially on wedge social issues like gay marriage that are gaining a gradual cultural acceptance; making such a last-ditch declaration is a way to get Oberweis attention at a crucial moment and re-spin him as closer to a fiscally conservative, socially moderate brand of Republican. But that spin will only go so far, since Oberweis is forever tainted by that tone-deaf, anti-immigration ad from his previous failed Senate bid circa 2004.

His fellow Illinois Republican, 10th-district congressional candidate Bob Dold, is hogging much of the national GOP's resources, in addition to gobs of outside money from super PACS and deep-pocketed donors like billionaire Michael Bloomberg. Dold's district, up in Chicago's tony, Democratic-leaning northern suburbs, is a battleground and the outcome a toss-up. The Kenilworth businessman has moved to present himself as a political independent who is both—here we go again—fiscally conservative and socially moderate. He's been endorsed in a TV ad by like-minded Sen. Mark Kirk, a well regarded Republican centrist and Durbin ally serving the 10th, who's shied away from publicly campaigning for Oberweis.

Kirk was the second GOP senator to back gay marriage, with Dold coming around to change his mind ahead of its 2013 legalization in this state.

As he prepares to lose another senatorial campaign, Oberweis' flip-flopping can be viewed in several lights: A) A desperate attempt to rebrand (and rehab) his image in the vein of Kirk, Dold and other establishment GOP-ers; B) A noble, if not seemingly genuine, effort to propel forward on a popular and important civil rights issue; C) A cynical strategy to get on the good sides of GOP voters for whom the "tea party" is tantamount to  "Voldemort"; or D) All of the above.

Asked whether he intended to run against Kirk in 2016, Oberweis quipped recently: "I'm going to win in 2014, so I don't even have to think about that."

It's precisely that kind of outsized confidence that could beckon the ambitious "Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride" state lawmaker back for round four after three losing bids. Maybe he'll give away more ice cream next time.

<![CDATA[This Week in Mudslinging: Bruce Rauner Is An Alpha Bully; Oberweis Is Toast.]]> Fri, 24 Oct 2014 16:59:18 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/SKoreanMudFest.jpg

There's T minus 12 days to go 'til Election Day, and no clear winner in the close battle between Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and challenger Bruce Rauner. Both men are in survival mode. The stakes are high. This cash-strapped state's future hangs in the balance. Cockroaches run amok.

Without further ado, This Week in Mudslinging:

Quinn vs. Rauner. The nemeses ripped one another to shreds in their final debate before Election Day, firing off the muddiest round of Quinn-sults and Rauner rips thus far in this knock-down, drag-out fight. Rauner, a finger-pointing "mansplainer" onstage, repeatedly bashed the incumbent Democrat as a "failure" and a "phony," to which Quinn responded: "He's a champion name caller." (If this were a kindergarten playground, Rauner would get a time out. Then he would try to buy his way out of time-out, by donating millions to build a new charter school for over-privileged children in Lincoln Park.) The multi-millionaire GOP investor then dropped his braggiest campaign ad yet, touting all of his mainstream media endorsements. Next came results of a Tribune poll showing the two rivals in "dead heat" with Rauner inching two percentage points ahead of Quinn, 45-43, thanks to growing support from white suburban collar-county women voters who tend toward the fiscally conservative and the socially moderate. Can Quinn out-campaign Mr. Mansplain heading into the home stretch? With the outcome in "toss-up" territory, the governor got some back-up this week from Democratic power brokers like President Barack Obama and ex-President Bill Clinton, slinging mud on his behalf in Chicago (where Quinn has a firm grip), as well as Veep Joe Biden, traveling north to Vernon Hills to stump in the battleground 10th district. Negative ads abounded.

Dave McKinney vs. the Sun-Times and Rauner. Sending shockwaves throughout the incestuous Chicago media-verse, McKinney—a veteran political reporter at the liberal-leaning Sun-Timesresigned in protest after brass allegedly cowed to pressure from Rauner's PR team to kill a controversial story he was working on and "yanked" him off his beat. In a letter addressed to Sun-Times owner Michael Ferro, whom he blamed for a "chilling effect in the newsroom," the journalist lamented that the candidate's aides had forwarded to higher-ups an error-ridden "opposition-research hit piece" falsely suggesting that his wife, a Democratic political consultant, was collaborating on the story. The final straw for McKinney? The paper's decision to break its no-endorsement policy, endorse Rauner over Quinn and support "the very campaign that had unleashed what Sun-Times management had declared as a defamatory attack on me." Now he might sue, but in this case, a legal victory is an uphill battle. For more on this insidery yet significant media scandal, see my colleague Mark Anderson's excellent essay "Sun-Times Squanders Trust Right When City, State Need It The Most."

Dick Durbin vs. Jim Oberweis. The second-ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate has no competition whatsoever from the Illinois state Republican senator and ice cream tycoon. He's now 14 points ahead of Oberweis. Despite those long odds, Durbin's GOP rival keeps on swinging ... and missing. In the enemies' first and only televised debate Wedneday, he slammed the incumbent as "smooth" and out of touch with "people on the streets." Sniped Oberweis: "He's not the same man that he was 32 years ago when he first ran for Congress." Countering, Durbin linked the Sugar Grove politician to the much-maligned tea party and referenced Oberweis' past remarks encouraging a tea party group to "take over" the state Republican Party. Oberweis, pulling a Biden, made headlines by publicly supporting gay marriage, and Durbin—a strong proponent of marriage equality—had no mud to sling upon that surprising 180 from the guy who voted against making it legal here in the Land of Lincoln.

