The Worst Job in American Politics

Almost no one in Illinois had more resources to devote to running for governor than J.B. Pritzker. At 53, Pritzker is the billionaire scion of the state’s wealthiest family. His sister, Penny, served as President Barack Obama’s commerce secretary. The family name adorns the University of Chicago’s medical school, Northwestern University’s law school and the gleaming, Frank Gehry-designed band shell in Chicago’s Millennium Park, not to mention the country’s most prestigious prize for architecture. Four of the dozen richest Illinoisans are Pritzkers, according to Forbes. J.B. Pritzker’s share of the family fortune is estimated at $3.2 billion.

And yet when Pritzker started considering whether to challenge Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner in the aftermath of the 2016 election, he asked himself not only the questions that most would-be candidates do — Could he win? How would running affect his wife and children? His business? — but also a question most candidates never consider: Was it even possible to fix the state he’d lead?

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Illinois — the sixth-biggest state, by population — has seen its credit rating cut to near-junk status in the decade since the financial crisis. Its bonds are now considered as risky as those of Russia and Romania. Its pension system is in worse shape than that of almost any other state. Springfield, the state capital, has grown so paralyzed that Illinois’ own governor compared the state to “a banana republic.” And a bitter standoff between Rauner, a Republican, and Democrats in the state Legislature has left Illinois more than $7 billion in unpaid bills and a sense among the state’s residents and creditors that Illinois might not be governable anymore.

“The state is on the edge of financial collapse,” says Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, a good-government nonprofit in Chicago. What scares budget experts the most is that Illinois is facing a fiscal crisis even as the national economy, and the state’s, is roaring ahead. The unemployment rate in Illinois is 4.1 percent. “If there’s a hiccup in the economy, if there is something that’s unexpected, Illinois does not have reserves to basically weather any economic downturn at this point,” Msall says.

When my parents moved to the Chicago suburbs from Missouri in 1976, Chicago was still the country’s second most populous city. It boasted the world’s busiest airport and its tallest skyscraper. In the decades since, as the state’s finances have eroded nearly to the point of catastrophe, Chicago has surrendered its spot as the country’s Second City (if not the title) to Los Angeles. Its murder rate remains stubbornly high, even as those in other big cities have fallen. Companies and fresh college graduates continue to move to Chicago — but there’s also an unmistakable anxiety about the state’s future, even in casual conversations. When I returned to my hometown of Mundelein, in the far Chicago suburbs, last year for Thanksgiving and caught up with high school friends over deep-dish pizza and beer, one friend who’d just bought a house told me that he and his wife weren’t eager to stick around a state whose future seemed bleak.

Even so, Pritzker decided he wanted the job, and with barely a month to go, the governor’s race appears to be his to lose. An NBC News/Marist poll in August found Pritzker leading Rauner 46 percent to 30 percent; a poll conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute late last month had Pritzker up by 22 points. When Rauner won election in 2014, he spent millions of dollars of his own money on the race, but he can’t outspend Pritzker, who’s given nearly $150 million of his fortune to his campaign. (This time around, Rauner has contributed $50 million to his reelection effort.)

The question, it seems, is not whether Pritzker is likely to be Illinois’ next governor, but why he would want the job. Barring a sharp reversal in the polls, he is on track to coast into office. Once he gets there, however, he’ll be confronted with perhaps the most daunting policy challenges facing any governor in the country. Looming over the campaign is not just the question of whether either candidate has a real plan to fix the state, but whether anyone can. At times, the race has taken on an apocalyptic tone. “Defeating Bruce Rauner is critical to the future of our state,” Roberta Lynch, the executive director of AFSCME Council 31, the state’s flagship public employee union, where she’s worked for more than three decades, told me. “I can’t say I’ve ever really felt that way about an Illinois governor’s race.”

Unlike California, Texas or even Minnesota, Illinois isn’t a state with an especially strong identity. Chicagoans, as well as the millions who live in the city’s suburbs, tend to tell people they’re from Chicago, not Illinois. As Pritzker and his running mate, Juliana Stratton, a state representative from Chicago’s South Side whose self-possessed speaking style calls to mind Michelle Obama’s, roared past 8-foot-high cornfields on their navy-and-yellow campaign bus during a swing through downstate Illinois in August, they seemed at times to be reassuring voters not to give up on their home. “I have spent so much time with J.B. traveling this great state — and it is a great state,” Stratton told a roomful of volunteers in Alton, overlooking the Mississippi River, as if they might have doubts.

Tens of thousands of Illinoisans have already left. The state lost more than 33,000 people — more than any other state — last year, more than 26,000 the year before and more than 20,000 the year before that, according to census data. “I’ve got three brothers and sisters,” said Dillon Clark, a 26-year-old Democrat running for a state House seat whom I met during a Pritzker campaign stop in Taylorville. “They all live in Missouri because they get better jobs over there and they pay way less in taxes.” The state prison system is a big employer in Clark’s rural district. He counted more than a dozen prison guards who, frustrated by frozen wages and lagging back pay during the recent budget impasse have left for better jobs in neighboring states. “A lot of people are just unsure what the future holds for the state of Illinois,” he said.


The crux of Illinois’ budget problem is simple: State lawmakers guaranteed Illinois teachers, school administrators, bureaucrats and other state workers generous pension benefits, and then failed year after year to sock away enough money to pay for them. The state constitution, meanwhile, makes it almost impossible for lawmakers to take those benefits away. “You can’t promise what you don’t have money to do,” says James Spiotto, a Chicago consultant who’s an expert on state pension issues. “That’s what we did.”

