<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Chicago Political News and Chicago Politics]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/politics http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.com en-us Sun, 26 Apr 2015 01:43:42 -0500 Sun, 26 Apr 2015 01:43:42 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[WATCH: Obama Jokes at White House Correspondents' Dinner]]> Sun, 26 Apr 2015 00:51:31 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Obama-White-House-Correspondents-Dinner-1.jpg President Obama poked fun at politicians, government officials and himself at this year's White House Correspondents' Dinner.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Retiring Judge Shares Stories From Behind the Bench]]> Fri, 24 Apr 2015 17:58:08 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/james-holderman-1.jpg

In his more than three decades on the bench, Federal Judge James Holderman saw some of society’s worst. He sat in judgment of mobsters and crooked politicians. Even signed the wiretap order on a sitting Illinois governor.

But the former Chief Judge of the Illinois Northern District, who will retire next month, says it was the case of a disabled child which sticks in his mind the most. The four year old’s parents brought suit in Holderman’s court, seeking their son’s admittance to his local school in Chicago’s western suburbs.

"The cases that stick in mind are the ones that affected people the most," Holderman said in an interview in his Dirksen Building courtroom. "I applied the law and ordered the school to provide him the services that he needed so that he could attend school."

"His parents were so devoted to him to make sure that he could lead the best life that he possibly could," Holderman recalled. "And all I did was apply the law."

To be certain, the retiring jurist had more than his share of celebrated cases. Early on, he presided over three of the trials of corrupt judges from Operation Greylord.

"I always asked myself, what was it that caused this person to turn from whatever they were desirous of doing when they became a judge, and become corrupt," he said. "I’m assuming no one takes the bench with the idea they’re going to engage in corruption."

Holderman also oversaw the trials of mobsters Frank Calabrese Sr. and Albert "Caesar" Tocco. The latter, he recalled, was so vicious, evidence was presented that he plotted the murder of his own wife for cooperating with federal prosecutors.

"I sentenced him to 200 years," Holderman said. "And I told him, 'You, by your conduct, have forfeited your right to live in a free society.'"

More recently, Holderman played a role in the case against former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. While he didn’t sit as trial judge in that case, as Chief Judge, he did sign the order allowing the wiretapping of the governor’s phones.

"They presented that, with the allegation that the then sitting governor was attempting to sell the senate seat of President Obama," he recalled. "And they established through the presentation of evidence that that was taking place over the phone. Yes, I allowed that surveillance to be obtained."

It was not, he conceded, just another case.

"It was not just another case, but it was a determination that I made, just like any other case," he said.

But, did he go home that evening saying, "Wow, they’re after the governor?"

"Well, unfortunately, it’s not the first governor who’s under investigation in the state of Illinois," he recalled.

After serving as an assistant United States Attorney, Holderman was appointed to the federal bench by President Ronald Reagan in September of 1984. He still remembers every second of that phone call.

"He called me the Saturday of Labor Day weekend," he remembered. "I was told that sometime over the weekend I’d get a call, and in fact, the president called and I wasn’t home. I was coaching my son’s youth soccer league."

Needless to say, eventually he was found and the call went through.

"He said, 'Mr. Holderman? Ron Reagan.’ He didn’t say, 'President Reagan,' he said 'Ron Reagan!'" Holderman recalled, adding that the president declared, "I have some papers here that I would like to sign but before I do I'd like to ask your permission. I’d like to appoint you a United States District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois."

"I said, 'I’d be honored and privileged!'"

Among his judicial duties, Holderman oversaw a pilot program studying the feasibility of cameras in federal courts. He said he supports that concept.

"I believe that having cameras in the courtroom to show the public and display to the public what takes place in the courtrooms would enhance the public trust," he said. "The cameras really have no effect on the proceedings. People forget they’re even there."

Holderman became Chief Judge in 2006, and after serving in that capacity for seven years took senior status on the bench in 2013. All federal judicial appointments are for life, but he says he’s retiring now to take on, as he put it, "new horizons."

"There are other things in life, and I’m looking forward to them," he said. 

