January 3, 2022
Good morning and welcome back from our holiday break and my (sort-of) paternity break.
Thanks to you all for your kind messages, calls, texts, and advice. We still don’t know what we’re doing, but he’s still alive and eating, so at least we have that going for us.
And a big thank you to our guest hosts who offered their insights while I took a little time off. Also to our friend Ben Garbarek, who compiled these Free for All e-mails while I was out.
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Federal court upholds Democrat-drawn legislative map (The Illinoize)
A three judge panel ruled against a challenge to the Democrat-drawn redistricting plan in a 64-page opinion released Thursday.
The judges, two Republican appointees and one Democrat appointee, dismissed challenges by Republicans, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and the NAACP.
Judges ruled, essentially, they have no authority over political gerrymandering:
“But the Supreme Court has declared partisan gerrymandering claims to present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts. Having found no statutory or constitutional infirmities in the map adopted in SB 927, our involvement in the current disputes over Illinois redistricting must come to an end with the entry of a final judgment.
I’ll have much more on what’s next for this suit and what it means for the future in tomorrow’s newsletter.
Illinois enters 2022 with record-high COVID cases, full hospitals, evolving risks and some hope (Chicago Tribune)
The state is now seeing record numbers of COVID-19 infections — but these cases appear less likely to cause serious illness. At the same time, Illinois’ health care system is in worse shape than it was a year earlier, and the exploding case counts mean even a milder variant could further strain hospitals with COVID-19 patients.
The Illinois Department of Public Health blamed COVID-19 for at least 11,000 more deaths in 2021, bringing the total to nearly 28,000 since the pandemic began, with an additional roughly 3,200 deaths considered to have “probable” ties to COVID-19.
A year ago, the average number of new cases each day had begun to drop after soaring above 12,000 in fall 2020, and people began preparing for vaccines that leaders hoped would starve the virus out of existence.
The vaccines came, but millions of Illinoisans haven’t taken them. Along the way, the virus spawned new mutations that began to chip away at the vaccines’ effectiveness, particularly their ability to stop somebody from getting infected.
It’s true Omicron doesn’t appear to be as serious or as deadly as the Delta variant or the original COVID variant. But, there are still thousands of hospitalizations around the country everyday and they are, by a large majority, unvaccinated individuals.
You could get a flu if you’re vaccinated, but if you aren’t, you are still risking death. It’s a game of Russian Roulette I’m not willing to play.
Related: Chicago and Cook County COVID-19 vaccine mandate starts Monday, but how will Chicago restaurants enforce it? (Chicago Tribune)
Pritzker asks hospitals to postpone surgeries as Illinois braces for huge influx of COVID patients (Chicago Sun-Times)
Illinois driver services offices will close for two weeks because of COVID-19 (Rockford Register-Star)
Where could the virus take us in 2022? (Champaign News-Gazette)
COVID-19 delays start of 2022 General Assembly; drafting a state budget remains a priority (State Journal-Register)
For Democrats, the spring 2022 session of the Illinois General Assembly will focus on drafting a budget that responds to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Republicans, the session will give another opportunity to highlight missed opportunities by Democrats to stem crime waves affecting many parts of Illinois and root out corruption.
At least that’s what key legislative leaders predict for the session, which begins Wednesday.
The session had been scheduled to begin one day earlier, but rising numbers of COVID-19 cases statewide prompted Illinois House and Senate leaders to cancel session days scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday.
Moreover, Harmon and House Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch said in a news release that the following session week, Jan. 11-13, is "likely to be canceled amid the ongoing global pandemic." The legislative leaders didn't comment on potential session-day cancellations after that week.
Related: June primary election hovers over Illinois legislative session as lawmakers try to finish budget and other work by April (Chicago Tribune)
Mary Miller to Run Against Rodney Davis, Secures Trump Endorsement (The Illinoize)
The first day of the new year brings a new fight between two Republican members of Congress.
Congresswoman Mary Miller (R-Oakland), who saw her current 15th district dismantled in the redistricting plan passed by Democrats last year, placing her in the new 12th District, said Saturday she will instead challenge fellow Congressman Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) in the new 15th district.
Miller’s announcement she would compete with Davis came as she was endorsed by former President Donald Trump Saturday.
“She fights hard against Joe Biden’s open borders, runaway inflation, and the radical indoctrination of our children,” Trump was quoted in the release. “Mary has my [c]omplete and [t]otal endorsement.”
Trump made no mention of Davis in the statement, but numerous national reports had indicated Miller ally and far-right Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene had been urging Trump to endorse Miller over either Davis or Congressman Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro), but top GOP Leaders like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had asked the former President to stay out of the potential primary matchup.
Davis was gerrymandered out of his current 13th district and chose to seek the new 15th district instead of running for Governor. He has broken with Trump at times in his five terms in Congress, but hasn’t been the exuberant Trump supporter that Miller has been. She is often seen wearing at Trump-emblazoned purse at political events.
If you click the story, you’ll see the scorched-earth statement issued by Davis’ spokesman. This race is going to be outlandish.
Sandy Hamilton is Sangamon County GOP's pick to replace Murphy (State Journal-Register)
When asked why she applied, Sandy Hamilton, the newly sworn-in representative for the Illinois 99th District, turned the question around.
"A friend called me and asked me about it and after a couple of days of talking it through with my husband, Bob, the real answer was why not? Why not do this?" said Hamilton, a real estate broker at RE/MAX Professionals and former volleyball coach at Sacred Heart-Griffin High School.
Hamilton emerged from a group of 20 candidates to claim the vacancy created by the resignation of Rep. Mike Murphy, a Republican from Springfield.
Hamilton made national news when she appeared on “Fox & Friends" on Sept. 22, 2020, to talk about high school athletes' participation in team sports, along with SHG football coach and athletic director Ken Leonard.
"My whole take on that is let the children play and I 100% agree that if a family decides that's not what they want for their child, (with) underlying issues, health issues, I respect that," Hamilton explained Thursday. "I felt it was a parent's issue."
Hamilton said she would be open to running for reelection.
Hamilton, who lives on the west side of Springfield, would be in the 95th district if she ran in 2022.
Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, who also attended the swearing-in, said he planned to run for reelection, but hadn't made a formal announcement.
We told you before the holidays that legislative Republicans wanted Kelly Thompson, who works with a Chamber of Commerce-related energy group and formerly led the association of soil and water conservation districts, to take the appointment and run against appointed Sen. Doris Turner (D-Springfield) later this year.
We were told Thompson planned to run against Turner either way, but GOP insiders wanted to give her a head start.
Hamilton doesn’t have to run against Butler, obviously. She could run against Rep. Sue Scherer (D-Decatur) and move after the election or she could challenge Turner. We also know Sangamon County Republicans are searching high and low for a candidate for the new 13th Congressional District.