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McCALEB: What’s real as the primary election approaches

(Illinois News Network) — Everyone who watches even just a bit of TV or who checks their mailboxes every now and then knows there’s an election around the corner.

The dubious campaign ads and colorful mailers with big scare headlines have been flooding both for weeks.

I hope you’re not paying attention to them. They’re generally dishonest and tell you nothing real about why you should support one candidate over another.

But with early voting well under way and the March 20 primary less than a few weeks away, here are a few things that are real and that you should care about before heading to your polling place.

For first time in 16 years, Attorney General Lisa Madigan won’t be on the ballot. The state’s top law enforcement officer for the past four terms, Madigan decided last year that she wouldn’t seek a fifth.

While she’s been among the most popular statewide officials in Illinois, Madigan also left unchecked a corrupt system of pay-to-play politics under the dome in Springfield and across the state.

The step-daughter of powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan, Lisa Madigan remained on the sidelines as the federal government took down Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who remains behind bars after being convicted of trying to sell President Barack Obama‘s former U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder.

She’s remained quiet as the Feds opened an investigation into questionable campaign spending by the state’s chief financial watchdog, Auditor General Frank Mautino, when he was still a Democratic state representative.

She’s also allowed her step-father to continue to use the Regional Transportation Authority, the Secretary of State’s Office and other state agencies as his personal patronage warehouse, providing political hacks with cushy jobs at taxpayers’ expense.

Oh, and Lisa Madigan’s done pretty much nothing about the #MeToo sexual harassment scandal that’s been exploding around the House speaker and throughout state government.

Let’s face it. It’s time for a change.

Voters need to elect a candidate who’s willing to take on the career politicians who think our tax dollars are there to do with as they please and, perhaps, root out some of the corruption that is pervasive at the state Capitol.

Among the candidates seeking the Democratic nomination is Rep. Scott Drury, the only Democratic lawmaker who’s been brave enough to not vote for Michael Madigan as House speaker.

In the latest polls, Drury trails frontrunners Pat Quinn, the most recent former governor and lieutenant governor under Blagojevich, and state Sen. Kwame Raoul, who’s received the endorsements of a number of powerful Democrats.

On the Republican side, much of the party, including Gov. Bruce Rauner, is putting their support behind former congressional candidate and 2003 Miss America Erika Harold, who doesn’t have a lot of name recognition. Harold faces a primary challenge from former Burr Ridge mayor and sitting DuPage County Board member Gary Grasso.

The outcome of the governor’s race in November could very well affect your take home pay because of what many of the Democrats are campaigning on in the primary.

Illinoisans already pay the highest combined local and state taxes in the country. And even after last year’s $5 billion income tax increase, the leading candidates in the Democratic primary for governor say they want more.

Billionaire J.B. Pritzker, state Sen. Daniel Biss and Chris Kennedy all support changing the state constitution to allow for a progressive income tax, allowing Illinois to tax higher wage earners a larger percentage than lower wage earners. When the idea was floated a few years ago, some called it a millionaires’ tax.

The biggest problem with this is that none of candidates have said what kind of a progressive rate structure they support, meaning middle class earners very well could see huge income tax hikes along with the state’s highest earners.

A bill filed in the House would create a progressive income tax system that raises taxes on income above $7,500 a year.

That doesn’t sound like a millionaires’ tax to me.

There are a whole lot of of fresh faces on the ballot in state races, and that’s a good thing.

Widespread “retirements” after last year’s budget battle and massive income tax increase mean 25 House races and nine Senate races do not have an incumbent on the ballot.

In the House, 13 Republicans and 12 Democrats either already have vacated or will be vacating their seats. In the Senate, it’s five Republicans and four Democrats.

In addition to that, several long-serving legislators have primary opponents.

That includes House Minority Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs, whose facing a tough primary campaign against Burr Ridge Mayor Michael “Mickey” Straub. Fiscal conservatives such as Straub blamed weak leadership from Durkin and Gov. Bruce Rauner for the successful income tax hike last summer in which 15 Republican representatives joined majority Democrats in approving it.

Because of all the new faces on the ballot, voters need to do their homework.

Dan McCaleb, a journalism veteran of more than 25 years, is the news director of the Illinois News Network. McCaleb has served as editorial director for Shaw Media and was the top editor for the award-winning Northwest Herald in suburban McHenry County. This op-ed was allowed to be republished by all media partners of INN.

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- Illinois News Network and their reporters represent Illinois as the taxpayers' watchdog, exposing the way government really works in Springfield.

McCALEB: What’s real as the primary election approaches