EDITORIAL: What’s in a name? A seat in the Illinois Legislature

We have a long, unfortunate history in Chicago of treating vacant legislative seats like birthrights.

SHARE EDITORIAL: What’s in a name? A seat in the Illinois Legislature
Rosemont Mayor, state representative, Brad Stephens

Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens

Sun-Times file photo

For a big metropolitan area, Chicago sure acts like a rube town when it comes to filling open seats in the state Legislature.

In the last couple of months, two seats came open with the midterm departures of state Sen. John Mulroe, a Chicago Democrat, and state Rep. Michael McAuliffe, a Chicago Republican.

We’re pretty sure that plenty of residents of Chicago and nearby suburbs were qualified to fill those vacancies. It’s not a high bar. But our local political organizations, in their infinite wisdom, looked no further than two of the more overworked names in local politics.

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The Democrats chose Robert Martwick, a state representative, to fill Mulroe’s seat.

You’ve heard that name, right?

But you might be thinking about Richard Martwick, Robert’s uncle, who was Cook County regional superintendent of education for 24 years. Or maybe you’re thinking about Robert Martwick Sr., Robert’s father, who was the Democratic committeeman for Norwood Park Township from 1969 to 2017.

The Republicans, for their part, chose Brad Stephens, the mayor of Rosemont, to fill McAuliffe’s seat.

You’ve heard that name, too, right?

Stephens’ father, Donald E. Stephens, was Rosemont’s first mayor, holding the job for 51 years. Brad Stephens, who was handed the job of mayor like it was the family silver, plans to keep the job even as he joins the Legislature. He also heads up the Leyden Township Regular Republican Organization.

As for the departing McAuliffe, he, too, was a beneficiary of Cook County-style primogeniture. He inherited his state House seat from his father, Roger McAuliffe. Between them, they held the seat for 46 years.

We have a long history in Chicago of treating a seat that opens up midterm or after a primary election like a birthright.

Among the examples: In 2004, U.S. Rep. William Lipinski manipulated the system to pass his seat on to his son, Daniel, who still holds it. In 2013, Ald. Dick Mell did the same for his daughter Deborah, though she was voted out of office in February. And when Cook County Board President John Stroger died, Democratic Party bosses awarded the job to his son, Todd Stroger.

Think you’ve got what it takes to hold elective office in Chicago?

Then choose your parents carefully.


SOURCES: Chicago Sun-Times, Capitol Fax

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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