Entries in Illinois (32)


Bloomberg’s Super PAC Anti-Gun Ad Makes Waves in Ill. Special Election

Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic(NEW YORK) -- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has lent his voice and money to have some say in which Democrat replaces former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., the son of civil rights icon Jesse Jackson, in Tuesday's special election.

The front-runners in Tuesday’s primary in Illinois' 2nd District are Robin Kelly, a former state representative, and former Rep. Debbie Halvorson. Kelly recently snapped up Bloomberg’s endorsement and financial backing through his super PAC Independence USA. Bloomberg donated close to $10 million to the super PAC last year, according to

Jackson, who pleaded guilty last week in a D.C. federal court to one felony fraud count related to improper use of campaign funds, won re-election last November but resigned, citing his health and the investigation into his campaign finances as reasons.

Halvorson is the only white candidate in the majority African-American district, which includes Chicago’s South Side. Several Democrats initially stepped up to run for the seat following Jackson’s resignation, but many withdrew and threw their support to the current candidates.

Chicago’s epidemic of gun violence has been a top issue in the campaign. Ads have sought to paint Halvorson, who challenged Jackson in a 2012 Democratic primary for his congressional seat, in a negative light.

An ad made by Independence USA, the super PAC created by Bloomberg, an independent, has attacked Halvorson for her support of gun rights.

“Debbie Halvorson, when it comes to preventing gun violence, she gets an F,” the ad says.
The ad further warns to “watch out” for Halvorson, saying she is against banning deadly assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, and that she also co-sponsored a bill to allow felons to take “loaded, hidden guns across state lines.”

“If you can tell me that banning another gun will go after the criminals, I’d be all for it,” Halvorson told The Hill Monday. “I’d be for anything that stopped the killing and gets guns out of the hands of criminals, but it won’t work. [Chicago's] Cook County has had an assault weapons ban since 1993, and they have the highest murder rate in the country.”

Halvorson was one of the few Democrats endorsed by the National Rifle Association in 2010.

A spokesman for Halvorson’s campaign said the ad had actually backfired on the super PAC.

“Initially, it was a shell shock,” said Sean Howard, a spokesman for Halvorson’s campaign. “But we had 70 African-American ministers call for Bloomberg to have the ad removed....These ministers find it distasteful and racist, and thought its tone was dangerous and appalling.”

But the ad stayed. A representative from Independence USA said the ad expressed Bloomberg’s staunch support for Kelly.

“The mayor has been clear for his entire time in office. He wants commonsense reforms that keep guns out of hands of criminals,” said Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for Independence USA. “There is no doubt there has been a surge of gun violence around Chicago. Robin Kelly has been aggressively pushing for gun reform measures – we believe this is the right way to go.”

Halvorson, however, remains confident, said Howard.

“Given that we have a dangerous snowstorm here today, turnout will be dangerously low,” Howard said. “[Debbie] was phone banking all last night....We are cautiously optimistic.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Illinois House Passes Driver's Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(SPRINGFIELD, Ill.) -- The Illinois General Assembly passed legislation on Tuesday that would permit unauthorized immigrants to obtain temporary driver's licenses, clearing the way for Gov. Pat Quinn (D) to sign the bill into law.

The Illinois state Senate passed the bill on Dec. 4. The lower house voted 65-46 to approve the measure.

When it becomes law, undocumented immigrants in Illinois will be able to obtain three-year renewable licenses as long as they provide proof of residency in the state. The new law could impact approximately 250,000 undocumented immigrant drivers in Illinois. Supporters argued that the bill would make the state's roads safer since applicants would have to pass driving tests and would likely be eligible to purchase insurance.

"The reality is that people need to drive in order to feed their families," Lake County, Illinois Sheriff Mark C. Curran (R) said in a statement distributed by the National Immigration Forum, an immigrant-rights group. "Having drivers who are uninsured, untrained and untested comes at a high cost to all of us. This bill will ensure that all Illinois drivers have licenses, which will make our roads safer for all drivers. It is the right move."

But opponents of the bill said that the licenses would be susceptible to fraud.

"There are going to be far too many people who will get these cards," Republican Rep. Randy Ramey said, according to the Chicago Tribune. "There'll be fraud, abuse."

Supporters attempted to assuage those concerns. The licenses will be specially labeled and will not be allowed to be used for other purposes other than driving, such as voting or purchasing handguns.

