Emil Jones supports bid to unseat Syverson

Jones found Rockford to back Lewandowski’s candidacy

An allegedly geographically-challenged Illinois State Senate President Emil Jones found his way to Rockford, to support Democratic hopeful Dan Lewandowski’s bid to unseat incumbent Dave Syverson (R-34) in the November primary. Jones attended a June 21 fund-raiser at Giovanni’s.

His trip to Rockford included deflecting a question posed—more than once—by WTVO-TV reporter Lauren Lee about his infamous “Where’s Rockford?” comment.

“Do you have a one-track mind?” Jones asked, before stressing he made the comment in jest.

According to Jones, the rhetorical question was born from Syverson’s lack of attention to issues important to Rockford. Those issues include raising the minimum wage and school funding.

“He acts like he doesn’t know it exists,” Jones said.

In a June 23 interview, Syverson disagreed: “I’ve worked so hard to put the people of Rockford first.” Syverson said his record of delivering legislation and constituent service speaks for itself.

Jones argued Lewandowski wouldn’t let partisan politics get in the way of representing his constituents and dealing with issues like economic development, health care and job growth.

Syverson said his involvement with the River Edge Redevelopment pilot program’s passage is an example of ability to work with Democrats. He said bipartisanship was essential to the legislation’s survival.

“It took all three of us,” Syverson said, referring to himself, State Rep. Chuck Jefferson (D-67) and Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey. Syverson asserted their efforts were a rare feat because normally, it would have taken two months to get legislation passed.

But Lewandowski said Syverson tried stealing some glory by coming in at the River Edge Redevelopment pilot program’s 11th hour.

“He takes credit for things he hasn’t done,” he said.

Syverson touted his contribution to the joint effort, during a May 12 press conference: “It did take two days for (Jefferson) to get it (through) the House. It only took me one day.”

But Syverson stressed he never discounted others’ contributions. “I was just one part of the puzzle,” he said.

As a Senate hopeful, Lewandowski is working on the challenge. Lewandowski said he’s walked through 30 precincts since April to get himself up to speed on voters’ concerns. He alleged voters are unhappy with at least one of Syverson’s choices—helping bring Alan Keyes from Maryland to face Barack Obama in the November 2004 U.S. Senate race.

According to an August 2004 Los Angeles Times story, Syverson, a state central committee member, pushed Keyes’ candidacy. But Syverson discounts that paper’s and Lewandowski’s characterization.

“I didn’t know the individual,” Syverson said, claiming he was asked to nominate Keyes, when the committee only had a couple of candidates.

“(Keyes) was, at the time, the best candidate. It turned out that he had a different agenda,” Syverson said.

Swinging hard right, Keyes positioned himself as an opponent of the gay and lesbian community. According to The Advocate, he once described Vice President Dick Cheney’s lesbian daughter, Mary, as a “selfish hedonist.” The magazine also reported Keyes disowned his own daughter, Maya, when he learned she was gay.

Syverson stressed nominating Keyes didn’t mean he entirely endorsed his beliefs. He said Lewandowski strongly supports Jones. Syverson wondered whether that meant he supports Jones’ “Chicago agenda.”

When asked whether his association with Keyes could affect his campaign, Syverson said voters are more concerned about job creation, health care and education. But he said a lot of voters support politicians with whom they don’t necessarily agree.

Syverson was also considered a possible successor to former Illinois Republican Party Chairman and current gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“(Syverson) should be more concerned about people of (the 34th) district,” Lewandowski said.

According to Syverson, he must be doing something right because “that seems to be the only issue he can criticize me on,” and issues like jobs and health care “ought to be the priority.”

According to Lewandowski, legislators have failed to pass a capital improvements bill, in part, because Syverson voted along party lines. Specifically, he alleged Syverson has neglected to fight for funding of road projects. He stressed a capital improvements bill would generate road construction jobs and stimulate the economy.

Lewandowski said given that Syverson’s in the minority party, he should learn to work together to get things done. He accused Syverson of attacking proposals put up by the General Assembly’s Democratic majority without offering alternatives.

“(Republicans) came up with a lot of solutions,” Syverson countered. But he said he couldn’t support new programs until previous programs had been funded. Cutting programs to save money and then creating new programs is immoral, he said.

“Most families don’t buy a new car before the old one is paid for,” Syverson said.

According to Lewandowski, he’d champion any project or proposal—if it were good for the district—despite who sponsored it.

Lewandowski noted Syverson voted against the budget that will fund the road construction program.

Syverson responded while “there are some good things in the budget,” problems still exist. Those problems include $1 billion in cuts from the state’s pension fund, human services spending and the diversion of 25 percent of road constructions funds to other programs, according to Syverson.

He also alleged the state is $2 billion behind in its Medicaid payments to health care providers. Some providers, Syverson said, have been waiting at least six months for reimbursement.

Lewandowski stressed his commitment to the area, saying he wanted to be “an advocate for this district.”

From the June 28-July 4, 2006, issue

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