The state’s paralyzing pension problems have been building for decades. In 1989, Republican Gov. Jim Thompson signed a law, late in his fourth term, promising state workers that their pension checks would grow by 3 percent a year, compounded, no matter what. This guarantee has proved enormously expensive, allowing retired state workers’ pension checks to grow faster than the rate of inflation. In the decades since, Illinois’ governors have made sporadic efforts to shore up the state’s pension funds and found their own ways to shortchange them, sometimes at the same time. Republican Gov. Jim Edgar, for instance, crafted a plan while running for reelection in 1994 to ensure the pension systems would be mostly, but not entirely, funded by 2045. But Edgar’s plan let the state avoid the pain of paying more into the pension funds right away by making the state contribute relatively little to the funds in the short term — while Edgar was still in office — and much more down the road. Decades of failure to save enough to pay state workers’ pensions are now squeezing the state budget. Illinois spent 23 percent of its annual budget on pension contributions in the most recent fiscal year and now owes its pension funds more than $129 billion.

Faced with pension promises they can’t keep, other states have found ways to renege on them, and that’s what Illinois tried to do, too. But unlike most other states, Illinois’ constitution stoically declares that pension benefits, once given, “shall not be diminished or impaired.” In 2013, Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, jammed a bill through the state Legislature designed to slowly repair the state’s finances. Among other provisions, the law scrapped the 3 percent compounded cost-of-living increases for some workers. But the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously struck down the law a year and a half later, citing the state constitution’s guarantee. In an opinion, Justice Lloyd Karmeier showed little sympathy for lawmakers’ efforts to cut pension benefits, calling the pension funds’ enormous shortfalls “entirely foreseeable.” While Illinois may find itself in crisis, Karmeier wrote, “it is a crisis for which the General Assembly itself is largely responsible.”

Rauner, a former private equity executive himself worth hundreds of millions of dollars, was elected in 2014 as a reformer who would scrub Illinois’ government of corruption and restore sanity to its finances. “Illinois has become the worst-run state in America,” he told The New York Times days before his election. “I can really shake it up in a way that a standard politician can’t.” Since then, Rauner has watched almost passively as Illinois’ finances have crumbled even further. He refused to blink during a standoff with Michael Madigan, the longtime state House speaker who’s become his bête noire, that left the state without a budget for two years. Illinois stopped paying many of the doctors, dentists and hospitals that provided care to state workers and Medicaid recipients. State universities saw their budgets slashed. By the time Republican lawmakers struck a deal with Democrats last year to pass a budget over Rauner’s veto, the state had racked up almost $15 billion in unpaid bills and nearly destroyed its credit rating. Illinois was forced to shell out more than $1 billion last year just to cover the interest on the bills it paid late.

“It’s heartbreaking,” says Senator Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the U.S. Senate, who has campaigned with Pritzker across downstate Illinois. College towns across the state have suffered because of the state’s fiscal woes, he told me. Cities like Carbondale, home to Southern Illinois University, which might typically have 50 homes for sale, now have 250 on the market, he said, as nervous residents flee. “I used to think it’s going to take us a decade to repair,” Durbin told me. “It may take longer.”

When I asked Pritzker to name the last Illinois governor he admired, he had to reach back two centuries.

Decades of inept governance have eroded Illinoisans’ expectations for their governors. Two of the three governors who preceded Rauner in office have gone to prison on corruption charges. One of them, Rod Blagojevich, is still there after being convicted on charges of, among other things, trying to sell a Senate seat after Obama was elected president. He won’t be eligible for release until 2024. (Pritzker was caught on an FBI wiretap, days after the 2008 election, talking to Blagojevich about the possibility of appointing him as state treasurer, a conversation Rauner has used to batter Pritzker again and again.) When I asked Pritzker to name the last Illinois governor he admired, he had to reach back two centuries. “It’s Governor Edward Coles, who really prevented Illinois, way back in the 1820s, from ever becoming a slave state,” he said. That was a pretty important turn and something that was courageous to do at the time.”


Pritzker isn’t the richest man in Illinois. That title belongs to Ken Griffin, the founder of a Chicago hedge fund and one of the most prominent Republican donors in the country. Griffin spent heavily to help elect Rauner in 2014 and has kicked in more than $20 million for his reelection campaign. But Pritzker is rich enough — he agreed this week to repay a $330,000 tax break he received for removing five toilets from a vacant mansion to lower its assessed value — that his campaign has had to devise ways to make him seem relatable.

While two-thirds of Illinoisans live in Chicago and its suburbs, Pritzker has made it a priority to campaign downstate, which is largely Republican. The strategy behind it is twofold, says Anne Caprara, Pritzker’s campaign manager. There are Democrats and swing voters — as well as Republicans frustrated with Rauner — downstate, clustered in the St. Louis suburbs and the small and mid-sized cities spread across the prairie: Rockford, Peoria, Decatur. But campaigning downstate is also a good way to reassure voters worried about electing another vertiginously wealthy Chicago businessman four years after sending Rauner to Springfield. “We took a philosophy very early in the campaign that we were going to send him everywhere,” Caprara said. “And I said to him when we first sat down, I think if there’s one thing that’s going to defeat the idea that you’re not gonna work hard or that you’re just coming into this as a billionaire and don’t bring something else to the table, it’s going to be having people actually meet you.”

Pritzker doesn’t seem like a billionaire on the campaign trail. He’s a big man, with dark, almost preternaturally thick hair slightly flecked with gray, and his girth somehow makes him seem less like one of the country’s richest men. With his booming voice, he almost could pass for a local union boss, if not for the Apple Watch on his wrist.

Pritzker’s great-grandfather, Nicholas Pritzker, was a Jewish Ukrainian immigrant who arrived in Chicago with his parents as a child in 1881 and later founded the law firm that began to build the Pritzker fortune. Pritzker and his descendants spent nearly a century assembling a far-reaching empire that included, over the years, businesses as diverse as Ticketmaster and Royal Caribbean Cruises. In the 1970s, the Pritzkers struck up a partnership to renovate the old Commodore Hotel in New York with a young real estate investor, Donald Trump. Trump later sued J.B. Pritzker’s uncle and the family patriarch, Jay, for $500 million in damages, accusing the Pritzkers of cheating him by using questionable accounting methods. Jay Pritzker responded by telling The New York Times, “If you want to see what kind of partner Mr. Trump is, read his book,” referring to The Art of the Deal.

