SPRINGFIELD – It’s been nearly two decades since the issue of term limits for lawmakers captured the biggest headlines in Illinois, helping fuel the “Republican Revolution” of 1994. That same year, a populist state treasurer named Pat Quinn gathered nearly half a million signatures for an “Eight is Enough” campaign to embody term limits in Illinois’ constitution.
The efforts always have failed in Illinois, but the issue now is being resurrected in connection with the accelerating campaign for governor next year.
A political action committee chaired by Winnetka venture capitalist and GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner is scheduled to unveil plans this week for a campaign to ask voters on the November 2014 ballot to impose term limits on politicians.
The idea is always popular with the public, as a possible way to throw out the “bums” in government. But history shows that it will be an uphill battle in Illinois, the biggest hurdle being a 1994 state Supreme Court ruling that stopped the initiative by Quinn, now the Democratic governor Rauner is aiming to unseat.
“How are you going to get around that decision?” asked Charlie Wheeler, who teaches public affairs reporting at the University of Illinois at Springfield. “A precedent is a precedent.”
Yet, successful or not, the initiative could serve as an effective political strategy for Republicans, by rallying voters to the polls. It especially would help Rauner, the only one of four GOP primary candidates never to have held elected office, by connecting his name to a popular issue and allowing his supporters to raise more money.