Covering the Land of Lincoln


TGIF, Illinois. Reality TV has never been as exciting as this election week, but at this point I welcome the season finale.

PATH TO 270: Trump is on the brink of defeat with three story lines driving the day, report POLITICO’s David Siders and Charlie Mathesian

Drip, drip, drip.

Now Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Sen. Tammy Duckworth and other elected Democrats are calling for House Speaker Michael Madigan to step down from his Democratic Party leadership position in wake of some high-profile election losses Tuesday.

Asked Thursday if he agrees with Sen. Dick Durbin that Madigan should step down as party leader, the governor said, decisively, “Yes.”

Madigan’s response: I’m not goin’ anywhere. “I am proud of my record electing Democrats who support workers and families and represent the diversity of our state. Together, we have successfully advanced progressive policies that have made Illinois a strong Democratic state with supermajorities in the legislature. Illinois is the anchor in the ‘blue wall’ that has been reconstructed in the Midwest, and I look forward to continuing our fight for working families as chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois,” Madigan said in a statement.

But the dam has broken. In a statement, Duckworth said: “The ongoing investigation surrounding Speaker Madigan is an unnecessary distraction and makes it harder to carry out the work of helping the people of Illinois… the Illinois Democratic Party and the Illinois House of Representatives should consider new leadership to continue the progress we’ve made at the state level and build on it.” State Journal-Register’s Bernard Schoenburg has more on Duckworth’s statement.

Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi, who was elected in 2018 with the goal of wiping out corruption, weighed in, too. “The results of Tuesday’s election show Illinois voters are fed up with the drumbeat of corruption stories and the old way of doing business. They’re demanding real ethics and property tax reform, and they’re ready to turn the page to get us there,” he said in a statement.

When Playbook asked Rep. Jan Schakowsky if she thought Madigan should move aside, she acknowledged: “I think it would be helpful if he did and hand it over to a new generation of representatives.”

And Democratic state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, who is running for the House speaker position, has also called for Madigan to step down.

Under Madigan’s leadership, Democrats have raised exorbitant amounts of cash and helped elect Democrats statewide. (My goodness, they run the place.)

“I’m not sure Durbin, Pritzker and Duckworth have the votes in the party to vote him out. The same is true in the General Assembly,” former Ald. Dick Simpson, now a professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told Playbook.

Only members of the Democratic State Central Committee can boot a party leader, and they need a majority to do it. “As old Mayor Richard J. Daley used to say, ‘It’s whether you’ve got the votes, kid,'” Simpson said.

He also quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson: “When you strike at a king, you must kill him.”

Rep. Tony McCombie, in attendance for the budget address in Springfield, is running for the GOP leader position. | Provided

While Democrats wring their hands about leadership, state House Republicans are buzzing about the Nov. 16 vote for minority leader. Rep. Tony McCombie has put her hat in the ring to run against Rep. Jim Durkin, who’s held the position since 2013.

McCombie told Playbook she’s talking to caucus members as she moves to line up support. “What I’m hearing is that people want change,” she said. “We need to build a bench. We need to diversify the caucus. We need more women and people of color. And we need to quit talking about it, take action and do it.”

McCombie’s campaign comes as Republicans nationwide elected at least more 13 women to Congress — a record-breaking recruitment effort.

“We have been the minority party for a long time and haven’t picked up net seats since 2013,” she said. In 2012, House Republicans held 47 seats and today they hold 44. They are picking up two, and possibly three, after Tuesday’s election thanks to the coattails of President Donald Trump. “To hold the majority accountable, we have to expand our caucus not just accept bread crumbs and make deals [with Democrats] that don’t expand our caucus or our voice in Illinois.”

McCombie’s entry in the leadership race prompted Durkin’s team to announce that he’s “already secured a majority of votes” to hold on to the minority leader position, according to a statement sent to Rich Miller’s CapitolFax blog.

That may be so, says McCombie, but an election will prompt some healthy discussion.

The Republican from Savanna has held her state rep seat since 2017 and two years ago was elected by caucus members to lead the House Republican Organization, the political arm of the party. She took over at a key moment — when big money donors left after former Gov. Bruce Rauner’s loss in 2019.

McCombie and her team have since revamped the HRO and increased small and individual donations. She’s also put an emphasis on vetting candidates.

On Tuesday, McCombie soundly defeated Democrat Joan Padilla, and in recent weeks she rolled up her sleeves to campaign for congressional candidate Esther Joy King (she lost) and state Rep. Tom Morrison (he won).

Away from her political life, McCombie works as a real estate appraiser. She also previously owned a cafe and bed and breakfast with her late mother.