After Jay Pritzker’s death in 1999, J.B. Pritzker and his siblings and cousins fought over control of the Pritzkers’ $15 billion business empire in a battle that was resolved only when they agreed to divide it among themselves. The arrangement turned even more acrimonious when J.B.’s 19-year-old cousin, Liesel, sued her cousins for cutting her out of the deal. The feud landed the Pritzkers in the pages of Vanity Fair in an article headlined “Shattered Dynasty” and was settled only when Liesel and her brother, Matthew, dropped their suits in 2005 in exchange for $900 million. The bitterness seems to have healed somewhat as the Pritzker empire has been subdivided among the cousins. Matthew Pritzker gave $250,000 to J.B. Pritzker’s campaign in June; J.B.’s sister, Penny, the former commerce secretary, told me she talks with J.B. several times a week to advise him on his campaign. “Frankly, that’s long behind us,” she said.

Jay Robert “J.B.” Pritzker was born far from in Illinois, in California, where his father, Donald, had moved in 1959 to help run the newest Pritzker business, the fledgling Hyatt hotel chain. Pritzker talks on the campaign trail about his early interest in progressive politics, spurred by his parents. “My mother was very progressive,” he told me. “And so many of the candidates that we were out advocating for were — back then the word ‘progressive’ hadn’t taken hold, so everybody called them liberal Democrats.” David Goodstein, the prominent gay rights activist, was a close family friend. Senator John Tunney, the California Democrat elected in 1970, sometimes slept at their house. Pritzker campaigned for Senator Ted Kennedy when he challenged President Jimmy Carter in the 1980 Democratic primary. After college, he moved to Washington and worked on the Hill for Democratic Senators Terry Sanford of North Carolina and Alan Dixon of Illinois. He met his wife while she was working for Senator Tom Daschle (D-S.D.).

Pritzker had little reason to return to California. His father had died of a heart attack in 1972; his mother, Sue, passed away after struggling with alcoholism a decade later, while J.B. was still in high school. So in 1990, he moved to Illinois, where much of his remaining family lived, for law school and stuck around after graduating from Northwestern. After losing the race for an open House seat on Chicago’s North Side in his early 30s, Pritzker devoted himself to philanthropy, in particular efforts to improve early childhood education, and to building a career in venture capital and private equity with his brother, Tony. He invested early in Facebook and other startups. His work brought him into contact with many of the businessmen who encouraged Rauner to run for governor four years ago. “Virtually everybody who’s been in the Chicago investment community has interacted with both of these guys for years,” Howard Tullman, a longtime Chicago businessman who’s the former chief executive of 1871, the Chicago startup incubator that Pritzker helped found, told me. (He’s also the brother of a Rauner donor, Glen Tullman.) Pritzker’s decision to self-fund his campaign has made their lives easier by letting them avoid choosing sides. “Everybody is stepping very lightly,” Tullman said.

Although Rauner and Pritzker are both part of the elite sliver of Illinoisans who are used to lunching in the wood-paneled dining room of the Chicago Club, their passing familiarity with each other hasn’t led to a gentlemanly campaign. Rauner clearly doesn’t like or even respect Pritzker. “He was one of the guys who sort of loafed it and didn’t really chip into the family, didn’t really help run the family business, where all the wealth was created,” Rauner told me. He doesn’t have anything against the rest of the family, he added. “A couple of them are supertalented and I respect them,” he said. “I mean, they’re very accomplished. He is not.”


I met Rauner one afternoon in Springfield, at a campaign office in what appeared to be an abandoned strip mall. He is 6 feet, 4 inches tall and rail thin, with blue eyes and thinning sandy hair. He wore cowboy boots, light-colored jeans, a Western shirt open at the collar and a blazer, as well as an enormous belt buckle engraved with the words “JACKSONVILLE, IL.” He looked a little like the actor James Cromwell did in the 1990s, when he played the police captain in L.A. Confidential.

Rauner has warned that Illinois faces a bleak future if he loses. In one of his TV ads, a narrator laments the power of the Democratic machine in Springfield. Then the camera shifts to a lone Harley-Davidson speeding down a rural road as a defiant guitar comes in. “In spite of the odds, millions of us believe in the future our kids deserve, and the possibilities of this great place we still call home,” the narrator says. The camera cuts to a close-up of the motorcyclist’s leather vest. A yellow patch on the left breast reads “GOVERNOR.” “Now, we have a choice,” the narrator says. “We can leave our future to the same corrupt career politicians, or we can fight.” The Harley comes to a stop and the rider’s black boot kicks down the kickstand. Then he whips off his sunglasses.

“I choose to fight,” Rauner says.

During his first campaign, Rauner talked about “bringing back Illinois” if he was elected — the same promise Pritzker is now making in his own TV ads. I asked him whether he thought he’d brought the state back in his first term. “Well, we’ve made progress on it,” he replied. “But we have a long way to go.” He clearly envies the Republican governors of neighboring states, who, unencumbered by Democratic majorities in their legislatures, have been able to pass more of their agendas. Three of them — Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Eric Holcomb of Indiana and Eric Greitens of Missouri — even cut an ad for Rauner last year in which they praised Mike Madigan, Illinois’ state House speaker, for “blocking Rauner’s reforms” and helping to lure jobs to their states. (Rauner’s campaign stopped running the ad after Greitens admitted to an affair; Greitens later resigned rather than face impeachment.) Those states have managed to get on what Rauner calls “the virtuous side of the cycle,” when, he says, cutting taxes and regulations leads to stronger economic growth. “Then you can cut taxes even more,” he said. Illinois, he went on, is stuck in the opposite kind of cycle: a “death spiral.”