City Council vs. Cockroach. Having once lived in New York City, the sight of a cockroach gives me stress hives. I instinctively want to reach for a can of Raid and spray the vermin before it disappears underneath my bed never to be seen again until eight hours later, when it re-surfaces and FLIES ACROSS MY STUDIO APARTMENT. Cockroaches are prehistoric, resilient bugs. And they can smell fear. They also appreciate irony. On Thursday one was spotted climbing up the walls of City Council during testimony from Fleet and Facility Management Commissioner David Reynolds, the authority in charge of ridding the city of such pests. Reynold said afterward, "I was mortified. The timing is ironic, that in the middle of my budget hearing a cockroach decides to make itself known." That is exactly why I am dubbing it the very first "Mudslinger of the Week" for hilariously—and courageously—creeping into a notorious chamber of corruption and keeping aldermen on their toes.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Opinion: Was City Duped on Interest Rate Swaps?]]> Fri, 24 Oct 2014 15:28:12 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chicago+skyline+getty1.jpg

One of the most underreported stories to come out of the 2008 global financial crisis is the relationship between big Wall Street firms, local municipalities and budget decisions. 

In cities big and small across the country, city officials entered into complex financial deals known as interest rate swaps that in many cases have backfired on them, costing millions in potentially unnecessary payments and fees. 

Now, activists and others are calling on the City of Chicago and the Chicago Public Schools to come clean about their own dealings with interest rate swaps, charging the city and CPS are dragging their feet in doing all they can to challenge the terms of any bad deals they’ve entered into. 

The question becomes: what does the city have to hide? 

Boiled down to their basics, interest rate swaps offer a debt issuer, such as a city or school district, the opportunity to avoid higher interest rates on bonds they issue. They do so by typically exchange fixed rate interest payments for variable rates, determined in large part by how the economy is doing and how specific market indexes behave. 

Chicago has long used interest rate swaps as a potential hedge against higher interest rates. It even has a publicly listed “Swap Policy”, which details how and when swaps should or shouldn’t be used.

For it’s part, the Daley administration relied heavily on interest rate swaps as part of its overall strategy for issuing bonds and fixing the city’s budget. However, two factors have conspired to make at least some of those deals go bad: a drop in interest rates and downgrades in the city’s credit rating. 

The Chicago Sun-Times has reported the city could be on the hook for $200 million because of the deals if the city’s credit rating drops further. Bloomberg is reporting it could cost the city as much as $400 million to get out of the deals entirely. 

For it’s part, CPS is believed to have spent more than $800 million in payments to banks and financial services firms as part of interest rate swap agreements. 

Organizations such as the Chicago Teacher’s Union, AFSCME Council 31 and SEIU Healthcare have called on the mayor and CPS leadership to file for arbitration with FINRA, the financial industry’s regulatory body, to seek a refund of payments for what they say were “fraudulent” swap deals.

As well, the Chicago City Council's Progressive Reform Caucus has called for an end to the interest-rate swap agreements with banks and private investment firms, including Bank of America and Loop Capital. 

Recently, former North Carolina Congressman and onetime member of the House Financial Services Committee Brad Miller testified before an open CPS meeting, calling on municipal issuers like Chicago and CPS to review the specific documents pertaining to their deals and explore legal options to recover their payments on the grounds that they likely violated state and federal laws. 

Yet, in another example of how politics and public policy are done in Chicago, the Emanuel administration has said the city has looked into the matter and decided there’s simply nothing to be done

According to Corporation Counsel Steve Patton, not only have city lawyers concluded that there's no provable case of fraud or misrepresentation here but city officials hired two outside hot shots to make sure: James Kopecky, a former supervisor in the enforcement division of the Securities and Exchange Commission in Chicago, and Daniel Collins, a former federal prosecutor. 

They just completed their work and found that “there's no claim to be filed,” Mr. Patton said. 

When it comes to municipalities, much of the success of financial firms leading up to the 2008 crisis and beyond depended on the mismatch between the financial expertise of Wall Street professionals and the lack of sophistication of many town and county administrators.  

Yet big cities such as Denver, Kansas City, Philadelphia, New York and others all are in the hole on swaps agreements they made with financial firms. 

In a letter to the editor of the Sun-Times, Saqib Bhatti, director of the ReFund America Project and fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, pointed out that it’s not like the city hasn't been duped before.

Although the mayor would have us believe that Chicago’s finance teams are too sophisticated to be swindled by banks, the parking meter fiasco demonstrates that city officials have the capacity to be duped. Interestingly, Morgan Stanley, one of the key banks involved in the parking meter deal, was also a major underwriter on the bonds underlying the city’s swaps. 

Activists such as Miller and the CTU have repeatedly asked both CPS and the city to disclose documents pertaining to the deals that would shed light on how they were made and what banks and financial services firms promised to the city to make the sale. Yet, repeatedly, they’ve been told their requests were too burdensome or the documents wouldn’t be delivered. 

