On Dec. 30, 2021 a panel of local federal district judges gave state Sen. President Don Harmon a present that will last 10 years when they dismissed a lawsuit by MALDEF and the East St. Louis chapter of the NAACP. The plaintiffs’ complaints challenged the state legislative redistricting maps approved by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly.

Sen. Harmon can take further comfort in the fact that the decision was made by judges whose appointment to the federal courts were made by presidents who were Democrats and Republicans. That kind of bipartisanship is something that has eluded Harmon in the Illinois General Assembly. A bill reforming the legislative mapping procedures, including establishing an independent mapping commission for redistricting, was passed overwhelmingly in the State House in 2016 by a vote of 105-7. A similar bill was co-sponsored in the Illinois Senate by 37 members, including 18 Democrats. But Senate President Harmon allowed that bipartisan effort to wither on the vine without calling a vote on the bill before the last session ended in December, 2020.

Sen. Harmon’s efforts to style himself a progressive are hamstrung locally as the suburban vice chair of the Cook County Democratic Party. The party’s Central Committee has required a loyalty oath by current elected officeholders seeking re-election and prospective candidates across the ballot to support the candidates that leadership slates on the next primary ballot.

It is likely that Harmon will not have to concern himself with disloyalty in the Senate 39th District. As the party’s suburban vice chair and the Oak Park Township Democratic Committeeman, it is nearly guaranteed that he will again not be confronted by a challenger on the 2022 primary ballot. Without opposition, he will have little reason to campaign, but he will certainly receive contributions as a candidate. That will not only pay for Harmon 2022 signs and literature, it will pay for him to include his name on campaign signs for office when he isn’t even on the ballot; as he did in 2020. Remember the Biden/Harmon signs?

Will he campaign? He has reason to explain his platform on other issues confronting the 39th District, Oak Park, and statewide. There is the issue of tax reform, the state budget, the radioactive pension reform crisis, and so much more. Harmon could exemplify a political “Profile in Courage” and re-introduce legislation to establish a nonpartisan independent redistricting committee for maps to be drawn before the next decennial census. But that is unlikely.

Whether he chooses to still remain in office in 2031 or pass the power baton to a successor, the federal court decision made on Dec. 30, 2021 is a gift that will keep on giving.

Chris Donovan, Oak Park

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