Legislators Project Interviews
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Legislators Project Interviews
Larry Bomke served Sangamon County and central Illinois in a political career that began in the early 1970s and ended with his retirement from the Illinois Senate in 2013. He began his career as a Republican at the grass roots level, and in 1976 was elected to serve on the Sangamon County Board. In 1992 he became the Chairman of the County Board, and in 1995 he was appointed by the Sangamon County Republican Party to fill an Illinois Senate seat vacated by Karen Hasara, who was running for mayor of Springfield. He served in the Senate for the next 18 years, during a time that coincided with Barack Obama's years in the IL Senate.
Barbara Flynn Currie, a liberal Democrat from the Hyde Park district of Chicago, has represented that area in the Illinois House of Representatives from January, 1979 to the time of this posting in 2017. These interviews cover Currie's career in the Illinois House from 1979 through Governor Jim Thompson's administration, which ended in January, 1991. Thompson, a moderate Republican, served as governor for fourteen years.
Lee Daniels served as the Republican Leader in the Illinois House of Representatives from 1983 to his retirement in 2003. From 1995 to 1996 he served as the Speaker of the IL House, years when he was successful in steering through several initiatives important to the Republican leadership, including Chicago school reform, tort reform and disability legislation. Daniels talks extensively about the state's governors from Thompson to Blagojevich, and relates stories about all of the major political figures in Illinois during this period.
Suzanne Deuchler, a moderate Republican from Aurora (Kane County), Illinois, ran for the Illinois House of Representatives in 1980, with passage of the Equal Rights Amendment as one of her prime issues. She won the election, and went on to serve in the Illinois House from 1981 to 1999, when she retired from public life.
John F. Dunn was a Democrat who served in the Illinois House of Representatives from January 1975 to January 1995, representing the 51st District and after 1983, the 101st District. He served on the Agriculture Committee and chaired the Transportation and Civil Law committees. In his last term, he was an Assistant House Majority Leader. He was a consistent supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment, an opponent of capital punishment, and while working as a lobbyist after leaving the legislature, played a major role in the passage of an indoor smoking ban.
Thomas (Tom) Ewing grew up in tiny Atlanta, Illinois in a farming family, and earned a law degree in 1968. From 1975 through 1991 he served in the Illinois House of Representatives, rooming with Dennis Hastert at the time. In 1991 he moved to the U.S. House of Representatives following a special election, once again rooming with Hastert. He represented Illinois' 15th district until 2000 during a period when the Republicans took control of the House in 1995, and during the fights over welfare reform and the budget. He voted to impeachment President Bill Clinton. He actively supported Hastert's successful bid to become Speaker in 1999.
Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the U.S. House from 1999 to 2007, began his political career in the Illinois state legislature in 1981. Hastert began his adult life as a teacher at Yorkville high school, and gaining notoriety not by paying his dues in local politics, but due to his very successful stint as a high school wrestling coach. In 1980 he was the surprise victor in an election for the Illinois House. Once in Springfield, he quickly earned the reputation as a legislator who could get things done. This interview concludes with Hastert' discussing his 1986 campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives. The interview is part of a joint venture with the U.S. House of Representatives historians.
Dennis (Denny) Jacobs, started his political career as the long-time Democratic mayor of East Moline, Illinois, helping the city cope with the loss of several of its major employers during the early 1980s. In 1986 he moved to the Illinois Senate, and served there until 2004 when he handed over his seat to his son, Michael. While in the Illinois Senate, Jacobs became close friends with State Senator Barack Obama, and was one of several state senators who regularly played poker with the future president. He stayed in touch with the President throughout Obama's political career.
