Lawmakers at the statehouse have no appetite for changing how General Assembly members are replaced when seats open up before an election, a political studies professor said.
When a state lawmaker resigns his or her position before a term is up, state law gives the power of appointment to the lawmaker’s political party in that jurisdiction rather than voters.
The most recent round of replacements saw Democratic state Sen. John Mulroe, D-Chicago, who was appointed to a Cook County judgeship, replaced by state Rep. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago. It’s unclear who will take Martwick’s House seat.
State Rep. Michael McAuliffe, R-Chicago, retired before his term was up. Republican leadership selected Rosemont Mayor Bradley Stephens to take McAuliffe’s seat. Stephens continues to be mayor of Rosemont, which comes with a salary of $260,000. Stephens will make an additional $69,500 per year from his new statehouse gig, and even more if he’s appointed to committees. Plus he’ll get a per diem when lawmakers are in session.
University of Illinois Chicago politics professor Chris Mooney said he doesn’t expect the appointment process to change.
“It advantages those who are inside and if they’re the only ones paying attention, who has the incentive to change? No one,” Mooney said. “And there are reasonable counter-arguments to make.”
One reason to keep the appointment process in place is the high cost of special elections, Mooney said.
“You want to run a special election for a state representative district that’s going to serve out a year when nobody really knows who these people are anyway? That would be a hard sell,” Mooney said.
He said the appointment process laid out in state statute is inside baseball and done by both parties with little input from voters.
“It’s another way that they can advantage themselves if they so desire and if they’re able to manipulate the process,” Mooney said.
He said the process takes advantage of a lack of voter knowledge about their state legislators and exacerbates it.