Brian Mackey

Reporter / Anchor

Brian Mackey covers state government and politics for Illinois Issues magazine, WUIS and a dozen other public radio stations across Illinois. He was previously A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. He can be reached at (217) 206-6412.

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Prisons
5:13 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

Report Faults State For Closing Women's Prison

Logan Correctional Center, in Lincoln, houses the majority of Illinois' female inmates.
Credit Google Maps

Illinois’ main prison for women has nearly 2,000 inmates. An outside monitor says that’s the result of poor planning when Illinois closed the prison at Dwight nearly two years ago.

The majority of Illinois female inmates are incarcerated at Logan Correctional Center in central Illinois.

John Howard Association director John Maki says the state ought not be housing 1,985 women in a prison built to hold 1,106.

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Statehouse
9:57 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Topinka Remembered For Sharp Tongue, Common Touch

Judy Baar Topinka in her Statehouse office on May 22, 2013.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Illinois state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has died from complications following a stroke. She was 70.

Topinka’s career spanned more than three decades in Illinois government. It was not without controversy, but her distinctive personality won the support of voters time and time again.

Topinka worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter before first running for office in 1980. She served in the Illinois House and Senate until 1995, when she was sworn in as treasurer.

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Shocked, Shocked
4:56 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Rauner: Voters 'Misled' On Sorry State Finances

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner spoke with reporters Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014 in the Illinois Statehouse.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner was back in Springfield Tuesday. He spoke with reporters and — not surprisingly — says Illinois’ finances are in terrible shape.

Last spring, Democrats acknowledged they passed a budget that’s badly out of balance. It spends way more money than the state will collect from taxes — a multi-billion-dollar shortfall. Now Rauner says the problem is even worse than it seemed.

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Statehouse
4:38 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Rauner Warns Chicago On Minimum Wage

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner speaks with reporters in the Illinois Capitol Building on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Even as Chicago aldermen were voting Tuesday to raise the city's minimum wage, Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner issued a warning on the subject.

Rauner had a simple message for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

"My recommendation to the mayor is he keeps in mind competitiveness for the city of Chicago," Rauner says.

Rauner says he would support a statewide increase — if lawmakers also pass restrictions on lawsuits and other legislation favored by the business community.

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This Old House
8:56 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

To Restore Executive Mansion, Rauner Plans Private Funds

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner took questions from reporters Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014, in his first Statehouse news conference.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner visited the Executive Mansion during his trip to Springfield Thursday.

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In With The New
12:48 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

RAW TAPE: Bruce Rauner's First Statehouse News Conference

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner speaks with reporters in the Statehouse on Nov. 20, 2014.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner visited Springfield on Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014. He met with legislative leaders and other elected officials, and held his first Statehouse news conference. Listen to the full audio:

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Election 2014
1:51 pm
Wed November 19, 2014

Frerichs Declares Victory In Illinois Treasurer's Race

Mike Frerichs
Credit WUIS

Democratic state Senator Mike Frerichs appears to have won the race to be the next state treasurer.

If the current totals hold, this will go down in history as one of Illinois' narrowest general election victories.

According to the independent Illinois Election Data website, Frerichs won by fewer than 10,000 votes — a fraction of a percent of the 3.5 million votes cast.

No matter, a win is a win, and Republican state Rep. Tom Cross conceded the race.

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Election 2014
4:08 pm
Wed November 5, 2014

Quinn Concedes Governor's Race To Rauner

Gov. Pat Quinn is seen in this file photo from 2013.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Governor Pat Quinn is giving up on his bid for re-election. On Wednesday afternoon, he conceded to Republican Bruce Rauner.

  Most media outlets called the election on Tuesday night. Rauner was up by five percentage points, and declared victory.

Quinn, however, told supporters he wasn’t ready to concede. Some Chicagoans waited into the early morning hours to vote.

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Election 2014
4:38 am
Wed November 5, 2014

Rauner Declares Victory, But Quinn Won't Concede

Bruce Rauner speaks to a gathering of Republicans at the Illinois State Fair in this August 2013 file photo.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Republican investor Bruce Rauner will be the next governor of Illinois — probably. He declared victory over incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn and is up by five percentage points, but the Democrat is refusing to concede.

Rauner made hundreds of millions of dollars as a private equity investor. Lately, though, he’s been investing in himself — spending $27 million of his vast fortune on a quest to become governor of Illinois.

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Illinois Issues - State of the State
1:00 am
Sat November 1, 2014

Criminal Sentencing - A State Legislative Panel Looks At Whether There’s A Better Way To Punish

Not long ago, attempts to raise criminal penalties in Illinois were met with a standing joke. All such legislation had to make it through the Senate Judiciary Committee, where by informal agreement, it could only advance if it satisfied the sole criterion of the Cullerton Rule. On April 20, 2005, Sen. Edward Maloney, a Democrat from Chicago, presented House Bill 2699, a bipartisan measure that sought to raise the penalties for identity theft.