Emil Jones was a long-time member of the Illinois Legislature, serving in the Illinois House from 1973 to 1983, then becoming a State Senator. From 1993 to 2002 he served as the Senate Minority Leader, and became Senate President in 2003, where he served until his retirement in 2008. He worked closely with then State Senator Barack Obama
Senator Dave Luechtefeld grew up on a dairy farm outside Okawville, Illinois, and because of his 6 ft 7 in frame and basketball skills he earned a full sports scholarship to St. Louis University. He returned to Okawville to begin a very successful teaching and coaching career, especially in basketball, with multiple trips to the state finals. Following his retirement at 57, he then became an Illinois State Senator in 1995, serving as a Republican in a toss-up district for twenty-one years until his retirement from the senate in 2016.
Abner Mikva grew up on the south side of Chicago, and began his political career following a one-year clerkship with the U.S. Supreme Court. He became interested in politics in the late 1940s, identifying himself as an independent Democrat - a strong supporter of Adlai Stevenson but not part of the powerful Chicago Democratic machine. Mikva served in the Illinois legislature from 1956 to 1966 representing the Hyde Park neighborhood of the city, and the U.S. House of Representatives from 1969 to January 1973. He was maneuvered out of office due to redistricting, then represented the Evanston area in Congress from 1975 to 1979, when he was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (not a subject of this interview). In 1994 he began a one-year hitch as President Bill Clinton's legal advisor. He then returned to Chicago, taught law, and became one of Barack Obama's mentors and early supporters in the late 1990s.
Robert Mitchler ran for the Illinois State Senate in 1964 and won and held that office until 1980. While in office, Mitchler fought for smaller government and lower taxes, and was a champion for Illinois' veterans. Mitchler also voted several times against the Equal Rights Amendment. He spent the rest of his working career as a liaison officer with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
In 1994 Illinois State Comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch emerged as the Democratic candidate for governor after a spirited primary election. She lost to incumbent Governor Jim Edgar by a wide margin in the November 1994 election.
James 'Pate' Philip served in the Illinois House of Representatives from 1966 to 1974, and in the Illinois Senate from 1975 to 2002, when he retired. Senator Philip hailed from the Republican stronghold of DuPage County, and for most of his years in the Senate (1981-2002) he served as the leader of the Republican caucus. In 1993, after the Republicans won control of state redistricting, he became Senate President. During his tenure as the Republican leader, Philip developed a reputation for being a 'straight-talking Marine.' He consistently fought for fiscal responsibility, was a traditional conservative on such issues as the Equal Rights Amendment, gun control, crime and the death penalty, and was a strong advocate for the interests of the Chicago suburbs and downstate. Also present during the interview was Carter Hendren, Senator Philip's chief of staff during his long tenure in the Senate.
Philip Rock served as an Illinois State Senator representing the 8th District in Chicago for over twenty years. From 1979-1993, he was the Senate's top Democrat, serving as the longest running President of the Senate and Majority Leader than anyone in the history of Illinois. Of particular interest are Rock's discussions of his relationship with Governor Edgar's administration and his impressions of other key legislative leaders of that time
Mike Rotello was a politician from Rockford, Illinois who served at all levels of local and state government. A Democrat, Mike was first elected to the Rockford City Council in 1975 where he served until 1982 when he was elected Winnebago County Auditor. In 1990, Rotello was elected as State Representative for the 67th legislative district. He served two terms in the Illinois General Assembly. In 1997, Rotello switched his political party affiliation to Republican. He spent the remainder of his public career working for the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Illinois Department of Commerce. Following his retirement, Rotello resides in Loves Park, Illinois.
Senator Frank Watson (Republican) served as the Minority Leader in the Illinois State Senate during some of the state's most politically volatile years, coinciding with Rod Blagojevich's years as governor. Watson, from the southern Illinois town of Greenville, was a vocal and powerful advocate on educational issues, and voted as a fiscal hawk and social conservative throughout his career, which began in the IL House in 1978. He suffered a stroke in October, 2008, and finished his time in the Senate during the Blagojevich impeachment trial in January, 2009. Watson also shares his memories of Barack Obama when he was in the Illinois State Senate.