The new wave of COVID-19 mitigation that threatens a second state closure has left many Illinoisans feeling like their concerns aren’t being listened to. Meanwhile, small merchants such as restaurants, bars and salons are wondering who is looking out to protect their employees and the future of their businesses. Many can point to a lack of cooperation and information at the state and federal levels.
The frustration is clear. Just look at the results of the Nov. 3 general election, from a state resolution to change how we are taxed, to congressional candidates barely eeking out wins, to a local county leader losing his position, voters made a point. Consider:
* U.S. Reps. Cheri Bustos and Lauren Underwood won narrow re-elections to Congress that a year ago would have appeared to be unconscionable. Bustos, chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which works to elect her party’s candidates, was the most telling race. Bustos won the 17th Congressional District with just 51.9% of the vote (her lowest percentage in five congressional races) against Esther Joy King, a first-time Republican candidate who was an unknown just four months ago.
Bustos said this week she won’t seek a second term as chair of the DCCC to spend more time serving her district. “As a member of the House Appropriations and Agriculture committees, I am well-positioned to turn my focus to strengthening infrastructure and health care in the cities, small towns and rural areas I serve,” she said on Monday.
Meanwhile, on Thursday the Associated Press could finally call incumbent Democrat Lauren Underwood the winner of the 14th Congressional race over Republican Jim Oberweis. Underwood won by 4,288 votes.
* Despite being down by over 9,000 votes (nearly 6%) as of Thursday, incumbent McHenry County Board chairman Jack Franks, a Democrat, finally conceded to Republican Mike Buehler. Franks didn’t do much campaigning while Buehler based much of his campaigning and mailers on a sexual assault allegation against Franks that has led to no charges. Donald Trump and U.S. Senate candidate Mark Curran, along with 14th Congressional candidate Jim Oberweis, lead the voting in McHenry County despite being projected to lose their races overall.
* Perhaps the most voter backlash involved a politician who wasn’t even on the ballot: Gov. JB Pritzker. Pritzker made a $50-million donation to the Vote Yes for Fairness campaign to support the proposed constitutional amendment to change the state flat tax rate to a graduated rate. The governor was also the face of the proposal, which was soundly trounced.
What was most concerning for many voters could have been that the proposed amendment would not prevent the Legislature from raising income tax rates, and, in fact, would make it easier for them to do just that.
This was in the Illinois Secretary of State Office’s pamphlet “Explanation of Proposed Amendment”: “The Amendment gives the Legislature power to increase taxes on any group of taxpayers with no limits and no accountability and without any requirement to use the additional revenue to fund essential needs such as healthcare, education or public safety.”
We still see “Pritzker Sucks” signs throughout the state.
Illinois has an unsettled and dissatisfied electorate seeking answers, and, in some cases, change. Voters deserve a reasonable and moderate approach from the government and its leaders.
Every candidate made promises to work harder to serve their constituents. Each winner needs to be transparent in how they expect to address on their constituents’ behalf the problems they face, and do so in a spirit of bipartisanship.
We face drastic problems of underfunded pensions, a troubled state budget that’s trickled down to the local level and, most immediately, the pandemic that appears to be heading into a winter surge stronger than what we experienced last spring.
Much is expected from our elected leaders but the results fall far short of those expectations. Now each of the last week’s winners have another chance to prove us wrong.