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Thomas Roeser

Hynes lucks into hot issue

August 2, 2003

BY THOMAS ROESER

Politicians come in two categories. The first is the kind that makes its own way in vote-getting. The second, less common but vastly more interesting, is by inheritance. In Chicago, legatees abound. But even here, most must eventually paddle on their own--Rich Daley by winning for state's attorney and losing for mayor before ultimately winning the post; Lisa Madigan by slugging Joe Birkett to become attorney general.

Now we come to Daniel W. Hynes, the state comptroller. He is a prince, too, but of a different stripe. This prince, scion of a powerful Democratic overlord, is gingerly about risk. Can one loath to take chances win higher office? Perhaps he can, if he's also lucky. Last week luck came to Prince Daniel.

Hynes, 35, would not be comptroller of Illinois without being the son of Tom, former president of the state Senate, former Cook County assessor and committeeman of the 19th Ward. With relative ease, Hynes moved against a worthy but underfunded Republican to the position of comptroller. He wants to move to the U.S. Senate, but unlike other children of powerful people, Hynes is a very cautious type. Beyond calling for a ''rainy day fund'' to spare Illinois a fiscal crisis, he has been very quiet. Although he has announced his intention to run for the Senate, he hasn't mixed it up as have his competitors in both parties.

State Sen. Barack Obama, for example, has taken positions on all kinds of issues, as has Gery Chico, former president of the Chicago Board of Education. Maria Pappas is reportedly readying herself for a colorfully irreverent campaign. Blair Hull has said he'll spend $40 million. Until just recently, from Hynes there came not a peep. It was said he didn't have to. As a prince of the party, all he need do is file, hold a bland news conference and gather the Democratic faithful to his fold. There was talk that Hynes would have to do something more than this to survive in a wild and woolly contest. But he doesn't have to. Good fortune has come to him.

He is indeed a very lucky prince. With average folk these days, no group is less beloved than politicians. And recently, for a variety of reasons, opprobrium has come to judges. U.S. Supreme Court judges are viewed by many as wrong for either ''electing'' George W. Bush to the presidency or decriminalizing sodomy. The disenchantment gravitates down to state courts. Gov. Blagojevich helped himself immensely by vetoing a 2.8 percent cost-of-living raise for lawmakers and state judges. Hynes obediently refused to cut checks giving lawmakers and judges their cost of living increases. At first the Illinois Supreme Court threatened to hold not the governor but Hynes in contempt. The justices see it as a constitutional issue. Article 14 of the state constitution says ''Judges shall receive salaries provided by law which shall not be diminished.. . .'' They say the cost-of-living hike counts as their salary.

Can you imagine a better bonanza for a young prince than fighting a cost-of-living increase for judges--judges who are paid $127,247 to $158,103 a year? Especially when the state Supreme Court ordered Hynes to show why he shouldn't be held in contempt for refusing to obey? Editorials blossomed against the court. Then it buckled, vacated its order to force Hynes to pay up, and dismissed the case it had arranged to hear on the pay raise, allowing a lower court case to proceed through the judicial machinery.

And so the winner, even without putting on the boxing gloves, is Dan Hynes. If he had been as colorful, as, say, Pappas, he would announce that he would gladly go to jail on principle--like Thomas More. But young Dan won't have to do this. The judges will ultimately win this fight either in the lower echelons or in the Supreme Court, but their standing has suffered. Hynes' stature has bloomed. Satisfied with his stance, the media will continue to refrain from asking him pesky, issue-type questions. That's why cautious Dan is also Very Lucky Prince Daniel.





 
 












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