<![CDATA[Emanuel Names Claypool Next Chief of Staff]]> Fri, 24 Apr 2015 11:08:39 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/claypool-emanuel1.jpg

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Friday named Forrest Claypool as his next Chief of Staff.

Claypool, who currently serves as President of the Chicago Transit Authority, will replace Lisa Schrader, who will leave the Emanuel administration after serving in the role for two years.

"I've known Forrest Claypool for 35 years. He has an unparalleled record of reform, accountability, and leadership in city and county government," Emanuel said in a statement. "That's why one of the first calls I made during my transition in 2011 was to Forrest to ask him to lead the CTA. He is a world-class manager, and under him, the CTA has never been run better."

Emanuel cited the Red Line South Reconstruction Project as an example of Claypool’s “management and vision.”

Claypool also served a superintendent of the Chicago Park District in the 1990s.

He is expected to begin his new role after the inauguration. His replacement at the CTA has not yet been named, but officials expect an announcement will be made in the coming weeks.

<![CDATA[Former Ill. Rep. Sentenced to Five Months]]> Thu, 23 Apr 2015 18:30:45 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Derrick-Smith-presser.jpg

Former Illinois Rep. Derrick Smith was sentenced Thursday to five months for corruption.

A jury convicted the 51-year-old Democrat of bribery and attempted extortion last June after he was recorded in 2012 accepting a $7,000 bribe from a purported day care operator seeking a state grant.

Federal prosecutors want U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman to sentence Smith to five years in federal prison.

The Chicago-born Smith represented the 10th District in Illinois from March 2011 to August 2012 and again from January 2013 to June 2014.

Smith was charged in February of 2012 for accepting the bribe in exchange for a promise to help steer a state grant to a day care center. The day care center turned out to be just part of the FBI's elaborate sting.

Despite his indictment in the spring of 2012, Smith went on to win the March primary. His colleagues in the House voted to expel him from the body in August -- the first time in more than 100 years such action had been taken -- but he was re-installed by voters in the general election three months later. Illinois law prevented House members from expelling him a second time for the same reason.

He was defeated in the primary election last year and was considered a lame duck lawmaker.

The bribery conviction carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and the attempted extortion conviction carries a maximum of 20 years.

<![CDATA[Garcia Talks Schools, Taxes in Post-Runoff Interview]]> Wed, 22 Apr 2015 18:26:58 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Chuy-Garcia.jpg

Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia said Wednesday some Chicago school board members should resign in the wake a federal investigation.

The statement came in an exclusive interview, Garcia’s first since losing to the mayor in a first-ever run-off election on April 7th.

"CPS urgently needs more integrity in its leadership team," he said. 

The federal investigation was revealed just one week after Garcia lost to Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett took a leave of absence amid questions about a $20 million no-bid contract with a company to which she was once connected. CPS suspended that contract Wednesday.

"I think the only way to move forward is for some of those members to leave. For the mayor to exert himself and demonstrate he’s ready to make tough decisions," he said.

Garcia also warned Chicagoans to expect a property tax -- or some kind of tax increase -- soon.

"The mayor will have to lead the charge on it," he said. "People are likely to now see a version of it occur locally."

During the campaign both Garcia or Emanuel skirted questions about how they would raise revenue in light of deficits in the operating budget and the school budget.

As for his campaign which didn’t materialize until the fall,

"People have told me I should be proud of what was accomplished given the very challenging circumstances we fought in," he said. Asked if he is proud, Garcia replied, "I am."

Garcia didn’t expect to run for mayor, cast into the role once Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis bowed out. His campaign decried violence in poor neighborhoods and the division of haves vs. have-nots in a tale of two Chicago’s.

"Ordinary citizens do have legitimate concerns about the future of the city," he said. But the $5 million he raised paled in comparison to the $23 million the mayor had to fund the mountain of negative ads the Emanuel campaign bought.

"So I think all of that took its toll in either getting people not to vote or either going with the status quo," Garcia admitted.

