At least Illinois Senate President JOHN CULLERTON, D-Chicago, is glad that Gov. PAT QUINN is of the same political party.

At least Illinois Senate President JOHN CULLERTON, D-Chicago, is glad that Gov. PAT QUINN is of the same political party.

Beyond that, he didn’t exactly gush praise for Quinn when asked, at an editorial board meeting at The State Journal-Register this week, about Quinn’s level of involvement with the General Assembly’s leaders.

“Well, it’s not his strength to work with the legislature,” Cullerton said. “Obviously, he’s got a history of fighting the legislature, right?”

Yes, some of us still remember the crusading Quinn who three decades ago fought for and helped pass a constitutional amendment reducing the size of the House from 177 to the current 118 members.

“It’s hard to be objective because I’m one of the legislative leaders, but I think the speaker (House Speaker MICHAEL MADIGAN, D-Chicago) and I work very well together,” Cullerton added. “I’ve been here (as president) just a little over three years, and I think that most of the accomplishments that we have had emanated from the legislature, rather than from the governor.”

Still, he said, “It’s nice to have a governor who’s philosophically in your party, and you know … for the most part you’re not going to fight him on vetoes.”

Cullerton said the multibillion-dollar capital bill was “clearly something that came from the legislature” and was the “first big thing” he and Senate GOP Leader CHRISTINE RADOGNO of Lemont worked on together. He mentioned ethics, pension reform, procurement rules and freedom-of-information changes among other accomplishments. He said Sen. KIMBERLY LIGHTFORD, D-Maywood, led talks yielding major education reforms, and he said the end of the death penalty and establishment of civil unions in Illinois “were very personal to legislators,” though they were signed by the governor.

Hey, Quinn did appear on the Senate floor as the civil unions bill passed.

“I’d rather have a Democratic governor there than a Republican governor who philosophically would have vetoed those things,” Cullerton said.

He also said that Quinn’s recent naming of former state Transportation Secretary GARY HANNIG as his director of legislative affairs has been a “big help.”

“Gary Hannig is a former legislator, and he’s in his (Quinn’s) inner circle. I think that’s going to prove to be a good move,” Cullerton said.

Madigan recently spoke publicly about the strong negotiating tactics used by some previous governors.

“Well,” Cullerton said of Quinn, “he’s different than those other governors. I think it’s a weakness, if you will. But he’s hopefully getting better.”

ANNIE THOMPSON, spokeswoman for Quinn, said in response that Quinn is “very proud of the people of Illinois.”

“The governor believes, as RONALD REAGAN said, there’s no limit to what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit,” Thompson said.

International story hits home
An international story with personal impact back home has been the situation in Egypt, where the government there has accused 19 Americans of illegally operating in that country and receiving funds from abroad without permission from Egyptian authorities for their human-rights and pro-democracy groups.

SAM LaHOOD, son of U.S. Secretary of Transportation RAY LaHOOD — a former congressman from Peoria who represented part of Springfield — is one of the Americans facing possible trial. He’s Egypt director of the Washington, D.C.-based International Republican Institute, which along with another American group, the National Democratic Institute, monitored Egypt’s recent parliamentary elections. The IRI is a well-established organization that has helped observe elections in other countries as well, so it’s understandable that the United States is responding strongly to these allegations.

Secretary of State HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON has said the case could jeopardize U.S. aid to Egypt. Certainly, it has also created angst for the LaHood family and people who know them. Add my best wishes for a quick and safe resolution.

Another LaHood son, state Sen. DARIN LaHOOD, R-Dunlap, wasn’t at liberty to talk about that situation.

But I did ask about a political subject that just happens to be interesting — his place on the March 20 GOP primary ballot as a candidate to be a Republican National Convention delegate for NEWT GINGRICH from the new 18th Congressional District.

Not only is Sen. LaHood’s father the only Republican in the Cabinet of President BARACK OBAMA, but the elder LaHood, when he first won a seat in Congress in 1994, didn’t get on the Gingrich bandwagon because he wouldn’t sign the Gingrich-backed “Contract with America.”
Gingrich got more than 300 GOP House candidates to sign onto that contract, but Ray LaHood at the time thought it was wrong to promise tax cuts before enacting a good deficit-reduction plan.

“Like most political families, we have disagreements,” Sen. LaHood told me last week. He said this year, Gingrich “represents the best conservative philosophy in terms of dramatically changing the course our country’s on right now.” He called Gingrich “visionary,” and said he wasn’t worried about the potentially explosive nature of some of Gingrich’s comments.

“I think people made those same arguments when Ronald Reagan was running in 1976 and 1980,” Sen. LaHood said, which kept Reagan from getting support of “a lot of the establishment.”

“I think Gingrich will be our best advocate for changing the country,” he said.

Bernard Schoenburg is political columnist for The State Journal-Register. He can be reached at 788-1540 or bernard.schoenburg@sj-r.com.