State Democrats backed the bill while Republicans were split. Ramey and others opposed the legislation, but House Republican leader Tom Cross supported it, according to the Tribune.

Only two other states, New Mexico and Washington, grant driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants. Utah allows undocumented immigrants to receive driving permits.

California, Nevada and Florida have said they will some undocumented immigrants to obtain licenses, but only young people given federal work permits under President Obama's deferred action program.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Jesse Jackson Jr.’s Resignation Could Cost Taxpayers $5.1 Million

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Jesse Jackson Jr.’s resignation from the House could cost Illinois taxpayers more than $5.1 million, according to the state elections board.

Jackson, Jr. offered his resignation Wednesday to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Jackson has been absent from the Capitol for months while undergoing treatment for bipolar disorder at the Mayo Clinic. In addition, his use of campaign funds is being investigated by federal authorities.

Looking at two special House elections held in Illinois in recent years — those to replace GOP House speaker Denny Hastert and Democratic congressman Rahm Emanuel — the Illinois State Board of Elections calculated those elections cost $2,700 to $4,000 per precinct. With 590 precincts in Jackson’s 2nd Congressional District, an election would probably cost around $2,575,000, the state board told ABC News.

Illinois will hold two special elections to replace Jackson, a primary and a general, and the state board projects that replacing Jackson could cost $5.15 million total.

That’s just a projection, and it assumes that the 2nd Congressional District will hold the special elections on their own days. State law will likely allow for the primary, but not the general, to be held alongside already-scheduled votes for state and local offices.

Jackson hasn’t officially won re-election yet, as the state won’t certify election results until Dec. 2. Officials are unsure of whether that will affect how Gov. Pat Quinn handles Jackson’s resignation, an official with the state elections board said. Jackson handily defeated Republican lawyer Brian Woodworth with 63 percent of the vote, according to the still-unofficial results.

Quinn, a Democrat, must set a special-election date within five days, under Illinois law. The election must be held in the 115 days after that.

Jackson may have cost taxpayers extra by resigning so suddenly.

To save money, the 2nd District could hold its special election on Illinois’ consolidated election schedule at the same time as lesser races throughout the state.

But that doesn’t seem possible under Illinois’s statutory special-election timeline. Illinois primaries will happen Feb. 26, but the April 9 general-election date falls outside the 115-day special-election range. Counting Thursday as day 1, March 21 is the earliest the 2nd District special election could be held.

Had Jackson waited until Dec. 15 to resign, Quinn could have scheduled the general special election for April 9, along with Illinois’ other general elections.

The cost of the special elections will be borne by the counties in Jackson’s district, as well as by the state.

Holding a statewide special election to replace governor Rod Blagojevich cost the state between $90 million and $100 million, according to estimates, the state elections board said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Takes Mystery Leave of Absence

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Staffers for Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., son of an African-American icon and the subject of a House ethics investigation, say they do not know when their boss will return to work after announcing that he has quietly been on a leave for the past two weeks because of "exhaustion."

The statement was released by Jackson's office late Monday night. His office has been open during that time, but the congressman had not been appearing on the Hill or on the House floor for votes.

"On Sunday, June 10th, Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. went on a medical leave of absence and is being treated for exhaustion. He asks that you respect his family's privacy. His offices remain open to serve residents of the Second District," read a statement from his office.

Asked if staffers had received any word on Jackson's condition or when he planned to return to work, a spokesman said, "No."

Jackson's Twitter account remained active on Monday, twice posting about the Affordable Care Act, but it was unclear if Jackson had personally sent the messages.

Jackson, a Democrat from Chicago first elected to Congress in 1995, is running for re-election this year. Calls to his campaign to determine the status of his race were not immediately returned.

The House Ethics Committee is investigating allegations that Jackson offered to donate money to then Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's gubernatorial campaign in exchange for the Senate seat vacated by President Obama.

Blagojevich was found guilty of corruption and began serving a jail term earlier this year.

Jackson has denied the accusation.

Jackson is also being investigated for allegedly directing Raghuveer Nayak, a political donor and friend, to pay for air fare and travel accommodations for a woman Jackson calls a "social acquaintance."

Nayak last week was found guilty on different fraud charges related to outpatient medical clinics.

