Former Gov. Jim Edgar calls for civility in Illinois politics during Decatur appearance

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DECATUR — Taking stock of the state of Illinois politics today, former Gov. Jim Edgar called for the return to Springfield of what he described as the three Cs: civility, compromise and compassion.

The two-term Republican on Monday told an audience of more than 100 at Millikin University that the state needs to avoid moving in the direction of negativity that he sees as having overtaken national politics. Policy differences can be worked out without insults, he said. 

“That doesn’t mean we don’t disagree,” said Edgar, who also spoke to students during a political studies class earlier in the day. “But we don’t call people names. We don’t question someone’s integrity because they have another point of view. We don’t call someone a crook because they don’t agree with us.”

Edgar recounted his decades of work in Springfield, from the early days as a legislative intern, to his ten years as the Illinois Secretary of State to his gubernatorial career. Sprinkled throughout were stories of politicians across the state and from a variety of backgrounds finding ways to work together.

And that included finding a way to work with Michael Madigan, the Chicago Democrat and longtime Speaker of the House who has been public enemy No. 1 for incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Though Madigan would not meet with Edgar for four months after he was elected, Edgar said he made sure not to speak ill of the speaker or criticize him publicly. Eventually the two met and helped craft a budget.

“I never questioned his integrity, because I knew I would have to sit down and work with him,” Edgar said.


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Former Gov. Jim Edgar speaks Monday night at Millikin University. The two-term governor, who served from 1991-1999, spoke to more than 100 people in attendance about the state of Illinois politics.


RYAN VOYLES, HERALD & REVIEW

While the message can sometimes get lost, Edgar said it is important to remember that government is meant to help those who are in need. During the recent budget impasse, or the 793 days when Illinois did not have a complete state budget, politicians and the wealthy were not the ones most affected, he said. Rather, it was the students who depend on MAP grant funding for college and those who relied on social service agencies who felt the pain.

“We have to remember to help people, and if we do not do that, then we’re failing and a lot of people are going to get hurt,” Edgar said.

Recent developments, such as legislation that overhauled the state’s school funding formula last year, shows that there is a chance for lawmakers from both parties and all parts of the state to compromise for the common good, he said. 

The message of the “three Cs” was meaningful to Megan Owens, a senior at Millikin studying political science. Though she described herself as more “left” than Edgar politically, Owens said she felt they morally aligned when they spoke briefly on Monday afternoon, connecting on their similar upbringings in downstate Illinois.

With aspirations to one day run for political office, Owens said Edgar gave her encouragement that success is possible with hard work and determination.

“He’s living proof that you don’t have to be rich to win elections,” she said.






Contact Ryan Voyles at (217) 421-7985. Follow him on Twitter: @RVVoyles

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September 17, 2018 at 10:14PM

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