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Erickson: Downstate legislators propose Chicago split from Illinois

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Two rank-and-file Republicans from Macon County did their best to provide some conversational fodder for the holiday dinner table last week when they offered up a plan to make Aurora the biggest city in Illinois.

State Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, and his freshman sidekick, Adam Brown of Decatur, introduced a resolution urging Congress to make Cook County the 51st state in the nation, effectively excising Illinois' main economic engine, Chicago, from the rest of Illinois.

The vaguely worded legislation states that Chicago-area residents "hold different and firmly seated views" on politics, society and economics.

Therefore, the Divisive Downstate Duo said, Chicago politicians shouldn't be able to continue wielding their political muscle over the rest of the state.

"Both groups should enjoy the chance to govern themselves with their firmly seated values," the resolution notes.

At a media availability in Decatur, Mitchell, a veteran of many previous press conferences about ideas that quickly go nowhere, offered up his vision of what Illinois sans Chicago would look like.

"We just do this and we'll resemble Indiana more than the present, debt-ridden state of Illinois," he said. "We can resemble Indiana, which has a lower debt, a lower unemployment rate and a lower deficit."

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Not to offend our Hoosier neighbors, but there's a reason many people live in Illinois and not Indiana. It's because Illinois is not Indiana.

Bill Brady not convinced

If anyone knows the effect Chicago has on Illinois politics, it is Bill Brady. If not for the voters in Cook County during the 2010 gubernatorial election, the Bloomington Republican would be governor and Democrat Pat Quinn would be bumbling around somewhere else.

"There's no arguing that, but for Chicago, I would have won the gubernatorial election and Republicans would be in control. I understand their frustration," Brady said last week when asked about his neighboring representative's proposal.

But Brady pooh-poohed the whole idea of separating Chicago from Illinois saying it's just "impractical."

"Chicago has a lot of economic opportunities that we can't forget about," said Brady.

Party HQ

Although the Divisive Downstate Duo obviously despises Chicago, tell that to the people who run the state GOP.

The Illinois Republican Party, which funneled more than $148,000 to Brown in his upstart win against Democrat incumbent Bob Flider in 2010, is headquartered at 205 W. Randolph St., Suite 1245.

That's in Chicago.

Perhaps Mitchell and Brown would be willing to help pay for the party to move its main offices to Decatur.

Filing fling

Just like shoppers on Black Friday, candidates running for seats in the General Assembly will begin lining up outside the Illinois State Board of Elections offices in Springfield early Monday morning to file their nominating petitions for the March primary.

Politicians often jockey to get the first position on the ballot in hopes lazy, uninformed voters simply pick the first name they see.

Turns out, there's ample evidence that it works.

A report issued in October 2010 by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University shows getting the No. 1 ballot position increases a candidate's chances of winning by almost 5 percentage points.

In other words, losing a little sleep is not a bad political calculation for anyone involved in a close race.

Candidates for Congress, meanwhile, won't have to file until later next month. Because of an ongoing legal fight over the state's new political boundaries, a panel of federal judges last week delayed the filing period for seats in the U.S. House until two days before Christmas.

The schedule

Along with kicking off the week-long filing period, Monday marks the start of what will be a busy week in state government.

Committee hearings have been scheduled for Monday afternoon to deal with the big tax break legislation and other issues floating around the Rotunda. A separate panel also meets Monday to discuss the pros and cons of publicly financing state elections.

The full House and Senate will descend on the Capitol Tuesday and could be in town again on Wednesday.

On Thursday, the Quinn administration is scheduled to send out pink slips to workers at the Murphysboro youth prison, the Logan Correctional Center and one of the state's psychiatric hospitals in Rockford as part of the governor's layoff proposal.

Saturday marks the day Quinn plans to close Tinley Park mental health center.

Kurt Erickson can be reached at kurt.erickson@lee.net or 217-782-4043.

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