03/05/2021 08:17 AM EST

Presented by Chicago Medical Society

TGIF, Illinois. My “year ago today” photo feed includes Jill Biden and some of Illinois’ biggest politicos lining up for a pic March 6, 2020, followed by a voting-in-the-jails project featuring Rev. Jesse Jackson and reporting from a Bernie Sanders rally, both March 7.


Congresswoman Robin Kelly played phone tag with Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who also congratulated her on Twitter Thursday after she won the chairmanship of the Illinois Democratic Party.

And then she got down to business, meeting with staff, starting to form a transition team and learning for the first time that the party no longer has a Chicago office.

Kelly also shared a virtual high-five with Sen. Dick Durbin, who mentored her for the party leadership position.

“I’m excited. The idea of making changes and making it a different type of organization that’s transparent and active and has spirit — it’s something I want to do,” Kelly told Playbook.

Kelly, who was in D.C. Wednesday during the virtual Democratic Central Committee election, returned to Chicago on early Thursday and sought to “hit the ground running.”

She met with Democratic Party staff members for 45 minutes to get the lay of the land about operations. One big thing was discovering that former party Chairman Michael Madigan didn’t renew the lease in December, a sign, maybe he knew back then he would be stepping down. The party still has an office in Springfield.

Kelly is beginning to form a post-election transition team to work on her promised revamp of the party organization. Some names already on that team: Board of Review Commissioner Michael Cabonargi, state Sen. Cristina Castro and political consultant Scott Kennedy.

Cabonargi and Castro are members of the central committee that elected Kelly over Ald. Michelle Harris, who was backed by Pritzker.

Kelly said she didn’t know going into Wednesday’s election what the outcome would be. “I didn’t leave any stone unturned,” she said, referring to the calls she made to committee members who hadn’t made up their minds already. During the vote, Kelly said in our interview, “I was holding my breath."

She knew questions would be raised about federal rules that prohibit her from doing some of the "soft" fundraising for the party. But she was surprised that former state Sen. John Cullerton was so “forceful” in voicing concerns about it.

Her supporters weren’t moved by his fervor. Kelly won 18 committee members’ support (she also voted for herself, making it 19) and won the position 52 percent to 48 percent.

Interesting side note from Tribune’s Rick Pearson: “Kelly’s election also continues an abrupt shift for Democrats who now see their party’s largest organizations run by women, including two women of color: Kelly, becoming the first Black elected as state party chair, and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who heads the Cook County Democratic Party. Kristina Zahorik of McHenry County, leads the Democratic County Chairs’ Association.”

A message from Chicago Medical Society:

Doctors and hospitals are urging Governor Pritzker to veto a bill that would take millions of dollars away from patient care and put it in legal escrow for future malpractice claims. Members of the Chicago Medical Society are joined by their physician colleagues and hospitals across Illinois urging lawmakers and Pritzker to veto the bill. Now is not the time to punish doctors or take essential financial resources away from patient care in Illinois.



BYE, BYE, ‘BOSSISM’: The election of Rep. Robin Kelly as Democratic Party chair is another example of Illinois shift away from old-school machine politicians to a new-era of progressives, write the Tribune’s Bill Ruthhart and John Byrne.

Cook County Democratic Party bosses have seen a few losses, including that of Joe Berrios losing to reformer Fritz Kaegi for county assessor. The election loss of former Rep. Dan Lipinski, who comes from “a powerful establishment family,” was another sign that times were changing.

But “the most notable of all,” writes the Tribune, is Illinois’ most powerful politician, Michael Madigan, losing his decadeslong grip on the Capitol and state party, “felled by a bribery investigation and sexual harassment scandal that led 19 House Democrats, many of them new to politics, to push him out.”

The change is being driven by generational, ideological and demographic shifts, with federal law enforcement and organized labor providing major assists,” Ruthhart and Byrne report.

The result is a move away from “iron-fist bossism toward a more diffuse leadership structure that’s more diverse and practices an increasingly progressive style of politics centered on economic and racial equity.”

Have a tip, suggestion, birthday, anniversary, new job, or any other nugget for Playbook? Get in touch: [email protected]


No official public events.


At the Family Christian Health Center in Chicago at 11 a.m. to announce a new vaccine awareness campaign.


No official public events.


The Illinois Department of Public Health on Thursday reported 42 additional deaths and 1,740 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus disease. That’s a total of 20,668 fatalities and 1,193,260 cases in Illinois. The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total tests from Feb. 25 through March 3 is 2.4 percent. Chicago’s positivity rate is at 2.9 percent.


 BIDEN’s COVID AID BILL advances in Senate: “Republicans are setting up a grueling debate that appears likely to carry the partisan battle into the weekend. Early Thursday afternoon, Democrats rallied their 50 senators to kick off debate on their own version of the stimulus bill, a key test vote that demonstrated that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has the support to prevail in the end, whenever it may be,” by POLITICO’s Burgess Everett, Marianne LeVine and Caitlin Emma.