His biggest campaign disappointment he said was the voter turnout: 41 percent.

"If the turnout had been in the mid-40s, I would have won the election. It’s that simple," he said.
Asked about running for another office again, Garcia said the question was too premature. On the plus side, Garcia said the run-off, which included 18 aldermanic seats, paved the way for upsets like in the 10th and 31st wards by candidates he supported over aldermen loyal to the mayor.

"I’m proud to have been the guy who helped shake it up baby," he said with a laugh. Asked if he had any regrets or bitterness, he replied, "None whatsoever."

In a political career that spans three decades, including stints in the City Council and the Illinois Senate, two things remain constant about Jesus Garcia. He still calls Little Village home and he's never surrendering his trademark moustache.

"Hell would freeze over if I shaved it," he laughed, adding, "Nobody would know me."

<![CDATA[Mom Pushes for Legalization of Marijuana Extract]]> Tue, 21 Apr 2015 23:44:11 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/176*120/980499621.jpg

A Chicago-area mother is among those pushing for a change in federal law that would decriminalize a key ingredient in cannabis.

Lisa Weiss is a member of the organization "Coalition for Access Now" which wants to legalize cannabidiol, commonly referred to as CBD. The chemical has shown promise in studies to help treat people who live with epilepsy.

CBD is legal in Illinois, but like medical marijuana, patients can't get it just yet. Even when they can, there will still be limitations because it isn't legal under federal law. And that poses a problem for Weiss and her 9-year-old daughter, Sophie, who has roughly 200 seizures each day. 

"I could go and get the CBD that I so desperately need for her, but then if I want to go travel to Disney for a vacation or to Indiana or any other state, as soon as I cross state lines I'm a drug trafficker," Weiss explained.

Illinois Rep. Bob Dold is among 18 members of Congress who support changing federal law. 

"CBD oil has the potential to relieve the pain of suffering families and save thousands of lives," Dold said. "No family should be forced to suffer the loss of a child when life-saving relief has already been found. This bill will ensure that not even one more kid suffers because the government is blocking access to this life-changing seizure prevention.”

<![CDATA[Sadlowski Garza Defeats 10th Ward Ald. Pope By 20 Votes]]> Tue, 21 Apr 2015 15:45:28 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/susan+sadlowski+garza+fb.jpg

The results are finally in for perhaps the most contentious aldermanic race this election season.

Challenger Susan Sadlowski Garza defeated the incumbent Ald. John Pope by a mere 20 votes in the final count for the 10th ward race.

All votes, including the ones from absentee ballots, have been counted as of Tuesday. According to results from the Chicago Board of Elections, Sadlowski Garza received 5,825 votes to Garza's 5,805 in the final count.

The numbers will not be official until Thursday during the proclamation, but officials from the Chicago Board of Elections said they do not anticipate any changes in the counts between now and then.

Ald. Pope was first elected in 1999 and was a known ally of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's. He was not forced into a runoff in the previous two elections, but this time around the race was too close to call until now.

Sadlowski Garza, a member of the Chicago Teachers Union, received some help in the lead-up to the runoff election April 7 as she was endorsed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who also endorsed mayoral candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia.

The 10th ward covers parts of the Far Southeast Side, including South Chicago, East Side, South Deering, Calumet Heights and Hegewisch.

Photo Credit: Facebook/Citizens to Elect Susan Sadlowski Garza]]>
<![CDATA[Clinton Has Qualms on Trade Deal]]> Tue, 21 Apr 2015 17:16:10 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/l_apclintonburritox1200.jpg

The second day of her first 2016 campaign visit to New Hampshire found Hillary Clinton at another roundtable, this one at New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord.

Clinton says community colleges need to reinvent themselves and better market what they offer.

"It's one of the reasons why I really support President Obama's efforts to try to raise the visibility of Community Colleges and make it even more affordable for even more people to go," said Clinton.

Obama's proposal calls for community college to be free.

In contrast, Clinton expressed qualms over the trade deal the Obama administration is negotiating with Pacific nations.

