Jim Dey | What’s next for first Champaign County executive? ‘I’m going to rest’


It’s time once again to dive in to another round of quick takes on the people, places and events that were being talked about over the past week:

Hasta la vista

Champaign County Executive Darlene Kloeppel — oops, make that former county executive — turned into a pumpkin of sorts on Wednesday.

That’s when her four-year term as the county’s first elected executive — a post akin to mayor — expired. Her successor, Steve Summers, took office Thursday.

Kloeppel’s term was not easy. She defined the duties of a new executive office and squabbled, mostly, with the legislative branch — fellow Democrats on the county board.

In that context, it’s not a surprise what the 69-year-old plans to do next.

“I’m going to rest,” Kloeppel said.

She said she’ll devote more time to family and work in her garden when weather permits, and “after that, I don’t know.”

Kloeppel said there’s one thing she won’t do.

“I don’t know that I’ll do politics again,” she said.

Kloeppel made a distinction between working on public policy, which she likes, and being executive and involved in the political gamesmanship that intersects with holding public office, which she dislikes.

Kloeppel often found herself at odds with county board leftists who went out of their way to make her tenure difficult. While declining to name any of them, Kloeppel said “about 10 were a pain in the butt.”

“I think if you watched any meetings, you can figure out who they are,” she said.

Kloeppel said most of their disputes were about power — the power to make appointments to vacant elected offices or the advisability of drawing gerrymandered county board maps to give Democrats a permanent board majority.

She lost both of those battles — one legal (appointments) and the other political (gerrymandering).

Despite suffering the slings and arrows, Kloeppel said “I feel like I did a good job,” but is not sorry about leaving, “because I need a break.”

Not just river in Egypt

It’s tough to lose an election, sometimes even tougher to face the reasons why.

Defeated Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey has tried to understand why he lost overwhelmingly to Democratic incumbent J.B. Pritzker. But he is clearly struggling.

Rather than acknowledge that he was an out-of-touch regional candidate doomed from the start, Bailey has come up with excuses that miss the point.

He said part of the reason he lost is because he failed to “acquire the funds to get my message out.”

He complained that Pritzker used his unlimited wealth to “paint me as someone that I’m not, and that was powerful.”

Pritzker certainly vilified Bailey, but that was to be expected. The reason Bailey could not raise money is because potential supporters realized his campaign was a loser. Campaign donations reflect public support, and Bailey didn’t get the first because he didn’t have the second.

He also attributed Democratic success to mail-in voting.

“That’s why the Democrats won,” Bailey told Politico.

Democrats certainly benefited from mail-in voting, but Bailey was never going to win because his voter appeal was so narrow. Democrats outnumber Republicans in Illinois. They can win only if they draw support from Democrats and independents as well as party supporters.

Bailey’s message repelled Democrats while alienating independents and some Republicans, particularly in the suburbs.

Despite being crushed, Bailey said he might run again.

“I am going to turn that over to God to see what doors he opens,” Bailey told Playbook.

He ought to be careful about that. A Republican up north said he ran for the Illinois Supreme Court because God told him to. Despite God’s purported support, Republican Mike Curran lost.

God’s admonitions to run for public office should not be taken as gospel by would-be candidates. The record indicates it’s just as likely God is pulling their legs.

Double-secret probation

State Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Frankfort, beat back bad publicity to win a narrow re-election bid. But his trials are not over.

He remains in hot water with his fellow Democrats in the Illinois Senate. He’s likely to lose a committee chairmanship that carried an $11,000 stipend, prestige and considerable influence over pending legislation.

Hastings was the subject of pre-election columns in this space that detailed allegations of spousal abuse made by his former wife and maltreatment of a former employee. He denied all allegations, but then compounded his problems by issuing a letter in his ex-wife’s name that endorsed his re-election.

Actually, the letter was written by Hastings’ sister, but carried his ex-wife’s name. The ex-wife denied any association with the letter, and Hastings received a thorough drubbing from the news media and Democratic Party leaders for his “boneheaded” campaign move.

Already forced out of the party’s legislative leadership, Hastings stands to be bounced from his post as chairman of the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee.

WBEZ radio in Chicago quoted Senate President Don Harmon as saying “I do not expect Senator Hastings to be wielding a committee gavel anytime soon.”

Democrats were uniformly critical of Hastings prior to the election. But it was not clear if their condemnatory rhetoric was the usual self-serving bilge or an accurate reflection of their views.

Had he been defeated, Democrats would have been rid of him. But since he won, they feel obligated to back up their words.

“The voters are one thing — the Senate and the Senate Democratic Caucus is something else. I think that Senator Hastings’ road to rehabilitation within the caucus is likely to be long and rocky,” Harmon said.

A military veteran, lawyer and a politician with vast ambitions, Hastings has a reputation as a hothead and bully. One female lobbyist went public with her dim view of his character after the abuse allegations became public.

It’s hard to imagine Hastings backing away from the challenge of redemption. But he’s likely to spend a long time in re-education camp as he tries to grovel his way back to party favor.

Hard-knock life

Anyone remember Ronald Duebbert, the St. Clair County lawyer who got elected judge and was sworn in but never sat in court?

He was thrown off the bench by the Illinois Courts Commission for lying to police who were investigating one of his friends in connection with a fatal shooting.

At the time, Duebbert was relieved of his judicial duties and suspended from practicing law. Now the Illinois Supreme Court has further punished Duebbert by suspending his law license for one year “and until further order of the court.”

That last penalty — “until further order of the court” — is usually the kiss of death. It means the suspended license will never be restored absent some persuasive display of contrition and rehabilitation.

The court explained that it is “an indefinite suspension which requires the suspended lawyer to petition for reinstatement after the fixed period of suspension ends.” As a prelude to reinstatement, a hearing before the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission hearing board must be held.

Duebbert, a Republican, won an upset victory in a 2016 race for a circuit judgeship in St. Clair County.

It was shortly after the election that a former roommate of his became a suspect in a murder investigated by the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis.

When police tried to locate the suspect by questioning Duebbert as to his friend’s whereabouts, he reportedly lied to police by saying he had not been in contact with him. In fact, Duebbert had spoken to the suspect, David Fields, that day.

The court commission subsequently removed Duebbert from the bench because his false statements “demonstrated an utter disregard for the integrity and respect of the judiciary.”

Fields ultimately turned himself in to police. When the case went to trial, he was found not guilty.

Friends close, enemies closer?

Owing to his November election defeat, outgoing state Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, will not be Illinois’ next secretary of state. But he will have something to say about how events transpire in that office.

Brady recently was named to the transition team that Secretary of State-elect Alexi Giannoulias has formed. Clearly flattered by Giannoulias’ diplomatic offer, Brady praised Giannaoulias for “rising above party politics” to help make the office the “best that it can be.”

Brady said he had worked with outgoing Secretary (Jesse) White on the issues of distracted driving, organ and tissue donation, senior citizen services, and services for individuals with special needs. He said he’ll use his “unique knowledge to help enhance a statewide office that affects the lives of more Illinoisans on a daily basis than any other.”

An Illinois House member since 2001 and a member of the GOP leadership team, Brady will lead the transition committee on organ donation and serve on the driver facilities and road safety committee.

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December 3, 2022 at 08:27AM

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