SPRINGFIELD — Suburban Republican Allen Skillicorn insists he would really rather Gov. J.B. Pritzker finish out his term than be booted from office.
“Frankly I just hope the governor fixes the unemployment system, so people can get their unemployment and we should move on from this,” the state representative said. “I mean, I would much prefer that.”
Whether the governor is able to solve the unemployment problems that have arisen during the coronavirus crisis remains to be seen, but Skillicorn isn’t waiting to find out.
The East Dundee Republican launched a recall effort to remove the Chicago Democrat from office — an uphill battle that would require bipartisan support from legislators and hundreds of thousands of signatures from voters to get on the ballot.
Skillicorn said troubles with the Illinois Department of Employment Security website was the last straw.
He said he would “happily” take his recall petition “off the table,” if the governor fixes the problem. But it might not matter what Skillicorn leaves on the table, given the high threshold for a successful recall petition.
The Illinois Constitution requires 20 members of the Illinois House of Representatives and 10 state senators to sign an affidavit calling for the governor to be recalled, with no more than half coming from one political party. In other words, at least 15 Democratic lawmakers would need to sign on.
Additionally, Skillicorn must collect enough signatures to equal 15% of the votes cast in the last election. And he must collect them within 150 days of the affidavit being filed with the Illinois State Board of Election. That means collecting about 636,000 signatures in five months.
And all that only gets the recall question on the November ballot.
Skillicorn said three other Republican members of the House have agreed to sign the petition: Brad Halbrook of Shelbyville, Blaine Wilhour of Beecher City and Darren Bailey of Xenia.
The three Southern Illinois Republicans have made their dissatisfaction with Pritzker’s stay-at-home order well known. Bailey is suing Pritzker over it and appeared at protests, including one in Chicago on Monday.
While Skillicorn said he thinks Illinoisans will be able to pressure their Democratic representatives into signing the affidavit, Halbrook admitted getting his Democratic colleagues in the General Assembly to join the effort to recall a Democratic governor will be “difficult.”
But Halbrook thinks a mounting public pressure campaign could get Democrats lawmakers to change their mind.
“It’s going to be difficult to get those signatures, or get those, you know, legislators to sign on — it’s going to be difficult,” Halbrook said. “I don’t think it’s impossible, but it’s going to be difficult.”
While Skillicorn blames Pritzker for a glitch in the state website the unemployed must access to get benefits, the Democratic governor laid it right back in Skillicorn’s lap.
Asked about the recall effort during his daily briefing, Pritzker blamed Skillicorn and fellow Republicans for a two-year state budget impasse under GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner that left agencies such as the Illinois Department of Employment Security without the necessary funding.
“Well, I’m glad to hear that the representative apparently has changed his mind and now believes that we ought to fund state government instead of hollow it out,” Pritzker said.
Last week, the state employment agency admitted to a glitch within its system where at least one person trying to access its Pandemic Unemployment Assistance system had access to others’ personal information. Since the pandemic, with Illinois unemployment rising to 16.4%, the department has had issues with people unable to access unemployment benefits by phone or online.
Pritzker said when the website was designed ten years ago, no one anticipated that unemployment would rise as high as it has during the pandemic, “a number of unemployment filings that was an enormous multiple of that which occurred during the Great Recession.”