Clinton's campaign previously said she would be closely watching efforts by the administration to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Her comments Tuesday were her first on the subject on the campaign trail.

"We need to build things, too," she said. "We have to do our part in making sure we have the capabilities and skills to be competitive," while getting back to "a much more focused effort, in my opinion, to try to produce those capacities here at home."

Even so, she stopped short of rejecting the Trans-Pacific Partnership - an agreement opposed by many manufacturing unions.

The next stop for Clinton is the Concord home of 94-year-old Mary Louise Hancock, a New Hampshire Democratic Party stalwart who has hosted dozens of Presidential candidates in her living room over the years.

In keeping with Clinton's no media strategy, reporters were held at bay. And it's not just reporters frustrated by the lack of access.

"She is being insulated to the degree that she should not be as a candidate," said independent voter Brian Blackden. "We don't run campaigns in New Hampshire, never have, with one candidate from the party, and it's wrong."

The Clinton campaign doesn't disclose most of her stops - but Hillary Clinton is not difficult to find. Just look for the crowd of people, motorcade of cars and secret service.

Another stop, not on the public schedule, a visit with Democrats at party headquarters where Clinton is warmly supported - though the progressive wing of the party is listening closely and Clinton is responding.

Political analyst Dean Spiliotes says, "She's sounding much more populist, much more progressive. Wall Street supporters for now seem to be kind of okay with that . They see it as a strategic choice that she has to make."

Besides free community college, Clinton now supports same sex marriage as a constitutional right and she is talking about limiting "unaccountable money" in politics.


Content from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Photo Credit: AP | Charlie Neibergall]]>
<![CDATA[Video Shows Mayor's SUV Going Wrong Way Down Street]]> Tue, 21 Apr 2015 06:25:32 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/rahm-emanuel52.jpg

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's motorcade has again been captured on camera running a red light, and in the latest incident the vehicle is seen traveling down the wrong way of the street for nearly a full city block.

Video of the incident, showing a timestamp of March 21, shows a mayoral vehicle passing through the intersection of North Cicero Avenue and West Washington Boulevard. The video was published by the Crime in Wrigleyville and Boystown website. 

Emanuel turned and walked away from reporters when he was asked about the video at a Monday press conference.

A second video from last month shows the mayor's SUV running another red light at Lake Shore Drive and Belmont Avenue.

A mayoral spokesperson said the fines from both incidents have been paid.

The mayor's vehicles have been recorded running red lights several times since the beginning of the year. Earlier this year, Emanuel said he personally pays the fines. 

"I always pay them," Emanuel told NBC Chicago in January. “Since there’s a tail car given, there are some instances where they can’t get through a light because they can’t get separated from the first car. That may be what happened but whatever it is I pay them, even though I’m not driving.”

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<![CDATA[WATCH: Senator's "Frozen" Ringtone Interrupts Hearing]]> Thu, 16 Apr 2015 15:01:28 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/57648215.jpg

U.S. senators are "Frozen" fans, too.

A Senate Finance Committee meeting got an unexpected interruption from a “Let it Go” ringtone on Thursday.

Pat Roberts got a call during a meeting on U.S. Tariff Policy, and the song made popular by Disney’s hit animated feature film began playing on his cellphone.

“Aw, come on,” the senior senator from Kansas said. 

After some laughs from people in the room, the 78-year-old said, “Just let it go."

Roberts' office released a statement about the incident.

"Senator Roberts' 'Let it Go' ringtone is for his grandkids. He balances it with Johnny Cash's ‘I Walk the Line’. He changes depending on the day,” his spokeswoman Sarah Little said in a statement.

Watch the interruption above.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Schock Spent Big Until Resignation]]> Thu, 16 Apr 2015 10:07:43 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/schock-lead-102935952.jpg

Former Rep. Aaron Schock may be out of office, but he still has to explain himself to the Federal Election Commission. And the quarterly report filed for his election committee, shows that big money was flying in and out of the congressman’s account, to the very end.

