Year in Review: Top Illinois Politics Stories of 2015

The year 2015 was a roller coaster for many prominent Illinois politicians, both past and present, as well as the voters who elected them. Here are some of the top political stories on over the year.

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The year 2015 was a roller coaster for many prominent Illinois politicians, both past and present, as well as the voters who elected them. Here are some of the top political stories on over the year.
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Re-Election Victory: The No. 1 story in Ward Room from 2015 was from the mayoral race, when Rahm Emanuel won re-election in a hotly contested runoff with Jesus "Chuy" Garcia. It was the first time the city held a runoff election for mayor, and during his second inauguration, Emanuel vowed to listen to his voters more in his next term.
"Resign Rahm": Several months later, activists called for Mayor Emanuel's resignation in protests across the city after the dashcam video showing the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer was released to the public. Shortly after, State Rep. LaShawn Ford filed a bill in Springfield to allow for the recall of Emanuel from office.
I Told You So: Not everyone was surprised when Emanuel faced calls for his resignation just months after being re-elected. Just after Emanuel won the runoff election in April, "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart featured the Chicago mayor in a segment on his show and bashed voters for re-electing him.
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State Budget Impasse: June 30 came and went without state lawmakers passing a budget, and it appears the impasse will extend into the New Year. While Gov. Bruce Rauner, House Speaker Mike Madigan and other lawmakers battled it out in Springfield, the rest of the state suffered from cuts to state services and funds that dried up months ago.
Illinois Lottery Woes: Another major consequence of the budget impasse that sparked fury in residents across the state was the announcement that Illinois Lottery winners would not be able to collect their prizes without a state budget in place. In December, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a new bill that reversed the cut, so winners could finally retrieve their money.
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Corruption Capital: For the second time, Chicago earned the distinction of "most corrupt city in the nation" from a University of Illinois at Chicago study. This is largely due to the city's politicians and its political culture. Chicago politics expert Dick Simpson estimated the cost of corruption to be about $500 million per year in Illinois.
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McCarthy Fired: Exactly one week after the Laquan McDonald dashcam video was released to the public in November, Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy. Calls for McCarthy's resignation grew in the wake of the video's release, but they didn't stop with the top cop. Many activists also called for the resignations of Anita Alvarez and Emanuel himself.
CPS Probe: Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett entered the spotlight in 2015 when a federal probe was launched to investigate a $20.5 million no-bid principal training contract with SUPES Academy, which once employed Byrd-Bennett. The CEO later resigned in June.
Another Teachers Strike?: Chicago did not see a 2015 teachers strike, but members of the teachers union have hinted there may be another one in 2016. In December, 88 percent of union members voted to authorize a strike if necessary. The strike vote was prompted by ongoing contract negotiations and the threat of up to 5,000 layoffs in the first semester of 2016 without more financial help from Springfield.
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Blago's Back: Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich entered the headlines again in 2015 when three judges on a federal appeals court threw out five of the 17 counts against him. Despite the small victory and the new sentencing date in the near future, Blagojevich's family and attorney said they were disappointed.
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A Guilty Plea: Dennis Hastert, the small-town wrestling coach who rose to the position of most powerful lawmaker on Capitol Hill, became a convicted felon in October when he pleaded guilty to charges that he intentionally disguised mammoth bank withdrawals in an effort to conceal more than $1 million in payments to a past acquaintance. The exact nature of the wrongdoing has never been revealed, but various outlets have reported that it was sexual in nature and involved a former student.
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Schocker: After questions arose about Rep. Aaron Schock's use of campaign funds and congressional spending accounts, the infamous Congressman resigned in March. Schock was accused of misusing the money to redecorate his office with lavish decor inspired by "Downton Abbey" and to pay for tens of thousands of dollars in private air travel on donor-owned planes, among other things.
Welcome to Chicago: The debate over whether the U.S. should accept Syrian refugees hit home in Illinois when Gov. Bruce Rauner, along with other governors across the country, announced he wanted to temporarily suspend acceptance of refugees from Syria in the wake of the deadly terror attacks in Paris. Days later, Chicago's City Council voted to pass a resolution establishing Chicago as a "sanctuary city" and challenging Rauner's authority to deny the refugees.
Presidential Library: Chicago emerged victorious in the battle for the Barack Obama presidential library, but the battle was not won easily as activists contended the need for a trauma center in the Hyde Park community was more important than the Obama library. The library will be built in one of two parks on the South Side.
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