Which is how things seem to work in Chicago: even as millions of dollars fly out the door, there’s no reason anyone should see how the deals were made.  

Photo Credit: Jeff Gentner/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Michelle Obama Stars In Another Pro-Quinn TV Ad: Video]]> Fri, 24 Oct 2014 11:31:48 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/169*120/Michelle-Obama-Ikram-thumb2.jpg

Gov. Pat Quinn's campaign has released a new TV ad starring First Lady Michelle Obama, this one with footage from her Oct. 7 rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The 30-second spot interweaves Obama's passionate pro-Quinn speech with images of the governor in Good Citizen Mode, visiting schoolchildren and talking to Illinoisians at a diner. She urges the crowd to vote early, saying "let's just get this done."

"I know Pat Quinn. His push for the minimum wage is essential," declares Obama. "If you think women should get equal pay for equal work, if you want our kids to have quality pre-school, have a chance to go to college, if you want a governor who shares our values, then we need Pat Quinn has governor of Illinois!"

Earlier this month, she appeared in Quinn TV and radio ads touting the Chicago Democrat's efforts to boost Illinois' minimum wage and improve the lives of military veterans.

The incumbent, locked in a tight race against Republican rival Bruce Rauner, has recruited a small army of political A-listers to stump on his behalf including the Obamas, the Clintons and Vice President Joe Biden. His political future in this state will be decided Nov. 4, on Election Day.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dold, Schneider Battle in Race for 10th District]]> Thu, 23 Oct 2014 18:40:32 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/brad+schneider+2014.jpg

Democrat Brad Schneider is the incumbent, having served one term in Congress, campaigning alongside Vice President Joe Biden, but he realizes the 10th District is quite Independent.

"I am a proud Democrat but I don't think either party has a lock on the good ideas,” he said.

Schneider’s challenger, Republican Bob Dold, replaced Sen. Mark Kirk in the 10th District and served one term in Congress when he narrowly lost two years ago.

"I was ranked the most Independent bipartisan member during my time in Congress,” he said.

This year is a rematch of the 2012 race and both candidates are spending millions on attack ads -- with outside money pouring in. They disagree on the Affordable Care Act, Medicare Cuts and a minimum wage hike.

Dold won't give an exact number of where it should be.

"We have to recognize on a federal minimum wage, Democrats and Republicans get together and try to minimize job loss,” he said.

"I think we need to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 over three years, then index it to inflation,” Schneider said.

They also differ on the decision to send ground troops to fight ISIS.

"I don't think ground troops are the answer right now,” Schneider said.

"Ground troops certainly have to be an option on the table, we don't know what tomorrow may bring, I can tell you ISIS won't want to stop just in the Middle East,” said Dold.

The race is much too close to call, much like the governor's race. The end result will likely come down to turnout.

Photo Credit: Facebook]]>
<![CDATA[Obama Invites Jackie Robinson West to Washington]]> Thu, 23 Oct 2014 11:23:35 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/JRW_stage_Igram.jpg

While in Chicago earlier this week, President Barack Obama reportedly paid a visit to the Jackie Robinson West Little League national champions and told them: "I am inviting you to the White House."

The Sun-Times reports that Obama broke the news Sunday following a re-election rally he headlined for Gov. Pat Quinn at Chicago State University. Meeting with the team, he said: "I want you guys to do well in school. You guys are role models."

A Jackie Robinson West spokesperson did not immediately respond to Ward Room's request for comment.

The All-Star Little Leaguers from the city's South Side captured hearts—and a ton of media attention—during last summer's victorious U.S. championship run.

Treated like rock stars back home, the team was celebrated with a joyous rally drawing Quinn, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Sox and Cubs brass and Chance the Rapper.

Said player Marquis Jackson: "We're African-American boys from the South Side. For so many people, the South Side is only about bad things. Something good can come from the South Side of Chicago, period."

Photo Credit: distractyourface/Instagram]]>
<![CDATA[Opinion: Sun-Times Squanders Trust]]> Fri, 24 Oct 2014 15:45:26 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Sun-times-p1.jpg

Let’s take a moment and review the one question that isn't getting enough attention in the whole Sun-Times/Bruce Rauner/LeapSource/Dave McKinney saga: 

Specifically, why did the Sun-Times decide to reverse policy and endorse Republican candidate Rauner at the exact moment it was embroiled in a knock-down, drag-out fight over charges of a potential conflict of interest for the paper and McKinney, its Springfield bureau chief?

For those of you who missed the story, longtime reporter McKinney resigned from the Sun-Times after 19 years on Wednesday, citing a litany of problems stemming from his reporting on a controversial story reported in conjunction with NBC Chicago that involved Rauner and allegations of personal threats and “hardball” tactics against a former employee.

In his resignation letter, McKinney—an established and widely respected reporter—details a laundry list of repercussions stemming from the story’s publication. First, the Rauner campaign tried to get the story killed. Then, it charged McKinney with conflict of interest for being married to a Democratic political consultant. 