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Illinois Issues - State of the State
1:00 am
Sat November 1, 2014

Anchoring, The $5 Ask And Other Fundraising Mind Games

Brian Mackey
Credit mattpenning.com 2011 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

One of the best-known sayings about politics is missing something. In a 1985 speech at Yale University, former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo said, “We campaign in poetry, but when we’re elected, we’re forced to govern in prose.”

But that formulation omits one of the dominant aspects of modern politics: fundraising. Intermingled with campaigning in poetry and governing in prose, one might charitably say candidates raise money in the language of sales and marketing. Less charitably, one might say they fundraise in psychological manipulation.

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State Week
1:42 pm
Fri October 31, 2014

Listen to State Week - October 31, 2014

Gov. Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner make a final pitch to voters in the closing ads of the their campaigns.
Credit screenshots from candidate TV ads

After months of campaigning and seemingly endless TV ads, the election is nigh. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican challenger Bruce Rauner are fighting for every vote, and shattering the state spending record to do it.

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Election 2014
1:36 pm
Tue October 28, 2014

Why Is Illinois So Hard To Poll?

Gov. Pat Quinn, seen at the Illinois State Fair, beat the polls in his 2010 campaign for governor.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

This story first ran in the October 2014 edition of Illinois Issues magazine.

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State Week
5:19 pm
Fri October 24, 2014

Listen to State Week - October 24, 2014

Republican nominee Bruce Rauner, left, and Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn this week met in the third and final gubernatorial debate of 2014.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican challenger Bruce Rauner met for their third and final debate this week. As in previous debates, both candidates spent much of their time attacking each other and dodging questions they didn't want to answer.

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Statehouse
5:20 pm
Thu October 16, 2014

Privacy Issues Complicate Body Cams For Illinois Police

Ferguson demonstrators stand in front of a Quik Trip in this Aug. 12, 2014 file photo.
Credit Chris McDaniel/St. Louis Public Radio

The idea of requiring police to wear body cameras has been a hot topic after the protests in Ferguson, Missouri. On Friday, a group of Illinois lawmakers will take up the issue.

Advocates of body cameras say they can clear up the muddle of facts that often accompany police shootings, like the one in Ferguson. They also say police will be on better behavior if they know they're being watched.

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Election 2014
10:04 pm
Wed October 15, 2014

After 22 Years, Crime Victims Back On Ballot

Attorney General Lisa Madigan, facing away, confers with supporters of Marsy's Law before a news conference Wednesday at the AG's Springfield office.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

This story first appeared as Illinois Issues' State of the State column in the October 2014 edition of the magazine.

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Election 2014
4:37 am
Fri October 10, 2014

Familiar Jabs, Talking Points In First Quinn/Rauner Debate

Gov. Pat Quinn, left, and Bruce Rauner at Thursday's gubernatorial debate in Peoria.
Credit Illinois Public Broadcasting

The two leading candidates for Illinois governor met Thursday night in Peoria for the first debate of the election season. Both men stuck closely to the ideas they’ve been honing for months on the campaign trail.

Democratic Governor Pat Quinn and his Republican challenger, Bruce Rauner, are running carefully scripted campaigns.

Quinn has a populist message: That he’s a friend of the working man, always looking out for the little guy.

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Election 2014
9:40 pm
Thu October 9, 2014

Raw Tape: Watch First Quinn/Rauner Debate

Gov. Pat Quinn, left, and Bruce Rauner met Wednesday in Peoria for the first debate of the fall election season.
Credit Illinois Public Broadcasting

Incumbent Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican nominee Bruce Rauner met for the first formal debate of the general election season Thursday in Peoria. The panel included Illinois Public Radio/WUIS Statehouse Bureau Chief Amanda Vinicky and Illinois Issues Executive Editor Jamey Dunn.

Watch or listen to the full debate:

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150% of capacity
11:38 am
Wed October 1, 2014

Clock Ticking On Illinois Prison Crowding

Credit flickr/dnak

A watchdog group says whoever wins the race for governor is going to face difficult choices about Illinois’ prisons. The group on Wednesday is laying out what it’s calling a “roadmap” for overhauling crime and punishment — and wants to know where the candidates stand.

The non-partisan John Howard Association says decades of “tough on crime” policies have led Illinois to lock up 49,000 people in a system designed to hold 32,000.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed October 1, 2014

Polling Pains: Polling Blunders Happening Nationwide

Pollsters this spring predicted Bruce Rauner would have a 17-point lead over then-state Sen. Kirk Dillard, but Rauner’s victory was by less than three percentage points. Pictured above, from top to bottom, are GOP primary candidates: state Sen. Bill Brady, Dillard, Rauner and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford.
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

 In the final month of the 2010 campaign, the political career of Gov. Pat Quinn appeared to be nearing its end. Poll after poll showed him down by four, six or even eight percentage points. The mathematical models of stat-geek superstar Nate Silver — fresh off correctly predicting the outcome in 49 of 50 states in the 2008 presidential election — gave Quinn just an 18 percent chance of winning. You know how that turned out.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed October 1, 2014

State of the State: Tinkering with the Constitution Demands Careful Consideration

Brian Mackey
Credit mattpenning.com 2011 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

   Twenty-fourteen was going to be a banner year for direct democracy in Illinois. At one point, it was possible voters would be asked to weigh in on as many as seven different ballot questions, including four constitutional amendments. But as the election draws near, two of those ideas are off the table: Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner’s push to impose legislative term limits failed to meet the requirements of the Constitution, and a separate attempt to change the way House and Senate districts are drawn failed to gather enough valid signatures.

