Keeping it in the family
Jones grooms son for Senate seat, but presidency is another matter
August 19, BY DAVE MCKINNEY AND CHRIS FUSCO Staff Reporters
August 19, BY DAVE MCKINNEY AND CHRIS FUSCO Staff Reporters
Following the lead of political families like the Strogers and Lipinskis (role models, indeed), Illinois Senate President Emil Jones is anointing one of his children to take over for him when he retires in January. (An Illinois politician showing clout and nepotism?? The HELL you say!)
Jones, 72, began the process of handing off his Senate seat to Emil Jones III by filing paperwork Monday with the State Board of Elections to drop himself from the Nov. 4 ballot. Next, Democratic Party leaders in Jones' South Side and south suburban Senate district will choose a replacement. (wonder which way they're leaning? Hm. Puzzler.)
"His preference, yes, would be to see his son serve," said Cindy Davidsmeyer, Jones' spokeswoman. "But it's the committeemen's choice." (suuuuure it is)
That's true. But given Chicago's political history, Emil Jones III's candidacy appears a done deal that's stirring up old questions about politicians who retire near election time and then use their clout to pass on their jobs as family heirlooms. (This just in.....)
"It isn't a good thing for the community," said state Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago), who has had a chilly (bitchy) relationship with the elder Jones despite him being her state senator. "Just because it's your son doesn't mean he'll do a good job for the 14th senatorial district. (Whoa! What!?! Back up.....baaack up..) I don't think people have an opportunity to express their choice because this person wasn't in a primary."
Emil Jones III, 31, has kept a low profile. He worked for the state between May 1999 and November 2006, when he briefly left the payroll.
Despite not having a college degree, he was hired in April 2007 as an administrator for Gov. Blagojevich's Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity -- a job that pays $59,436 annually. (Hm...I don't see anything fishy going on there. Move along.) Attempts to reach him Monday were unsuccessful. (No kiddin'?)
A handful of ward and suburban township committeemen are expected (required) to sign off on Jones III's selection sometime before an Aug. 28 state deadline to get on the ballot.
The lone opponent he'd face is perennial (losing) candidate Ray Wardingly, a Chicago Republican who did charity work as a clown. (Oh, you've got to be joking.....This is the best you can do?) With only a nominal (non-existent) chance in the heavily Democratic district, Wardingly condemned the process by which Jones is attempting to keep his Senate seat in the family.
"What is this, Russia? First it was Stroger, then Lipinski. Now we have Emil Jones," Wardingly said. (....playing the 'Ruskie card'.)
But state Rep. Robert Rita (Rudner Rickshaw Rhubarb) (D-Blue Island), a longtime Jones ally and inheritor of a political legacy himself, said he sees nothing wrong with Jones III getting a chance to hold his father's Senate seat.
"Give him a chance to prove himself," Rita said. (Holy Shit! Holy Shit! Holy fucking shit on a cracker times infinity!!!! Kick him out, now. No impeachment proceedings - just a swift kick in the ass with a large boot. Gee, I can't figure out why Rita would see nothing wrong with Jones III getting a hand-me-down, can you?!? Oh. My. God.)
The younger Jones might (will) be a lock to get his father's Senate seat, but the Senate presidency is a different story. Longtime Senate Democrats have begun scrambling for that post, which is elected by the senators themselves, not the public. (Aaahhh...the system works.)
Among those hoping to land the job are Sen. John Cullerton (D-Chicago), Sen. Terry Link (D-Vernon Hills), Sen. Rickey Hendon (great base-stealer, btw) (D-Chicago), Sen. Jeff Schoenberg (D-Evanston), Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago), Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and Sen. James Clayborne (D-Belleville).
When he retires, Emil Jones Jr. will have served 35 (glorious) years in the General Assembly. Senate president since 2003, Jones (Yoda) mentored Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama (Annakin...the last, greatest, hope for the Republic...) when Obama was an Illinois senator and staunchly has supported Blagojevich (Palpatine) in countless legislative feuds with House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago). (Jar-Jar Binks)
In recent years, Jones has had to defend himself amid questions about whether he's milked government to help people close to him. The Chicago Sun-Times and NBC5 last year, for example, disclosed that a technology firm owned by Jones' stepson, John Sterling, stood to make more than $700,000 as a subcontractor on a government-streamlining contract. (Nothing to see here...Nothing to see...move along, people, you're holding up traffic..)
The Senate president also came under fire earlier this year for taking $120,000 in interest-free personal loans from his campaign fund over the years. Jones currently owes the fund $30,000. (I'm, officially, beside myself with astonishment....you gotta admire that kind of audacity, though. Damn)
But -- providing he stays out of politics -- Jones will have plenty of cash available to repay that debt. Jones had $577,605 in his campaign fund as of June 30, 1998, according to the Illinois Campaign for Political reform. State law allows contributions amassed until that date to be spent on personal items, provided income taxes on the campaign cash are paid. (Sounds completely sound and trustworthy to me. I can't imagine a system like that being corrupted, can you?)
As one of the longest-serving members of the General Assembly, Jones also is positioned for a healthy pension. (No way. I don't buy it) If he does not take any other state positions and retires at the end of his term in January, he would begin drawing a state pension of $81,016 annually. (guess who won't be taking any more state positions?) A year later, he would see that total increase by 48 percent because he would be grandfathered (interesting use of term in this story) in under an otherwise defunct retirement formula that rewarded service beyond 20 years.
The boost for Jones, who has served in the General Assembly 35 years, would take his pension all the way up to $119,903 a year. That's nearly 26 percent more than the $95,313 he is now being paid to wield the Senate gavel. (Earns 1 percent more if he jams it up a citizen's ass. 5 percent more if he hits tailbone...) It's also more than double the median amount that two households in his Senate district earn combined, according to 2000 Census data. (Hey, Illinois voters? Think it might be time to clean house? Just a thought)