Jackson's father is the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a civil rights leader and one-time presidential candidate.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Illinois State Rep. Goes Berserk in Epic Rant

Photodisc/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- Lawmakers around the country have gone on some impressive rants in recent years -- Rep. Anthony Weiner’s outrage over the 9/11 first responders’ bill and Rep. Patrick Kennedy’s fury over the war in Afghanistan spring to mind -- but perhaps none can match Illinois State Rep. Mike Bost’s tirade this week.

Irate over a quick vote on a pension bill, Bost exploded on the floor of the Illinois House Tuesday.

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Bost, a Republican, unloaded on Democrats led by House Speaker Mike Madigan for setting votes on pension reform bills without providing enough time for lawmakers to assess the measures after they emerged from committee.

“Total power in one person’s hands, not the American way!” Bost screamed, tossing the bill up in the air and then taking an errant swing at the papers as they fluttered down around him. He then took the papers that settled near him and threw them at his colleagues.

“These damn bills that come out here all the damn time, come out here at the last second, and I’ve got to try to figure out how to vote for my people? You should be ashamed of yourselves! I’m sick of it! Every year we give power to one person! It was not made that way in the Constitution!”

“Enough!” he yelled, his arms flailing. “I feel like somebody trying to be released from Egypt. Let my people go! My God, they sent me here to vote for them! To argue for them! But I’m trapped. I’m trapped by the rules that have been forced down our throats.”

“Folks,” he pleaded, dropping his voice almost to a whisper, “we live in a democracy, but not here. But not here.”

Bost later said in an interview that after his rant some of his Democratic colleagues approached him and told him they had the same complaints, but could not express them.

“When I left the floor,” Bost told ABC News affiliate WLS, “many Democrats from around the state -- even Chicago Democrats -- came in and said, ‘We want to say this but we can’t.’”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


After Win in Illinois, Romney Says ‘America’s Greatest Days Ahead’

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images(SCHAUMBURG, Ill.) -- Mitt Romney used his victory speech in Illinois Tuesday evening to launch fresh attacks on President Obama, juxtaposing his own economic background with the president’s and suggesting that a former law professor can’t turn around the struggling economy.

This was also a much more optimistic Romney than we’ve seen lately.  He talked about protecting the hopes of Americans with dreams and a “future that is brighter in these troubled times.”

His new tone is in sharp contrast to the boatload of negative ads he and his allies ran in Illinois.  It’s also a sign that the campaign understands the importance of giving voters something to vote for, instead of just telling them who they should vote against.

Drawing on many of the themes he delivered during an economy speech at the University of Chicago earlier this week, Romney repeated that under Obama’s leadership, America no longer leads in manufacturing, but instead in lawsuits.

“When we replace a law professor with a conservative businessman as president, that will end,” Romney said Tuesday evening at a hotel ballroom that was filled with about 300 people.

His speech, which ran just under 15 minutes, had an optimistic tone to it, with the candidate suggesting that “economic freedom” and not “personality” will be the choice faced by voters.

“Tonight is primary, but November is a general election,” Romney said.  “And we’re going to face a defining decision as a people.  The choice will not be about party or even personality.  This election will be about principle."

“Our economic freedom will be on the ballot,” he said.  “I’m offering a real choice and a new beginning.  I’m running for president because I have the experience and the vision to get us out of this mess."

“Join us, join us,” Romney said.  “Together we’re going to ensure that America’s greatest days are still ahead.”

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Santorum Tells Supporters to ‘Saddle Up Like Reagan Did’

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(GETTYSBURG, Pa.) -- Despite suffering a double-digit loss in Illinois to Mitt Romney Tuesday night, Rick Santorum pointed to the delegates he will gain in the night’s primary as being the catalyst to boost his quest for the Republican presidential nomination and told his supporters to “saddle up like [Ronald] Reagan did in the cowboy movies.”

“We had really no expectations of winning Illinois, but we’re going to come away with a lot of delegates, which is going to keep us in the hunt,” Santorum said during an impromptu speech at his primary night event.  Santorum later noted in his official speech that he won the areas of Illinois that “conservatives and Republicans populate” and predicted he would net between 15 and 20 delegates from the night’s primary.

“It wasn’t a tough night, we did very well,” he told reporters after his official primary night speech.  “We picked up a lot of delegates tonight in a very tough state.  One that no one had any expectations for us to win in.  We did what we had to do.  We got the delegates that we could get and you know, we’re feeling good, again, it’s very clear, it’s a two-person race, and now we need to get all the conservatives to line up behind us.”

