Lester: Is Illinois GOP uniting in opposition to Rauner, abortion?

State Rep. Jeanne Ives of Wheaton says the state Republican party, criticized in recent months for its internal squabbles, is banding together in opposition to GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner's approval of an abortion funding measure last month.

"Certainly, the party's fractured, but when I talk to my colleagues, they're not supporting Rauner, not passing his petitions," Ives says. "We actually seem to be uniting against the signing of this bill."

Ives might be on to something. The Illinois Republican congressional delegation released a joint statement describing Rauner's signing of the measure, which expands taxpayer funding of abortions and ensures the procedure remains legal in Illinois, as one that "let down taxpayers and the unborn."

He's also angered former allies, including conservative radio host Dan Proft, who runs a political action committee that has in the past spent millions supporting candidates that have backed Rauner's agenda. John Tillman, President and CEO of the conservative Illinois Policy Institute, whose former head exited as Rauner's chief of staff on Friday, personally deemed the governor "Benedict Rauner" over the abortion bill.

Possible opponents?

Ives, whose name's been floated as a possible Rauner opponent, isn't committing to an election bid so far. Neither is state Rep. Peter Breen of Lombard, a Thomas More Society attorney who says he refuses to support Rauner after the governor signed the abortion bill.

State Sen. Bill Brady, who ran with a socially conservative platform as his party's gubernatorial nominee three times, most recently in 2014, says he's "supporting Rauner." Proft didn't return messages seeking comment.

Rauner, for his part, has been leaving voicemails for Republican legislators with the message that the abortion issue is "very emotional, very difficult." He says he's pro-choice, but hopes the party can "move past these issues and respectfully agree to disagree" and focus on jobs, tax reduction, higher family incomes, school choice, political reforms and ethics reforms "so we can win and become the majority party again."

'Good conversations' on kneeling

Maine East football Coach Scott Smith tells me his team is "having very good conversations with our players" regarding kneeling to protest racism and police brutality, as a number of NFL players have done.

"We have kids who feel strongly about wanting to kneel" and coaches at the Park Ridge campus are working with administrators to come up with a plan, he said.

Evanston High School, meanwhile, saw players and marching band members kneel during a game late last month against New Trier High School. Evanston Township District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon read a statement over the loudspeaker saying "we must work as a community to combat systems of oppression aimed at our black, Latino, Muslim, refugee, immigrant and LGBT communities." It was a message, he said, Evanston students helped with.

A narrow miss

State Rep. Lou Lang tells me he was in the air approaching Las Vegas for the Global Gaming Expo when a gunman opened fire at the Mandalay Bay hotel, killing 58 and injuring more than 500. It took "hours to land and check in," he says, but noted the whole delegation of lobbyists and lawmakers supporting the gaming industry were safely accounted for.

Hitting the ground running

New Democratic state Rep. Jonathan Carroll, who was sworn in to replace Elaine Nekritz this week, has hit the ground running, pushing legislation he calls "common-sense gun-safety measures" in the wake of the deadly shooting in Las Vegas. Carroll is co-sponsoring legislation that would prevent those on the FBI Terrorist Watch list from obtaining a Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card and would allow the state to revoke existing FOID cards from those on the watch list.


Democratic state Rep. Marty Moylan of Des Plaines filed a bill this week that would put in place a statewide assault weapons ban as well as prohibit trigger modification devices, like the "bump stocks" used by the Las Vegas shooter.

Suburban visionary dies

Condolences to the accomplished and eclectic family of Sheldon Gordon, a Glencoe native and New Trier High School graduate who's considered a pioneer of "entertainment retail." Gordon, who died Sept. 28 at his home in North Palm Beach, Florida, was the visionary behind The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

The Forum Shops opened in 1992 as the first major nongaming retail and restaurant attraction in Las Vegas, turning the city from a gamblers-only mecca to an entertainment haven for tourists worldwide. Among his close friends and business partners are chef Wolfgang Puck and developer Steve Wynn.

Gordon was the brother of model train aficionado Elaine Silets of North Barrington and son of lawyer Martin Gordon, who represented the likes of the Marx Brothers.

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  Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks in Itasca in 2016. Joe Lewnard/, 2016
Sheldon Gordon, formerly of Glencoe, died Sept. 28 at age 88. Photo Courtesy Silets Family
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