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Statehouse
6:00 am
Wed September 24, 2014

Can Politics And Prison Reform Mix?

Bruce Rauner is airing ads criticizing Gov. Pat Quinn's handling of a prison early release program back in 2009.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

As a candidate for governor once again tries to make political hay over a prison early-release program, a group of state lawmakers met in Chicago Tuesday to consider drastic changes to Illinois’ criminal justice system.

Republican Bruce Rauner is trying to remind voters about a botched, secret early release program that dates to Gov. Pat Quinn’s first year in office.

Campaign ad: “Two-hundred thirty violent criminals, secretly released early by Pat Quinn.”

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Statehouse
4:44 pm
Tue September 23, 2014

Chicago Mayor: Lower Penalties For Drugs

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is seen in this file photo.
Credit cityofchicago.org

  Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday called on state lawmakers to reduce penalties for drug possession.

  Two years ago, Chicago began allowing its police to issue tickets for possessing small amounts of pot, rather than immediately making an arrest.

Emanuel says the change is working: "We have seen about 4,100 fewer arrests in that area."

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Election 2014
3:02 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

Can A Governor Really Create Jobs?

Gov. Pat Quinn
Credit Quinn campaign

This story first appeared as Illinois Issues' State of the State column in the September 2014 edition of the magazine.

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Election 2014
10:16 am
Thu September 11, 2014

Rauner Trying To Soften Image On Pensions

Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner is seen in this August 2013 file photo.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Republican candidate Bruce Rauner continues trying to soften his image when it comes to government employees. This comes after he won the nomination in part by relentlessly attacking public employee unions.

Rauner has called for all current state employees to have their pensions frozen and be put into 401(k)-style retirement plans. Many consider that even more harsh than the pension reductions Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law last year.

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Election 2014
8:47 pm
Wed September 10, 2014

N.J. Gov. Christie Stumps For Rauner In Springfield

Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, center, and Illinois gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner attended two closed-door fundraisers in Springfield Wednesday.

Republicans across America have high hopes for Bruce Rauner's campaign to be the next governor of Illinois. Appearing with him Wednesday in Springfield was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.  

Christie is head of the Republican Governors Association, which last week gave Rauner another $2 million. That brings its total support for the wealthy candidate to $6 million.

Christie headlined a pair of fundraisers with Rauner in Springfield, then stopped at Brickhouse, a downtown restaurant and bar, to pose for pictures with supporters.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon September 1, 2014

Restorative Justice: Racial Bias in Expulsions & Suspensions Spur a New Look at School Discipline

This summer, Senn High School students Delvon Woods, left, and Dewayne Thomas participated in a restorative justice training program at Alternatives, a youth center in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago. “Instead of getting suspended or kicked out of class for an altercation, you would take it to restorative justice,” Woods says.
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

  If a student happens to have been born black, he’s three times more likely to be suspended or expelled than his white classmates. That statistic comes from the U.S. Department of Education, and it’s often repeated by people who favor changing the way students are disciplined. But as with all averages, it obscures the rough edges that become apparent only when looking more closely at the numbers, and Illinois has some of the roughest edges around.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon September 1, 2014

State of the State: Can a Governor Really Create Jobs?

Brian Mackey
Credit mattpenning.com 2011 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

An outsider to Illinois politics could be forgiven for thinking Gov. Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner are running for the position of job creator in chief. Quinn can’t say enough about “jobs” and how his policies are creating more of them. Rauner, the GOP challenger, naturally contends that Quinn is Illinois’ greatest impediment to job creation — and that his platform is more likely to breathe new life into the state’s ailing economy.

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Education Desk
6:08 am
Thu August 28, 2014

Illinois Schools In Pension Limbo

Credit WFIU/flickr

It’s expected to be some time before the courts decide whether Illinois can trim retirement benefits for public school teachers, university workers, and state employees. But the uncertainty continues to affect the credit outlook of schools and community colleges across the state.  

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Statehouse
6:49 pm
Thu July 31, 2014

At Historic Sites, Budget Cuts Could Lead To Closures

The law office where Abe Lincoln had his practice is among the sites that could have reduced hours because of state budget cuts.
Credit springfield-il-us.org

A budget cut is leading to a reduction in hours at many state historic sites. Officials say without more money, some sites could close completely.

This spring, lawmakers passed what they called a largely flat budget. One of the few areas of government to experience a significant funding cut was the Historic Preservation Agency, which runs dozens of sites, from the U.S. Grant Home in Galena to the Kincaid Mounds in far southern Illinois.

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