By Todd Wessell | on June 25, 2019
The rigors of running one of Illinois’ smallest but most successful and influential communities and raising two young children would not deter Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens from accepting the appointment to the state representative seat held by Republican Michael McAuliffe.
GOP committeemen within the 20th Illinois Legislative District will likely meet this Saturday in Edison Park to select a replacement for McAuliffe who on June 17 abruptly resigned as Chicago’s only Republican in the state House. The appointment would fill out the remaining 18 months of McAuliffe’s term.
“If elected I would accept,” Stephens told the Journal & Topics on Monday. He also said that if he is selected it is his intention to run for a full term in 2020.
Barring a sudden change of heart, Stephens’ election among the six GOP committeemen is assured because he and McAuliffe together control the weighted vote in the 20th District based on the number of Republican votes cast in the last general election. These types of appointments are not uncommon. Locally, Republican committeemen choose a successor when former state senators Dave Sullivan resigned several years ago, and when Marty Butler passed away while in office. Both represented the Park Ridge and Des Plaines areas.
“Mike and I would make the call,” said Stephens. “We have more than 50% of the vote. I want this. I want to be part of the solution to the pension crisis.”
The 20th District takes in chunks of Rosemont, Des Plaines, Chicago’s Northwest side, Park Ridge, and areas within Norwood Park and Niles townships. McAuliffe is currently GOP committeeman of Chicago’s 41st ward within the 20th. Stephens is Republican committeeman of Leyden Township. McAuliffe’s weighted vote total is 12,221 and Stephens 2,759. Together they have more than the 50% needed to make the appointment.
Stephens’ willingness to accept the job has surprised many who say he has plenty to do in Rosemont, is the father of two young children, and would be paid $69,000 for the post in addition to the $209,000 he earns as mayor. Stephens said he plans to retain both elected positions.
Should Stephens receive the appointment he would have the least seniority among all 118 state legislators. But, as one suburban politician told the Journal & Topics this week, he will be able to cultivate more relationships with fellow lawmakers and state officials that will benefit Rosemont in the long run. Another state official said Stephens’ effectiveness would be minimal because of his newcomer status in Springfield.
In a lengthy interview on Monday, Rosemont’s mayor explained that he believes he can handle both elected jobs citing the practice that the Illinois House sessions usually last from Tuesdays to Thursdays until May when the workload becomes heavier as the deadline for passing bills approaches. He also remarked that he can fit in his schedule family time and utilize modern conveniences like email and Skype to help him stay in close touch with Rosemont when he is Springfield.
“Seventy days or so out of the year they’re in session. I’m an early riser. I won’t lose sight of my family. That’s the most important thing to me. Will this will be added work for me? Absolutely.”
Stephens said after he was informed about McAuliffe’s decision to retire, they met to discuss the possibilities. “There are a lot of folks who have encouraged this,” said Stephens. “I’m not going to be a trailblazer who calls Mike Madigan nasty names. I want to be part of the solution. My relationship with Madigan is as good as it can be with a representative and a Democrat. I have a good working relationship with him.”
To many, McAuliffe’s sudden resignation, effective immediately, was surprising. He has served Chicago’s Northwest side and parts of nearby suburbs in the General Assembly for the past 23 years. However, in 2016 he faced a bitter reelection battle with Democrat Merry Marwig, who was heavily funded by House Speaker Madigan. Two years later, Marwig challenged McAuliffe again, but before election day she suddenly dropped out of the race allowing McAuliffe to slide into another two years. Whether or not McAuliffe would be the target of Madigan again in the 2020 election is unknown.
The question of whether or not the state public relations and previous lobbying work of McAuliffe’s wife, Kim Morreale, played a role in his departure is also unknown. McAullife said he was resigning to spend more time with his family.
More than a year ago, a controversy erupted over Morreale’s payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide PR and communications services to the Illinois Tollway Authority. Her hiring was as a subcontractor to an engineering consulting firm that was paid $84.5 million by the tollway. The tollway’s board of directors at that time were appointments of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. About a year ago, Stephens and Elk Grove Mayor Craig Johnson were appointed to the tollway board. When J.B. Pritzker was elected, he replaced the entire 11-member panel.
Morreale has been president of her communications company for the last 12 years. From 2004 to 2006 she was director of external affairs for the Illinois Department of Transportation, in which she provided public relations services. Before that she was a television reporter and anchor in Rockford.