Suburban Democrats key in Rauner vs. unions battle

  • Gov. Bruce Rauner faces a showdown with Democrats over major union legislation next week.

      Gov. Bruce Rauner faces a showdown with Democrats over major union legislation next week. Mike Riopell | Staff Photographer

  • State Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat, says he's undecided on major union legislation.

    State Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat, says he's undecided on major union legislation. Associated Press File Photo

Updated 8/27/2015 7:39 PM

Lawmakers have set up a potential showdown with Gov. Bruce Rauner over a proposal he's called a "direct frontal assault on the taxpayers of Illinois."

Suburban Democrats could be key to who wins.


If they don't all vote with the Democratic majority to override Rauner's veto of a plan that would outlaw a strike by the state's largest employee union for the next four years, the new Republican governor could have a hope for victory.

Democratic state Rep. Jack Franks of Marengo says he's still trying to decide which way he'll go. And he says he's not the only undecided person.

"I'm still weighing my options on it," Franks said. "I'm looking at the whole thing."

The whole thing is legislation that would outlaw a strike or lockout by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union for the next four years and eventually send stalled talks to an arbitrator. Rauner and the union are deadlocked, having missed their deadline to come up with a new contract by a couple months now.

Both sides see the legislation as critically important and have fought hard for it.

The count

To override Rauner's veto, House Democrats would need each of the 71 members to both show up in Springfield next week and vote against Rauner, unless one or two union-friendly Republican lawmakers decide to break with the governor. That's why Franks and any other undecideds are so important to both sides.

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Most other suburban Democrats voted for the plan its first time through, but Franks didn't vote either way. Still, he says, he's not the only Democrat out there who is open to convincing by either side.

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan has told reporters there's enough support to override Rauner, and when asked if he'd call an override vote said: "Why wouldn't I?"

A vote could come as early as Wednesday.

No hints

Franks won't hint at which way he's leaning, giving some credence to both sides. For one, he agrees with Rauner that AFSCME has too much political power.

On the other hand, he says he doesn't believe an override would cost the state as much money as Rauner claims it will.

This issue is somewhat separate from the ongoing dispute between Republicans and Democrats on a state budget that is almost two months overdue but has been largely implemented anyway by court orders.


Stay tuned.

'Final straw'

State Rep. Ed Sullivan, a Mundelein Republican who announced this week he's not running for re-election next year, said a late-July protest at his home helped make his decision to leave politics a little easier.

Sullivan was in Boston on July 31 when a group from The People's Lobby was protesting against legislation in Springfield meant to help energy giant Exelon. Three busloads of people started at his legislative district office and eventually migrated to his Fremont Township office, where he's the assessor.

A few of the protesters went to Sullivan's Mundelein home, where they were met by his wife, Trish. He says one of them made at least some movement toward the front door before his wife closed it on the protester. Sullivan says the whole thing upset his family and weighed into his decision not to run for re-election, as did his recent Type II diabetes diagnosis and a general readiness to be done with the Illinois House after a dozen years.

"I would put it as the final straw," he said.

Kristi Sanford, a spokeswoman for The People's Lobby, said the buses never went to Sullivan's house and only three group leaders arrived there to look for the lawmaker. She disputed that someone would have tried to enter his home.

"We are very disciplined about not hurting any person or property," she said.

The next race

Two Republicans are vying to replace Sullivan. He has backed Lake County Board member Nick Sauer.

Today, state Sen. Dan Duffy, a Lake Barrington Republican, announced his support of candidate Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods.

"I am perplexed and confused to hear another candidate in this race who claims to have Gov. Rauner's endorsement and support," Duffy said in a statement, referring to Sauer. "There is no 'anointed candidate' in this race."

Asked if Rauner is backing Sauer, a Rauner spokesman declined to comment.

McConchie announced his candidacy early Monday morning, a few hours before Sullivan released publicly that he wasn't running for re-election. McConchie's statement had tough words for Sullivan, but he wants voters to know he didn't realize the incumbent was getting out of the race when he released the statement.

"I want to thank Ed for his service and wish him and his family the best on their future endeavors," McConchie posted online shortly afterward.

Gowdy to visit

Republican U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton will host Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina at a fundraiser in Naperville next month.

Gowdy is the chairman of the House's special committee investigating the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, a panel on which Roskam also serves. Gowdy, by extension, has become a key figure in the ongoing heat on Democrat Hillary Clinton's emails from her time as secretary of state.

Gowdy is headlining a fundraiser on Sept. 25 at the Naperville Marriott.

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