Our View: All candidates for elected office should follow two golden rules when they propose reforms: one, avoid exposing yourself to the charge of hypocrisy; and two, avoid costing taxpayers more money.
Illinois Democratic state representative candidate Paula Basta recently violated both.
On Valentine’s Day, Basta, who is challenging appointed State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) in the March 20, 2012 Democratic primary for the seat previously held by now-48th Ward Ald. Harry Osterman, rolled out a 178-word legislative ethics plan or about seven tweets worth. That plan called for, among other things, the scraping of a state law that permits elected party leaders to appoint lawmakers when a vacancy occurs.
“When a vacancy occurs, allow voters to fill that vacancy rather than letting party bosses make their own appointment,” Basta states in her plan.
Basta was among 20 individuals who sought to cozy up to the “party bosses” to win the appointment to Osterman’s seat in May 2011. Nothing seemed unethical to the long-time lesbian activist at the time.
What changed? She lost the appointment to Cassidy. There’s the hypocrisy.
Now, there is, in principle, democratic merit to Basta’s idea of allowing voters to choose a replacement lawmaker in a special election if a vacancy occurs. But the real world problem is money. Elections cost taxpayer money. Lots of money.
While Cook County per vote cost data is scarce, DuPage County taxpayers, for example, paid $4.57 per vote in the 2008 primary and $5.54 in the general election. And in 2009, a special Democratic, Republican, Green primary election for Rahm Emanuel’s former House seat brought out 4,952 and 7,778 voters in two North Side wards, the 44th and 45th respectively, which would nearly equal voter turnout in a state house district. And 7,535 voters in those two wards turned out for the special general election.
At $5 per voter, a special primary and general election for a state house lawmaker could cost taxpayers $101,325. And in 2011, four Cook County lawmakers left the House early. Under Basta’s plan, local taxpayers would have been stuck with a bill of more than $400,000 for four special elections. Granted, these are rough numbers. But you get the idea.
Meanwhile, under the current law that authorizes vacancies to be filled by appointment, the cost to taxpayers is: zero.
Cassidy is facing voters 10 months after her appointment. They will quickly render their verdict on her appointment. Basta’s hypocritical and costly “ethics” plan is not worth a tweet.