Rauner often seems to be running for reelection not against Pritzker but against Madigan, who’s the longest-serving state House speaker in the country’s history. Madigan, who represents a heavily Democratic district on Chicago’s South Side, has served as speaker for all but two years since 1983 and is also chairman of the state Democratic Party. He is arguably the most powerful politician in the state. Rauner himself has made this argument, telling reporters last year that he was “not in charge” of the state’s government. He’s attacked Madigan during the campaign in terms that might raise eyebrows even in Washington, calling him “one of the most corrupt, corrosive elected officials in America.”

Without miraculously removing Madigan from power, though, there’s little reason to think Rauner’s second term would be any different from his first, in which Illinois’ intractable budget problems have grown only more dire. From 2014, when Rauner was elected, to 2017, the most recent year for which figures are available, Illinois’ unfunded pension liabilities rose by nearly $25 billion, hitting $129.1 billion, according to state data. When I asked Rauner why the state’s pension funds were in worse shape now than they were when he was elected, he didn’t seem to understand the question. “No, I don’t think that’s true,” he said, promising to get me some numbers. Alex Browning, a Rauner campaign spokesman, later said in a statement that the governor had made “incremental changes” to the pension funds such as reducing management fees “that he plans to expand upon in his second term.”

Rauner is no longer running on bringing back Illinois so much as keeping it from getting worse. “A lot of businesses are holding their breath to see whether I can win or whether Pritzker wins,” he told me. These companies — which he declined to name — have “come to me and they’ve said, ‘Bruce, we’re here because you won. We’re here as long as you or somebody like you who’s fighting to make us more pro-business [is governor]. But if Pritzker’s in, we’re gone. We’re out of here.’ Many of those. I can keep them here by winning.”

“I feel like I’m the guy with my hands up against the dike,” Rauner told me earnestly. “My thumbs and fingers are all in the cracks trying to hold back the tidal wave of taxes and regulations and corruption that will just lead us to a bad future. Our children will not have a good future. That’s what’s at stake.”


When Rauner was first elected, voters in two other blue states elected Republican governors of their own. Four years later, Governors Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Larry Hogan of Maryland are leading their Democratic challengers by double-digit margins in their reelection campaigns, in marked contrast to Rauner. “They’re better politicians than he is,” David Axelrod, the Democratic consultant who helped elect Obama and who now runs the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, told me. “He’s so shackled by his ideology that he hasn’t been able to do anything.” Rauner’s unwillingness to compromise, Axelrod said, couldn’t work in a state in which Democrats held big majorities in the legislature.

So instead, Rauner has bet his reelection on convincing voters that Pritzker will raise their taxes without fixing the state’s fiscal troubles any more successfully than he has. It’s not a hard argument to make. Pritzker is running as an unabashed progressive, with the confidence of a Democrat running in a blue state in what’s shaping up to be a Democratic year. He’s endorsed raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and creating a state health insurance program modeled on the “public option” proposed by Obama nearly a decade ago. And he has called for raising taxes on the rich by replacing Illinois’ flat income tax of 4.95 percent with a progressive one similar to the federal income tax, under which people who make more money pay higher tax rates.

To sell the idea — which would need to be approved by voters because it requires changing the state constitution — Pritzker has promised to cut income taxes for “the vast majority” of Illinoisans, including “the middle class and those struggling to get to the middle class.” But he’s refused to say where the cutoff line falls between the middle class and those beyond it, or how much more wealthy Illinoisans would pay. His reticence has generated endless questions from the state’s political reporters and fear among the well-off voters of Chicago and its wealthy suburbs that their taxes will skyrocket. “They’re scared to death of it, because they don’t know what that means in actual numbers,” says Bill Daley, the White House chief of staff under Obama, and a former hedge fund executive, who’s running to replace Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

During a debate in Chicago last month, Pritzker dodged a question and three follow-ups from the moderator, Carol Marin, on what tax rates he envisioned under his plan, saying only that “we need to ask the wealthiest people, like Bruce Rauner and me, to pay a higher rate” while cutting taxes on the middle class. Rauner smirked next to him, ready with a riposte.

“Carol, Mr. Pritzker is dodging your question because he doesn’t want to tell the truth to the people of Illinois,” Rauner said. “He is proposing a massive new income tax hike on all the people of our state. He doesn’t want to talk about it because the truth is so painful and politically unpopular.”

Rauner was right in at least one respect. Illinois’ pension problems have festered for so long that any steps toward genuinely solving them — raising taxes, cutting state services, defaulting on the state’s debt or some combination of the three — will be, as he put it, “painful and politically unpopular.” While Illinois’ fiscal troubles have been building for decades, they have reached a breaking point in the years since the recession strained state budget. “The state’s depleted reserves, ongoing budget deficit, severely underfunded pension systems, backlog of unpaid bills, and lack of political consensus on how to proceed leave it ill-prepared to withstand additional stress,” Standard & Poor’s, the ratings agency, wrote in a recent report.

Illinois voters seem to sense intuitively that some measure of pain is inevitable. During one stop in August in Bloomington, a college town in the middle of the state, Pritzker strode into his storefront campaign office to cheers from around 70 Democrats who crammed in the long, narrow room, which had old tin ceilings and beaten-up wooden floors. Pritzker tore into Trump, as he had at other campaign stops, and “his silent partner here in the state of Illinois, Bruce Rauner.” But the state’s fiscal troubles were clearly on voters’ minds. As Pritzker worked the crowd after speaking, Michelle Sleevar, 48, an instructional assistant professor of education at Illinois State University with a freshly inked “Nevertheless She Persisted” tattoo on her right forearm, came up to ask a question. Would Pritzker consider taxing Social Security or other retirement benefits as a way to help balance the state’s budget?

