A busy political 2012

A busy political 2012

Posted by Mike Riopell on Fri, 12/28/2012 - 14:01

As federal lawmakers grapple with the so-called fiscal cliff and state officials weigh whether it’s fair to mess with teachers’ retirement funds, 2012 will end next week with the same kind of political tumult that has gripped the scene all year.

The suburbs in 2012 were once again a critical region for state politics, and local stars often danced on the national stage as some of the most-watched campaigns in the country were waged right here.

We, of course, relished the chance to tell you about it.

In November, voters across the country left the U.S. House in Republican hands, while local voters decided to send three freshman Democrats to Congress — ousting three very different, high-profile suburban Republicans.

Voters in the 11th District chose Democrat Bill Foster of Naperville over U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert of Hinsdale, a veteran of Congress who couldn’t overcome a district drawn by Democratic mapmakers and changing demographics in the area.

Democrat Brad Schneider of Deerfield, too, benefitted from the new map, beating 10th District Republican Rep. Bob Dold of Kenilworth, a moderate seen by some as an obvious long-term successor to U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk.

And in the 8th District, Democrat Tammy Duckworth beat Tea Party favorite Republican Rep. Joe Walsh of McHenry, who has already hinted about wanting to make waves in 2014 and beyond.

Those fierce races that played out both at home and at each of the national conventions spoke to the divisive battle between the parties that raged all year long. Yet there were signs of bipartisanship, too.

Kirk suffered a serious stroke in the first month of 2012, taking all year to recover and planning a return to the Capitol in the opening days of 2013. And it was Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin who worked with Kirk’s staff to keep the Highland Park Republican’s interests represented in Washington especially in the early days of his recovery.

On the state level, the yearlong campaigns for seats at the Statehouse resulted in huge gains for the Democrats in the suburbs, leaving the party with historic majorities in both the House and Senate. They achieved that victory despite controlling government at a time when the state’s finances were dismal.

Even in the Republican bastion of DuPage County, Democrats won both House and Senate seats, pickups that left the mouths of insiders of both parties agape.

That election, of course, will color early 2013. After all, Democrats weren’t punished in November for not getting the state’s teacher and state worker retirement costs under control.

So as lawmakers are set to meet for a few days in January to discuss the pension issue before a new class is sworn in, will they tackle the budget question — or put it off until May?

They might focus on issues like gay marriage and driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants instead — issues that big election wins in November might embolden lawmakers to approve.

With the next major election in 2014, we’ll gear up to watch the local races of the spring. For Congress and the Statehouse, the year will be more about governing than politics — for the most part.

By the end of the year, though, we’ll have a good idea of which suburban politicians are making bids for governor, U.S. Senate and Congress, and we’ll be watching what they’re doing in their current offices in the meantime.

Thanks for following along with us, and here’s to a fun 2013.

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