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Column

Unsavory, undemocratic process of filling vacancies

Let the people, not the pols, pick replacements

Scott Reeder
Scott Reeder

SPRINGFIELD — In case you haven’t figured it out, some politicians hold the people who elected them in contempt.

Skeptical?

Well, look no further than what state Rep. Lou Lang did recently. Lang, who served in the General Assembly since 1987, was re-elected Nov. 6 and then resigned before his new term would begin.

So why would the Skokie Democrat do this?

Well, the voters won’t get to decide who will serve in his seat for the next two years, a party boss will decide.  What party boss? Well, that would be the Niles Township Democratic chairman — Lou Lang.

Yep, he gets to choose his replacement. And after 32 years in the General Assembly, what are Lou Lang’s plans? Well, he is joining a lobbying firm.

So, think about this, folks. He is not only picking his replacement. But he’s picking a person he will be paid to lobby. That stinks.

Former state Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, posted on social media, “He ran for office and before even being sworn in to begin to serve his term of office, he has resigned. It is shameful. He should be remembered for this self-serving act. Now, his party will pick a replacement to serve for a full two-year term that the voters did not select. And that new state representative will most likely run again with the power of incumbency. Democrats should be ashamed of themselves.”

Sorry, Jeanne. It’s not just a Democratic Party problem. Or a Cook County problem. It’s an Illinois problem.

For example, back in November 2010, state Sen. Gary Dahl, R-Granville, won re-election and less than a month later, he called it quits, allowing Republican bosses to appoint his replacement.

The Illinois Constitution requires that the person who fills a vacancy be of the same party as the departing lawmaker. But it leaves it up to the Legislature to determine the process for filling the vacancy.

Not surprisingly, lawmakers decades ago chose to empower party bosses with this task.

That’s unfortunate.

In a democracy, power should rest with the people, not the politicians.

A constitutional amendment requiring special elections rather than appointments for legislative vacancies ought to be considered.

Note to readers: Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse journalist and a freelance reporter. He may be reached at ScottReeder1965@gmail.com.

Additional note: Since Reeder wrote this column, former Rep. Lang announced in a Jan. 20 tweet that Rabbi Yehiel “Mark” Kalish of Chicago would be appointed to fill Lang’s seat in the Illinois House.

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