While the paper’s owners tried to figure out what to do, they pulled McKinney from his longtime beat without explanation. Then, they let him back on, but told him he couldn't report on the story any longer. Right in the middle of this, the paper reversed a three-year-old policy of not endorsing political candidates to come out hard for Bruce Rauner. In making their endorsement, the editorial board interviewed neither Rauner or his Democratic rival, Pat Quinn, simply letting fly with their backing without warning or real explanation. Or making any other endorsements in any other race.
In other words, it sure looks like the Sun-Times was trying to wriggle out of something when it decided to go all in on Rauner. And to even the most casual of observers, it’s hard to escape the conclusion the paper ended up trading its most precious journalistic asset to appease a political campaign breathing down its neck.
Which, for the outsized position the paper holds in setting the political agenda in Illinois and Chicago both, is a blow that goes beyond the specifics of one reporter, one story or one political campaign.
Few newspapers anywhere in the state have banked their survival on political reporting as much as the Sun-Times. As part of a strategy to turn the paper around, the Sun-Times created and heavily promoted Early & Often, its sponsored “political portal”. It was able to do so, in part, because the paper had a roster of outstanding journalists like McKinney and others who knew politics and weren’t afraid to follow a story wherever it led. As a result, most political stories in the city and state don’t get any traction without going through the Sun-Times at one point or another. Yet all of that is in danger in the wake of the editorial and McKinney’s resignation.
The minute a journalistic institution is even suspected of trading its influence in return for anything is the moment it begins to lose the trust of its readership, the people it covers and anyone interested in the paper’s survival.

Because the question becomes: if it happened once, what’s to say it won't happen again? It doesn't matter whether the paper had the purest of motives in endorsing someone like Rauner. What matters is appearance.

For proof, conduct a little thought experiment: what happens if, in late January or early February of 2015, Mayor Rahm Emanuel finds himself down 15 or 20 points in the polls and the paper decides to endorse him for re-election? The mayor has deep ties to a number of Sun-Times board members, just like Rauner. Members of the board, including Michael Ferro Jr. and Michael Sacks donated heavily to Emanuel’s 2011 campaign. The mayor parties with members of the board. Michael Sacks has been described as the mayor’s “go-to guy” on everything from the city’s parking meter deal to economic development.

That’s not to say a mayoral endorsement from the Sun-Times will be done in anything but the most transparent, above board way possible. But what if it’s not? This one certainly wasn't. There’s little doubt both the city and the state are facing an abundance of critical and difficult problems right now. Voters and concerned citizens need institutions like the Sun-Times to fulfill their role as unbiased, unimpeachable reporters of truth—even in the messy world of politics.

In his resignation letter, McKinney wrote:

Readers of the Sun-Times need to be able to trust the paper. They need to know a wall exists between owners and the newsroom to preserve the integrity of what is published. A breach in that wall exists at the Sun-Times.

Doesn’t get any plainer than that. 

<![CDATA[Sun-Times Reporter Resigns, Criticizes Paper's Leadership and Bruce Rauner]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 17:50:19 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/chicago-sun-times-building1.jpg

Longtime Chicago Sun Times political reporter Dave McKinney has decide to resign from his job amid allegations that Bruce Rauner’s campaign interfered with his reporting on a controversial story. 

McKinney along with NBC5’s Carol Marin and Don Moseley reported on allegations made by a former Rauner employee who said in a deposition that Rauner used hardball tactics at one of his investment companies, LeapSource.  
The former CEO alleged in a lawsuit that Rauner threatened her personally.   
“If you go legal on us, we’ll hurt you and your family,” the CEO said that Rauner said about her.    
The Rauner campaign pushed back vigorously before the story aired.

On Wednesday McKinney revealed that prior to publication, the Rauner campaign used multiple tactics to block the story.
 ... including having campaign staffers vowing to “go over” our heads. We are accustomed to such tactics.

But what does not come with the territory is a campaign sending to my boss an opposition-research hit piece–rife with errors–about my wife, Ann Liston. The campaign falsely claimed she was working with a PAC to defeat Rauner and demanded a disclaimer be attached to our story that would have been untrue. It was a last-ditch act of intimidation.

Yes, Ann does political consulting work for Democrats. But she has not been involved in the Illinois’ governor’s race and has focused on out-of-state campaigns. She and her business partner have gone to great lengths to prevent potential conflicts of interest, including creating a legally binding firewall that prevents Ann from participating in, strategizing in, or financially benefiting from the Illinois governor’s race. For that work, her partner formed a separate corporation with its own bank account that didn’t involve Ann in any way. In January, before we were even married, I presented this information to Sun-Times management and received approval in writing to move forward.”   
McKinney notes that he was “yanked" from his beat, but after he contacted former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins to investigate the matter, he was reinstated.  
But McKinney found he was not permittedwork the way he had for decades.  During his first day back on the job, he was pulled from writing a follow up the original Rauner story. 
The final straw, McKinney said, was the Sun Times' decision to reverse its three-year-old no endorsement policy and endorse Rauner whom McKinney sees as “the very campaign that had unleashed what Sun Times management had declared as a defamatory attack on me.”
Sun Times publisher Jim Kirk  addressed the resignation in an emailed statement.
 “It is with reluctance that I accept Dave McKinney’s resignation. As recently as this Monday on our Op/Ed page, I stated that Dave is among the best in our profession.  I meant it then and I mean it now. The pause we took last week was to ensure there were no conflicts of interest and was taken simply to protect Dave McKinney, the Sun Times and its readers as we were under attack in a heated political campaign. We came to the right result, found the political attacks against us to be false and we stand by our reporting, our journalists and this great newspaper. I disagree with Dave's questioning the integrity of this newspaper and my role as editor and publisher.  I call the shots. While I've been here, our ownership and management have never quashed a story and they have always respected the journalistic integrity of this paper.”
The Rauner campaign released a statement from spokesman Chip Englander who doubled down.
"While we disagreed with him on this matter, we are saddened to see Dave leave the Sun-Times.  We wish him the best."