Illinois doesn’t tax such benefits, but most other states do. Some budget experts have suggested it as way to help raise money to ease the pension crisis. But standing on the sidewalk afterward as it began to drizzle — an aide opened an umbrella and held it over his head — Pritzker told me he’d ruled out such a tax. He also doesn’t see the state slashing pension benefits to state workers — perhaps unsurprising, given that their flagship labor union has endorsed him. “I think the workers of the state have been put upon enough,” he said. The state will come up with the money, he went on, to pay them what they’d been promised if he’s elected.

Without any detailed numbers, it’s impossible to say whether Pritzker will be able “to finally get Illinois back on track,” as he says in one of his TV ads, or even to make the gargantuan pension contributions Illinois must cough up each year simply to avoid falling further behind. He has proposed ideas for raising revenue in addition to hiking taxes on the rich — legalizing recreational marijuana and sports betting — but he’s also called for spending more on schools and for cutting local property taxes. The state still has to pay off the billions of dollars in unpaid bills left over from the budget stalemate. None of that will be cheap.

When I pressed Pritzker on how he’d manage to make the numbers work, he suggested, in his easygoing way, that he deserved some credit for campaigning on the politically unpopular idea of raising taxes at all. “I’m sure there are consultants out there who would tell somebody not to talk about that,” he said. “But the reality is that people need to know what the things are that you need to do to fix this state, to get it back on track.”

Pritzker is betting, in essence, that Illinoisans are so sick of living in a broken state they’re willing to raise taxes on themselves — or at least on the richest among them. He wouldn’t be the first governor to win such a bet. In 2012, as California confronted its own crippling budget crisis, Democrat Jerry Brown staked his governorship on persuading voters to approve a $6 billion package of tax increases. The ballot measure passed, and California’s fiscal wounds started to heal. Brown easily won reelection two years later, and the state’s credit rating — which was weaker than Illinois’ as recently as 2012 — has rebounded.

So it’s not impossible. But Pritzker’s bet that he can bend Springfield to his will may not be any more successful than the same wager made by Rauner and so many others before him, Axelrod told me. “I think anyone who gets elected governor at this juncture in our history,” he said, “has to view it as a cause rather than a career.”

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Listen: Australia v New Zealand – women’s T20

Listen to live Australia v New Zealand commentary in 3rd women’s T20 international – Live – BBC Sport

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  1. Third T20 international, Canberra
  2. Australia have won the first two matches

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Nobel Peace Prize Awarded to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad

The 2018 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded on Friday to two campaigners against wartime sexual violence: Dr. Denis Mukwege, 63, a Congolese gynecological surgeon, and Nadia Murad, 25, who became the bold, dignified voice of the women who survived sexual violence by the Islamic State group.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said the two were given the award “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.”

Dr. Mukwege campaigned relentlessly to shine a spotlight on the plight of Congolese women, even after nearly being assassinated a few years ago. Ms. Murad, who was held captive by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has told and retold her story of suffering to organizations around the world, helping to persuade the United States State Department to recognize the genocide of her people at the hands of the terrorist group.

[Read about the struggles of Dr. Mukwege and Ms. Murad, in their own words.]

In a year when the “Me Too” movement has turned the world’s attention to survivors of sexual assault and abuse, the Nobel Committee’s decision cast a spotlight on a continuing global campaign to end the use of mass rape as a weapon in global conflict.

Dr. Mukwege works in one of the most traumatized places on the planet: the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

In a bare hospital in the hills above Bukavu, where for years there was little electricity or enough anesthetic, he has performed surgery on countless women who have trudged into his hospital. He has emerged as a champion of the Congolese people and a global advocate for gender equality and the elimination of rape in war, traveling to other war-ravaged parts of the world to help create programs for survivors.

“It’s not a women question; it’s a humanity question, and men have to take responsibility to end it,” Dr. Mukwege once said in an interview. “It’s not an Africa problem. In Bosnia, Syria, Liberia, Colombia, you have the same thing.”

In 2012, Dr. Mukwege delivered a fiery speech at the United Nations, upbraiding the Congolese government and other nations for not doing enough to stop what he called “an unjust war that has used violence against women and rape as a strategy of war.”

His advocacy nearly cost him his life. Shortly after the speech, when he returned to Congo, four armed men crept into his compound in Bukavu. They took his children hostage and waited for him to return from work. In the hail of bullets that followed, his guard was killed, but Dr. Mukwege threw himself on the ground and somehow survived.

He spent more than two months in exile but decided that, in spite of the risk, he had to return.

“To treat women for the first time, second time, and now I’m treating the children born after rape,” Dr. Mukwege said. “This is not acceptable.”

Ms. Murad was abducted alongside thousands of other women and girls from the Yazidi minority when the ISIS overran her homeland in northern Iraq in 2014. She was singled out for rape by the group.

Whereas the majority of women who escaped ISIS refused to be named, Ms. Murad insisted to reporters that she wanted to be identified and photographed. She embarked on a worldwide campaign, speaking before the United Nations Security Council, the United States House of Representatives, Britain’s House of Commons and numerous other global bodies.

Ms. Murad has said that she was exhausted by having to repeatedly speak out, but she knew that other Yazidi women were being raped back home: “I will go back to my life when women in captivity go back to their lives, when my community has a place, when I see people accountable for their crimes.”

Born and raised in the village of Kojo, in northern Iraq, Ms. Murad and her family were at the center of ISIS’ campaign of ethnic cleansing. Located on the southern flank of Mount Sinjar, Kojo was one of the first Yazidi villages to be overrun by ISIS, which launched its attack from the south on Aug. 3, 2014.

Residents were herded into Kojo’s only school, where women and girls were separated from the men. The male captives, including six of Ms. Murad’s brothers, were loaded into trucks, driven to a field outside the town and executed.

Next, the women and girls were forced at gunpoint into buses. Ms. Murad was taken to a slave market, where she was sold to one of ISIS’ judges. He repeatedly raped her, beating her if she tried to close her eyes during the assault. When she tried to jump out a window, she recounted, he ordered her to undress and left her alone with his bodyguards, who raped her one by one. She eventually escaped.

