Kelly, Costello being seriously considered by Pritzker for appointments

The 101st General Assembly gathered in Springfield on Wednesday to take heir oaths to office and to select their respective leaders. As expected, Michael Madigan was re-elected Speaker of the House and John J. Cullerton was re-elected President of the Senate. Bill Brady was re-elected minority leader in the Senate and Jim Durkin was re-elected minority leader in the House of Representatives.

On Monday, state constitutional office holders, including Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker, will be sworn in to office ushering in an aggressive new Democrat agenda that includes raising the minimum wage, legalizing the sale of marijuana for recreational use, and to implement a new progressive income tax system.

But the interesting conversations taking place around the Capitol yesterday involved gossip about who Pritzker will appoint to various state agencies, boards and commissions. Many of these appointments are expected to be announced next week.

Several sources, including a few State Senators and Representatives who did not wish to be named, confirmed that St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly was on the short list to take over as Director of the Illinois State Police. Several of the sources confirmed they have spoken to current leadership at the State Police and the reaction was mostly positive. 

Kelly ran in 2018 for U.S. Congress against Mike Bost in the IL-12. Kelly, who had a lot of local and national support, fell short of victory and political insiders consider his loss a good indication that the 12th congressional district is strongly in the hands of Republicans. There is talk about Kelly’s ultimate goal of running for a state-wide office – or maybe U.S. Senate to replace Sen. Dick Durbin. Sources speculate that Democrats fear they are losing Southern Illinois and supporting a Southern Illinois Democrat, like Kelly, for a state-wide office may help them rebuild their party downstate.

Another name that keeps coming up for an appointment is State Representative Jerry Costello II. Several sources confirmed that Costello is likely to be appointed the next Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Costello II is the son of former Democrat Congressman Jerry Costello and currently serves as a Democrat in one of the strongest Republican state representative districts in Illinois. David Friess ran against Costello II in 2018 and lost by around four percentage points. Costello II is viewed in the district as a strong conservative and was backed by the NRA and pro-life organizations. However, the political winds continue to blow very strong against Democrats in Southern Illinois and he is likely to continue to face opposition again in 2020.

The timing of Costello’s appointment may not be immediate. A very good source confirmed that Pritzker is not in a hurry to remove the current director of IDNR and let it wait until the end of 2019 or beginning of 2020.

So, if Brendan Kelly is appointed director of Illinois State Police, who will replace him as St. Clair County State’s Attorney? The name CJ Barecivic keeps coming up in conversations. CJ is the son of former Chief Judge John Barecivic and the Democrat candidate for U.S. Congress against Mike Bost in 2016.