Velvet Hammer, meet the sledgehammer.
For about two hours on Thursday, Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton met at the Chicago Club in the Loop.
It was their first meeting since Rauner ran a blistering campaign villifying Madigan,Cullerton and Gov. Pat Quinn, blaming the Democratsfor the state’s “downward death spiral.” In some TV spots, Rauner was featured carrying a sledgehammer over his shoulder in his bid to shatter corruption and “shake up Springfield.”The leaders vowed they could put the divisive campaign rhetoric behind them and turn their attention to the state’s fiscal mess.“They understand we’re shifting into a different mode now,” said Madigan spokesman Steve Brown. “Obviously, governing is a lot different than campaigning.”
The meeting of the three powerful leaderswas widely seen as a positive sign that Democrats were willing to work with the first Republican governor in more than a decade.
Madigan in particularhas proved to bea challenge for Democratic and Republican governors alike. The Southwest Side Democratearned the“velvet hammer” moniker for his uncannyability to quietly beat opponents, in many cases before they even knew they were opponents.
In the sit-down, Rauner reiterated his plea that the Legislature not take any signficant action in the veto session — before Rauner is sworn into office in January.
“They met for almost two hours,” said Cullerton spokesman John Patterson. “It was very much a get-to-know-you meeting.”
Did Rauner ask them about their “100 years of failure” in Springfield, as his campaign ads described Quinn, Madigan and Cullerton?
“I don’t think that came up,” Patterson said. “He repeated his request for no major action and on the issue of the minimum wage. The Senate President is going to be meeting with other members of the Senate Caucus to decide what kind of strategy for what we do and when. From our standpoint, we’ve got to talk to the caucus and see what they want to do…. Our hope is that there will be a lot of room to work together. The fact that the meeting went on for two hours and we all came out OK, is probably a good step forward.”
Brown said the Speaker was with Rauner for 2 1/2 hours.
“The Speaker described it as a productive meeting and one where there was general consensus that the state budget will be one of the biggest challenges, given that the tax rate will be going down at the first of the year,” Brown said. “It was described as a productive, professional meeting.”
Rauner’s transition spokesman similarly cast thedetente as positive.
“Bruce had a positive meeting this morning with Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton,” Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf wrote in an emailed statement. “He expressed his interest in working with them to forge bipartisan solutions to make Illinois the most compassionate and competitive state in the nation. Bruce looks forward to working with the Speaker and Senate President, all members of the General Assembly, and most importantly, the people of Illinois to move our state forward.”Rauner reached out to both leaders in the wake of his Election Night bungling of communication to both Madigan and Cullerton.
In Rauner’s victory speech, he announced he had made two phone calls— to Madigan and John Cullerton — and left most people with the impression they had spoken.
The Sun-Times first reported that Madigan and Cullerton’sstaffs were left scratching their heads over the comments because the men never talked.
Rauner later clarified, saying messages were leftfor the two Democrats.