When the Good Ones Go

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OPINION

I spend a lot of time in this newsletter kicking around politicians on both sides of the aisle, because one of the things I promised myself (and you) when we started this newsletter two-and-a-half years ago was an honest assessment of what is going on and to hold everyone’s feet to the fire.

But, in general, there are a lot of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who I respect the hell out of. On this final day of the 102nd General Assembly, we’re losing a bunch of them, whether they’re resigning, they lost re-election, or lost a primary, and I just wanted to mention a few of them.

The House is losing Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs). He’s been the target of attacks from the right flank of his party for years, partially kneecapping his ability to move the caucus forward. He also wasn’t afraid to stand up for what he believed in, whether it be smacking around COVID deniers or voting for an assault weapon ban. We’re going to miss a principled leader like Jim Durkin.

Three other House Republicans are leaving after losing bids for higher office last year. Rep. Avery Bourne (R-Morrisonville), who, by the way, is still just 30, can do whatever she wants to do in the world. She’s bright and kind and compassionate and that heart will be missed in Springfield. I’ll also be sad to see Rep. Dan Brady (R-Bloomington) and Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) leave, both who were bright policy focused workhorses in the House.

Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) also deserves a mention. He’s one of the smartest, hardest working, deeply committed members on either side of the aisle. He was constantly genial even when everyone in politics seemed to want to hit each other with lead pipes. Republicans will miss him as floor leader. The same could be said about Rep. Deanne Mazzochi (R-Elmhurst), who made debates and bills better by using her exceptional skills in debate to unwind many complicated issues, even if Democrats hated it.

Rep. Mike Zalewski (D-Riverside) is likely the most impactful loss on either side of the aisle this year. Zalewski is one of the few lawmakers who could get big stuff done, speak moderately about fiscal issues, and get along with members on both sides of the aisle. I know he was the guy Republicans knew they could talk to if they really wanted to get something done. We need more people like Z, not fewer.

As I’ve gotten to know her, I’ve also become a big fan of Rep. Denyse Wang-Stoneback (D-Skokie). She’s smart and committed and, while way to the left of where my issues land, I always appreciated where she was coming from.

Finally, in the Senate, I’m sad to see my friend Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) leaving. Most of you know I ran his first race in 2012 and we’ve been friend since before that. I’ve given him heck over the years when I thought he could be doing things differently or doing more to make a difference, but the truth is, very few Republicans have gotten as much big stuff done in the last decade as Barickman.

I hoped we would see Barickman and former Congressman Adam Kinzinger move up in the world as Republicans who could speak to people who disagree with the party. Guys like that could help the party have direction for years to come.

Best wishes to these legislators and the ones I didn’t mention, and here’s to making money, having less stress, and enjoying more Memorial Day weekends with family.

Ino Saves New

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January 11, 2023 at 04:47PM

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