A former House Democrat who spurned powerful Speaker Michael Madigan in favor of his nemesis, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, has been appointed by Rauner to a $70,000-a-year political post.
Secretary of State records released Friday indicate that Rauner tabbed Chicago Democrat Ken Dunkin for a vacant post on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.
The 52-year-old Dunkin, a state representative from 2003 to 2017, became a lightning rod in his waning days as he aligned with Rauner during the new governor's first tumultuous year in 2015. Dunkin's allegiance cost Democrats a vote on key issues in House Speaker Michael Madigan's battle over the budget and other issues with Rauner.
Dunkin takes a post on the board that manages Chicago's sewage and storm water runoff from David Walsh. Rauner appointed Walsh in March to fill a vacancy left by a board member's December death. It was unclear Friday night why Walsh left.
"There's no payback. There's no such thing," Dunkin told The Associated Press Friday. "My history of serving speaks for itself. I wanted to serve as I have in the past and this is another opportunity."
Rauner's campaign for governor in 2014 against incumbent Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn was marked by exhaustive criticism of Quinn patronage. Rauner lashed out at Quinn for illegal patronage hiring at the Department of Transportation that began in 2003 under a former governor. He attempted to fire Quinn's campaign manager, after Quinn named him head of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority just before leaving office in December 2014.
In a statement, Rauner spokeswoman Rachel Bold said, "Ken Dunkin has well represented his community and his constituents in the Illinois House of Representatives. On the MWRD board he can continue his commitment to public service and the taxpayers."
Dunkin's tenure in the House collided with a buzz-saw in the 2016 Democratic primary. Madigan-backed Chicago Democrat Juliana Stratton, who's now the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor on gubernatorial nominee J.B. Pritzker's ticket, defeated Dunkin in an expensive race that featured the unlikely recorded endorsement of a sitting president, Barack Obama.
Asked whether he's now a Republican, Dunkin said, "I am a responsible citizen in the state of Illinois who wants to see real reform."
"Rauner's policy and I simply align," Dunkin said. "He is going to be the one to challenge the status quo down there and get things done."