New force in Senate — They call themselves The Crazy 8'
By BURNELL HEINECKE
A veteran State House correspondent, he spent 10 years as Springfield bureau chief for the Chicago Sun- Times until recently starting the Heinecke News Service. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, 1956-57, and is president of the Legislative Correspondents Association.
By holding out against Partee as Senate chief,
they wrested a leadership spot for Terry Bruce.
As a study group, they may have succeeded
because nobody insisted on being chairman.
They hesitate about taking a position as a group
VISITORS to the Illinois General Assembly have generally been advised to take a quick look at the dull, predictable Senate and then move to the House for the circus of democracy in action. Only a few years have passed since Sen. W. Russell Arrington (R., Evanston) ruled the "House of Lords" — as angry House members frequently call it — armed with massive GOP majorities. After the November 1974 election there were predictions Sen. Cecil A. Partee (D., Chicago), who had presided over an evenly divided Senate in 1971-72 (the best the Democrats had been able to do in decades), would have his chance to give Republicans a bit of their own medicine. There were to be 34 Democrats and 25 Republicans.
Everyone believed that by session's end Mayor Daley's Democrats would block some hated appointees of Gov. Walker, or shape the big highways appropriations bill to their own liking. But nothing like that happened. The idea of monolithic party divisions, with Republican ranks solid and Democrats equally rigid in partisan phalanx, evaporated in 1975 and the Senate became as much a chamber with blocs within parties as the House usually was.
The spark of creation
Almost as soon as Partee wound up the post-election 1974 fall session with his announcement of an early December Democratic Senate caucus to pick leadership for 1975-76, a new spark of rebellion was struck. Ten Democrats fired off a telegram protesting the haste. They wanted the caucus postponed until the night before the session opened in January.
The meeting went off as called by Partee, but not as planned. He emerged somberly to announce that he had been the majority choice. But the word was soon out that 11 of the 35 elected Democrats had not voted for him. "Don't worry," was the response of the Daley Regulars. "They'll vote for him when the chips are down in January."
They didn't. At the end of the first roll call, there were no responses from eight Democrats, and Partee was shy of the 30 votes needed to be elected president of the Senate for the 79th General Assembly. A recess was called. Several hours later, when the Democrats returned to the floor, Partee had his 35 votes — but the eight dissenters (See accompanying list) had themselves a spot in leadership. Sen. Terry Bruce of Oiney was one of Partee's three assistant majority leaders.
What's in a name?
Bruce jokingly called his backers "The Crazy 8" because everyone thought their rebellion had killed any real hopes of Democratic accomplishment. Bruce regrets having used the term. On the Republican side of the aisle, Sen. Terrel Clarke (R., Western Springs) called the independent-minded bloc "The Sane 8" for having won a fight for openness in the party. There were times during the six-month session that Sen. Don Wooten (D., Rock Island), who was one of five independents in the 1973-74 session, referred to his compatriots as "The Timorous Ten" or "The Elegant 11." But by July, he and others questioned whether they were perhaps down to a "Sometimes 7."
Because the independent Democrats have such a loose structure, it is hard to say with certainty who is in or out of what has also been called the Democratic Study Group (DSG). The only real way to understand the group is to examine its origins and development.
Bruce was the forerunner in 1970. A former legislative staff intern assigned to the Senate Democrats, he knew something about "the system," that is, he understood the way things were done in the past. Kenneth W. Buzbee
January 1976 / Illinois Issues / 21
'I think our governor has
'THE CRAZY 8'
(Carbondale) came along in 1972; so did Dawn Clark Netsch (the Northwestern University Law School professor who upset regular Democrat Sen. Daniel O'Brien in Chicago's Near North Side district), the late Betty Keegan, a former Constitutional Convention delegate from Rockford, and Don Wooten, Rock Island newscaster and TV weatherman. Wooten recalled having been lumped with some of the other winners in a post-election news story as "the bright hopes of the future." He sought them out to consider forming a study group to share their knowledge.
