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Gutierrez: Madigan shouldn't back Republicans masquerading as Democrats

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Democratic U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez said Wednesday he did not regret crossing party lines to endorse the failed re-election bid of state Rep. Angelo "Skip" Saviano, instead criticizing Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan for supporting Saviano's challenger.

Saviano, an Elmwood Park Republican, succumbed to a well-funded onslaught orchestrated by Madigan. Asked if his stand on behalf of Saviano would hurt his relationship with Madigan, Gutierrez replied by criticizing the speaker and state Democratic boss for running Kathleen Willis against Saviano.

Willis had voted Republican in the past and did not grant media interviews during her campaign, while Madigan spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to get her elected.

"I would hope in the future they don't pick a Republican in a Democratic slot," Gutierrez told the Chicago Sun-Times. "Nobody knows who she is today, and I don't think we will learn much about her soon. She wouldn't even talk to you."

But Gutierrez chafed at the suggestion that Saviano's loss could mean his own influence was diminished. The congressman said he had spent most of the final weeks of the campaign working for President Obama's re-election effort in Colorado, Ohio and Florida, doing relatively little for Saviano.

Gutierrez surprised many local political observers by appearing with Saviano to endorse him just days before the election. On Wednesday, Gutierrez said he did so purely because Saviano has backed immigration reform measures, adding that he had not expected his endorsement to sway the outcome of the race in the 77th Illinois House district.

Gutierrez said: "Did I take a few minutes to endorse a friend of our immigrant communities? Yes, but this is a heavily Democratic district. This wasn't a fair contest. Droves of Democrats came out for Barack Obama. You don't change events a week before an election, but you do stand for principle, and not enough people do that in politics."

The Gutierrez endorsement of Saviano was just one of several dramatic twists in the final weeks of the campaign--including the spectacle of a state senator being escorted from a candidate forum by a police officer.

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