In a 15-minute speech to a ballroom filled with more than 700 people, Santorum looked ahead to Louisiana, where he heads Wednesday and Friday, as well as Pennsylvania, his home state, where he asked supporters to “saddle up like Reagan did in the cowboy movies” and help him in the next “five weeks for a big win and a big delegate sweep.”

Santorum stressed that he is the lone candidate who can provide the “contrast” to President Obama in the race, while tying Romney to the president for adopting similar healthcare plans.

“There is one candidate in this race who can make that contrast with the current occupant of the White House.  There is someone in this race who has all of that, someone who has the track record of being for you, being for solutions that empower people, being for limited government.  Someone who can fight the biggest issues of the day, whether ‘Romneycare’ or ‘Obamacare,’ they’re interchangeable,” he said.

Santorum said he called Romney before his speech to congratulate him on his win and even joked with the crowd that Romney has decided to incorporate Santorum’s message of freedom into his own speeches.

“I was pleased to hear before I came out that Gov. Romney has adopted that theme in his speech tonight,” he said.  “I am glad we are moving the debate here in the Republican party.”

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mitt Romney Projected to Win Illinois Primary

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Mitt Romney on Tuesday regained some of his footing as the leader of the Republican race for the presidential nomination, as he decisively beat Rick Santorum in the Illinois primary.

About an hour after the polls closed at 8 p.m. ET, Romney led his main rival by nearly double the number of votes, with almost one-third of precincts reporting. Exit polls showed voters siding with Romney on key issues like electability and empathy. ABC News projected Romney would win based on those polls and vote tallies that had been reported.

Exit polls also showed Romney winning thanks to two groups of voters: people in households with incomes of more than $100,000, and college graduates. He beat Santorum by 25 points among the first group and by 18 points among degree holders. 

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In a victory speech in Illinois just over an hour after polls closed, Romney called his win an "extraordinary victory." He also congratulated "my fellow candidates on a hard-fought contest here." That was the only mention of his opponents.

Romney's speech was fixated squarely on President Obama, particularly his background in Chicago, near the site of Romney's speech.

"For 25 years, I lived and breathed business and the economy and jobs," he said. "I had successes and failures. But each step of the way, I learned a little bit more about what makes our American system so powerful. You can't learn that teaching constitutional law at the University of Chicago, all right? You can't even learn that as a community organizer. The simple truth is that this president doesn't understand the genius of America's economy or the secret of the American economic success story. The American economy is fueled by freedom."

Romney has won more states and more delegates than has any other candidate in the GOP primary, but he has struggled to sustain a narrative of an undisputed front-runner.

All of Romney's opponents have questioned his strength because of his apparent weakness with the conservatives who have voted in the primaries so far, and they have vowed to stay in the contest until the party's summer convention.

Even Romney's win in Illinois Tuesday night cost him. He and the super PAC supporting him outspent Santorum's forces by an eight-to-one margin on campaign advertising.

Santorum, who needed a significant showing in Illinois to prove that he can gain support in areas that aren't just socially and religiously conservative, told supporters in his home state of Pennsylvania that he was "going to win" central, western and "downstate" Illinois.

"We won the areas that conservatives and Republicans populate, and we're happy about that," Santorum said in his speech after Romney's. "We're happy about the delegates we're going to get, too."

Romney is set to win most of the 69 delegates at stake in Illinois. Santorum didn't even qualify for the ballot in four of the 18 congressional districts in the state, making him ineligible for 10 of those delegates.

After Santorum won a string of primaries in southern states by winning over social conservatives and religious voters, Romney's campaign has shifted its storyline to argue that the former Massachusetts governor is the only candidate who can mathematically win the nomination by getting 1,144 delegates. The other candidates, meanwhile, continue to insist that they are the only ones who can beat Obama in a general election.

Santorum took shots at Romney in his primary-night speech, arguing that "we don't need a manager" as president, alluding to the former governor's job at the private-equity firm Bain Capital.

"It's great to have Wall Street experience," he said. "I don't have Wall Street experience, but I have experience growing up in a small town in western Pennsylvania."

