July 29 – The Northwest Herald reports State Rep. Barbara Wheeler, R-Crystal Lake, will not seek re-election to the Illinois House in 2018. The announcement came on Friday.
Wheeler, who was first elected to the House in 2012, is among a growing number of lawmakers who are leaving the legislature, in the wake of the on-going gridlock and hyper-partisanship that had characterized state government over the last several years.
Wheeler is a fiscal conservative, who voted against raising taxes by voting to sustain the governor’s veto of the state budget. But 15 of her Republican House colleagues voted with the Democratic majority, to pass the budget by overriding the veto.
In a statement, Wheeler was quoted as saying, “Unfortunately, the status quo continues in Springfield, where even simple reforms, such as term limits and fair redistricting, have not been successful.”
Wheeler added, “In order to break Springfield of this pattern, a younger generation of leaders is needed in the General Assembly. For that reason, I have decided I will not seek another term in the Illinois House of Representatives.”
Whatever the differences between the parties, it used to be a given that a state budget would be passed. But since Gov Rauner was sworn into office in January, 2015, the governor and Speaker Madigan have engaged in what some are calling “a scorched earth” approach of political gamesmanship. As a result of this on-going power struggle, the only budget passed under Gov Rauner came on July 6 of this year, when members voted to override the Governor’s veto.
And even with a budget finally in place, there is still no funding bill approved as yet, that will fund the opening of K-12 schools this year. That may change on Monday, but it goes to show why so many of the lawmakers — on both sides of the aisle — are increasingly frustrated with the process, with a growing number now opting to leave at the end of their current term, if not before.
The Republican Leader in the Senate, Sen Christine Radogno, announce her immediate resignation from the legislature, a month ago, just as the vote to override the budget veto took place.
While she publicly said she wanted to spend more time with her family, it was also well known in the Capitol, that she was frustrated with the actions of the governor and his interference within the Senate Republican caucus, that undermined her leadership.
And in the House, Rep Elaine Nekritz (D), and Rep Chad Hays (R), are among those pulling the plug on their legislative seats, who announced they are not going to seek reelection in 2018.
In announcing his decision to leave, Hays wrote of the frustration felt by many House members, who have to rely on the financial support of either the Speaker, or on the Republican side, the deep pockets of the governor, who is putting millions behind the Republican effort to gain more House seats.
Those dollars always come with strings attached, and any lawmaker who decides to buck their leadership, will find themselves cut off from party support, and very likely have the party backing someone else for the seat.
In his retirement letter Hays said in part, that principled lawmakers “are increasingly silenced and dwarfed by monied bullies. We are in serious jeopardy of independent thought being a relic in our public discourse.”