Buzbee and Keegan were enthusiastic about the idea and said Wooten should discard his suspicions about Mrs. Netsch. They insisted that she was "a different kind of Chicagoan," one he would like. And Bruce, they said, was "the bright young guy in the Senate" whom they wanted to work with. The five met regularly for informational sessions in 1973 and 1974, but when they spoke up in caucus, they were picked off one by one and knocked down.
They did, however, get Democratic leaders to go along with their idea of having a Senate Democratic dinner to raise funds for the 1974 senatorial candidates. This came about only after they threatened to go it alone if Chicago Democrats chose not to participate. The success of that dinner, and Bruce's inclusion in the steering committee of four, was a major coup. It also helped swell Democratic ranks to 35.
The genesis of 'eight
Vincent Demuzio of Carlinville upset Sen. Junie Bartulis (R., Benld). Jerome Joyce of Reddick pulled the biggest surprise by beating Sen. Edward McBroom, GOP Chairman of Kankakee County. Both victories came with considerable help from Gov. Walker. William Morris of Waukegan, a fiercely independent former radio newsman who rejected practically everyone's help so he could win his own way, upset Sen. John Conolly (R., Waukegan). Mrs. Vivian Hickey of Rockford, who had replaced the deceased Betty Keegan, won a term in her own right. So now there were eight.
"People said after the leadership fight, 'You sold out very cheaply,'" Wooten recalled. "The guys in Chicago thought that too because we only wanted a guy in leadership and then we wanted our choice of committee assignments. But that really is all that our organization has been about. With committee assignments, for the first time every one of us is represented on some committee. When we sit down and discuss bills, if that person has done his homework, he tells us what happened in committee. I think we can go a long time, weather a lot of storms, and a lot of internal dissension, if we keep running the meetings that way."
Clearly, Wooten, the peacemaker, is more optimistic than some of his colleagues. Bruce recalled early morning meetings. "That was the part that almost killed us," said Bruce. "It wasn't religious, but near the end of the session we were meeting nearly every morning, and after the session and so forth."
The reason the Senate study group prospered, though similar House efforts failed, both Wooten and Bruce agree, was that the House group usually involved only liberals talking to one another and arguing over who was to be their leader or spokesman. "We never had anyone who chaired our meetings and we never had anyone who called them or anyone who was in charge of anything in particular," Bruce explained. "We're not the behemoth that some of the regulars always think that we are always sitting and plotting and organizing," he adds. "All that we are doing is trying to get the basic, information that makes this place tick. We never voted alike, and that is what drove everybody crazy."
Not all of one mold
Wooten agreed. "We have shrunk to as few as four and grown to as many as 10, except of course on a unanimous roll call. Whenever there is division of opinion, that division runs through our group. There's no doubt about it that we frequently vote together. And the reason is, you know, that we think alike. We'd probably vote together even if we didn't meet, because frankly, in meeting is where some of our divisions really develop. Buzbee and Netsch really cut me up on my National Guard Scholarship Bill (S.B. 24). We don't hesitate to differ with one another. The important thing is, and the hardest thing to get over is, that we differ on issues, not fight on personalities."
By mutual agreement. Dick Newhouse (D., Chicago) joined the group before he ran against Mayor Daley in Chicago's primary this year. So did Gene Johns (D., Marion) after Sen. Richard M. Daley and his Chicago colleagues exploded in rage at a Johns' comment ("Thank you. Mayor") in committee one day, and were about to move to expel him from the Senate. Even Robert Lane, who upset Sen. Jack Walker (R., Lansing) last year, attended some meetings of the DSG. "We invited
22 / January 1976 / Illinois Issues
Lane to join us, although he is in the [regular] organization, and that's how we got to 11 at times," Wooten said. "We're looking for an association of equals," Wooten added. "If we're going to discuss something that's going to be painful to anybody — for instance, if I tell Lane 'We're going to meet and discuss remap, you want to come or not?' he says, '1 think I'll take a pass.' Okay. So we're sensitive to one another's problems."
