State Rep. Ken Dunkin, an African-American Democrat whose district goes from "the Gold Coast to the Soul Coast" in Chicago, is bucking House Speaker Mike Madigan and calling on his fellow House Democrats to exercise independent thought to foster a deal on the state budget. Dunkin discussed with Dan & Amy the press conference he had after Gov. Rauner's State of the State Address where he brought a backpack and a sleeping bag and suggested he was prepared to stay in Springfield and sleep outside of Madigan's office until the Speaker stopped his "shenanigans" and started negotiating with Gov. Rauner.
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Dan: Dan and Amy show. Yesterday after Governor Rauner's State of the State Address, there was a lot of reaction from legislators including Madigan. But there was also a press conference yesterday afternoon by someone I describe as a renegade. Amy: He's [inaudible]. Dan: Democrat Illinois State Rep. His name is Ken Dunkin, from Chicago. Amy: You know, we spoke about him yesterday. Charles Thomas was on the air and you said that he was going to have a big press conference at 3 o'clock. Dan: And he did. And he showed up like he was preparing to climb Mt. Everest. Amy: I thought I'd seen 'Out of the Wild.' The movie? Dan: Yes. Right. 'Into the Wild.' A sleeping bag, backpack. . . Amy: Canned goods. Dan: Yeah. He's ready to camp out in Springfield until a budget's done saying, and I'm quoting from Natasha Korecki: "'We should not be held hostage to Michael Madigan's political shenanigans,' said Rep. Ken Dunkin" He also said this according to Scott Forek, it's over at the Sun-Times: "Waiting for Mike Madigan is plantation mentality." Amy: Oohh. Dan: I like them. Those are fighting words. All right, let's talk to the source. He is State Representative Ken Dunkin, from Illinois 5th District. Rep. Dunkin, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it. Rep. Ken Dunkin: Good morning, good morning. Thank you for having me. Dan: And so I don't understand where do you get off thinking that as a Democrat State Legislator, you're allowed to think independently from Mike Madigan. Rep. Ken Dunkin: You're right. What's a concept? And that's the part of the problem with us. The 71 of us here in the House of the Representatives. And there's no moving unless Mike Madigan greenlights it. There's no legislation that's moving, no negotiation, there's no plan unless one person tells us what the next steps are. So I just think he's a major part of the problem that we're having with the state in terms about pension debt, in terms of some of this [inaudible] economy. We should be [inaudible] in every state around us in terms of job growth. [inaudible] should be well-funded even if for 45 years. And here it is, we're in the 7th month with no budget merely because he doesn't want to talk to the governor. The senate president, [probably to the?] governor. If you're fighting in your house and someone leaves the toilet seat up or the cap off the toothpaste and you argue about it, but you resolve it. His say is and I've been here for almost 13 ? years. I'm telling you what I see, what I understand I've been on the plantation for quite some time. [And I sit?] there. It's just now I'm scratching my head and saying, "What the?" Amy: Okay. Rep. Ken Dunkin: You know what? Listen. Amy: So, I understand your passion and I hear it in your voice. So you're willing to sleep out in Madigan's office, and you slept there last night, too I mean, but this could go on for months. I mean, it's been 14 years, really, since we've had a complete [bounced/balanced?] budget. Rep. Ken Dunkin: You are absolutely correct. I'm willing to do whatever it takes. Now, me sleeping out in front of his office or inside his office does no one any good across the state unless other members are there. You know, are here with us, [the Springfield?]. The fact is we met for the first time in 28 days this year. Last year, after the regular session, special sessions, which were a joke, or a political [pardons?] [inaudible], we met maybe about 15, 16 times. Got nothing done. The speaker wants to go and maintain this teardown concept with the governor who multimillionaires tearing each other down, saying, "My way or the high way?" Dan: Well, let me ask you this, Rep. Dunkin. Mike Madigan was asked whether or not you should remain in the Democrat caucus in the house, and his response was: "That's a good question." Let me be the first to put down the Welcome carpet for you to come on over to the Republican side. We could use a few more legislators in Springfield. So what about that Madigan contemplating ex-communicating you? How do you respond? Rep. Ken Dunkin: See, that's a part of the problem. I'm a registered Democrat who happens to be able to seek independently of anyone [inaudible] of their political stride. And yes, I'm still 10 plus years into this. I've seen it all, I've seen enough. People will cross the state in my district, around the [inaudible] area, the [inaudible] bars, as well as the South Shore [inaudible] Community. From the Gold Coast to the [inaudible] Coast, they want to see solution. [inaudible] entertain anything else but that. Dan: Well, right. And so with super majorities and the general assembly of Democrats and with, as you say, Madigan being the speaker since the state was incorporated in the early 1,800s, and John Cullerton being there almost as long. I mean at some point, particularly your colleagues in the black caucus, and minority voters African-American, Latino voters in the city of Chicago. And the award, as you say, is from the Gold Coast and the Soul Coast I mean, the district from the Gold Coast to the [inaudible] Coast I mean the district from the Gold Coast to the [inaudible] Coast is you say that you represent. Is it time for them to consider stopping support for not only Madigan, but maybe for some of their own representatives who aren't willing to do what you're doing but just stand up to them? Rep. Ken Dunkin: You know, that [ultimate?] is going to be the deciding choice of the voter. Here's why members are [inaudible] and asleep: because the democratic part of Illinois, they [seem so comfortable?] for you, they [cuddle?] you in such a way that you don't have to think, you don't have to do anything because we would take care of your election [effort?], would've staved off any [challenges?]