Quitting time? Pritzker says embattled state Sens. Emil Jones III, Michael Hastings ‘must resign from their offices’
Jones, who is facing federal bribery charges, and Hastings, accused of abuse by his estranged wife, have stepped down from Senate leadership posts, but Pritzker said that’s not enough: “Resigning only their leadership roles falls short of what the public should expect.”
Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday demanded the resignations of two state senators — one facing federal bribery charges and the other personal allegations of abuse — saying their exits would send a clear signal to Illinois residents that “corruption and abuse have no place here.”
“Integrity is essential to public service, and corruption for personal gain and abuse in private or public is unacceptable,” the governor said in a statement.
State Sen. Emil Jones III was hit with federal bribery charges Tuesday after the South Side Democrat allegedly agreed to protect the politically connected red-light camera company SafeSpeed LLC from legislation in exchange for $5,000 and a job for an unnamed associate.
SafeSpeed has not been charged with wrongdoing and has portrayed the partner who allegedly agreed to provide the benefits as a rogue actor.
Jones is also charged with lying to the FBI about the alleged bribery.
And WBEZ has reported that state Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Frankfort, faces serious personal accusations from his estranged wife, including police records that state he put her in a headlock and repeatedly slammed her into a door. Hastings has denied the accusations.
As for calls for their resignations, Jones has given no indication he’s going anywhere, and Hastings on Thursday denied wrongdoing and said he plans to fight for his Senate seat.
Both men have stepped down from Senate leadership posts but remain on the November ballot, with Jones running unopposed.
But Pritzker, who is also running for reelection, is urging both men to resign from the state Senate completely.
“Sen. Jones is accused of accepting bribes, and Sen. Hastings is accused of abusing women. They should answer the charges and have their day in court. But in the best interests of their constituents, these men must resign from their offices,” Pritzker stated.
“Resigning only their leadership roles falls short of what the public should expect. I want to send a clear message to the people of Illinois: Corruption and abuse have no place here.”
Illinois Senate President Don Harmon “asked for and received” Jones’ resignation as chair of the Senate Licensed Activities Committee, according to a letter Harmon filed Wednesday with the secretary of the Senate.
Jones also agreed to step down from his unpaid positions as vice chair of the Public Safety Committee — which handles red-light camera business — and Senate deputy majority leader.
Hastings has not stepped down from his role as chair of the Senate’s Energy and Public Utilities Committee, a post that pays him $11,098 a year, in addition to his base annual senator salary of $72,906. Jones is still receiving that base salary, but is forfeiting the extra pay for serving as a committee chair.
Neither Harmon nor the governor have the legal capacity to force a resignation, and a Harmon spokesman declined to disclose whether the Oak Park Democrat has personally asked either Jones or Hastings to step down.
“The gravity of the accusations required immediate action and consequences, which is why the Senate president demanded and received resignations from their leadership posts,” Harmon spokesman John Patterson said. “Now it is up to these individuals and their constituents to determine their futures.”
Hastings on Thursday denied any wrongdoing, while also vowing to win another term in November. He faces Patrick Sheehan, a Republican who works for the Plainfield Police Department and serves on the parks board in Lockport Township.
“The allegation made therein are baseless and without merit,” Hastings said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to serve the best interests of the hard-working men and women of the south suburbs.
“The voters can choose between a public servant who has selflessly served his country and community for 25 years or a MAGA extremist who wants to take away a women’s fundamental right to choose.”
Hastings gave up an unpaid role on the Senate Democrats’ leadership team in August, soon after the accusation of domestic abuse from his estranged wife surfaced online.
An environmental lobbyist has also described being bullied by the senator in professional interactions. The state also fought a lawsuit filed by Hastings’ former chief of staff that included accusations of racial and gender discrimination against the Democratic lawmaker.
Pritzker said Illinois residents deserve to have elected leaders who are focused on representing their needs, “not on holding office when facing serious and credible charges.”
Including Jones, there have been at least 11 current and former members of the Illinois General Assembly charged with federal crimes since 2019.
Pritzker has some history with the Jones family.
Four years ago, Jones’ father, former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones Jr., called on Pritzker to withdraw from the governor’s race after FBI wiretaps revealed a secretly recorded 2008 conversation between Pritzker and then Gov. Rod Blagojevich about potential successors to Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate.
In recording, Pritzker and Blagojevich discussed various African-American politicians — weighing the pros and cons of each and cracking jokes. Pritzker called then state Senate President Emil Jones Jr. “too crass.”
Jones said it showed “what [Pritzker] really thinks about Black folks.”
“I regret some of the things I didn’t say and some of the things that I did,” Pritzker said when the recording surfaced in 2018.
Pritzker didn’t specify which parts of the call he regretted, but he said he was not his “best self” on the call and that he should have “pushed back” against some of Blagojevich’s comments.