 Pritzker launches Covid-19 vaccine pilot program for overlooked areas: ‘It truly can’t come soon enough’: “Five federally qualified health centers and four safety net hospitals scattered around the state were chosen for the pilot program, including facilities in the south, north and western suburbs,” by Sun-Times’ Rachel Hinton.

 Army deploying 200 soldiers to support United Center vaccination site: “Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates once called the Army’s 101st Airborne Division “the tip of the spear” in Afghanistan. Soon, 200 soldiers from that division will be the tip of the syringe in Chicago’s fight against Covid-19,” by Sun-Times’ Tom Schuba.

 After initial glitches, thousands register for Covid-19 mass vaccination site at United Center, officials say, by Tribune’s Paige Fry and Gregory Pratt

 Vaccines may not end Covid worries, and other thoughts from Fauci during his talk in Chicago talk, by Tribune’s Lisa Schencker.

— Column: ‘Life goes on even without the people you care about’ and other reflections on a year unlike any other, by Sun-Times’ Mark Brown



 13 QUESTIONS with CPS CEO Janice Jackson a week after schools reopen: “As schools open widely for the first time in a year, Jackson sat down for a wide-ranging interview about the pandemic’s educational impact, families’ trust in the system and the outlook for the rest of the year,” by Sun-Times’ Nader Issa.

 Lightfoot explains why she stalled civilian police review: “The mayor argued that two pending proposals for civilian police review awaiting votes by the Council’s Committee on Public Safety had ‘significant holes in them.’ Critical questions left unanswered, she said, include the “structure of governance” and ‘issues regarding policy and who makes those decisions?’” by Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman.

 Dr. Arwady gives a thumbs down to St. Patrick’s Day parties: “We are not at a point where we can start having major St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. We are just not,” she said. Tribune’s Alice Yin reports.

 General Iron hunger strikers end campaign after one month: “Protesters say they’re disappointed Mayor Lightfoot isn’t showing concern for their cause,” by Sun-Times’ Brett Chase.

 Louder Than A Bomb founder ousted: Kevin Coval is out, and executive director Rebecca Hunter resigned “after accusations that some top executives ignored allegations of sexual assault and were cultivating what one staff member called a ‘culture of silence,’” reports Sun-Times’ Madeline Kenney.

 Despite his disappearance, missing United Airlines exec sells Elmhurst home: “Jake Cefolia’s car was found Aug. 8 at the Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve in Lemont, and DuPage County Forest Preserve District’s law enforcement led searches of the forest preserve with the assistance of other agencies, said forest district spokesman Tony Martinez. However, nothing turned up at Waterfall Glen, and since that time, there has been no sign of Cefolia. In an unusual move, Cefolia sold the house in absentia in November,” by Bob Goldsborough for the Tribune.

 White Sox fans drink more than any other baseball fan base, survey says: Could it have anything to do with the fact that fans are bombarded by ballpark beer marketing from a number of breweries?” Eater’s Ashok Selvam reports.


‘Locking up a drug dealer will not bring my child back but it may just save yours’: "Pushed by families who lost loved ones to drugs, the Chicago Police Department quietly has begun to investigate drug-related deaths as potential homicides,” by Sun-Times’ Frank Main.


 Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro to step down next year: “Controversy has punctuated his recent time as NU president. He faced criticism in October from faculty and calls to resign from students after he issued a harsh rebuke of students protesting against university police and declined to disband the force,” by Tribune’s Elyssa Cherney.

 Midwestern universities makes plans for in-person learning this fall, return normalcy: “Some universities, including DePaul and Marquette, are planning to reopen campuses this fall, giving students better on-hands learning experiences while also providing much-needed financial relief for the institutions after college enrollment plummeted,” by Sun-Times’ Madeline Kenney.

A message from Chicago Medical Society:

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 Evanston aldermanic candidates debate mayor-council model, reparations at NAACP forum: “The city currently runs on a council-manager model, which means city manager Erika Storlie — appointed by City Council last fall — carries out City Council policies, prepares the city’s budget and supervises staff, among other executive duties, while current mayor Steve Hagerty serves as a political leader interfacing between the government and the community. Fifth Ward candidate Bobby Burns said he’s concerned transferring power from the city manager to the mayor could drive up the cost of running for mayor,” by Daily Northwestern’s Yiming Fu.

 Bourbonnais teachers strike over pay, insurance and retirement benefits after rejecting 9.5% raises: “The strike arrives after months of contentious negotiations, which hit an impasse in February, when the school board declined to accept a two-year contract offer proposed by the union’s bargaining team,” by Tribune’s Karen Ann Cullotta.

 Homewood planners vote unanimously against warehouse zoning for golf course property, by Daily Southtown’s Mike Nolan


 About 40,000 people just lost unemployment benefits in Illinois: “An improvement in the state’s unemployment rate has triggered an end to seven weeks of extended benefits for recipients of the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, according to the state’s Department of Employment Security. The change affects the self-employed and people who are unable to work because of certain health or financial consequences caused by the coronavirus pandemic,” by Tribune’s Abdel Jimenez.