. When you're not forced to fight, you're trying to [inaudible] and you tend to neglect the citizens who's sitting you down there and negate them with various issues that you're saying that you're going to fight for. So with Mike Madigan being here for 45 years, he's creating a system that really speaks to a power that is [unpresent?] probably across the county. I mean, look at the red light [camera?]. [inaudible] with that situation and see who the players were in that. That speaks [inaudible]. Amy: Are you in the speaker's office right now? Dan: Yeah. Rep. Ken Dunkin: I'm next door. Amy: Okay. Look. But you spent the night there last night. How was it? Rep. Ken Dunkin: Well, we're in session right now, literally, as we speak. Dan: M-hmm? Rep. Ken Dunkin: And so tonight's going to be the night. I'm going to ask my members to spend the night on the house floor. Amy: Oh, like a sleepover. Okay. Dan: Oh, wow. All right, we'll send some canned goods. All right. That Rep. Ken Dunkin: No, we need something that's a little pressured than a can. Dan: How about S'mores? Rep. Ken Dunkin: When you send canned goods, send a can opener. Dan: Okay. Yeah, of course. Yes, right, yeah. Well, obviously, members of the General Assembly can't fund for themselves. They can't survive in the wild, we know that. You've got your housecats. I get it. You've got to be fed. Rep. Ken Dunkin: Right. Yeah. Dan: So Rep. Dunkin, now, one of the issues, and this has been pointed out by Democrats, is you're facing a primary challenge and you're getting independent expenditure support from Super PAC run by a Democrat, but somebody that's received funding from [inaudible] or allies. So are you just pretending to be an independent thinker because you've got a primary and you're being supported by allies of Rauner's or how do you respond to that charge? Rep. Ken Dunkin: I have the choice to do whatever Madigan wanted to have me do back in September, back in October, and November. I chose to put people before politics. Remember, all I had to do was to vote like Madigan wanted me to vote. Do what he told me to do. I picked the choice of [inaudible]. "Governor, release this money. This $2B for our disabled community, for our childcare assistance program, and our senior tour, homebound, and who are living in nursing homes." I chose those three categories over at the party. When a governor kept his word and released that, over $2BñI said, "I'm sitting with the people." And for some reason, that was so offensive to the Democratic Party and Mike Madigan. That, I guess [inaudible] preoccupied. Let me say this Amy: Well, you kicked the hornet's nest. Dan: Well, and he destroyed the narrative of Mike Madigan. Rep. Ken Dunkin: Exactly. No, he's overrated in a lot of categories. If members realize that it's okay to think, to fight, and to come up with new ideas and by the way, most of us [take?] money from any and everybody. We don't care if it's tobacco, liquor money, if it is from grandmother, or the guy on the street corner. We're having a fundraiser and we want support. I get that it shouldn't be a bad word compared to Mike Madigan's [inaudible]. Or [inaudible] or anyone else. [inaudible] we're on the same [inaudible] situation down here. Mike Madigan hosted a fundraiser for Dennis Hastert. Excuse me, for John Boehner. A few years ago. Dan: Yeah. And actually, he tried to get $500,000 in state funds to build a statue to Dennis Hastert. So that might Rep. Ken Dunkin: Isn't that something? Dan: Yeah. Rep. Ken Dunkin: So again, the [Parson politics?], it is really for the amateurs. The real deal for the elected officials I don't care what your [inaudible] is. Do right about the people in this state. If you know what's falling off [a pistol cliff?], let's come up with solutions together. Dan: Well Rep. Ken Dunkin: If you know when you can improve our public education across the state, do the right thing. Dan: Speaking Rep. Ken Dunkin: That's all about that. Dan: Speaking of public education particularly in Chicago, if I'm recalling correctly, you were a yes-vote for James Meeks's school choice bill back a few years ago. And so I wonder how you react to what's going on at CPS. The prospect of bankruptcy, they tried to do a $875M bond issue, they had to postpone it because they're junk-rated and the bond market basically spit it back out. What should be done about CPS in addition or something on the order of what the governor has proposed or something else? Rep. Ken Dunkin: I believe that every governor, every new-and-coming governor should have the right should have a honeymoon period. To see what it is that the majority of the people who elected this person can do. So we can [give on?] some things such as school funding reform, pension reform we know we have to address that. I don't have a problem with it. And part of the challenge is we have been sitting still at the same [inaudible], at the same rate, waiting on our leader, our so-called leader, Mike Madigan, to do XYZ and to tell us all the great ideas with very little or limited input and with worth the same level. Imagine was it Chase and Citibank, Citigroup rejecting the ability to buy our bonds. [inaudible] deal because if the bonds fail, our [inaudible], we're on the hook for all of his [debt?]. That is [unprecedented]. Unheard of in our city, in our state's history. So that speaks to a structural change that has to occur. [inaudible] and have that because the unions control most of the actions down here. And the speaker conveniently uses them when he wants to attack opponents who will [start?] different ideas, different you pay apple, I pay banana. That's the [inaudible]. [inaudible] this is his money and he's the smartest man in the room all the time. Dan: He is State Representative Ken Dunkin, Democrat, for Illinois 5th District. Democrat for now but my offer to come over to the Republican Party stands. So you think about that. State Representative Ken Dunkin, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate your time. Rep. Ken Dunkin: Thank you so much. Good morning. Amy: He joined us on our [inaudible].