By BARB VALIUKENAS
A graduate student in Sangamon State University's public affairs reporting program, she is interning with Illinois Issues and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Gerald W. Shea

Majority leader of Democrats in the House, his decision not to seek a seventh term surprised many observers

GERALD W. SHEA, Democratic House of Representatives majority leader, surprised many political observers with a December announcement that he would not seek reelection to a seventh consecutive term.

As chief legislative spokesman of Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley for the past 10 years, Shea has been both the focus of attention and source of action in the General Assembly. His astute knowledge of House rules and bill content, ability to debate and take charge in the speaker's absence, and envied prerogative to make demands of party members have made him one of the most dominant political figures in Springfield especially during the 1975-76 session.

Gerald W. Shea

Because of his desire to spend more time with his family. Shea has decided to leave state government in January 1977 when his legislative term will expire. No successor for his post has been designated.

During a February interview in his Springfield office. Shea candidly reflected on his political career, the state political climate, and the legislative process.

Valiukenas: How does it feel to be regarded as the most powerful per son in the General Assembly?

Shea: That statement is much too broad. I've been fortunate to be the leader of the Cook County Democrats in the House, but Mayor Daley is the chairman of the Democratic Party in Cook County. On occasion, I have been a spokesman for him.

Valiukenas: What type of relationship did you have with him?

Shea: I did and still have good rapport with him. We meet several times a week and discuss problems and issues in the legislature. He's always interested in government and draws on his own experience as a former House and Senate member, and Senate leader. The talks are worthwhile.

Valiukenas: Did you ever fear being dumped from the "top" spot?

Shea: No, I never felt any such threat, and I'd also like to say something that will probably shock a lot of people. During all my time in the legislature, the mayor never once told me how to vote on a piece of legislation. He asks opinions about its effect on people, government and the community, but he never said, "You have to do it my way."

Valiukenas: Rumors indicate that your retirement decision was based on more than family considerations, particularly the failure to become House leader for this legislative session and slighted feelings when Mayor Daley was in Springfield to testify for an override of the school funding bill last fall. Are these assessments accurate?

Shea: To set the record straight, I didn't expect to become speaker. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to have two people from the Cook County Democratic organization to lead both chambers at the same time. [Cecil Partee, also a Daley Democrat, is president of the Senate and a candidate for attorney general.]

The second issue has been totally misconstrued. I spent a lot of personal time with the mayor during that particular visit. He did not use my office as his base because people from the school board were in it. It's as simple as that; nothing more.

Valiukenas: How did the mayor react to your retirement decision?

Shea: I had talked to him about it for some time. Being a family man, he understood.

Valiukenas: Will your leadership power be diluted because you will be leaving at the end of the session?

Shea: I never really thought about it. I shall try to continue to do my job as a leader and serve the interest of the party. [See "Legislative Action," pp. 29-30.]

June 1976 / Illinois Issues / 7


'We're spending too much time in Springfield. I spent 200 days here last year,' the retiring Chicago leader says

Valiukenas: Will you assume a "lame duck" position on any party issue?

Shea: Absolutely not.

Valiukenas: What effect has your suburban residence played in the expansion of the Daley organization into Cook County's outlying areas?

Shea: The Republican Party in Cook County has taken the voters for granted during the past few years. Hard work increased Democratic strength. The local role in my area has shown that it's a party, which has unity. Mayor Daley is the chairman of that party.

Valiukenas: In retrospect, what have been your greatest moments of legislative victory and defeat?

Shea: I've really enjoyed the whole thing, but the school aid override in the House last fall and the initial funding for the CTA [Chicago Transit Authority] come to mind.

From a party point of view, the failure to pass a Congressional remap plan last spring[1975] is a major disappointment. With a Democratic House, Senate and governor, we had the obligation to remap these districts that were redesigned by a federal district court. From a nonpartisan perspective, ifs a shame that we ever gave the issue to a federal court.

Valiukenas: Do you ever feel guilty when a party bill fails?

Shea: No, I always work as hard as I can when I'm out there. If the votes aren't there, it's probably not such a good proposal or maybe it's one that's ahead of its time.

