Bill Brady downplays Rod Blagojevich issue; others play it up

Chris Wetterich

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady on Thursday downplayed the political effect of Rod Blagojevich’s felony conviction, but it took his party less than two minutes at its Illinois State Fair rally to try to lasso Democrats to their disgraced former leader.

“It’s a distraction as far as we’re concerned,” Brady, a state senator from Bloomington, told reporters at the Illinois Republican County Chairmen’s Association meeting Thursday morning. “I don’t think anyone needs to talk about it. He (Gov. Pat Quinn) was his (Blagojevich) lieutenant.”

It was left to other Republicans to toss Blagojevich’s political scalp around the stage.

“Welcome if you have had enough of the public corruption and incompetent management of our state from the Chicago Democrat machine, Rod Blagojevich, (Gov.) Pat Quinn and (House Speaker) Mike Madigan,” state Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady told hundreds of sweaty Republicans during the fair’s annual GOP Day rally.

“They ran arm in arm with Rod Blagojevich for his re-election. Just as there’s accountability in the courtroom, there ought to be accountability at the polling booth,” said U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Peoria. Schock represents parts of Springfield in Congress.

While he talked mostly about the need to create jobs, Bill Brady stopped short of pledging not to use Blagojevich in campaign advertising.

“I have no idea what our experts are going to run,” Bill Brady told reporters at the morning event. “Make no mistake, this election is about winning. … But we’re going to do it honestly. And we’re going to give them something to believe in.”

Bill Brady criticized Quinn for proposing to raise the income tax from 3 percent to 4 percent.

“We’ve lost over 700,000 jobs in the last decade – 200,000 in the last 15 months. This election needs to turn the page on corruption, turn the page on insider politics and give the people an opportunity to bring those jobs back on Illinois,” Brady said.

In addition to the governorship, Republicans hope to control the Illinois House for the first time since 1997. They would have to win 12 seats in order to oust House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and replace him with House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego.

To control the Illinois Senate, the GOP would have to gain eight seats while losing none, a difficult task. Rep. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield, said he thinks it is possible.

“I think we have enough seats in play that, in a perfect storm, it can happen,” Poe said.

He acknowledged, though, that it means convincing voters to keep Republican incumbents in a year when voters seem fed up with incumbents of both parties.

“If you want change, you’re going to have to stick to some of us incumbents to get more Republicans,” he said. “We need Republicans so we can have change.”

Chris Wetterich can be reached at 217-788-1523. Doug Finke can be reached at 217-788-1527.

Kirk warns of lame-duck session of Congress

Mark Kirk, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, warned of a lame-duck session of Congress after the Nov. 2 election and urged Illinoisans to send him to Washington immediately as another vote against the Democratic agenda.

“They would like to pass a huge spending bill called an omnibus appropriation, probably filled with thousands of earmarks,” Kirk said at the Republican County Chairmen’s meeting at the Northfield Inn. “They would like to consider legislation taking away your right to a secret ballot in a union election.”

Illinoisans will vote in two U.S. Senate elections in November, one to fill out the remaining weeks of President Obama’s Senate term and one for a new six-year term that will start in January. Kirk and his Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, are the major-party nominees in both races.

Kirk fended off Giannoulias’ criticism Wednesday of Kirk’s votes against extending unemployment benefits and sending financial aid to the states while favoring an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the richest Americans.

“I said I was inclined to support it because I want to help people, but … I went back to Washington and I actually read the bill,” Kirk said of the unemployment bill. “The bill spent on unrelated items, and the bill added, according to the Congressional Budget Office letter, under the pay-as-you-go rules of the Democratic leadership, another $12 billion to the deficit.”

But Kirk did not directly answer questions about why extending all of the Bush tax cuts, which also increased the federal deficit, would be OK.

“We should be against deficit spending, which means we make hard choices on whole federal programs,” Kirk said.

-- Chris Wetterich