An examination by NBC5 Investigates shows the former 18th District congressman spent more than $42,000 on travel expenses, most of it on airfare, with one notable $4,000 stay at the swank White Elephant Hotel in Nantucket. The congressman dropped another $3,407 for gift bowls at Tiffany’s, and more than $3,000 at Garrett’s Popcorn. The federal records indicate that his American Express bills topped more than $75,000.

The campaign report indicates large amounts of cash were flowing into the Schock bank accounts as well. There were notable donations from big-time GOP donors like Ron Gidwitz, Sam Zell, and Rich Melman. Bloomington-based State Farm, and the employees of Peoria-based Caterpillar contributed as well, as did the Airline Pilots Association, and the National Air Traffic Controllers.

Schock’s committee also listed one major liability: a $319,000 debt to his lawyers, at the Jones-Day firm in Washington.

Another of the congressman’s accounts, the Schock Victory Committee, listed hotel stays at the New York Palace and Beverly Wilshire in Los Angeles, and more than $12,000 in additional American Express expenses. He also transferred more than $81,000 to his own Pac, the Generation-Y fund. The reports for that committee have not yet been filed.

A Chicago lawyer who donated $500 to Schock's campaign filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking reimbursement. Howard Foster said he wants to make the filing a class-action suit but is currently the only plaintiff.

Schock's resignation was effective March 31 and came after weeks of questions surrounding misuse of funds in his campaign and congressional spending accounts, including reports that he redecorated his office with lavish decor inspired by "Downton Abbey."

The Clerk of the United States House of Representatives said Tuesday it has been told at least four staffers who worked for Schock have been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury as part of an ongoing investigation.

Also Tuesday, a federal judge in Chicago scheduled a July 7 primary and a Sept. 10 general election to fill Schock's open seat.

Photo Credit: Bill Clark/Roll Call via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Emanuel Disapproves of "Chiraq" Film Title]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 17:53:00 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/rahm-emanuel-AP6415536395971.jpg

Mayor Rahm Emanuel expressed his disapproval of the working title of the upcoming Spike Lee film "Chiraq" during a City Council meeting Wednesday.

The mayor said he spoke with Lee and told him that he opposed the title, but not the film itself, which will reportedly focus on violence in Chicago, specially in the Englewood neighborhood.

"We had an honest, frank conversation," Emanuel said. "He said that while the movie is about the neighborhood of Englewood, I said that I was not happy about the title."

Emanuel also said the two agreed that violence was not confined to Chicago, but also Philadelphia, Baltimore and New York, including the part of Brooklyn where Lee grew up.

While the mayor said he supports the film for confronting the issue of violence in Chicago, he does not like the characterization of the city as a war zone.

"I told him (Lee) also that there are very good people that live in Englewood who are raising their family," Emanuel said. "There's a lot of positive things."

The film could possibly star several big-name celebrities, including Kanye West, Common, Jeremy Piven and Samuel L. Jackson, according to The Wrap. AmazonStudios, Hollywood's newest studio, is producing the film.

Details on the film's plot have not yet been released, but Emanuel said Lee told him he wants to focus on "black-on-black violence," particularly among African-American men.

<![CDATA[Ald. Michele Smith Wins Re-Election in 43rd Ward]]> Tue, 14 Apr 2015 16:50:16 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/michele+smith.JPG

Ald. Michele Smith claimed victory in the 43rd Ward race Tuesday when challenger Caroline Vickrey conceded.

"We could drag this out for another week, demand a recount and file a formal challenge -- and many of you have urged me to do so -- but I do not believe this is in the best interest of our ward," Vickrey said in an email to supporters, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. "For this reason, I am today ending my campaign for alderman of the 43rd Ward." 

A margin of 86 votes separated Smith and Vickrey following the count of 800 absentee ballots over the weekend. With less than 100 votes separating them on Election Day, the race was initially too close to call.

Ald. Smith was first elected in 2011, but she faced a tough term with the redevelopment of the former site of Children's Memorial Hospital at the center of 43rd Ward politics.