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<![CDATA[Emanuel Names Kurt Summers Jr. To City Treasurer Post]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 12:41:59 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/emanuel+summers.jpg

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday appointed Kurt Summers Jr. to the City Treasurer post being left by Stephanie Neely.

“Kurt Summers has the experience, the values and the integrity we need of everyone who holds public office,” Emanuel said in a statement. “I am confident that he will become a vital member of the city’s financial team and help manage the city’s investments effectively, efficiently, and in a way that promotes opportunity for every Chicagoan.”

Summers previously served as Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle's chief of staff.

Neely announced her resignation, effective at the end of November, to her staff Monday morning, telling them she plans to return to the private sector. In a statement released Monday afternoon, Neely confirmed "with mixed emotions" that she will not seek re-election.

"When I came into this office nearly 8 years ago I vowed to become the best Treasurer this city has ever had," she said. "It has been an honor and a privilege to serve my hometown as its Treasurer."

Neely's resignation allowed Emanuel to appoint her successor, and many speculated Summers would be chosen.

“I intend to bring to the Treasurer’s office a focus on financial stewardship, accountability, innovation and investment," Summers said in a statement. "This is not a short-term investment for me. I am committed to having a long-term impact, and I will work to earn the support of Chicagoans."

Summers' appointment is pending City Council approval.

Photo Credit: NBCChicago.com]]>
<![CDATA[Bloomberg Pours $1.9 Million Into Pro-Dold Ad Buy]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 10:47:40 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_michael_bloomberg_anuncia_indices_de_crimen.jpg

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's political action committee Independence USA is pouring $1.9 million into an television ad buy backing Illinois congressional candidate Bob Dold.

Crain's Chicago Business reports that the donation from billionaire Bloomberg, who returned to lead his namesake company after relinquishing his three-term post last year, is the "largest outside spending by a wide margin in the race," besting the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's now-quaint, six-figure contribution to Dold earlier this year.

Dold is running a tight toss-up race against Rep. Brad Schneider in the battleground 10th district on suburban Chicago's tony North Shore.

The Republican businessman from Kenilworth previously held Schneider's position until the Deerfield Democrat ousted him from office in 2012. Millions in outside money is flooding in on both sides, with Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS a benefactor for the Dold campaign.

Meanwhile, Dold has sought to reinvent himself as a fiscally conservative/socially moderate independent in the vein of the popular GOP Sen. Mark Kirk, who previously repped the 10th. Last week, Dold and Kirk appeared in a TV ad together wherein the latter gushed: "He's like me!"

Bloomberg is worth some $34 billion, so (obviously) he has dollars to drop. According to the New York Times, this month the ex-Republican city boss (whose politics cross over into Democratic territory on social issues) intended to earmark even more dough—$25 million—to prop up political centrists ahead of Nov. 4's midterm elections. Beyond Dold, this cycle he's supported a bipartisan array of candidates in states from Massachusetts to Michigan and was also directing cash to back a Washington State referendum on gun control.

"He wants to elect people who are open and actually inclined to work with people across the aisle," Bloomberg's political adviser Howard Wolfson told the Times in early October.

Angling to influence last year's showdown for Jesse Jackson Jr.'s House seat, the Independence USA PAC earmarked over $1.4 million on gun control-themed ads that successfully helped Rep. Robin Kelly defeat a rival bid from former congresswoman Debbie Halvorson.

The PAC's Dold spot touts Dold's endorsements of gun-shop background checks as well as gay marriage. It takes a positive tone, slinging no mud in Schneider's direction.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rivals Debate in NH Senate Race]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 12:06:59 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/214*120/vlcsnap-2014-10-21-21h11m54s10.jpg

Scott Brown continued to hammer away at Democrat Jeanne Shaheen's record in Washington as the incumbent repeatedly accused her Republican opponent of fear mongering during a debate in New Hampshire's U.S. Senate race Tuesday.

Brown accused Shaheen of "outsourcing independence" by voting for policies backed by President Barack Obama. Shaheen, meanwhile, sought to distance herself from the president, who has low approval ratings in New Hampshire.

"In some ways I approve, in some ways I don't approve," of the president's decisions, Shaheen said when asked to answer "yes or no" if she approves of Obama's job in office.

The latest efforts to contain and prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in the United States also became a hot topic, as Brown pushed for a travel ban from West Africa. Shaheen reiterated a comment from a day earlier that she would consider one if it would make a difference. That position was a reversal from last week, when she said she didn't think the idea "makes sense." 

The Democratic incumbent accused her rival of fear mongering on the Ebola virus, border security and the threat of terrorism posed by ISIS.

The two rivals remain locked in a close race as they headed into Tuesday's televised debate, which was hosted by New England Cable News, the Concord Monitor and the University of New Hampshire. A recent WMUR Granite State poll showed Shaheen leading her GOP challenger 44 percent to 38 percent among likely voters at the start of the month. Seventeen percent remained undecided.

