A graduate student in Sangamon State University's Public Affairs Reporting Program, he is serving his M.A. internship with both Illinois Issues and the Alton Telegraph.

Compromise and crossover in Redmond election

AFTER ONE of the most divisive displays of power politics in the history of Illinois government. Rep. William A. Redmond (D,, Bensenville) finally ascended to the post of House speaker January 21. His compromise victory was won on the 93rd ballot, by an extraordinary coalition of Daley Democrats, Walker Democrats, and crossover Republicans.

The battle began on the House floor January 8 with passage of a resolution requiring a majority of the 177 elected members (89 votes), not just a majority of members present, to elect a speaker. The resolution meant that 13 of the 101 House Democrats could block any Democratic candidate, as long as all 76 Republicans held fast to their caucus decision to endlessly support party leader James R. Washburn (R., Morris).

This maneuver, sponsored by Rep. John Matijevich (D-, North Chicago) was aimed at stopping Rep. Clyde L. Choate (D., Anna) from winning with the possible help of a large number of Republican absentees. Ironically, the Matijevich resolution eventually became a tool for Choate supporters to block Redmond.

Clearly, the politics of obstruction were to play a pivotal role. First it was Choate, backed by Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley's 42 House loyalists, who felt the sting of obstructionist tactics. He was opposed by a coalition of Walker forces and disgruntled Democrats.

Walker had feuded with Choate since March 1973 when Choate had designed

a coalition that overrode the Walker veto of a Chicago Transit Authority bill (House Bill 89). The governor was further angered by Choate's late entry and victory in a 1974 primary scrap with Walker's son-in-law, David Vaught of Carmi. At that time, Walker was quoted by the Chicago Daily News as saying, "I'll never forgive that man for what he did to my son-in-law." Many other Democrats held similar feelings toward Choate because of his alleged cooperation with former Speaker W. Robert Blair (R., Park Forest) in the 78th (1973-74) General Assembly, when Choate was minority leader. The anti-Choate alliance divided its votes between as many as eight Democrats through the first 38 ballots, while Choate never received more than 61 votes.

"The deal is made"

After the 38th roll call on January 10, Daley's floor spokesman. Rep. Gerald W. Shea (D., Riverside) called a brief party caucus. On the next ballot nearly every Da'iey and Walker loyalist switched his vote to Redmond. Redmond got 70 votes, about 60 more than he had ever received before. "The deal is made," explained Rep. Corneal A. Davis (D., Chicago) before his switch from Choate to Redmond. Davis had placed Choate's name in nomination only two days before.

But Choate was not easily beaten. On the strength of personal friendships and loyalties, built during 28 years in the House, Choate still held together 22 votes, more than enough to block Redmond. That was catch-22; Choate was now the obstructionist. The roll calls continued late into the night that Friday, in hope of breaking the will of some of Choate's supporters. Pressures were applied.

At one point a Choate supporter, R-ep. Joe Lucco (D., Edwardsville) rose

to make an angry denunciation of Walker. Lucco claimed that a Walker aide had threatened his district with loss of a $i5 million convention center if Lucco didn't switch to Redmond. Lucco told the governor to "go to hell." For many observers Lucco's fiery speech tended to confirm earlier accusations by some House members that Walker was using patronage firings as punitive measures against uncooperative legislators.

Days and ballots passed. Choate's ranks dwindled to 16 solid supporters by the 73rd ballot. Redmond was edged nearer the speakership. By the time a new record was set at 78 ballots, it was evident that a n-sw compromise candidate might be needed. Choate backers were demanding an entirely new leadership team, which would have meant Daley abandoning Shea.

Instead, on the 89th ballot an unexpected development occurred, in the form of a crossover vote for Redmond, by freshman Rep. Lee Daniels (R., Elmhurst). Immediately, minority leader Washburn called for a weekend recess.

But when the session resumed January 21 nothing could stop the trend of Republican crossovers, not even an appeal by party leader Washburn, calling defections dishonorable and inexcusable. Representatives James P. McCourt (R., Evanston), Gene Hoffman (R., Westchester), Walter McAvoy (R., Chicago), Roger P. McAuliffe (R., Chicago), Charles E. Gaines (R., Chicago) and Edmund F. Kucharski (R., Chicago) switched to Redmond on the next four ballots. All are from the Chicago area.

Finally, one thing was undeniably certain: forces outside the General Assembly had exerted a decisive influence over the House's choice of its speaker.

108/Illinois Issues/April 1975

|Back to Periodicals Available| |Table of Contents| |Back to Illinois Issues 1975|