Collinsville – At a recent meeting of the Southwestern Illinois Building and Construction Trades Council, Executive Secretary-Treasurer Dale Stewart commented that some southern Illinois legislators had especially good scores in the latest AFL-CIO ratings.
Each election year, the AFL-CIO chooses a representative selection of votes in the last legislative session, typically around 13 or 14, and checks on how each legislator voted to determine a percentage score, with 100 percent being perfect.
Stewart’s point was that many of the southern Illinois legislators were actually stronger supporters of union-backed legislation than many in the Democrat-strong Chicago area contingent. “Some of these only have about a 40 percent voting record, and they were Democrats,” he said.
A look at the AFL-CIO report bears out Stewart’s observation. The newest figures are for 2012-13 voting.
The votes being used to compile the scores cover a lot of territory, starting with the raid on public employee pensions
and including issues such as same-sex marriage, Medicaid expansion, new casinos, teacher evaluations and construction contracts.
The scores weigh heavily when the AFL-CIO COPE committees meet to decide on which candidates to endorse.
Some of the highest percentages came from the Illinois Senate. Both Senators from the Metro-East area scored well – 93 percent for Bill Haine of Alton and 89 percent
for James Clayborne of Belleville. Two southern Illinois Senators also scored well – Andy Manar of Bunker Hill, just north
of the Metro-East, had 100 percent, and Gary Forby of Benton, further south, 88 percent.
The AFL-CIO also published the Senators’ lifetime scores, which were similar but generally not quite so high, except in the case of Manar, whose lifetime score was also 100 percent.
All of the Senators mentioned above are Democrats, but four others whose districts are in southern Illinois or connect to the metro-east are Republicans. Their scores
ranged from 37 to 49 percent, showing that some of the selected bills were ones that Republicans were willing to support.
A typical result was that of longtime Senator David Luechtefeld of Okawville in southwestern Illinois, whose score was 44 percent, a little better than his lifetime score of 33 percent.
In the House, a similar pattern was seen, with legislators scoring higher than their lifetime scores would indicate. In the metro area, three Democrats had high scores – Dan Beiser of Alton, 89 percent; Jay Hoffman of Swansea, 100 percent; and Eddie Lee Jackson of East St. Louis, 87 percent. Conservative Republican Dwight Kay of Glen Carbon had a 45 percent score, unlike his lifetime score of 20 percent.
Other House Democrats in southern Illinois were Brandon Phelps of Harrisburg, 89 percent; Jerry Costello II of Smithton, 76 percent; and John Bradley of Marion, 64 percent. For the 2013 survey, southern Illinois Republicans’ scores were
typically in the 40-50 percent range, although some ranged higher.
Not too surprisingly, the actual endorsements strongly resemble the voting records. Out of 118 House districts statewide, only six Republicans were endorsed.
The area’s Democrat incumbents were endorsed, as were Democratic challengers
such as Cullen L. Cullen, running against Kay, and Bill Kilquist, running in the 115th District in southern Illinois.
One exception was in the 100th District, north of the metro-east, where incumbent Republican C.D. Davidsmeyer of Jacksonville was endorsed despite a 45 percent AFL-CIO lifetime voting record.
B. Dean Webb, president of the Greater Madison County Federation of Labor, said Democrats have a perfectly good alternative candidate, Josh Evans of Jerseyville, a young military veteran and lawyer who impressed the Federation in an earlier appearance.
“He had a great interview,” Webb said. “Apparently, nobody stood up and spoke for him at the COPE session. I would have if I had been there. Those meetings are so important.” Webb said he was away on union business at the time.
Also, after much discussion, the statewide COPE committee endorsed one Republican state officer – Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, who is being challenged by Sheila Simon, the current Lieutenant Governor.
COPE also endorsed Democrats Pat Quinn for governor, Lisa Madigan for attorney general, Jesse White for secretary of state, Mike Frerichs for treasurer and incumbent Sen. Dick Durbin.
In Congressional races, the COPE committees endorsed all Democrats, including Rep. Bill Enyart (D-Belleville) in the 12th District and challenger Ann Callis (D-Granite City) in the 13th District.