November 11, 2002
CHICAGO (Nov. 11)–While politicians, political scientists and talk-show guests debate the meaning of last week’s election returns, the results for UTU members in Illinois are clear: The union won big, with more than 90 per cent of UTU-endorsed candidates being elected or re-elected.
“Pro-working-family candidates swept every major office, starting with the governorship,” said Illinois Legislative Director Joseph T. Szabo. “We are tremendously excited by Rod Blagojevich’s overwhelming victory in that race. His leadership on working-family issues while in Congress and the Illinois General Assembly suggest that as governor he will continue to fight for the interests of union members.
“In fact, we’re talking about more than just a suggestion here,” Szabo said. “Almost the first words out of Rod’s mouth when he got up to make his victory speech were expressions of thanks to organized labor for its support. Our members can be proud that their TPEL contributions had a lot to do with getting the Blagojevich campaign going.”
Szabo said Blagojevich’s blue-collar origins and sympathies were openly on display in the venue he selected for his victory party–the A. Finkl & Sons Foundry on the North Side of Chicago where Blagojevich’s father labored to support his family after emigrating to the U.S. from Yugoslavia.
“It was not your usual hotel ballroom,” Szabo said.
UTU members also saw their endorsed candidate Lisa Madigan win her race for state Attorney-General, while Dan Hynes and Jesse White won re-election to second terms as comptroller and secretary of state, respectively. And U.S. Senator Richard J. Durbin, a former railroad employee and steadfast advocate of the interests of rail workers, was resoundingly re-elected to a second six-year term.
One disappointing loss occurred deep downstate, where a cutback in the state’s congressional districts from 20 to 19 forced two incumbents, U.S. Rep. David Phelps and U.S. Rep John Shimkus, into a contest for the one seat in the new consolidated district. Phelps, a pro-working family candidate, lost.
“Losing David Phelps was extremely disappointing,” Szabo said. “He was an outspoken friend of working people. Fortunately, we have a decent working relationship with John Shimkus. And the loss of David Phelps is offset somewhat by the election of his nephew Brandon Phelps as the new state representative in the 118th District. He’s a good friend.”
Two other losses also were registered in the General Assembly race. Pat Hughes, described by Szabo as a “very talented candidate,” was beaten by Elizabeth Coulson in the 17th District of the Illinois House on Chicago’s North Shore. And in the race to represent Galesburg in the State Senate, union-endorsed candidate Paul Mangieri lost to Dale Reisinger in the race for an open seat.
“Both of those were incredibly close races,” Szabo said.
Szabo said he was looking forward to welcoming “three new friends,” UTU-endorsed candidates who will be serving in the General Assembly for the first time. All are from Chicago’s south suburbs: Kevin Joyce in the 38th House District Robin Kelly in the 38th, and Will Davis in the 30th.
“I’d like to welcome a great new friend in Will Davis,” Szabo said. “I worked with him very effectively when he was a staff aide in Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s, office.
“And I’m particularly please that Emil Jones is now going to be president of the State Senate,” Szabo said. “My relationship with him goes back 15 years, when he represented Riverdale in the Senate and I was a trustee newly elected to the Village Board. Throughout his entire career in public service, Emil has been an advocate for the interests of railroad employees.”