State Rep. Lisa Hernandez steps in as leader of Illinois Democrats

A new leader is in place for Illinois Democrats. State Rep. Lisa Hernandez (D-Cicero) succeeds U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Matteson). (Dave Dahl)

By Dave Dahl

SPRINGFIELD – A new leader is in place for Illinois Democrats. State Rep. Lisa Hernandez (D-Cicero) succeeds U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Matteson), as some in the party – including Gov. JB Pritzker – said Kelly’s fund-raising abilities have been hampered by her status as a federal officeholder.

“This past week has been a challenging one,” Kelly said in a farewell address. “Honestly, this past sixteen months has been challenging in many ways. I know my vision for a new kind of DPI was shared by so many, and, obviously, I am disappointed I was not able to continue building the party we need in this state, especially when I had such little time to do the work.”

After the election, Hernandez praised Kelly and added, “Over the coming weeks, I plan to sit down with every member of the state central committee, our executive branch candidates, Democratic caucus leaders, committees for the two Democratic Supreme Court candidates, members of DPI staff, stakeholders to ensure their vision for our party is incorporated into the apparatus we will build to hold Republicans accountable and win in November.”

Committeemen and -women chose Kelly after former House Speaker Mike Madigan left the panel. Once Hernandez had the necessary votes locked up, Kelly withdrew, and members elected Hernandez by acclamation.

In additional state news, one of the elder statesmen of Illinois politics is optimistic about Democrats’ prospects, despite the continued presence of former President Donald Trump.

Former Congressman, onetime Democratic gubernatorial nominee, and former Southern Illinois University president Glenn Poshard says Illinois Democrats can withstand a red wave.

“I think we’ve got to look at the good side of things at the federal level,” Poshard said. “There’s been an infrastructure act that my end of the state needs badly. The governor’s done well in our end of the state. We’ve had several projects that he has come and supported.”

Poshard said Trump will remain a threat, though he believes Democrats will keep the White House in two years.

Saturday’s Democratic Central Committee meeting, at which State Rep. Lisa Hernandez (D-Cicero) was elected chairwoman, included some comments about how now-former chairwoman U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Matteson) surprised people around Illinois by showing up to see him. Former Illinois Senate president John Cullerton was asked about that point and the unspoken part that Kelly’s predecessor, former House speaker Mike Madigan, did not do that sort of thing.

“I’d think the former speaker would tell you the same thing,” Cullerton said. “He actually used the committee to benefit, primarily, House Democrats. I can tell you that, as being Senate president, we didn’t get a lot of money from the Democratic Party of Illinois. 

“So, that is just the role he played.”

Democrats will be back in Springfield for Governor’s Day at the Illinois State Fair August 17. Republicans’ political celebration is the next day.

Dave Dahl can be reached at


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