Who rules the Democratic Party in Illinois? Here comes a test case.

With Rep. Tammy Duckworth running for the Senate, her seat in the House is up for grabs. It’s shaping up as battle of Democratic money versus Democratic labor unions and Washington Dems versus Springfield Dems.

Businessman Raja Krishnamoorthi has most of the money and the Washington crowd, but state Sen. Mike Noland has most of the union support and the Springfield crowd. Running third, with little of any of the above, is Villa Park Village President Deborah Bullwinkel.

 

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The biggest question might be whether the unions’ boots on the ground, working for Noland, can overcome Krishnamoorthi’s 7-to-1 cash advantage. The winner in this race three-way race will face Pete DiCianni, who is running unopposed in the Republican primary, in November.

Our endorsement goes to Krishnamoorthi. He may go to Washington “beholden” to the big party leaders now backing him, as Noland warns, but Noland would go there beholden to the unions backing him. Everybody in politics owes somebody. Better the next congressman should be beholden to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi or Sen. Dick Durbin than AFSCME.

Political loyalty and familiarity explain the power alignments in this race. Former Gov. Pat Quinn and state Senate President John Cullerton have endorsed Noland because they’ve worked with him for eight years in Springfield and think well of him. Quinn has called Noland “a strong moral compass” and praised him for work on campaign finance reform, cleaning up the environment and services for veterans.

In a similar way, Krishnamoorthi’s Washington connections date to when he was issues director for Barack Obama’s 2004 Senate campaign. Krishnamoorthi has been endorsed by Obama strategist David Axelrod and Representatives Jan Schakowsky, Mike Quigley, Danny K. Davis and Luis Guttierez.

Krishnamoorthi has experience in the private and public sectors. He runs a small Schaumburg-based business that creates products used in the renewable energy industry. He was a special assistant to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, deputy state Treasurer, and on the board of the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

We’re impressed by Krishnamoorthi’s highly specific legislative agenda. He wants to raise the minimum wage, guarantee access to paid maternity and sick leave for all workers and provide overtime protections to workers earning less than $50,000. He wants to build up the Social Security trust fund by raising the current income cap of $118,500 for payroll taxes. He wants to create a Federal Infrastructure Bank, financed by repealing a tax break for oil companies, to pay for such projects as the long-delayed Elgin-O’Hare highway extension.

Noland and Bullwinkel have legislative agendas, too, but nothing as ambitious as Krishnamoorthi’s plan. And only Krishnamoorthi would be greeted in Washington by a team of allies eager to put wind in his sails.

 

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