The competitive race has attracted campaign cash and headlines from across the country, as one of several competitive seats Republicans are targeting in their bid to win control of the U.S. Senate in the Nov. 4 midterm elections.

Chuck Todd, NBC's "Meet the Press" host, moderated the debate from the Capitol Center for the arts in Concord.

Shaheen said she was proud of her vote for the Obama's landmark heath care overhaul, the Affordable Care Act, while Brown insisted Granite Staters wanted to repeal Obamacare.

Sparks also flew on the topics of immigration and border security.

"The border is secure when people don't come across it," Brown said to the applause of supporters after Todd asked him to define a secure border.

Shaheen attacked Brown's record on abortion rights, which he says he supports; Brown, while senator for Massachusetts, supported the Blunt Amendment, which would have allowed any employer with moral objections to opt out of requiring to cover birth control in 2012.

When Brown said Shaheen was anti-nuclear as the subject of rising energy costs came up, she countered, "No, I'm not!"

Brown suggested repeatedly that Shaheen backs a new national energy tax, an assertion PolitiFact has deemed "mostly false."

In a final lightning round, Shaheen said her priority after being re-elected would be to refinance student loans; Brown said he would push the U.S. Senate to come up with a budget. Both declined to say they'd back their respective party heads in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, for another term in leadership. 

Barbs were also thrown after Brown defended his decision to run in New Hampshire this year instead of seeking to win back the Massachusetts seat he lost to Democrat Elizabeth Warren in 2012 by saying he didn't run "because I live here." 

"I don't think New Hampshire is a consolation prize," Shaheen said.


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<![CDATA[Obama Forgot to Clean His Chicago Home Before Leaving For Washington]]> Tue, 21 Oct 2014 17:18:19 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/203*120/obamalax.jpg

President Barack Obama says his home on Chicago's South Side is a 2008-era time warp of sorts, with old newspapers and unpaid bills left behind in the First Family's move to DC six years ago.

"We always thought we'd be back every month and we'd kind of get everything in order and filed, and it hasn't happened," he told The Associated Press Monday night, at a fundraiser for Illinois Democrats. "But it's useful, actually, to take a look at some of these old articles to remind ourselves of where we were when we took office and to think about the progress we've made."

According to the AP, the president—who's reportedly looking to make his home base New York City, not Chicago, when he leaves the White House—took some time in between midterm-campaign obligations to revisit the Hyde Park mansion he and Michelle Obama bought in 2005.

On Sunday night, he headlined a rally for Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn at Chicago State University, attracting more than 6,000 supporters and imploring them to vote early. Obama himself cast a ballot the next morning, when he jokingly teased a guy who said, "Mr. President, don't touch my girlfriend."

(For the record, he would not reveal whether he checked off the box for Quinn or GOP gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner; let's all take a wild guess and assume the former. Election Day is Nov. 4, but early voting has commenced here and Obama—still revered in his adopted hometown—is eagerly recruited by local politicians to help their campaigns.

Non-Illinoisians running for office and/or hoping to hold onto their Washington posts—especially in the Senate—have distanced themselves from the president, who's less popular late in his second term.)

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Hurricane Bill Clinton Hits Chicago to Shake Up the Quinn-Rauner Race]]> Tue, 21 Oct 2014 17:15:19 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/194*120/AP844735183084.jpg

Remember when Bill "Explainer-in-Chief" Clinton waltzed into the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte and proceeded to give the best speech of the election season thus far? 

The silver-tongued speaker, with his practiced man-of-the-people folksiness and enviable ability to condense a complicated issue into effectively simple terms, managed to argue the Democrats' case better than anyone else on that stage. He even out-shone President Barack Obama, the more introverted "Professor-in-Chief" and an oratory marvel in his own right, who lost some of that swagger from 2008, when "change" was in the air.

If Clinton didn't drop the mic afterward, he should have.

The former president, whose wife may soon launch a bid for the White House, relishes politics and the political spotlight—when Obama essentially ignored him during his first term, he felt slighted. Then 2012 rolled around, and suddenly his campaigning prowess—not to mention a rebound in goodwill from a public feeling nostalgic for the '90s—came into high demand. The Obamans knocked on his door. He jumped at the chance to spin the election in his party's favor.

Two years later, Clinton is doing just that for embattled Democrats here in Illinois. Earlier this summer, he stumped for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel at a splashy fundraiser downtown, lending his ex-adviser—up for re-election next February and struggling to win back Chicago voters he's alienated, especially African-Americans—a welcome dose of star power.

Today, in the city's South Side, he was addressing a crowd of workers, business and labor leaders at a manufacturing plant on behalf of Gov. Pat Quinn, who's locked in a tight race against Republican businessman Bruce Rauner. The theme: The economy and the state's economic "comeback."

While Quinn touts a decline in the unemployment rate, Rauner counters that the rate remains among the highest in the county and that the Democratic incumbent has "failed" as a leader. The governor, prone to social awkwardness and blustery delivery, has strived to streamline—and sell—his message on Illinois' fiscal woes (and how he can best salvage the post-crash wreckage) amid tough competition from Rauner, who projects an aura of competence and reason honed from years leading boardroom meetings as a veteran venture capitalist.