“Nadia refused to be silenced,” the international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who represents Ms. Murad, wrote in the foreword to Ms. Murad’s book. “Over the time I have known her, Nadia has not only found her voice, she has become the voice of every Yazidi who is a victim, of every woman who has been abused, every refugee who has been left behind.”

In 2016, she was named the United Nations’ first good-will ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. She recounted her life story in a recently published autobiography, “The Last Girl.”

In it, Murad writes: “I want to be the last girl in the world with a story like mine.”

In 2016, Ms. Murad was awarded the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, named in honor of the Czech writer and dissident who served as president of his country for 14 years after the fall of Communism.

In August this year, she announced she was engaged to a fellow Yazidi activist.

In giving the award to two champions for ending sexual violence, the Norwegian Nobel Committee decided not to give it to an unlikely trio that had been the choice of bookmakers around the world: President Trump, Kim Jong-un of North Korea and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, who took on the herculean task of trying to denuclearize the divided Korean Peninsula and have achieved a shaky détente.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons was honored for its efforts to advance the negotiations that led to the first treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons. The choice amounted to a blunt rejoinder to the world’s nine nuclear-armed powers and their allies, which boycotted negotiations on the treaty.

• Frances H. Arnold, George P. Smith and Gregory P. Winter were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday for tapping the power of evolutionary biology to design molecules with a range of practical uses.

• Arthur Ashkin of the United States, Gérard Mourou of France and Donna Strickland of Canada were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday for their work developing tools made of light beams.

• James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine on Monday, for work on unleashing the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells.

• The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science will be announced on Monday in Sweden. Read about last year’s winner, Richard H. Thaler.

The Nobel Prize in Literature has been postponed. The institution that chooses the laureate, the Swedish Academy, is embroiled in a scandal involving sexual misconduct, financial malpractice and repeated leaks — a crisis that led to the departure of several board members and required the intervention of the king of Sweden. Read about last year’s winner, Kazuo Ishiguro.

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Kavanaugh’s future hangs in balance with key Senate vote just hours away


Republican leaders are showing increasing confidence in the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. (Oct. 4)

WASHINGTON – The battle over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is nearing an end with a key Senate vote just hours away. 

The vote, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Friday,could pave the way for a final vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the high court as early as Saturday. 

Kavanaugh’s confirmation has intensified the polarization between parties as both Republicans and Democrats hurled insults and salacious claims over the weeks to keep public opinion on their side.

The vote on Kavanaugh, who is accused of sexual assault, has been seen as a test for the #MeToo movement and its results could reverberate into next month’s midterm elections. In the end, though, Kavanaugh’s appointment to the high court would tilt the balance of power on the high court to conservatives for years to come. 

Each vote in the razor-thin Republican majority will carry more weight than usual as Kavanaugh’s appointment will hold for life. Some key votes could come down to the results of an FBI investigation over accusations of sexual assault when Kavanaugh was in high school and college. 

Republican leaders were increasingly optimistic on Thursday about Kavanaugh’s chances as several undecided Republicans expressed initial positive reactions to the investigation.

Two Republican senators, Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, seemed pleased with the FBI’s 46-page report, but both did not say how they would vote. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, still has not commented on the report or given any signal on how she would vote. 

Every other Republican senator except the three has come out in support of President Donald Trump’s pick for the high court. 

But more uncertainty remains because there is one undecided Democrat: Joe Manchin of West Virginia. He hails from a state President Donald Trump won in 2016, and faces a tough re-election bid this fall. 

More: Brett Kavanaugh and the FBI report on allegations against him: Here’s what we know now

More: Inside the secure room where senators saw the secret FBI report on Brett Kavanaugh

More: Brett Kavanaugh says he regrets ‘sharp’ tone during Senate hearing, promises to be ‘impartial’

A vote would require 51 votes for passage – or a 50-50 vote with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a tie – as the confirmation vote. The Senate is split with 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats, so conservatives can’t lose more than one vote. 

An opinion piece authored by Kavanaugh in the Wall Street Journal could also sway some key votes. Kavanaugh took on criticism over his aggressive tone during a hearing last week with Christine Blasey Ford, one of the women who accused him of sexual assault. Kavanaugh, during the hearing, accused liberals of orchestrating a “political hit” on him and repeatedly called out Democrats. 


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In the piece, Kavanaugh regretted his “sharp” tone and wrote he’d said “a few things I should not have” during the hearings. He said the comments should not be seen as any type of bias and promised to always keep an open mind as a judge. 

“Going forward, you can count on me to be the same kind of judge and person I have been for my entire 28-year legal career: hardworking, even-keeled, open-minded, independent and dedicated to the Constitution and the public good,” he wrote. 

His confirmation would represent a major victory for conservatives, but it is less clear how the politics will play out moving forward. Control of the Senate and House of Representatives is up for grabs in next month’s midterm elections, which will be seen as a referendum on Trump’s first two years in office. If Democrats win a Senate majority, they will be able to block Trump’s judicial nominees for the next two years.

More: Kavanaugh compromise: Chris Coons, Republican whisperer, is ‘in the middle of everything’

More: Truth about Kavanaugh accusations hard to find as both sides hurl salacious details

The vote on Kavanaugh has also been viewed as a big test in the #MeToo era, which galvanized around Ford and Kavanaugh’s other accusers. But, the movement, born less than a year ago, had a major influence during the past few weeks, turning what had seemed like a cakewalk for Kavanaugh into what now looks like a razor-thin confirmation.

Kavanaugh’s nomination always was destined to become a partisan battleground because of the justice he was picked to replace: Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court’s swing vote, who had sided with his liberal colleagues on issues such as abortion, affirmative action and gay rights. Kennedy, 81, retired after three decades in the middle of the court’s ideological battles.