Exit polls from Illinois found that six in 10 voters, who were typically less ideological than Republicans in the states Romney has lost, said Romney had the best chance of beating Obama. The front-runner also led Santorum narrowly as the candidate who voters said understands their problems the best.

Romney, who told his supporters that Obama has prevented the country from leading the world in manufacturing and accused him of general American dream-crushing, said in his speech that "when we replace a law professor with a conservative businessman as president, that's going to end."

"The economy is struggling because the government is too big," he said. "Each day we move closer, not just to victory, but to a better America."

Romney needed to win big in Illinois to deny Santorum the momentum he has gained as he added southern states to his win column, most recently Alabama and Mississippi a week ago.

Gallup reported as Illinoisans voted that Romney's lead over Santorum nationally was 34 percent to 30 percent, though the former Pennsylvania senator is still the preferred choice among conservatives and Midwestern voters. That national measure has also swung back and forth like a heavy pendulum; in the middle of February, for example, Santorum led Romney by 10 points.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Some Illinois Ballots Too Big for Their Scanners

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(NAPERSVILLE, Ill.) -- Election officials in Illinois are discovering that size does matter. In 26 jurisdictions across the state, the ballots are too big to fit into the scanners, sources at the Illinois State Board of Elections tell ABC News.

The sizing problem means the affected polling places have had to scramble to find a way to count the ballots in Tuesday night’s Republican primary.

Elections officials describe the scope of the problem as “sporadic,” and includes several districts in DuPage County, the third most populous county in the state. Across some precincts the issue is widespread, while in other precincts it’s only hitting a handful of ballots. There are even instances of properly sized ballots and improperly sized ballots popping up in the same polling place.

The cause behind the improper sizing is still unknown, but election officials have traced the affected ballots to two specific vendors.

The problem appears to be under control, or at least well on its way. Counties ordered ballots to be re-printed, and in the interim time period while waiting for the new ballots, all but one of the 26 affected jurisdictions had electronic touch screens which voters were redirected to use.

In some polling places, already-cast ballots are being re-made by hand, with representatives from both parties supervising to make sure that the re-making follows proper procedure.

Election officials confirm to ABC News that this will likely slow down the rate at which results are tabulated Tuesday evening.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Does Romney Have an Enthusiasm Problem in Chicago Suburbs?

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- The fact that Mitt Romney is expected to win Illinois' primary Tuesday night shouldn’t come as much of a shock.  Not only has he drastically outspent his main GOP rival Rick Santorum, but the demographic make-up of the state is tailor-made for the former Massachusetts governor.

More than 60 percent of the vote is expected to come from the Chicago-area suburbs, while a much smaller portion of the vote comes from rural downstate.

Suburban voters are typically less ideological and focused more on pocket book issues than social issues, something that should prove right up Romney’s alley.

But a drive through suburban Chicago found pockets of deep Santorum enthusiasm and underlying concern about Romney’s inability to connect with voters.

Romney supporter state Rep. David Harris, who represents the Cook County suburb of Mt. Prospect, worries that Romney still hasn’t been able to connect with skeptical conservative Republicans.

“I think Mitt Romney is just as conservative as Ronald Reagan -- when Reagan said something, you kind of felt it’s coming from his soul.  You just know that’s the way the guy feels,” said Harris, whose office displays photos of his days as a Reagan campaign aide.  “And while I believe that Mitt Romney is just as conservative and feels those same things, it just doesn’t come across or get conveyed the same way.”

Moreover, Harris sees an enthusiasm gap in the suburbs that could hurt Romney.

“This is a very quiet election,” he said.  “The more quiet the election, the more committed type of person comes out.  Perhaps Sen. Santorum’s folks are a little bit more committed, so I think you’ll see a good turnout for him.  I think Gov. Romney will win, but the percentage of victory might not be as big as it otherwise might have been.”

Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran is one of those enthusiastic Santorum supporters who should worry the Romney camp.  At a local tavern in Long Grove, Curran, a former Democrat, denounced Romney as out of touch or, as he put it, “off in la-la-land.”

“I think Romney travels in circles of only the uber-rich and as a result he has a hard time connecting with large blocks of America -- certainly the middle class, which is very much overlooked right now,” Curran said.  “Santorum is being outspent 10-1, he is being destroyed in misleading ads, but he’s still there.  Why?  Because when people meet him, they see he’s the real deal, his authenticity.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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