Monday, October 26, 2009

Berkowitz and Bellandi go two on one with the Republican Guv Candidates at the Union League Club of Chicago post forum locker room show

After the Republican gubernatorial candidate forum at the Union League Club of Chicago on Wednesday [See here], a media availability was held with each candidate who appeared at the forum: retired millionaire businessman Adam Andrzejewski (R-Hinsdale), Senator Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), Senator Dillard (R-Westmont), DuPage County Board Chairman Bob Schillerstrom and media personality Dan Proft (R-Chicago). Andy McKenna, Jr., who is scheduled to make his official announcement tomorrow of his entry into this race and who is the former State GOP Chairman, declined to attend the forum. Same with former Attorney General Jim Ryan, who is expected to file in the Republican Gov race within the next week.

The MSM apparently chose Mayor Daley over the Republican Gov Candidates

Most of the MSM left the forum without attending the media availabilities, if they attended the forum at all, apparently to attend Mayor Daley’s “newsworthy,” budget speech. Thus, most, if not all of the questions asked at the media availabilities, came from the AP’s Deanna Bellandi and this reporter, who, along with maybe one or two others, made up the press corps at the availabilities. The candidates appeared, in seriatim, but their sequence, below, is different, for style purposes, than the order in which they actually appeared.

Adam Andrzejewski

Disconnected from the Illinois pols

When this reporter indicated to Adam Andrzejewski that the Lon Monk plea agreement raised the specter of former Illinois National Republican Committeeman Bob Kjellander possibly being indicted related to his role in the Blagojevich ten billion dollar bond sale underwritten by Bear Stearns [from whom Kjellander received an $809,000 fee for his “work” on that matter], Andrzejewski argued that that scenario supported his argument that he can win in the general election because he “is disconnected from the Illinois political class.”

Adam on Dillard and the Blago 10 billion dollar bond deal

Adam argued further he is running against Springfield experience, stating “Senator Dillard was just up here saying he has no relationship to Kjellander, but it was his vote on the 10 billion dollar bond deal, borrowing and spending that enabled Blagojevich and gave an $809,000 bond commission to Bob Kjellander. So, I am disconnected from that past and that baggage.” [Ed. Note: Dillard was one of four Republicans to break with the Republican Senate Caucus, and at the time Senator Lauzen accused Dillard of "stabbing the Republican Caucus in the back." Lauzen is now an ardent supporter of the Dillard for Governor campaign. Time heals all wounds?]


But, Andrzejewski was much less aggressive on the issue of teaching evolution, essentially punting on the issue. When this reporter asked Adam how he felt about teaching evolution as opposed to creationism in the Illinois public schools, he said, “It’s two minutes to midnight here in Illinois on the fiscal issues, the state bounced checks- about two months ago, it didn’t even know the cash balances. I am not prepared to take a public position on that issue, right now.”
Senator Bill Brady

Evolution and creationism

In contrast to Andrzejewski, Senator Bill Brady was prepared to take a position on the “evolution,” issue. When this reporter asked Brady about teaching evolution and/or creationism in the public schools, Senator Brady said, “Curriculum ought to be left to local school boards.” When this reporter followed up and asked if Brady would be okay with a local school board deciding to teach creationism, not evolution, Brady said he believed most school boards probably would choose not to do that, but he supported leaving local control in the hands of the local school boards.

Bob Kjellander

Regarding the Lon Monk plea agreement and the issue of Bob Kjellander, Brady stated he had stood up to Bob Kjellander by asking him to step down [from his NRC position]. Sen. Brady said he “did not know that Kjellander had done anything illegal, that’s up to the authorities, but he thought, “The perception clouded the values of the Republican Party.”
Senator Kirk Dillard

Fixing the State Budget and the tax issue

In response to a question from Deanna Bellandi of AP as to whether it is realistic to argue that he would not raise taxes to “fix the state budget,” Senator Dillard compared the situation to the state of the budget and the economy when Governor Edgar and he took over the reins of power in 1991 and he pointed out, essentially, that they managed the situation quite nicely without raising taxes.

Not ruling out a tax increase?

This reporter followed up by reminding Sen. Dillard that Proft and Brady have “ruled out a tax increase,” and Dillard on the other hand, has not, even though Sen. Dillard has said often that he doesn’t think we should have a tax increase to deal with the current state budget issues. I then asked Senator Dillard specifically if he thought his apparent declining to rule out a tax increase “would continue to be an issue in the Primary.”

