Democrat Ford suggests he's open to term-limits legislation
In a public statement, state Rep. LaShawn Ford (D-Chicago) recently said term limits would be one way to help bridge the gap with GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner on his calls for reform and possibly help end the budget impasse -- a rare departure from the usual Democratic Party protocols in the General Assembly.
Rauner’s administration has been deadlocked with Democrats on a variety of issues, including term limits and how to fix the budget mess. The past two years have seen a budget crisis of epic proportions in Illinois, with calls for term limits and redistricting reform exacerbating the strife, dividing the Assembly along party lines.
Moreover, Democratic state lawmakers traditionally have toed the line on these issues, marching in lockstep with House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago). Many Democratic lawmakers' silence on issues has, in a way, spoken volumes — to the point of becoming newsworthy material to a constituency that appears to be ready for changes and tired of gridlock in Springfield.
Thus, many did not anticipate that Ford, who has represented the 8th District since 2007, would bring up the topic of term limits while being videotaped during a public appearance.
Not only did Ford discuss the matter openly and readily on camera, but he did so with relative ease, readily weaving it into a conversation with reporters.
Ford wasted no time getting to the point.
“What do you think about term limits for someone like Mike Madigan?” he said. “I mean, that’s a term limit.”
“You would be for that?" a reporter said.
“I would most likely be for that, if we can figure out a way to make some compromises with the governor to help the people that I represent,” Ford said, nodding.
A CBS 2 TV newscaster in Chicago voiced surprise after the airing of the clip of this exchange.
“I’ve never heard any Democratic lawmaker express interest in term limits in an approving way at all -- and certainly not directed at the speaker,” the newscaster said.
Steven Yaffe, spokesman for the Illinois Republican Party, also commented on this unusual departure from the status quo in Springfield politics.
“It’s encouraging to see Democrats break away from Mike Madigan’s irrational opposition to any form of term limits and his unwillingness to compromise,” Yaffe said. “Democrats and Republicans alike should work together to pass bipartisan reforms that the people of Illinois are demanding.”
Ford, a real estate entrepreneur by trade, founded Ford Desired Realty in Chicago. First elected to the Illinois state House in 2006, he earned a bachelor’s degree in education, with a minor in political science, from Loyola University in Chicago. He also worked as a history instructor and coached basketball within Chicago Public Schools.
Ford’s highest priorities while serving in office, as described in his campaign materials, consist of improving education, advancing health care and improving community life and support for veterans. As a real estate professional, he takes a special interest in preventing foreclosures.
He also belongs to a variety of trade associations and civic organizations designed to support area youths and families, serving as a board member of several groups.
Recently, Ford weighed in on a bill introduced by a colleague, state Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago), aimed at increasing prison sentences for repeat gun offenders in Chicago. Raoul’s bill wouldn’t necessarily maximize sentence lengths automatically; rather, it would give judges more leeway in approving tougher sentences.
Ford said this week that tougher sentences may not be the answer and might adversely affect low-income defendants unable to afford lawyers.
Ford also expressed concern that Raoul’s bill could end up establishing a new set of mandatory minimum sentence durations -- even though the law is not intended to do so -- because judges might, in turn, feel pressured by constituents to go along with harsher terms to avoid public backlash.
“Because now the eyes are all on the judge,” Ford said.