Ken Dunkin has issues, which means Bruce Rauner has issues.
The wonder is why Gov. Rauner ever thought linking arms with the Runaway Rep was a smart move. Having State Rep. Dunkin’s vote in his pocket allows the Republican governor to thwart the will of Speaker Mike Madigan on those rare occasions when House Democrats require a super-majority to prevail on a vote, but it infuriates the very people with whom Rauner must make nice in the long run.
The only winning strategy for a Republican governor who must work with a Democratic legislature is to build bridges, not burn them, preferably keeping a guy like Dunkin on the far side.
Now Rauner is paying the price. His buddy Ken is crashing and burning before his eyes.
Let’s review in chronological order:
Dunkin has always had a way of going his own way, which would be terrific if he had better judgment. The 13-year legislator stood with former Gov. Rod Blagojevich long after that became a transparently bad idea, even missing the vote to impeach the governor. Dunkin was off on a Caribbean cruise.
Back in November, Dunkin — a fellow with a master’s degree in social work — skipped a crucial vote to overrule Rauner on spending cuts for child care and services for the elderly and disabled. He also sank the Democrats’ effort to override a veto of a bill designed to limit Rauner’s control of collective bargaining with state employee unions.
Good folks can disagree on the merits of those policies, but Dunkin’s failure to stand with his fellow Democrats in a crucial show of force against the governor — demonstrating the power of a legislative super-majority — has made him a traitor in his party’s eyes.
Since then, Dunkin has been a man without a party, even as he insists he’s a good Democrat. He trashes Madigan at every opportunity, which hardly seems productive, and funds his re-election campaign with Republican money. Not for nothing has Dunkin’s March 15 primary opponent, Julianna Stratton, been cleaning up on Democratic endorsements.
At a meeting with the Sun-Times Editorial Board last week, Dunkin freely compared Madigan to a slave owner.
“The Mike Madigan slave mentality of his plantation politics is real,” he said. “That’s an afro-centric terminology in terms of plantation politics.”
He also referred to his fellow Democratic lawmakers as “monkeys” before correcting himself and calling them “minions.”
Dunkin’s frustration — he sees himself as a man of principle while others see him as a free-styling opportunist — was on full display Wednesday when President Barack Obama addressed the Illinois General Assembly. When Obama declared, “Where I’ve got an opportunity to find some common ground, that doesn’t make me a sellout to my own party,” Dunkin jumped up and cheered.
But the president apparently was up on the news on Dunkin. “We’ll talk later, Dunkin,” he said, getting big laughs. “Sit down.”
Dunkin stood up feeling like hero, but sat down looking like a clown.
Ken Dunkin’s biggest problems — the kind that no doubt have Rauner fleeing for a safe room in the Governor’s Mansion — were revealed Friday:
According to documents provided by 42nd Ward Ald. Brendan Reilly, Dunkin twice was convicted in the late 1990s of violating orders of protection and battery and was sentenced to probation. He also got in trouble for failing to pay child support.
The victim in the 1996 case, according to an ABC7 reporter, says the charges were exaggerated. “He is not violent. He is not an abuser,” she reportedly said. “He has done an amazing job in the community. It’s unfortunate that something that happened 20 years ago would service to tarnish his character and who he is today.”
Rauner is angling to get Dunkin re-elected. That’s a fair assumption. Dunkin has received a whopping $500,000 from the Republican-linked Illinois Opportunity Project. And IllinoisGO, a group giving money to Democrats who share many of Rauner’s anti-union turnaround agenda, has reportedly spent $240,000 on Dunkin’s behalf.
We’re not sure what good this will do Dunkin. He’s a pariah in his own party.
We’re even less sure what good this does for Gov. Rauner.
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