Dillard’s record of opposing tax increases

Senator Dillard responded by saying, “I’m not espousing any type of a tax increase. I believe we can fix our problems by growing the economy and manage-- So, that’s where I’m at. I think it is very clear. I have a long record… I’ve never voted for a general tax increase in my years in the General Assembly…I continue to espouse removing the sales tax on gasoline. Property tax caps-- Aside from what Adam Andrzejewski says, property tax caps in this state are capped, right now, I believe, at like 0.1 %, barring a referendum--…they’re still too high but referendum is the cause of much of that…so I have fought tax increases my entire career and will continue to do so.”

Opposing a proposed tax increase in January, 2010

In response to a question from Deanna Bellandi as to how he would he vote if an income tax increase comes up for a vote in January “like Pat Quinn is predicting,” Senator Dillard said, emphatically, he would vote against it. Jim Edgar’s former Chief of Staff reminded the media present that he has said many times that “it is economic suicide to raise income taxes, let alone in a recession, and one of the good economic development tools we have going for us vis a vis our terrible business climate is we have a low, flat, stable income tax.”

Dillard would veto a tax increase

This reporter then followed up on Bellandi’s question by asking Dillard if he would pledge to veto [an income tax increase] if he were Governor and it passed the House and the Senate. Dillard responded, “Under these conditions, sure.” This reporter than rebounded his own shot by asking, “Are there conditions under which you could conceive of signing that bill?” Senator Dillard gave an unequivocal, “No.”

In light of all of the above, it is somewhat puzzling why Senator Dillard won’t rule out supporting an income tax increase. Perhaps if we can somehow get him to agree to come back on “Public Affairs,” as he used to before he was a candidate for Governor, we can ask that. It would be easier to ask questions like that as a part of a more thoughtful, cordial conversation- unlike the somewhat stilted atmosphere of a press conference, even one like Wednesday’s when there were only two media members, and often only one, asking questions.

Impact of a possible indictment of Kjellander

This reporter brought up with Senator Dillard, in the context of the plea agreement by Lon Monk that was disclosed on Tuesday, a possible indictment of Bob Kjellander and what impact, if any, that might have on the Republican Primary for Governor and possibly on Dillard’s campaign. Senator Dillard said Bob Kjellander “doesn’t have any role in my race,” referring the media to John Kass’ column of a couple years ago, where Dillard said he was quoted as saying, “Bob Kjellander’s got to go.” Senator Dillard continued, “That was a long time ago, so it doesn’t affect my race because he is not a part of my campaign.”

Of course, I was not suggesting that Bob Kjellander was running Senator Dillard’s campaign. I was referring to (a) the reports that Jim Edgar, for example, was said to have owned a horse farm with Kjellander’s wife and (b) the fact that Kjellander’s wife is said to have worked for Edgar.

Dillard connected to the Kjellanders?

Moreover, Springfield is kind of a company town. People of the same party involved in high level, political public policy work are usually not strangers. And, of course, not a day seems to go by, of late, that the media do not hear about how closely Senator Dillard worked with Governor Edgar, back in the day. Thus, if the Kjellanders had various “connections to Jim Edgar, you might have thought Senator Dillard might have had a few connections to KJ, at least through Dillard’s old boss, Governor Edgar.

Pursuing that line of thought, this reporter asked Senator Dillard if the Kjellanders were fairly close to Edgar. Dillard said, “I don’t know… I don’t know who the Edgars socialize with.”

Senator Dillard connected to Cellini?

Of course, we could have asked, [if we had not surpassed our apparently pre-set time limitations with Senator Dillard], if Senator Dillard has known, over the years, Bill Cellini, who has been indicted for public corruption. Again, it is said that Cellini was relatively close to Governor Edgar, as was Kirk Dillard, at various points in time.

Guilt by association

We should emphasize that we don’t believe in “guilt by mere association.” So, there is nothing necessarily wrong or bad about Edgar or Dillard ever having been associated with Kjellander or Cellini, if they were. Nevertheless, it is something that the media should be looking at and asking questions about, as a part of good journalism.

Media availability with Schillerstrom

Time to change the Springfield Six?

Schillerstrom said that an indictment of Kjellander would probably have some negative impact on the Republican Party but he suggested that the people of Illinois are tired of the way the Democrats have used their power for the last seven years and that it is time for a new breed of Republicans, such as him, “to step forward with new ideas and bring them to Springfield to change the culture down there.”

Dan Proft

[Due to editorial time and space limitations, we will discuss Republican Gov Primary candidate Dan Proft’s media availability as part of a separate post, in the near future]
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at *************************************************************
More than 112 of our shows from the last two years are posted on the Public Affairs YouTube page . Recent shows include as featured guests Republican Primary Gov candidate State Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), 10th CD Republican Primary candidate Bill Cadigan (R-Winnetka) and 14th CD Republican Primary candidate State Sen. Randy Hultgren (R-Winfield)