This collegial sensitivity and the general independence of the individuals of the group make it hard to predict how the group will act on every issue. Curt Jensen, the governor's legislative liaison man to the Senate, insisted he frequently had difficulty finding out what the bloc was up to, even though some viewed them as Walker's lackeys. "The bottom line meaning of the Crazy 8, or whatever you call them," Jensen says, "is the total change in which the Senate is operating this year and the way in which it will continue to operate. They were a negotiating bloc and that is something that has never been in the Senate before. If there's going to be strong leadership — not autocratic leadership — in the future, it is going to be based more on a consultation with the people in the party to determine where most of them are going, so that you as leader can lead them in the current direction, rather than deciding ahead of time and then beating everyone into line."
The uses of adversity
Buzbee is not so optimistic. He says, "My idea of the group is that it still ought to be a study group. When we start to take a position, that it is our position, then I'm a little hesitant about it. It [the group] will continue, as long as it doesn't become Walker-controlled. I am afraid it is about to be controlled — something I resent bitterly. I think our governor has used us. We were a group of independents. Sometimes we voted with Walker, sometimes we voted against him. But he went out and claimed things like he controlled our votes, that we were his legislators and I don't buy that. Where I come from, I am ' the regular organization."
The reason Jensen believes that the Crazy 8 will survive, and even grow, is the manner in which the Daley regulars tend to throw dissidents aside, almost out of the party. Isolated, the group may thrive. Such are the uses of adversity.
Selected State Reports
• "Auto Repair Abuses," a report by the Illinois Legislative Investigating Commission to the General Assembly (June 1975), 187 pp.
A compilation of consumer complaints, possible solutions, and the commission's conclusions and recommendations. The commission favored such reforms as mandatory written estimates and repair warranties. Licensing of mechanics, repair shops, and insurance appraisers — if deemed necessary to correct abuses — should be carried out by local units, not the state.
• "Illinois School Problems," Report of the School Problems Commission No. 13 (1975),93 pp.
Report contains recommendations of the commission, summaries of reports to the commission from its committees (special education funding, school bus safety, general finance, special education, and vocational education), and the commission's assessment of the operation of the Elementary and Secondary School Capital Assistance Program. In a lengthy chapter, commission staff members evaluate the success of commission sponsored reforms in the Distributive Fund part of the Common School Fund.
• "Illinois Water Pollution Control Program," a report by the Illinois Legislative Investigating Commission to the General Assembly (June 1975), 32 pp.
Report on the commission's investigation of the assignment of project priorities for disbursing funds by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. At issue is a claim by the Metropolitan Sanitary District of Greater Chicago that IEPA formulas were biased against facilities in large metropolitan areas and that the MSD did not receive its fair share of funds.
• "The Joliet Correctional Center Riot of April 22, 1975," a report by the Illinois Legislative Investigating Commission to the General Assembly (June 1975), 48 pp.
A report of the commission's investigation of a riot and prisoner death at the Joliet Correctional Center on April 22, 1975, and its assessment of the subsequent transfer of the warden.
• "Seven Patient Deaths at Illinois Extended Care Center," a report of the Illinois Legislative Investigating Commission to the General Assembly (June 1975), 228 pp.
The commission notes that this is "its third investigation into the Illinois Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities' activities." The first two were investigations into patient deaths at state institutions; this report details the deaths of seven patients transferred from the Dixon State School to a private facility in Rockford. The commission cites inadequate administrative practices of three state departments and poor nursing care by the staff of the Extended Care Center.
• Policy Issues, a newsletter from the Center for Governmental Studies, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb (first issue, summer 1975). A new quarterly newsletter dealing with "public issues of major importance to Illinois and particularly the 23- county Northern Illinois area. "The first issue features an article by Neil Snortland, "Revenue Sharing in Northern Illinois Counties." Available from the Center for Governmental Studies, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois 60115.
Items listed under State Documents have been received by the Documents Unit, Illinois State Library, Springfield, and are usually available from public libraries in the state through interlibrary loan. Requests for copies should be sent to the issuing agency.
State agencies are encouraged to send significant studies to the Institute of Government and Public Affairs for inclusion in the bibliography. Address items to the Institute, 1201 W. Nevada St., Urbana, Ill.61801.
Library has engrossed bills
January 1976 / Illinois Issues / 23