Here's where Clinton steps in to shake things up, attempt to reframe the issue and drop the mic. Again.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[The 11 Biggest Quinn-sults and Rauner Rips From Monday's Debate]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 06:00:46 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/quinn-rauner-wls-debates.jpg

Democratic Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican opponent Bruce Rauner squared off Monday night in their final debate before the Nov. 4 election. Per usual in this wildly hostile, closely matched gubernatorial showdown, things got more than a little testy as the two attacked each other's leadership skills and moral character. Eleven of their most toxic Quinn-sults and Rauner rips, from the F-word to the B-word and everything in between:

1. "He's a failure. Governor Quinn has failed. He's failed on what matters. ... Pat Quinn has been a disaster." — Rauner, dropping the F-word with merciless abandon.

2. "Pat Quinn's a PHONY."

3. "He's a champion name caller." — Quinn, on his rival's nonstop failure-and-phony disses.

4. "I'm running against a billionaire. ... Savage, radical, extreme cuts." — Quinn, deploying his favorite B-word to cast Rauner as an out-of-touch Mr. Burns cartoon villain.

5. "We have a massive economic failure in Illinois. Gov. Quinn, he’s running on scare tactics. ... The truth is Illinois is failing on jobs, failing on taxes." — Rauner.

6. "You’ve got to take on hard things, tough things, on behalf of the common good. My opponent is all about easy street." — Quinn.

7. "He's a phony on the minimum wage. He's playing political football." — Rauner.

8. "He has a plan to give himself a million-dollar tax cut while slashing the education budget of this state. I’m against giving tax cuts to the wealthy and hurting our schools.” — Quinn.

9. "Let me be clear, you don’t judge a person’s heart by the size of their wallet." — Rauner.

10. "You are taking the African American vote for granted. You had a superstar who could have been your lieutenant governor: Stephanie Neely." — Rauner, referencing the outgoing Chicago Treasurer, who resigned her post for a job in the private sector.

11. "My question is 'Where’d ya look?'" — Quinn, addressing Rauner's past remarks that his private equity firm had not hired African-Americans because he couldn't find any who were qualified.

<![CDATA[The Chicago GOP's Chris Cleveland Sounds Off on Quinn, Rahm and Daley]]> Tue, 21 Oct 2014 17:09:18 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/lucky-the-elephant-flickr.jpg

As Illinois' GOP gubernatorial contender Bruce Rauner focuses attention on Democratic Chicago, the state's most powerful voting bloc and one cornered by incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn, the Chicagoan who heads up the city's Republican Party—yes, it actually exists—says he thinks the wealthy Winnetka investor stands a decent chance at winning over at least some voters in a one-party town.

"If we here in Chicago get 25 percent, then we've hit our numbers," Chris Cleveland, vice chairman of the Chicago Republican Party and 43rd Ward committeeman, told Ward Room in a recent interview. "Thirty percent would be outstanding. That would really mean something. Getting 30 percent is definitely a stretch."

Ald. Michele Smith, a Democrat, oversees Ward 43, which spans the tony North Side nabes of Lincoln Park, Old Town and the Gold Coast. Cleveland, her GOP foil, is hosting uber-conservative Texas tea party Sen. Ted Cruz at a DePaul University breakfast funder on Wednesday to raise money for local Republican candidates. (Cruz, who may run for president in 2016, no doubt aims to hustle up campaign cash from well-heeled Chicago supporters while he's here.)

Meanwhile, Rauner, who's steering clear of the polarizing Cruz ahead of Election Day, isn't exactly hurting on the financial front: He raised $20.5 million last quarter, ending it with $3.5 milion cash on hand. He's poured a large chunk of that dough (which includes millions from his own deep pockets) into Windy City-centric media attacks upon the governor, specifically targeting Quinn-fatigued Democratic swing voters and independents as well as African-Americans frustrated with the status quo. (Quinn on Sunday got some welcome campaign love from President Barack Obama, who urged the largely black crowd at a South Side rally to support the party at the ballot box Nov. 4.)

"Bruce Rauner is making a very big push into black neighborhoods. He's opened some offices. He's got people on the street. He has endorsements from a number of ministers. You know, a lot of the thought leaders are starting to say, 'Hey, we've been loyal Democrats for a long time and what has it got us?'" said Cleveland.

Touting Rauner's strength in the 43rd, won by ex-Republican Gov. George Ryan in 1998, Cleveland said: "That was the No. 1 ward for him during the (March) primary. He got 68 percent of the vote. And he's got a real appeal. Because he's (fiscally conservative) on the economic issues and he's moderate on social issues, which reflects the ward."

Other potential pockets of voters who could destabilize Quinn's grip on the city—and tip the balance of the election outside of it—exist in wards 42 (Loop-centric), 32 (Lakeview/Wicker Park) and 41 (near O'Hare), which is "white, ethnic, working-class, lot of private trade union people, cops, firefighters. And those are swing voters," he declared.

Asked about Rauner's recent public missteps, which include owning up to having previously pitched the idea of eliminating the minimum wage altogether, among other bouts of foot-in-mouth-disease, Cleveland insisted voters' personal priorities supercede all the bad PR.

