Why Does Obama Want This Illinois Senator To Lose His Job?

Ken Dunkin is the seven-term Democratic senator in Chicago.  Last week, Obama officially announced his support for Dunkin’s Democratic opponent, Juliana Stratton. Why does the President want this small-time Chicago politician to lose his job?

Dunkin has become something of a problem for his fellow Illinois Democrats. He voted with Republicans on several key issues last year. His support for Illinois’ Republican governor Bruce Rauner has hurt his party’s negotiations. Illinois’ Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan wants desperately to end the gridlock in the Illinois legislature that is perpetuated by representatives like Ken Dunkin.

The President gave a speech in Springfield, Illinois last month, addressing some of his former colleagues in the Illinois legislature. Obama’s speech included a statement in support of bipartisanship.

Dunkin, mistaking this for praise of his voting record, jumped from his seat, exclaiming, “Heck yes!” to which the President responded:

“We’ll talk later, Dunkin. You just sit down.”

Afterward, Dunkin cut audio of this statement and used it to make it sound like an endorsement from the President in a campaign commercial. He also canceled a conference with the Chicago press after the President’s endorsement of his opponent. Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune speculates:

“Was [it] an emergency meeting between his mouth and his brain urged him to let the statement speak for itself and not risk blurting out something preposterous and vain, as is his wont, to draw further attention to the story?”

In an interview with GQ magazine, Dunkin deflected questions about how the President singled him out for defeat. He said instead that President Obama endorsed Rahm Emanuel, who many think should be recalled. The interviewer was confused about the connection and Dunkin said:

“The connection is that he made the wrong endorsement! Twice!”

The GQ interviewer gives the impression that Dunkin was upset that the President chose his race to focus on. When asked why the President has focused on him, his defensive answer was that Obama chose “politics over people.”

Featured image by Daniel X. O’Neil, available under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.