Confession time: I’m having trouble conjuring up any outrage over Steans (middle) handing off her state senate seat to Cassidy (right).
Confession time: I’m having trouble conjuring up any outrage over Steans (middle) handing off her state senate seat to Cassidy (right). Credit: leni manaa-hoppenworth

Folks, I have a confession that I’m a little embarrassed to make . . .

I’m not as outraged as I should be about the handoff that’s about to go down in the seventh senatorial district on the north side of Chicago.

That’s the one in which—follow me—state senator Heather Steans has stepped down and Democratic committeepeople seem prepared to fill her vacancy with state representative Kelly Cassidy.

And Cassidy is one of those committeepeople voting to fill the vacancy. That’s what you would call bad optics, even for Chicago.

I know I should be more outraged because Democratic committeepeople filling legislative vacancies is one of the many outrageous things about Chicago politics that we’re supposed to feel outraged about.

So, yes, I realize I’m supposed to express outrage. And if I were to go on a WBEZ public affairs show, I’d say—“Oh, my God, I’m outraged!”

But just so you know, deep down inside . . . I’m not that outraged.

I have many reasons for a lack of outrage, starting with . . .

Kelly Cassidy’s one of my favorites, having won me over years ago with her priapism bill back in 2012. Plus, she’s probably one of the few elected officials who’s almost as far to the left as I am.

OK, well, along with state senator Robert Peters. Who, now that I think about it, was also originally appointed to his seat.

Another reason I’m not so outraged is that there are so many other outrageous things to be more outraged about. Like . . .

Mary Miller—a Republican congresswoman from downstate—thinks it’s OK to say “Hitler was right.” She said it in a speech she made a few weeks ago. And I’m still not over it.

As outrageous as that is, Miller’s not even the most outrageous Republican congresswoman in Washington.

That dubious honor probably falls to Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican representative from Georgia. Among Taylor Greene’s more outrageous behavior is that she sort of endorsed the execution of House speaker Nancy Pelosi, said the Parkland massacre was staged, stalked David Hogg (a survivor of that massacre), and apparently believes that forest fires in California were caused by a laser beam fired from space by Jewish bankers.

That’s pretty outrageous.

But that’s not even the most outrageous part of the Marjorie Taylor Greene saga. No, that would be the fact that, aside from Congressman Adam Kinzinger, few Republicans have called on her to step down.

They’re as silent on Greene as they were on Mary Miller.

But they’re really outraged about Heather Steans handing off her seat to Kelly Cassidy. In fact, the Tribune wrote an editorial denouncing it.

Not sure why Tribune editorial writers didn’t denounce Mary Miller or Taylor Greene. Who knows—maybe they agree with them.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, Ben, if the Tribune is for something, you’re automatically against it

I’m outraged that you’d think that! Though it’s not without some truth.

I will take this opportunity to point out that the Tribune is curiously selective on issues of legislative appointees. For instance . . . 

In November 2019, former state representative Luis Arroyo stepped down after he was indicted for allegedly bribing another politician.

Arroyo then used his votes as Democratic committeeman to help select his legislative successor—Eva-Dina Delgado. An act so outrageous that even Michael Madigan opposed it.

And yet the Tribune—and Mayor Lightfoot, for that matter—went on to endorse Delgado.

That’s probably because her opponent was Nidia Carranza, a schoolteacher who was endorsed by the Chicago Teachers Union. I think it’s safe to say that the Trib and Mayor Lightfoot abhor CTU almost as much as I abhor the world views of Mary Miller and Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Apparently, nothing is as outrageous to the Tribune as a union of teachers who think it’s a good idea to spend tax dollars hiring more nurses and librarians.

As opposed to spending the money on underwriting Lincoln Yards, an upscale housing development in an already gentrifying neighborhood. Speaking of things that should really outrage you.

For the record, I may have mellowed a little on the whole legislative handoff process.

At least, I was way more outraged when Heather Steans was appointed to fill a vacancy created when Carol Ronen stepped down. That was back in 2007—long before I’d ever heard of Mary Miller or Marjorie Taylor Greene.

On the other hand, I wasn’t so outraged when Democratic committeepeople appointed Cassidy to fill a vacancy created when Harry Osterman stepped down to become 48th Ward alderman in 2011.

As you can see, getting appointed to fill a vacancy is like a coming-of-age ritual for north-side legislators.

Upon reflection, I wasn’t really paying attention when Cassidy replaced Osterman. My attention was diverted by way more outrageous things. Like . . .

Mayor Rahm storming into office, hell-bent on proving how tough he is by closing mental health clinics in high-crime, low-income areas. 

Still, I think the Tribune editorial on Cassidy and Steans sorta has a point—words I thought I’d never say. The whole vacancy-filling replacement project is a little, oh, undemocratic.

But look on the bright side. If she’s appointed to replace Steans, Kelly Cassidy will have to run for reelection in about a year. So it’s not as though voters won’t get any say in the matter.

And getting named to fill a legislative vacancy is not always a guarantee of winning at the ballot box.

Consider the case of Mark Kalish. In 2019, Democratic committeepeople named Kalish to fill a vacancy created when state representative Lou Lang stepped down.

Then Kalish voted present on a reproductive rights bill, as opposed to voting for it. Even though he was supposed to be pro-choice.

Last year, Democratic voters bounced him out of office, replacing him with Denyse Wang Stoneback. Hooray, voters. Every now and then you actually get it right.

By the way, the Tribune editorial board supported Kalish over Wang Stoneback. Now, that really is outrageous.  v