"The Democrats have engaged in class warfare since the days of Andrew Jackson. It's an old, old, old game that they play," he said. "But ultimately, people care about their families, their community and whether they have a job. And when people look objectively at the two candidates, and they realize that Quinn has messed up the state in embarrassing different ways over the last eight years, and that Bruce Rauner has the credentials to bring business and jobs to our different neighborhoods ... you know, they'll vote their own interest."

Cleveland's claws come out, big-time, on the subject of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who seeks a second term in 2015. His biggest competitor thus far? Political progressive Bob Fioretti, the 2nd Ward alderman. His least threatening competition? GOP spotlight-chaser William Kelly.

"He's a pretty terrible mayor. He is fully part of the Machine. He operates slush funds, particularly the TIF funds, for his own benefit," sniped Cleveland, adding: "He's just a sad, sad mayor."

Reps for Quinn and Emanuel did not immediately respond to Ward Room's request for comment.

Despite Emanuel's pro-business streak, a quality Republicans would generally like, "He is not a conservative," lamented Cleveland. "He is a man who is completely, utterly inept and unable to confront the problems that we have—and on issue after issue after issue. Jobs. Controlling spending. Doing something about pensions. Handling public safety. Having some sort of reasonable school choice programs so we can pull CPS up. He's an utter failure on all of them. I mean, that's what people used to say about Daley too. 'Oh, he's really a Republican.' Well, that was utter nonsense about him. And even he was more conservative than Rahm Emanuel."

Does Cleveland have anybody lined up to challenge Rahm on the Republican ticket?

"I don't! Do you? ... Some people have been sniffing around it but no, I don't currently have a credible candidate."

Photo Credit: Flickr/Amanda Richards]]>
<![CDATA[Man to President: "Don't Touch My Girlfriend"]]> Tue, 21 Oct 2014 12:54:13 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/obama-vote-girlfriend-1.jpg

While taking part in Early Voting in Chicago on Monday, President Barack Obama was interrupted at his electronic polling station by a man with a lighthearted word-of-caution.

"Mr. President, don't touch my girlfriend," the man, later identified as Mike, quipped as he crossed the room.

Standing beside Obama at her own polling station was Mike's clearly embarrassed girlfriend, Aia Cooper.

"You know, I really wasn't really planning on it," Obama replied with a chuckle. "There's an example of a brother just embarrassing me for no reason."

Obama added: "Now you'll be going back home and talking to your friends about this. ... I can't believe Mike, he is such a fool."

After a moment the pair finished with their ballots and the president went toward Cooper for a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

"Now you're really jealous," Obama said, smiling and pointing at Mike.

The president was in Chicago on Sunday and Monday attending fundraisers and offering support to Gov. Pat Quinn, who is in a challenging campaign against Republican Bruce Rauner.

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<![CDATA[City Continues to Walk Fine Line on Police Overtime]]> Tue, 21 Oct 2014 10:49:07 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/tlmd_rahm_emanuel_chapo_guzman_chicago.JPG

During the first day of City Council hearings on Mayor Emanuel’s 2015 budget proposals, City Budget Director Alexandria Holt revealed the city is once again spending millions of dollars beyond what was budgeted for police overtime.
Holt told aldermen the city expects to spend $95 million on police overtime this year, which is $23 million more than the $72 million already set aside.
It’s the second year in a row the city has exceeded its police overtime budget by millions. Last year, the city spent more than $100 million on police overtime after estimating it would spend $32 million.
The figures come amid growing concern in Chicago over the police department’s overall effectiveness in addressing spiraling shootings and murders, particularly in a number of poorer and more disadvantaged neighborhoods across the city.
In response to the city’s ongoing gun violence, community leaders, neighborhood activists and several alderman have called for the city to hire more police to patrol the streets and attack high crime areas. According to the city, 12,533 sworn positions are budgeted for 2015, including about 9,700 positions for beat officers.
A number of aldermen, including members of the Council’s Progressive Reform Caucus, have called for 500 additional police hires above and beyond what is currently budgeted.
“We need to find $50 million in the budget to fund the additional officers because as it is, [the police department] is understaffed,” Alderman Rick Munoz (22) told Ward Room. “If the city can find money for other projects, they can find the money for more officers.”
However, the Emanuel administration argues that hiring more police officers actually hurts the city’s budget more than simply asking existing officers to work more overtime. At Monday’s hearing, Holt said overtime costs less than hiring new officers, saying the average full-time officer costs the city about $100,000 a year in pay and benefits.
“If you look at the $40 million, say, in overtime for operation impact, that buys you about 570,000 hours of policing work,” Holt said. “If you were to do it on straight time, it’s about 150,000 hours less.”
Yet the city’s calculations appear to ignore potential human costs and ineffectiveness such a policy can create. In a statement on the proposed 2015 budget, the PRC expressed concern that “over-reliance on police overtime could exacerbate community-police conflicts and increases the risk of problematic interactions.”
“We should be hiring more officers to minimize the amount of time these officers are working,” Munoz told the Tribune. “Human beings do get tired, and we want to protect the men in blue.”
Nevertheless, the city stands by its policy, at least as expressed in the current 2015 budget proposal.
Holt pointed to $40 million of the $95 million in overtime costs as being devoted to special Impact Zones targeted for reductions in street crime and gun violence, saying “the issue is really one of flexibility for the Police Department."   

Photo Credit: Archivo Getty Images]]>