Two community groups filed a lawsuit against the city in June after a proposal to build two 12-story residential towers at the former hospital site was approved. Smith backed the plan and received a heap of backlash from Lincoln Park residents who opposed it.

Smith also faced another controversy in the form of a $20 million expansion of Lincoln Elementary School to address overcrowding.

Vickrey, an attorney, highlighted these controversies in her nearly successful campaign to unseat Smith, but in the end the incumbent Smith held onto her seat.

<![CDATA[Rauner to File Extension On Personal Income Taxes]]> Tue, 14 Apr 2015 18:40:23 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/gov-rauner-state-of-state-AP158998087671.jpg

Gov. Bruce Rauner won't file his personal income taxes by the Wednesday, April 15 deadline, according to a spokesman.

As he did last year, the Illinois Republican will file an extension. 

Rauner, whose massive personal wealth makes him one of the richest men in Illinois, will be among a few multi-millionaire individuals to reap a gross windfall this tax season.

Rauner could reap a tax break of more than $750,000 now that Illinois’ temporary 1.25 percent income tax surcharge has expired. All Illinois taxpayers can take advantage of the break, which came about when lawmakers did not renew the temporary income tax hike instituted under former Gov. Pat Quinn. 

The Huffington Post reported that Rauner, who earned $61 million in 2013, will profit from the state’s lower tax rate. Rauner opposed restoring Illinois’ now-expired income tax hike, which generated millions in revenue. He also announced plans to slash spending in other areas such as a $1.5 billion cut to Medicaid and a new pension plan he says could save $2.2 billion.

Rauner recently suspended $26 million in social services and public health grants to narrow a $1.6 budget gap.

Other Democratic legislators have pushed for raising the income tax rate once again. Those rates decreased on Jan. 1 from five percent to 3.75 percent for individuals, reducing revenue by an estimated $5.7 billion next year.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Kirk: People "Drive Faster Through" Black Communities]]> Tue, 14 Apr 2015 08:35:28 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/tlmd_senador_mark_kirk_illinois.JPG

Sen. Mark Kirk is under fire for a comment he allegedly made during an interview last week describing African-American neighborhoods as areas people “drive faster through.”

The comment came during an interview with the Peoria Journal Star when Kirk was asked about ways to encourage business development in Illinois.

“I want to make sure we have elected people constantly looking at helping the African-American community,” Kirk said. “With this state and all of its resources, we could sponsor a whole new class of potential innovators like George Washington Carver and eventually have a class of African-American billionaires. That would really adjust income differentials and make the diversity and outcome of the state much better so that the black community is not the one we drive faster through.”

A spokesperson for Kirk has since responded to criticism over the comment.

"Anyone watching network news in Chicago is aware of the frequent killings and violence that affects various communities in Illinois,” Eleni Demertzis, a spokesperson for Kirk, told NBCChicago in a statement. “Senator Kirk is active in fighting gang violence, keeping assault weapons off the streets, and working within the African-American community to find aspiring entrepreneurs. No one can question Senator Kirk’s commitment to the African-American community.”

It’s not the first controversial comment from Kirk making headlines in recent months.

In February, he reportedly told POLITICO that he felt “we should build a number of coffins outside each Democratic office” if the Department of Homeland Security shut down.

In December, he called Democrats involved with a details CIA torture report “little zombies” out for Republican blood.  

Kirk also angered environmental groups when he suggested earlier this year that global warming is a natural occurrence. His office later clarified that Kirk believes climate change "is real" and humans play a role.

Kirk, who suffered a debilitating stroke in 2012, faces a tough 2016 election race with U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth announcing plans to run against him and several democrats also considering running.

<![CDATA[Same-Sex Couple in Clinton Ad Invites Her to Wedding]]> Tue, 14 Apr 2015 08:28:16 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/234*120/clinton+ad+couple.jpg

A same-sex Chicago couple featured in Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign announcement has invited Clinton to their wedding this summer.

Jared Milrad, 31, and Nathan Johnson, 30, made headlines over the weekend when they were seen holding hands in the video Clinton used to announce her candidacy. They plan to get married this July and want the presidential candidate to be a part of their "big day."

