Democratic Illinois State Sen. Michael Hastings in tough reelection fight – WBEZ Chicago

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After denying highly publicized accusations of domestic violence from his ex-wife, Democratic Illinois State Sen. Michael Hastings found himself in a tight race for reelection in his south suburban district.

With all but one precinct reporting early Wednesday, Hastings trailed Republican challenger Patrick Sheehan by just 68 votes out of more than 80,000 ballots that had been counted in Tuesday’s election.

The campaign manager for Sheehan said he was “confident” of victory but noted that there were many mail-in ballots that have not yet been processed.

The spokesman for Hastings did not reply to messages.

To win another term in Springfield, Hastings would have to overcome the embarrassment of having JB Pritzker — the Illinois governor from his own party — call for his resignation a couple months ago.

Hastings was one of the most powerful Democrats in the Illinois Senate when the abuse accusations against him became public this summer.

The 42-year-old military veteran and attorney was first elected a decade ago, becoming one of the youngest state senators in Illinois history. He rose to a leadership position with the Senate Democrats — who will continue to enjoy a broad “supermajority” in the upper chamber of the General Assembly, regardless of whether Hastings gets reelected.

Hastings also launched a bid to run statewide last year to become the Democratic nominee for the vacancy in the Secretary of State’s office. But he dropped out of that race and, as he sought another term in the Senate, a series of complaints emerged publicly.

In a police report filed by his then-wife in June 2021, she accused Hastings of assaulting her at their home in Frankfort. After reports about that incident in the summer, Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, forced Hastings to step down as majority whip, and Pritzker called for Hastings to quit the Senate in September.

A second accusation of domestic violence was unearthed in the weeks before the election.

Hastings filed for divorce last year, but his lawyers convinced a judge in Will County to seal the case file. In September, WBEZ went to court to get the divorce file unsealed.

In the court documents, which were made public Oct. 25, Kathleen Hastings’s lawyer alleged that “Michael cannot control his anger in front of the children,” had “elbowed Kate in the face in front of the children” and called her profane, misogynistic terms in the children’s presence many times in the months after he filed for divorce in April 2021.

Through a spokesman, Hastings has denied all the accusations, and he has not been charged with any crime.

Hastings also denied accusations from former chief of staff Cassandra Matz and veteran Springfield lobbyist Jen Walling.

But state records show taxpayers shelled out nearly $150,000 in settlement payments and to cover the bills from an outside attorney who represented Hastings in the civil discrimination case brought by Matz.

And lobbyist Jen Walling told WBEZ in September that Hastings — who is chairman of the important Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee — yelled at her, pounded his hands on a table in a meeting and approached her in a menacing manner during police disagreements in Springfield in the past five years.

The negative publicity became campaign fodder for the Republicans and Sheehan, a Plainfield police officer and Lyons Township parks board member.

Earlier this month, a plane flew over the state Senate district trailing a banner that read, “GOV JB TELLS HASTINGS RESIGN FOR ABUSE.” The accusations from his ex-wife also featured in a TV attack ad.

Dan Mihalopoulos is a reporter on WBEZ’s Government & Politics Team. Follow him on Twitter @dmihalopoulos.

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November 9, 2022 at 05:43AM

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