March 4, 2002

CHICAGO (March 4)–The UTU’s Illinois Legislative Board has announced its candidate endorsements for the March 19 state primary election, with U.S. Senator Richard J. Durbin receiving the union’s support for a second term and U.S. Rep. Rod Blagojevich (D-Chicago) getting the endorsement for Governor.

Completing the head of the UTU ticket are State Sen. Lisa Madigan, who received the endorsement for Illinois Attorney General; and Illinois State University professor Mike Kelleher, who is running for the position of Lieutenant Governor.

“The UTU’s basic criterion for political endorsements is very simple,” said Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo. “If the candidate has held prior political office, does that person have a record of voting for legislation that supports the interests of railroad workers and their families? If the candidate has not held office before, has he or she taken a public position favoring the interests of rail employees and their families?

“All of the candidates endorsed by the UTU in the March 19 primary meet those tests,” Szabo said.

Topping the list is Blagojevich, who is pitted against two other Democrats in the race to succeed Gov. George Ryan, who is not running for a second term.

“Cong. Blagojevich comes from a union family on Chicago’s North Side and has a straight-up-and-down record of voting in favor of legislation favoring working families,” Szabo said. “As a congressman he was an early and forceful advocate of the Railroad Retirement reform bill that finally passed late last year. In his previous office as a state representative he established an unbroken track record of supporting pro-labor legislation, as well as legislation to fund Amtrak, mass transit and high-speed rail initiatives. Our union has always enjoyed a cordial and effective working relationship with Rod, and we look forward to continuing and deepening that relationship with him as governor.”

In selecting a candidate for Attorney General, the Legislative Board picked State Sen. Lisa Madigan of Chicago. Again, the primary reason was her strong pro-labor voting record in the General Assembly.

“The Attorney General is the ‘citizens’ lawyer,'” Szabo said. “The individual who holds that office has considerable discretion in deciding which laws to enforce through the state’s power to initiate civil lawsuits as well as criminal prosecutions. For example, the Attorney General can decide whether or not to take a corporation to court if it engages in unfair labor practices, or permits unsafe conditions in the workplace, or pollutes the environment, or sells an unsafe product. Lisa Madigan’s voting record in the State Senate, as well as our union’s effective and professional relationship with her, should reassure the state’s working families that she will defend their interests as Attorney General.”

Because the Legislative Board’s choice for Lieutenant Governor, Mike Kelleher, has never before held public office, he had no voting record as a legislator. The Board endorsed him, however, because in his previous unsuccessful campaign for congressman, as well as in his current campaign, he has taken strong pro-labor stands on the issues. “We consider his pro-rail-labor background to be strong,” Szabo said.

Also receiving the union’s “top-of-the-ticket” endorsement was U.S. Sen. Durbin, whose record for supporting the interests of railroad employees was described by Szabo as “unblemished.”

“Although Dick Durbin has no opponent in the Democratic primary, we have proceeded with an endorsement of his candidacy to emphasize the high degree of respect in which he is held by all elements of organized labor and the railroad unions in particular,” Szabo said. “Sen. Durbin not only comes from a working family, but from a railroad family. The Senator, both of his parents, and his brothers all worked for the New York Central Railroad in East St. Louis. Throughout his career as a congressman and then a senator, Dick Durbin has supported, sponsored and authored critical legislation favoring the interests of working families and the cause of organized labor, as well as funding for Amtrak and rail transit. He wins the UTU endorsement hands-down.”

A complete list of the UTU Illinois Legislative Board’s endorsements for all state offices can be found by returning to the Home Page and clicking on “March 19 2002 primary endorsements.”