“We wanted to return the favor, given that Secretary Clinton invited us to share in her big day, we invited her to share in ours this summer,” Milrad told NBCChicago.

Milrad tweeted at Clinton, telling her to “save the date.”

“We know your schedule fills up quickly, but Iowa is pretty close,” the tweet read.

The pair said they were asked to by a friend to be part of a video for the Clinton campaign involving people undergoing “big life changes,” such as getting married. But they were shocked when they found out the footage was used to declare her candidacy.

“We later found out when everyone else did that it was on Facebook and Twitter and we were in the launch announcement video holding hands,” Milrad said.

The surprise was a good one for the Chicago couple.

“We were actually very excited, honestly. It’s a historic moment,” Milrad said. “Not only the potentially first female president of the United States but also the first time an openly same-sex couple has been featured in a presidential announcement. So, to really be the face of the LGBT community and hopefully do the community justice — because it is obviously a phenomenal community that does amazing things around the world — was a real honor.”

It’s not clear if Clinton will attend the wedding, but Milrad and Johnson said they did extend a plus one for her invite.  

Photo Credit: NBCChicago
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<![CDATA[One-on-One With Gov. Bruce Rauner]]> Mon, 13 Apr 2015 22:59:49 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/rauner1.jpg Gov. Bruce Rauner has a big agenda and, as legislative colleagues say, a bit of a learning curve. NBC Chicago's Mary Ann Ahern reports.]]> <![CDATA[Students Petition to Replace Rauner as Keynote Speaker]]> Mon, 13 Apr 2015 18:45:55 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/bruce+rauner+getty+feb+2015.jpg

Some Southern Illinois University students aren’t happy with the school’s decision to have Gov. Bruce Rauner as a keynote speaker at next month's graduation ceremony.

In a recent petition, students at the university’s Carbondale campus expressed their displeasure with Rauner’s scheduled appearance, calling for him to be replaced.

Rauner, who is scheduled to speak at the 1:30 p.m. ceremony on May 16, has faced criticism over recent budget cuts after he announced a 31 percent reduction in state funds to the public university’s budget.

“Graduation should celebrate not only the achievements of students as individuals, but the institution of SIU as a whole,” the petition reads. “How can anyone be expected to celebrate progress when our keynote speaker is someone who only intends to set us back?”

The $400 million in high education cuts are part of the governor's $32 billion budget proposal presented earlier this year, which aims to bridge a $6 billion budget gap next year without raising taxes. 

Officials from Southern, Western and Eastern Illinois Universities said the cuts could not be offset by drastic tuition increases, a move they fear would drive down enrollment and force the schools to function as private entities.

"Being an elected official is difficult," Rauner said Monday during a one-on-one interview with NBC 5's Mary Ann Ahern. "I've had to make some decisions that won't make me Mr. Popularity. That's OK."

Rauner said he hopes students' tuition is more affordable and that they "get great jobs here in Illinois."

Rauner has said that universities will need to look at their own budgets and have built up staff, along with bureaucracies over the years, noting he will give them flexibility with the cuts. But university officials said that the plan would cut the institutions to the bone marrow.

Southern Illinois University President Randy Dunn said a proposed $44 million cut to the Carbondale campus and another $20 million cut to the university's Edwardsville campus would jeopardize some of the school's "signature majors" including its flight school and pharmacy program. Dunn said the reductions could also force as many as 1,000 course sections to disappear.

SIU-Carbondale’s commencement website was updated last week to include Rauner as a ceremony speaker.

By Friday, a petition on Change.org was created calling for him to be replaced. As of Monday morning, the petition had nearly 2,000 signatures.

Some commenters on the petition have called the decision “inappropriate and unwise” and others said it was a “slap in the face.” 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hillary Clinton's Chicago-Area Roots]]> Sun, 12 Apr 2015 17:47:27 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/hillary+clinton+chicago+getty.jpg

Hillary Clinton has her sights set on the White House, far away from Illinois, but the former Secretary of State and current 2016 presidential candidate has deep roots in the Chicago area.

