THE STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER
Posted Nov 25, 2008 @ 11:40 PM
Posted Nov 25, 2008 @ 11:40 PM
New leaders on the Democratic and Republican sides in the Illinois Senate will start work early next year. Democrats last week chose Chicagoan John Cullerton, 60, as the next Senate president, while Republicans chose Christine Radogno, 55, of Lemont as the new Senate GOP leader. Cullerton and Radogno spoke briefly with reporters about their new responsibilities.
JOHN CULLERTON - Cullerton will succeed Emil Jones, who is retiring from the Senate. Cullerton has been in the Senate since 1991 and previously served in the House from 1979 to 1991.
Q: What will you bring to the leadership position that is different?
A: “It’s obvious that there is a rift between the speaker (House Speaker Michael Madigan) and the governor (Gov. Rod Blagojevich), maybe even the president of the Senate and the speaker, and that’s caused us to have some dysfunction.“I know I have a good relationship with both of those gentlemen, and I’m starting afresh, so I don’t inherit all of the baggage that’s built up over the last few years.” “My 10 years in the minority (party) taught me the importance of working with the minority.”
Q: How will you, as a Chicagoan, balance the interests of other parts of the state?
A: “This job is different than representing my district. I’ve been elected for 30 years, voting my district and well enough to get elected. But this is a different job. I represent the whole caucus.”“I also recognize that I represent the Republican districts as well. I’m the president of the whole Senate, not just the Democratic side. That’s the spirit with which I want to go forward.”
Q: If the governor continues to act in ways that lawmakers find to be inappropriate, does he risk becoming irrelevant? Will lawmakers override his vetoes more often?
A: “No, you can’t do that. You can’t do that. You can’t just roll over the governor. He’s the governor. He still has the powers that can thwart your efforts. It’s true you can pass legislation. When it comes to money, though, you have to get the governor’s cooperation, and that’s what we’re talking about doing. We’re not talking about ultimatums here and trying to stick it to him. It just makes more sense to try to work with him.”
CHRISTINE RADOGNO - Radogno will succeed Frank Watson of Greenville, who is relinquishing the leadership position after suffering a stroke this fall. She has been in the Senate since 1997.
Q: What do you bring to the leadership position that is different?
A: Everybody has their own personality, their own style. I mean, I generally am not someone that loves an open, aggressive fight. I have a different style of trying to convince people and get them on my side.”
Q: How will you, as a suburban resident, balance the interests of other parts of the state?
A: “I have had the benefit of running statewide (for state treasurer in 2006). I’ve been in the caucus for quite awhile. There has been a heavy representation of downstaters, so I feel like I have a really good handle on that. I also have committed to the caucus members in the counties downstate that I will be available. I mean, I’m willing to travel and get around the state and make sure that I am adequately understanding people’s individual districts.”
Q: You’re the first woman to be elected as one of the four legislative leaders in the Illinois General Assembly. How big a deal is gender, in terms of how you will approach the position?
A: “I think gender is an interesting sidebar, and it’s kind of fun to be the first woman. But I think that it really is much more pertinent that, you know, my background and the skills I bring as an individual, not necessarily (being) a woman.”
Q: What do you hope to accomplish?
A: “We need to get together to solve the problems of the state, but as we’re trying to get together, I mean, we will present an opposing point of view. But it’s not going to be petty. It’s not going to be personal. It’s going to be policy-oriented.”