… MEANWHILE, state Sen. Dan McConchie worked behind the scenes to gather enough votes to become minority leader in the Senate. Bill Brady stepped down earlier this week before the election. On Thursday, Senate Republican Caucus announced McConchie was the new Senate president, via WSILTV

Have a tip, suggestion, birthday, anniversary, new job, or any other nugget for Playbook? Get in touch: [email protected]

No official public events.

At the Thompson Center for the daily 2:30 p.m. Covid-19 briefing. Watch live

No official public events.

The Illinois Department of Public Health on Thursday reported 97 new deaths and 9,935 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease. That’s a total of 10,030 deaths and 447,491 cases in Illinois. The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total tests from Oct. 29 through Nov. 4 is 9.1 percent. Chicago’s positivity rate is at 11.1 percent. Yikes.

— Pritzker warns of restrictions as state hits ‘terrible milestone’ of 10,000 deaths: ‘We’re heading down a very dark, dark path’: “State health officials Thursday reported 9,935 new Covid-19 cases, dwarfing the previous high of 7,899 set on Oct. 31,” by Sun-Times’ Mitch Dudek, Fran Spielman, and Tom Schuba.

— Covid-19 cases reach all-time high in Chicago: “The coronavirus is raging uncontrolled in Chicago at levels that exceed the first peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March and April, officials said Thursday,” by WTTW’s Heather Cherone.

— Sangamon County judge dismisses lawsuits challenging Pritzker’s coronavirus orders: “Circuit Court Judge Raylene Grischow dismissed lawsuits but gave the plaintiffs until Thanksgiving to refile, writing that she ‘cautions counsel to set forth facts to support conclusions,’” by Tribune’s Jamie Munks.

— As Covid-19 numbers spiral, there is greater likelihood it will impact someone you love, writes Sun-Times’ Maudlyne Ihejirika: “My friend’s voice was low, a whisper on the phone from another state. The Chicagoan and her husband had picked her mother up from a nursing home to protect her from a COVID outbreak. Within days, all three were sick.”

— Trump, in White House address, continues to level unfounded charges of election fraud: “Trump’s Thursday address immediately met with stern condemnation from his critics — including those in his own party. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) called on Trump to ‘STOP Spreading debunked misinformation… This is getting insane.’” POLITICO’s Matthew Choi reports.

— DCCC chairwoman Bustos ‘furious’ at polling misses: “‘Our polls, Senate polls, [governors] polls, presidential polls, Republican polls, public polls, turnout modeling, and prognosticators all pointed to one political environment — that environment never materialized,’ Bustos said, noting the campaign committee is planning to get some answers on what went wrong. Bustos herself survived an unexpectedly difficult race, a rarity for someone running a campaign arm,” via the Hill.

— Democrat Underwood has wider path to pick up votes than Republican Oberweis in tight congressional race: “‘This race is not over,’ freshman Rep. Underwood said in a Zoom briefing with reporters Thursday,” by Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet.

— The waiting game continues: Numerous contests for General Assembly seats are still awaiting results from the vote-by-mail count that’s taking place county to county. We’ll start to see some results next week as some counties release numbers. Other counties, like Lake and McHenry are waiting until Nov. 10 and 17, respectively, to release their results.

… Race to watch: Cabello lead shrinks in 68th House District race against Vella, by Rockford Register Star’s Corina Curry.

— Nifty map shows how each Illinois county voted in the presidential election: “Even though Illinois ‘went blue,’ not every county did,” by Sun-Times’ Caroline Hurley.

— Sharpiegate! “Officials with the State Board of Elections is clarifying rumors concerning the use of Sharpie pens on ballots. They said if you used one to mark your ballot, your vote will be counted,” via WCIA.

— Lightfoot announces $10M grant program for bars and restaurants struggling with Covid-19 shutdown: “In addition, the mayor said she will propose a temporary cap on the fees that third-party delivery apps can charge restaurants, which will need to be approved by the City Council, and launch a web portal,, to help hospitality workers find workforce development resources, she said,” by Tribune’s Gregory Pratt, John Byrne and Phil Vettel.

… Mayor throws a lifeline to restaurants, bars, writes Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman.

— REALITY HITS: No funding for Taste of Chicago or Air and Water Show in 2021, top mayoral aide says: “Although the Taste hasn’t been canceled, the pandemic has halved the city’s $50 million budget for cultural affairs and special events,” by Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman.

— Feds hit Illinois Charter school chain with big fine: “A politically connected charter school chain based in the Chicago area has agreed to pay $4.5 million to end a long-running federal corruption investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice said. Concept Schools Inc. — which has four publicly-financed campuses in Chicago and dozens of other charter schools in the Midwest — allegedly engaged in a bid-rigging scheme to steer federally funded technology contracts to insiders,” by WBEZ’s Dan Mihalopoulos, Sarah Karp.