Valiukenas: What would you consider to be your areas of legislative expertise?

Shea: Revenue and appropriations. The key to good government is the finance of government. During my first two terms, cities and counties were not home rule units and depended heavily on the legislature. I understand taxes, local government and the power that the General Assembly has over both of them.

Valiukenas: How many of the heated debates and arguments between yourself and the minority leadership are pure theatrics?

Shea: Lots of them. Sometimes the minority leaders like to pick fights with the Democratic leaders. I go back at them because I want the people to know that there's another side of the coin. But a large part of the floor debate is also sincere. We get very involved in our work debates get emotional.

Valiukenas: What aggravates you most about the legislative process?

Shea: We spend a lot of unnecessary time on the floor. There should be a way to remedy that and still keep up the good quality of work and legislation.

Valiukenas: Any suggestions for accomplishing that?

Shea: I honestly think that the General Assembly ought to devote one year to financial matters and budget for a two-year period instead of the annual ones we now have. The second year of the session could then be used for general law revisions. I also like the idea of more committee bills and fewer proposals from individual members so duplication can be avoided. We're spending too much time in Springfield. I spent 200 days here last year.

Valiukenas: The 1976 primary election and other intraparty disputes suggest a division among Democrats. How serious is it?

Shea: The present incumbent governor and his followers would like to have you believe that the party is divided, but it's actually more solid than when I first came to Springfield.

Valiukenas: Would the election of Sec. of Stale Michael Hewlett [a Daley candidate] as governor influence any of your future plans for seeking pub lie office or accepting an appointed position?

Shea: I just don't know, but my retirement from the legislature doesn't mean that I will get out of government or public life for good.

Gerald W. Shea

WHEN HE entered public life 18 years ago, Gerald Shea was, in his own words, "a brash young guy who wanted one of the best jobs in the Cook County Democratic organization." Now, near the close of an eventful 10-year legislative career, his accomplishments and close relationship with Mayor Richard J. Daley have earned him the title of "Mr. Powerful" among State House observers.

A "temporary" high school dropout, Shea became a garbage collector in his hometown of Oak Park after his father, a printer for the Chicago Tribune was involved in a lengthy strike. He later pumped gas, tended bar and had a variety of other jobs to help subsidize his economics and finance degree from the University of Illinois and diploma from DePaul Law School. Two years of Army service interrupted his education.

Shea's political career began in 1958. After failing to receive the recommendation of Oak Park Committeeman John S. Boyle for a deputy sheriff slot in the village courthouse, Shea did get his sponsorship for a caseworker position in the Cook County Department of Public Aid. He kept that job for a year and later became a department investigator and worked in its legal office. Boyle, who was then chief judge of the Cook County Circuit Court, was impressed by Shea's drive and talents. This led to subsequent jobs as an assistant state's attorney, Boyle's administrative assistant, and director of research, planning and development for the circuit court. He was elected to the House from the 7th legislative district in 1966. He quickly assumed an informal leadership position by lobbying for Boyle's legislative programs in the 1965-66 session.

His first formal leadership role emerged during the 1971-72 and 1973-74 sessions when he was an assistant to then Minority Leader Clyde Choate of Anna. Shea has never left the spotlight during the last six years, leading his party both during its majority and minority days.

Like most of Daley's other confidants, Shea is Irish, a Catholic, a graduate of the mayor's alma mater (DePaul) and has powerful political sponsorship. He differs from the others primarily in the use of quiet clout in place of partisan backslapping to see that the party's needs are met. His suburban Riverside residence and marriage to the niece of a Republican representative (Joseph G. Sevcik, Berwyn) from the same district also make him somewhat unique in. the Daley organizational structure.

Now, at 44, Shea looks forward to a retirement, which will afford him more time to be with his wife, Joanne, and daughter, Courtney Claire; pursue his law practice; read more than his usual three novels per week; "tinker with cars," and complete a thesis. When he finishes his thesis, he is expected to receive a master's degree in taxes from John Marshall Law School, Chicago.

8 / June 1976 / Illinois Issues


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