Born Hillary Rodham, Clinton entered the world via Chicago in 1947. She was born in the city to parents Hugh and Dorothy Rodham, and the family lived briefly in the Edgewater neighborhood on the city's North Side, according to WBEZ.

Clinton spent most of her childhood years in suburban Park Ridge, where the family moved when she was 3 years old. Two more children followed Hillary, and the family of five lived in a home at 235 Wisner, according to records at the Park Ridge Public Library.

As a child, Clinton attended the First United Methodist Church in Park Ridge and was a member of the local Brownie and Girl Scout Troops, according to the library. She went to Eugene Field Elementary School, Ralph Emerson Junior High School and Maine East High School, where she was the class president during her junior year.

Clinton's peers foresaw her future when she graduated high school and was voted "girl most likely to succeed," according to the Park Ridge Public Library.

The presidential candidate left her home town after high school to attend Wellesley College, but she left her legacy behind. Up until a few months ago, Park Ridge residents could order a "Hillary burger" at the Pickwick Restaurant, where a young Clinton used to eat before going to the movies next door, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The site of her old house was also marked in 1997 and named "Rodham Corner" after the family.

Since her teenage years, Clinton's connection to the Chicago area has been limited. She spent many formative years in her career in Arkansas and at the White House, but it's likely Clinton will campaign hard in her home state, where President Obama soundly defeated her in 2008.

As for Chicago, it's possible the city will claim another president as its own in 2016.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Gov. Rauner Signs State Disaster Proclamation]]> Fri, 10 Apr 2015 12:51:29 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/rauner-flagg.jpg

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner said state personnel and equipment were ready to assist communities hit hard by strong storms that hit the northern parts of the state.

"I signed a proclamation -- a declaration -- this morning -- a state disaster declaration that allows us, if we need to, to visit with the federal government about federal support," Rauner said at a midday press conference in the community of Flagg.

He said, however, that he didn't believe federal assistance would be necessary.

Flagg was among the towns that experienced substantial damage when at least two tornadoes damaged a six-county swath Thursday night. Two women from Fairdale were killed and nearly a dozen more were hurt.  

Fairdale residents said there's been an outpouring of help. 

Lt. Carl Bunder, a firefighter from the nearby town of Kirkland, was one of the first people on the scene when at least one tornado struck the small community. Since then, he said there have been calls from all over the region with offers to lend trucks, chainsaws or tractors.

Bunder said that's what "the real America is all about."

<![CDATA[Emanuel Calls Karen Lewis After Years-Long Silence]]> Fri, 10 Apr 2015 10:47:39 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Lewis_rahm.jpg

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's "new governing style" apparently includes making peace with a long-time adversary.

The newly re-elected mayor placed a phone call Wednesday to Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis to break down barriers between the two, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The two haven't talked since a reportedly epic argument in 2011, the Sun-Times reports.

A top mayoral aide told the publication the two had "a very good conversation" and discussed starting fresh, even working together to get things done in Springfield.

Lewis said she knows she and Emanuel need to talk to each other and she sees the benefit in "trying to reset the button."

A day after Tuesday's election, Emanuel announced his intention to begin a "new governing style" effective immediately. The strategy means working closely with the new and old faces in City Council to avoid "unproductive" council wars.

After thanking his staff and supporters, Emanuel laid out some new ideas for his second term, including universal pre-kindergarten and a minimum wage task force. He also said he would focus on getting the "financial house in order."

Emanuel spent the morning shaking hands and giving hugs at the Red Line 95th Street station.

<![CDATA[2016 NH Primary Candidate Tracker]]> Fri, 10 Apr 2015 08:28:47 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/candidate-tracker-NH.jpg

The candidates included in the tracker are individuals identified by necn as potential 2016 presidential contenders. The list will change as the race develops. Information about candidate stops was collected from media reports, candidate schedules and plans confirmed by necn.

For more coverage of the 2016 New Hampshire Primary and politics throughout New England, check out necn.com's "Politics First" section.

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