(Greg Bishop, The Center Square) With the most recent lawmaker charged with bribery pleading not guilty, statehouse Republicans are critical of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s pre-election push to purge embattled Democrats.
After being indicted on bribery charges and lying to the FBI in a case related to the red light camera industry, state Sen. Emil Jones III, D-Chicago, pleaded not guilty Friday.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker had earlier said Jones should resign. Friday, after Jones pleaded not guilty, Pritzker doubled down.
“With a history like our state has had and with the desire that we now have to put ourselves on strong ethical footing, it’s completely appropriate to ask people who are now going to be engaged in defending themselves against these charges, to step aside while they do so,” Pritzker said.
Jones is the most recent of eleven current or former Democratic state lawmakers who have been charged with federal crimes in the past decade.
At the request of Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, Jones resigned from his deputy minority leader position and stepped down from committee leadership roles, but he is still a senator facing reelection unopposed on Nov. 8.
In his statement earlier this week, Pritzker also called for state Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Frankfurt, to resign.
“When people are accused of very serious misdeeds and in one case an indictment, it seems very appropriate to me to first allow the Senate to make a decision on how they will react and then comment on what I think should happen,” Pritzker said.
Hastings hasn’t been charged with any crime but faces abuse allegations that he denies. Hastings faces Republican Patrick Sheehan on Nov. 8.
Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, said in a statement the Gov.’s comments are nothing more than an attempt to “paper over his poor record on public corruption as he seeks reelection.”
“The truth of the matter is, he has sat silently by as Democratic legislators failed to even discuss, let alone allow a vote on many anti-corruption measures that have been filed in the General Assembly this legislative session,” McConchie said.
McConchie pushed for strong ethics reforms, including a constitutional amendment to allow voters to recall members of the General Assembly, and a measure that includes giving the legislative inspector general subpoena power without having to seek authority from an oversight panel.