 Illinois comptroller hopes outdoor events are on track for summer, indoor events for fall: “Citing numbers from the state’s tourism office, Mendoza said Covid-19-related shutdowns and event cancellations cost the state nearly a $500 million in tax revenue over the past year. Prior to the pandemic, tourism in the state brought in nearly $2.5 billion in sales tax revenue annually, she said,” by Capitol News’ Tim Kirsininkas.

 Spike in FOID applications in Illinois and some long waits on renewals: “With the pandemic and lockdown, FOID applications spiked from 13,629 in February to 36,762 in March. That spike was surpassed after the late May social unrest from 17,420 in May to 62,815 in June,” by Sun-Times’ Dale Bowman.


Illinois state Rep. Ryan Spain, participating in a House legislative session in Springfield, has been named chairman of the House Republican Organization.

Illinois state Rep. Ryan Spain, participating in a House legislative session in Springfield, has been named chairman of the House Republican Organization. | Photo courtesy Rep. Spain

PRICE CHANGE: The House Republican Organization has doubled its dues for rank-and-file members from $10,000 per election cycle to $20,000. “The new structure will help our organization fund the increased number of races we anticipate post-remap and will accommodate additional member services,” executive director Jayme Odom said in an email to members.

Along with the $20,000 fee for regular members, those in leadership will pay $55,000 per two-year cycle, and board members, $45,000.

The HRO has been in a restructuring mode for a few years — ever since former Gov. Bruce Rauner lost re-election. The group had relied solely on his financial support, leaving the organization hobbled when he left office (and eventually skipped town to live in Florida).

The HRO also named state Rep. Ryan Spain of Peoria as chairman, replacing state Rep. Tony McCombie. New board members include state Reps. Tim Ozinga, Dan Caulkins, Avery Bourne, Tim Butler and Charlie Meier. Rep. Jim Durkin, of course, is House Republican leader.

RELATED: The one place House Republicans want to be Trump-free: “Republicans are sounding the alarm that his attempts to meddle in primaries could hurt the party’s efforts to win back the majority,” by POLITICO’s Melanie Zanona and Ally Mutnick.



CATALINA LAUF, a pro-Trump Republican primarying Rep. ADAM KINZINGER (R-Ill.) in 2022, at Mar-a-Lago on Thursday evening, in the latest sign that Trump is serious about challenging his House GOP antagonists. Kinzinger has been an outspoken critic of Trump, even forming a political action committee to support candidates who take stands opposing the former president.


ANNA VALENCIA has been endorsed by state Reps. Eva-Dina Delgado and Margaret Croke in her bid for Illinois Secretary of State. Valencia, who is Chicago’s city clerk, has also been endorsed by Unite Here Local 1 and Congresswoman Lauren Underwood.


 Biden World gives a shoulder shrug to the raging culture wars, by POLITICO’s Christopher Cadelago and Meridith McGraw

 Trump appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot, by POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein

 The rise of the Biden Republicans, by POLITICO’s Zack Stanton

 GOP seizes on women's sports as unlikely wedge issue, by POLITICO’s Gabby Orr

 Vernon Jordan was a wise man in a town where almost every other wise man was white, by The Undefeated’s Michael A. Fletcher


THURSDAY’s ANSWER: Congrats to 17th Ward political observer Tim Thomas for correctly answering that the women who resisted school desegregation on Chicago’s South Side in the 1970s were known as the Bogan Broads, after Bogan High School on 79th Street. Thomas lived there at the time and says: “I remember vividly the Bogan Broads greeting buses of Black children every morning with racist chants. George Wallace would have been proud. Those images led me to work on Harold Washington’s 1983 mayoral campaign against Jane Byrne after she appointed one of the Bogan Broads to the Chicago School Board, replacing a Black member.”

TODAY’s QUESTION: What accidental catastrophe in the 1990s allowed Chicagoans to get extensions for filing their federal income tax returns? Tie-breaker: Who was the scapegoat for the tragedy — and who was the real culprit? Email to [email protected].

A message from Chicago Medical Society:

Doctors and hospitals are urging Governor Pritzker to veto a bill that would take millions of dollars away from patient care and put it in legal escrow for future malpractice claims. Members of the Chicago Medical Society are joined by their physician colleagues and hospitals across Illinois urging lawmakers and Pritzker to veto the bill. Now is not the time to punish doctors or take essential financial resources away from patient care in Illinois.



Today: Ald. Matt Martin, Calamos Investments CEO John Koudounis, former state Rep. Jim Sacia, 270 Strategies’ Lauren Kidwell, State Innovation Exchange’s Alison Leipsiger, Entertaining Co. President Wendy Pashman.

Saturday: Eli’s Cheesecake president Marc Schulman, city Project Manager Art Andros, and Executive Service Corps CEO Rachelle Jervis.

Sunday: Former state Sen. Tim Bivins, C Strategies CEO Becky Carroll, Kivvit Managing Partner Judy Erwin, property developer George Kalogeras, and Bloomberg editor Lydia Mulvany.