Bernard Schoenburg: Morris a high-energy guy for treasurer
MARTY MORRIS, deputy director of legislative affairs for state Treasurer DAN RUTHERFORD, has an interesting background for somebody on the staff of a Republican statewide official.
Morris, 35, is a Chicago native who “has voted pretty much in every Democratic primary” because “I couldn’t even imagine pulling a Republican (ballot) there during a primary, because how do you vote for anybody?”
He’s worked for former Gov. JIM THOMPSON as a driver, and also worked for 2002 GOP gubernatorial candidate JIM RYAN and Democratic House Speaker MICHAEL MADIGAN. Last year, he was deputy political director for the campaign of Gov. PAT QUINN, a Democrat.
“Marty’s energetic,” Rutherford told me. “He’s got relationships on both sides of the aisle. … So he’s able to work with all of the various components that make up the Illinois General Assembly.”
Morris, who is being paid $75,000 annually, didn’t attend college, in part because his father died just as he was getting set to go in 1995, and it “threw a wrench in my plans.”
He worked at the Board of Trade, and in 2000 noticed an item in the MICHAEL SNEED column in the Chicago Sun-Times, saying Thompson, then as now with the Winston & Strawn law firm, needed a driver. Morris said he knew Thompson was a regular at an Italian beef stand in Chicago. So at the end of his cover letter, Morris said he wrote, “And Governor, if there’s ever a line at Mr. Beef, don’t worry. I’ve got your beef.’”
Thompson called the next day.
“He said, ‘Morris, I don’t need your clout at Mr. Beef. I’ve got my own.’” Morris said. “And we hit it off right from there.”
He worked for Thompson at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia and later in Springfield, when Thompson lobbied for funding to remodel Soldier Field. Thompson got Morris an introduction to Jim Ryan, and Morris was a travel aide during Ryan’s 2002 campaign for governor.
“Jim Ryan was a great guy,” Morris said, but after the loss, Morris wanted to “make Springfield connections and learn the legislature” and got a job on Madigan’s issues development staff. He also worked on his own time for the Democratic Party of Illinois — chaired by Madigan.
He worked on various Democratic campaigns, including Quinn’s.
He had known Rutherford since the 2000 GOP convention, and after the 2010 campaign, Rutherford offered him a job.
“I like working for Dan,” he said. “I love Springfield, and I love downstate.”
Rutherford’s director of legislative affairs is JOHN WEBB, 47, of Springfield. A veteran of the office, he makes $90,000 annually, and Rutherford called him “well respected.”
Morris still lives in Chicago, and said he stays with friends when his work brings him to Springfield. The job includes non-legislative duties such as working with community groups.
Morris also said he had “made a deal” with Thompson and former first lady JAYNE THOMPSON to go back to school. “I will go back one day to get my degree,” he said.
In the “small-world” category, Morris, when a high school student at Francis Parker in Chicago, was among teens on a WGN-TV show called “Energy Express,” a health, fitness and lifestyle show. Another person on the show was KATE SHAW. She’s the daughter of ANDY SHAW, the longtime political reporter for WLS-TV in Chicago who now runs the Better Government Association. Kate Shaw, then a student at the University of Chicago Laboratory School, is now associate counsel to President BARACK OBAMA. She is married to CHRISTOPHER HAYES, editor of The Nation, who sometimes was a substitute host for KEITH OLBERMANN on MSNBC.
Hoffman vs. Johnson?
There is a chance that former state Rep. JAY HOFFMAN, D-Collinsville, could end up running for Congress against U.S. Rep. TIM JOHNSON, R-Urbana.
Johnson last week said he’s planning to run in the new 13th Congressional District, which is part of a redistricting map signed into law Friday by Gov. Quinn but facing a likely court challenge. Hoffman, defeated last year by state Rep. DWIGHT KAY, R-Glen Carbon, said he’s considering running in the new 13th, which includes much of Springfield, or giving Kay a rematch.
“I have always felt, during the time I was in the Illinois General Assembly, I was a voice for working families and job creation,” Hoffman said.
Johnson, who served in the Illinois House with Hoffman before being elected to Congress in 2000, remembered something else — kind of. He thought he recalled that Hoffman was a college roommate of former Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH.
Actually, Hoffman said, he, Blagojevich and now Cook County Sheriff TOM DART all shared an apartment in Springfield for a year as House members to share costs. While many consider Hoffman to have been Blagojevich’s floor leader in the House, Hoffman notes that he wasn’t linked to any charges faced by Blagojevich, voted to impeach him, and hasn’t talked to him in more than three years.
Hoffman also notes that Johnson voted for a GOP budget proposal in Congress that “drastically changes Medicare for seniors, and I just believe I could be a voice for working families.”
Johnson spokesman PHIL BLOOMER says Johnson did vote for the budget pushed by U.S. Rep. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis., and considered it a good start but not perfect. Bloomer said Johnson “would like the chance to nuance the approach to Medicare reform, but overall it (the Ryan budget) was a responsible approach given the crushing spending problems we face.”
Hoffman is practicing law and is also a principal in a St. Louis-based company called Pluvius LLC that is involved in working for clean-energy initiatives. A Springfield truck driver, SAM SPRADLIN, could challenge Johnson in a GOP primary.
Bernard Schoenburg is political columnist for The State Journal-Register. He can be reached at 788-1540 or email@example.com.