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'Crazy Eight' doesn't look so crazy now

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Back in the 1970s, a group of independent Democrats in the Legislature was called the "Crazy Eight" because the octet wouldn't fall in meekly line with the Senate leadership. They were anti-Machine Democrats who withheld their votes on key issues until they got their way.

In 1975, for example, the Crazy Eight held up the election of former Senate President Cecil Partee of Chicago for five weeks.

One of the Crazy Eight, former state Sen. Bill Morris, who now is a director of the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, says it's unlikely such a group could coalesce today in Springfield.

Bill Morris-72.jpg
Bill Morris

"Now, it is very different," said Morris, who also is a former mayor of Waukegan. "It didn't cost so much to get elected then. You could maintain some level of independence. Now, the [legislative] leaders control so much money, I am not sure you could have so many independents."

Back then, an election campaign cost $15,000 to $17,000, but in the most recent race in Morris' old district, each candidate spent more than $1 million, he said.

"You can't do it on garage sales and softball tournaments, which is what we used," he said.

Bill Morris 72.jpg
Bill Morris in 1985 after losing to Bob Sabonjian in a rematch for Waukegan mayor.

As for the other former members of the Crazy Eight, Vivian Hickey is in her 90s and still active politically in the Rockford area; Dawn Clark Netsch is a former candidate for governor and an emeritus faculty member at Northwestern University; Terry Bruce is chancellor of Illinois Eastern Community College in Downstate Olney; Ken Buzbee and Jeremiah Joyce are retired, and Don Wooten is semi-retired and doing a radio show on NPR. Vince Demuzio, who eventually became chairman of the state Democratic Party, died in 2004.

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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Frisbie published on August 1, 2011 12:36 PM.

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