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Only two years earlier, liberals appeared on the verge of taking control of the court, which would have made Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg the leader of a five-seat majority. But Republicans refused throughout 2016 to consider President Barack Obama’s nomination of federal appeals court Judge Merrick Garland to succeed conservative Associate Justice Antonin Scalia. Then President Donald Trump’s upset victory kept the seat in conservative hands and the court divided down the middle.

Kennedy’s retirement in July gave conservatives the chance they were waiting for decades to achieve: a reliable Supreme Court majority capable of reversing liberals’ legislative and regulatory achievements. Kavanaugh seemed a perfect choice: one of the nation’s preeminent jurists, with 12 years and more than 300 opinions on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the stepping-stone for many Supreme Court justices. He had a solidly conservative voting record but was respected by his liberal colleagues as well qualified for the promotion.

Contributing: Eliza Collins, David Jackson

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The Forgotten Affidavits

WASHINGTON ― The day before Christine Blasey Ford testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh tried to rape her in high school, three friends came forward to swear to senators that she’d told them the story before his nomination was announced in July.

Their sworn affidavits were significant, since they indicated Ford had not made up her accusation just to smear President Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court. They were the first people aside from Ford’s husband ― who also submitted an affidavit ― to say she’d told them about what allegedly happened.

But the declarations got relatively little attention, as they were almost immediately overshadowed by another allegation from a woman who said she’d seen Kavanaugh at parties where rapes had occurred.

The evening after the three affidavits from Ford’s friends were submitted, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a key swing vote on the Kavanaugh nomination, said she thought they sounded important ― “like something I need to read and I am sure will come up at the hearing tomorrow,” she said in a brief hallway interview.

The affidavits did not come up during the hearing, except for passing references by Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). And Ford mentioned she’d told a few friends about what allegedly happened. But in the deluge of news that followed Ford and Kavanaugh’s testimonies, those affidavits from Ford’s friends have seemingly been forgotten.

Even with a crucial first vote scheduled for Friday ― which is partly a referendum on Ford’s credibility ― several senators seemed as though they’d never heard of the affidavits in interviews this week.

“I have not seen an affidavit to that effect,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), another undecided senator, told HuffPost on Wednesday.

“I’m not sure which affidavits you’re referring to,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Another judiciary member, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), said he didn’t remember if he’d read the documents. “This isn’t a test, is it? I’ve read so much stuff,” he said. After a reporter described the documents, he said: “That was her husband and some friends. I probably did. I’ve read a lot. If it’s a test I hope it’s multiple choice.”

Even Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the senator in whom Ford first confided, didn’t recall the affidavits. “I can’t think of it right now,” she said. 

In a followup email from her office, Feinstein said the fact that Ford had confided in these people “long before” the nomination meant the case was not a “he-said, she-said” as some have characterized it. 

If this were a court of law, this would be significant, but it’s all gotten lost in the partisanship.
Laurie Levenson, professor, Loyola Law School

HuffPost’s questions about the affidavits could fairly be described as having a “pop quiz” quality, since senators this week have been bombarded with questions about even more recent developments. But that doesn’t mean the affidavits are irrelevant.

“They are what we would call ‘prior consistent statements’ ― in other words, [Ford] was telling people about this before she had the alleged motive to fabricate,” said Laurie Levenson, a former prosecutor and current criminal law and evidence professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “If this were a court of law, this would be significant, but it’s all gotten lost in the partisanship.”

It’s not a court of law, but Republicans hired prosecutor Rachel Mitchell to question Ford during last week’s hearing. Mitchell listed several problems she saw with Ford’s claims in a memo to Republicans after the hearing, saying she didn’t think a reasonable prosecutor would bring a case based on the evidence in front of the committee.

One issue Mitchell raised was that Ford’s description of the incident had supposedly shifted. Ford told the committee she’d confided in her husband, Russell, about a “sexual assault” shortly after they married in 2002. But, Mitchell noted, The Washington Post reported that Ford had told her husband about “physical abuse.”

“When speaking with her husband, Dr. Ford changed her description of the incident to become less specific,” Mitchell wrote.

The affidavits from Ford’s friends and husband bear directly on whether Ford has told her story consistently. But Mitchell omitted those from her memo.

Russell Ford said in his affidavit that in 2012 his wife told him about a sexual assault she experienced in high school ― that she’d been “trapped in a room and physically restrained by one boy who was molesting her while another boy watched.” She’d told him the attacker’s name was Brett Kavanaugh.

Another friend, Keith Koegler, said Ford told him her story during a conversation about an infamous sexual assault case at Stanford University. She told him “she was particularly bothered by it because she was assaulted in high school by a man who was now a federal judge in Washington, D.C.,” Koegler said.

Rebecca White, one of Ford’s neighbors, said that one day in 2017, Ford struck up a conversation about a social media post White had written about sexual assault. “She then told me that when she was a young teen, she had been sexually assaulted by an older teen,” White said. “I remember her saying that her assailant was now a federal judge.”

And Adela Gildo-Mazzon said she still has the receipt from the day in 2013 when she met Ford for lunch at an Italian restaurant in Mountain View, California. “Christine told me she had been having a hard day because she was thinking about an assault she experienced when she was much younger,” Gildo-Mazzon said. “She said that she had been almost raped by someone who was now a federal judge. She told me she had been trapped in a room with two drunken guys, and that she then escaped, ran away, and hid.”

It’s not clear that anything would be different if the memos had received more attention, since Republicans have consistently said they think Ford is mistaken about what happened. According to that theory, these people are just repeating her mistake.

Asked about the affidavits last week, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the people didn’t really have corroborating information. “Those are not people who witnessed the alleged event,” he said.

Levenson said Republicans have set a high bar for corroboration. “Frankly, in these types of settings, you don’t get eyewitnesses,” she said.

Democrats included Ford’s friends on a list of people they thought the FBI should interview as part of its supplemental investigation into Kavanaugh’s background. On Thursday, though, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) complained that apparently none of them had been questioned.

“It seemed to me it would be reasonable for those four individuals to be questioned by the FBI,” Coons said.

