Dunkin votes against Democrats' effort to challenge Rauner on child care

Thursday, November 12, 2015
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A democratic state representative has once again broken from the ranks of his party.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WLS) -- A Democratic state representative has once again broken from the ranks of his party - Ken Dunkin did not vote with other Democrats on a key bill in the budget stalemate.

State Rep. Dunkin is the most controversial lawmaker in Illinois.

"I am not a puppet for Mike Madigan, for the governor. I work for the citizens of this district and across the state," he said.

The Chicago Democrat on Tuesday did not support his party's effort to reduce the power of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner to change rules affecting who qualifies for state-subsidized child care. The Democrats, led by House Speaker Michael Madigan, needed all 71 of their supermajority to pass the bill. Dunkin is the one lawmaker who did not fall in line.

"The facts are people are sick and tired of us down in Springfield who are under the thumb of Mike Madigan," Dunkin said.

Dunkin said Tuesday's vote was pure politics because he negotiated with Rauner and convinced the governor to restore the child care benefits reduced last summer.

"We should be celebrating the fact that children can now go back to daycare," Dunkin said.

"The idea that I just issue unilateral rules day in and day out is pretty laughable," Madigan said.

The wounded Madigan - who said Dunkin has strayed repeatedly - was asked if he'll support the South Sider's re-election.

"That's something that we'll consider as we move along," Madigan said.

"He let the people down as well as the Democratic Party," said Andre Smith, a democratic candidate who has set out to challenge Dunkin.

Activist Smith has noted Dunkin's independence and has already launched a democratic primary campaign to unseat the seven-term incumbent.

"Ken Dunkin, he makes backroom deals and he's an undercover Republican," Smith said.

"I wasn't sent down there to be a Democrat, to be a Republican. I was sent down there to serve the people of my district and throughout the state," Dunkin said.

Dunkin insisted he has not been promised nor has he received personal favors from Rauner. He says only that partisan politics has run its course in Springfield.

"What's wrong with negotiating with each other whether you're Republican or Democrat? It makes no difference. People want to see functionable government," Dunkin said.

Dunkin says he's not the only democratic lawmaker who wants an end to partisan politics. The others, he says, are afraid to speak out - intimidated by party leadership.