— Lightfoot confident CPS can safely move forward with in-person learning despite huge spike in Covid-19 cases: “The mayor and city health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady would not set a return date but said planning for in-person schooling would continue,” by Sun-Times’ Nader Issa.

— There’s another election in Chicago this month: “This year’s [Chicago Public Schools] council elections — postponed from April because of Covid-19 — are competitive at some schools and wide open at others, with 5,910 candidates vying for 5,672 spots, and nearly 700 seats with no one running. That’s an improvement over the last election two years ago, when only 5,658 candidates ran for 5,730 seats,” by Tribune’s Hannah Leone.

— From Vulture: Why Does Netflix Hate Chicago?

INVESTIGATION: Cook County’s $1 million tax bust: “The county wiped out a vacant warehouse’s unpaid taxes to get someone to buy it. Three years later, it’s still vacant, and taxpayers are out even more money on the failed deal,” by Sun-Times’ Tim Novak and Lauren FitzPatrick.

— Should police officers in Illinois be licensed? “Amid growing calls for police reform, Illinois’ top law enforcement official has been quietly working to build support for a proposal to license police officers in Illinois,” by WGN/9’s Ben Bradley

— Senate committees discuss inequity in education, employment: “State education officials and youth employment advocates are proposing expanding job skills programs in areas with large minority student populations and high unemployment, while also removing barriers to employment that disproportionately affect minorities,” by Capitol News’ Sarah Mansur.

— Rep. Lindsey LaPointe is working on a bill to fix IDES overpayment problems: “We strongly believe that if it’s the state that makes the mistake, it’s the state that has to remedy that,” LaPointe told CBS/2’s Tara Molina.

— America’s new power couple: Mitch and Joe, by POLITICO’s Burgess Everett, Alex Thompson and Marianne LeVine

— The polling industry blows it again, by POLITICO’s numbers guru Steven Shepard

— Dems and GOP gear up for overtime in Georgia with Senate on the line, by POLITICO’s James Arkin, Andrew Desiderio and Elena Schneider

Veteran journalist Carol Marin retires from broadcast news, ‘Chicago Tonight’: “This week marks the end of Marin’s nearly five-decade long career in broadcast news (four of which were in Chicago), as she and her longtime producer Don Moseley, bow out of television journalism,” by WTTW’s Marissa Nelson. (with vintage video).

Former legislator, Bremen Township supervisor Maggie Crotty: Mary Margaret “Maggie” Crotty, most recently Bremen Township supervisor and a former longtime state legislator representing the south suburbs, died Thursday at the age of 72.

… Senate President Don Harmon issued a statement about Crotty: “I was saddened to learn of the passing of Maggie Crotty, someone with whom I dearly loved working. … Maggie and I came into the Senate at the same time. She had a rare combination of tenacity and toughness mixed with a kind and gentle demeanor. She would greet everyone with a smile and a hug, but she could size up a huckster a mile away. She never failed to stand up for the causes that were important to her… Maggie came from local government, so she believed that government should be close to and accountable to the people. She was a proud Democrat but never lost sight of the fact that she represented everyone in her district, no matter their party affiliation.”

— Today at 11 a.m.: Amalgamated Transit Worker Local 241 holds a day of action at the Daley Center. Details here

— Today at 2 p.m.: State legislators host a virtual hearing on equity in food access, agriculture, cannabis and technology. This is a joint hearing of the Senate Executive Committee, Senate Agriculture Committee, and Senate Commerce and Economic Development Committee. Tune in here

THURSDAY’s GUESS: Congrats to Senate President Don Harmon, who correctly answered that former state Sen. Ed Maloney was known to bike to Springfield from Chicago.

TODAY’S QUESTION: Who was the prominent Chicagoan to host two U.S. presidents at his south Michigan Avenue home in the late 1800s and 1900? Email your answer to [email protected].

Today: Arne Duncan, managing partner of Emerson Collective and former Education secretary, former state Rep. Jay Hoffman, WCIA Capitol Bureau Chief Mark Maxwell, Illinois House spokesman Steve Brown, fundraiser Laurie Dimakos, arts critic Hedy Weiss.

Saturday: DuPage County board chair Dan Cronin, philanthropist and political donor Eleni Bousis, Harry Caray CEO Grant DePorter, journalist Daniel Libit, crisis communications consultant Randall Samborn, and Bob Yadgir, director of comms and senior policy adviser in the Secretary of State’s Office.

Sunday: Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd); U. of I. at Chicago poli sci professor Dick Simpson; and PR pro Mika Stambaugh. Plus a HT in honor of the late Michael Bauer, the Chicago political operative who really made politics fun.


CORRECTION: An earlier version of Illinois Playbook misstated Fritz Kaegi’s title. He is Cook County assessor.

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