Ford’s attorneys have also objected in a letter that the FBI didn’t interview her friends.

This piece has been updated with an additional comment from Dianne Feinstein. 

Jen Bendery contributed reporting.

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Nobel Peace Prize, Brett Kavanaugh confirmation vote, ‘A Star is Born’: 5 things to know Friday

Editors, USA TODAY
Published 3:10 a.m. ET Oct. 5, 2018

Trump, Kim Jong Un in the running for Nobel Peace Prize

The Nobel Peace Prize, given annually since 1901 to the person or group that has done the most to advance world peace, will be announced Friday at 5 a.m. ET in Oslo, Norway. As unlikely as it may seem on the surface, the prestigious prize could go to President Donald Trump.Nominations are meant to be kept secret. However, the website ranks Trump as second most likely to win, behind North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. The two leaders signed a sweeping, albeit vague, peace agreement in June that could lead to denuclearization.


Alfred Nobel amassed a great fortune when he patented dynamite in 1867. Worried about a legacy of destruction, Nobel’s will established the Nobel Prizes upon his death. Nobel’s will caused a lot of controversy both in Sweden and internationally.

Kavanaugh confirmation vote nears as lawmakers weigh FBI report

A procedural vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. ET Friday as senators weigh the results from the FBI’s background investigation into sexual assault allegations. The FBI investigated accusations by Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while they were teens in the early 1980s. It also looked into allegations by Deborah Ramirez that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a dorm party while they were both students at Yale University. Republican Senate leaders and White House officials said the FBI report, which remains tightly under wraps, revealed no evidence of wrongdoing — Democrats and protesters strongly disagreed with that assessment. In an opinion piece Thursday night, Kavanaugh said he regretted his “sharp” tone during a Senate hearing and promised to be an “impartial judge” if the Senate confirms him to the nation’s highest court. If the procedural vote passes, it could pave the way for a final vote as early as Saturday. 


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Jurors deliberate fate of officer who killed Laquan McDonald

Jurors in the first-degree murder trial of the Chicago police officer who shot Laquan McDonald resume deliberations Friday. They considered the fate of officer Jason Van Dyke for about five hours Thursday following closing arguments in the two-week trial but could not reach a decision. The October 2014 shooting on the southwest side of Chicago was captured on police dashcam video – long-withheld footage that strained already fraught police relations in the African-American community. The tragedy happened after Van Dyke approached the 17-year-old. Van Dyke is also charged with 16 counts of aggravated battery and official misconduct.

MLB players roll on with start of American League Division Series

The MLB Playoffs are in full swing. The National League Division Series began Thursday night and the American League takes the field with two Game 1s on Friday, starting with a pair of division winners as the Cleveland Indians face the Houston Astros (2:05 p.m. ET, TBS). The New York Yankees, who won their wild-card game against the Oakland Athletics, begin a new chapter in their storied rivalry with the Boston Red Sox (7:32 p.m. ET, TBS). The NLDS resumes with Game 2 between the Rockies and Brewers (4:15 p.m. ET, FS1), followed by Braves-Dodgers (9:37 p.m. ET, FS1).

New in theaters: ‘A Star is Born,’ ‘Venom’

Two potential Hollywood blockbusters are slamming into theaters nationwide Friday. In the Bradley Cooper-directed remake of “A Star is Born,” Cooper plays hardened musician Jackson Maine, who falls in love — sonically and otherwise — with undiscovered singer-songwriter Ally (Lady Gaga). USA TODAY’s Brian Truitt says the two “form an electrifying duo in one of the best movies of 2018 and the finest musical since 2002’s “Chicago.” In the Marvel Comics favorite “Venom,” Tom Hardy plays an amorphous, carnivorous parasite who slimes into the body of investigative journalist Eddie Brock (also played by Hardy). Here are answers to 10 burning “Venom” questions if you haven’t yet been bitten.

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More than 650 law professors urge senators to reject Kavanaugh

Brett Kavanaugh

“Instead of trying to sort out with reason and care the allegations that were raised, Judge Kavanaugh responded in an intemperate, inflammatory and partial manner,” the letter says of Kavanaugh’s testimony. | Jim Bourg-Pool/Getty Images

More than 650 law professors signed an open letter on Wednesday urging senators to reject Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination, citing “aggressive” and “partisan” testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee as evidence that he does not have the temperament required to be a Supreme Court justice.

“Instead of trying to sort out with reason and care the allegations that were raised, Judge Kavanaugh responded in an intemperate, inflammatory and partial manner, as he interrupted and, at times, was discourteous to senators,” reads the letter, which appeared on The New York Times’ website and will be presented to senators on Thursday.

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The letter concludes: “We have differing views about the other qualifications of Judge Kavanaugh. But we are united, as professors of law and scholars of judicial institutions, in believing that he did not display the impartiality and judicial temperament requisite to sit on the highest court of our land.”

That number jumped to more than 2,400 as of Thursday evening.

Professors from a number of top law schools signed the letter, including more than a dozen from Harvard, where Kavanaugh previously taught for a decade. There are also roughly a dozen signers from Yale Law School, Kavanaugh’s alma mater. The Times promises to add more signatures as they are submitted.

During his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 27, Kavanaugh said accusations of sexual assault and misconduct against him amounted to a “political hit job,” and he lambasted Senate Democrats for their role in the process. He also mused that the allegations were brought up because of “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.”

“And as we all know, in the United States political system of the early 2000s, what goes around comes around,” Kavanaugh said during his 45-minute opening statement.

Kavanaugh worked with independent counsel Ken Starr on the investigation that led to President Bill Clinton‘s impeachment, including drafting explicit questions about a sexual relationship.

The letter comes as senators are reportedly going to be able to read about the FBI’s supplemental investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh early Thursday morning. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has chastised Senate Democrats for delaying the final vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation and has vowed to begin procedural votes this week, with a final vote potentially coming over the weekend.

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