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OUR VIEW: Will you stay or will you quit?

Published: Monday, July 14, 2014 11:39 p.m. CDT

If you are elected to the Legislature, will you quit before your term ends?

That question should be posed to every candidate for Illinois House and Senate in the Nov. 4 election.

Why?

Voters ought to know before the election whether candidates plan to serve a full term, or whether they intend to step down early.

We’re not talking about reasonable resignations because of serious illness, election or appointment to a higher office, moving out of state, and so forth.

We’re talking about resignations that seem to come from nowhere, for no good reason, that create a vacant seat to be filled not by voters, but by party powerbrokers.

Already this summer, state Rep. JoAnn Osmond, R-Antioch, and state Rep. Chuck Jefferson, D-Rockford, have quit. Jefferson didn’t say why, while Osmond said her son was getting married in September. Huh?

Party officials appoint the replacements to fill out unexpired terms. Voters are left out of the decisions.

In addition, state Rep. Josh Harms, R-Watseka, is taking his name off the November ballot. Again, party officials will nominate a replacement. Voters won’t have a say on who it is.

The pattern is not new to our region.

In 2013, state Rep. Jim Sacia, R-Pecatonica, resigned after serving 9 months of his two-year term. Party leaders picked his replacement.

In 2011, state Sen. Brad Burzynski, R-Rochelle, quit early.

In 2010, state Sen. Gary Dahl, R-Granville, resigned mid-term.

In 2008, state Sen. Todd Sieben, R-Geneseo, stepped down early.

In 2005, state Sen. Denny Jacobs, D-East Moline, departed early.

In all those cases, party bigwigs, not the public, chose replacements.

Such resignations break faith with voters who elect people to serve a set amount of time in the Legislature. The practice also contributes to voter apathy and cynicism.

In contrast, we point to the example of former state Rep. Jerry Mitchell, R-Sterling, who decided not to seek re-election a few years ago, and who chose to serve out his full term.

Voters were treated to a rousing Republican primary contest in March 2012 with four candidates – Li Arellano Jr., Tom Demmer, Chet Olson and Dan Sidmore – running for the Republican nomination. (In the GOP-dominated 90th District, which includes part of DeKalb County, no Democrats ran.)

After an intense campaign, voters nominated Demmer, who went on to win the general election.

That’s how to stir voter interest and involvement.

We find it ironic that the Legislature and Gov. Pat Quinn support new measures to make voting easier, such as same-day registration.

The same bunch, however, remains quiet about lawmaker resignations that, time after time, take important decisions out of voters’ hands.

It’s up to voters, then, to pin down the candidates this fall on the key question:

If you are elected to the Legislature, will you quit before your term ends?

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