Johnsburg Democratic Party State Rep. Tom Hanahan Dies – Part 2

The last Democrat to serve in the Illinois House before Jack Franks died in Arizona April 3rd. This is the second installment of some of my memories of Tom, who died of cancer in Prescott, Arizona, on April 3, 2009.

The Chicago Tribune obituary yesterday concentrated on Hanahan’s “braless, brainless broads” comment during the ERA debate.

Part 1 of this one concentrated on other aspects of his life.

It also mentions a Federal trial against him for trying to get a $5,000 bribe on some legislation, a rap he beat. I commend the story to you, but Tom was so much more than that.

I rode home with him one time. As we entered the Tri-State Tollway from I-55, he flashed some card or badge that indicated he was a member of the tollway advisory board, which apparently let him skip the toll.

He told me of having to go west of DeKalb for a meeting while that tollway was being built.

Taking the new tollway, he got to a point west of DeKalb where there were barriers.

That didn’t stop him. He kept driving west until he ran into fresh concrete.

He told me that totaled the car.

Hanahan wasn’t all that good at figuring out what was good for McHenry County, but he was good at picking up clues. I can’t remember any local bill that I asked him to co-sponsor where he refused.

We worked together on an illegal alien bill.

One of us came up with the idea of fining employers who hired illegal aliens. This was way back in the 1970’s remember. A logical idea then, as it is now, if one wants to prevent illegal aliens from working in the United States.

Hanahan jumped on the idea and brought all the union guys on board. The business Republicans were opposed to it, but we passed it anyway.

It obviously died in the Senate. I can’t remember the year, but it wouldn’t matter, because the Illinois Senate is always controlled by the Establishment.

Then there was RTA. Tom and all the other suburban Democrats but one (Harold Katz) aligned with suburban Republicans to fight the Regional Transportation Authority referendum held at the 1974 primary election.

We had numerous debates. Hanahan, State Senator Jack Schaffer, I and, sometimes, Waddell on one side and members of the League of Women Voters, Hanahan’s “running mate” Ron Stroupe (D-Huntley) and, in McHenry County, Jeff Ladd on the other side.

I got such a delight in suggesting we would not live to see train service in Huntley. It’s 35 years later and I’ll grant that discussion are being held about a train station in Huntley, but it’s certainly not there yet. Well, two of the legislators on the kNOw RTA side of the debate are not around and neither is Stroupe. Two to go.

With all McHenry County legislators opposed to creating the RTA, the only support was from local municipal officials and women in the League of Women Voters.

McHenry County has never been so united on an issue. I think it was 93% of the votes that were cast against the referendum.

One precinct in Cary is recorded in favor, but when I asked an election judge if it really passed, she said, “No,” and got really flustered when I told her that’s what the election canvass said. Someone is going to look at those results sometime and think a bunch of commuters voted “Yes.”)

The state rep. raced turned out like this:

  • Cal Skinner – 34,210 1/2
  • Bruce Waddell – 26,932 1/2
  • Tom Hanahan – 16,783 1/2
  • Ron Stroupe – 8,821 1/2

The half votes are a result of proportional representation. Each voter had three votes. They could vote for one candidate, in which case he got 3 votes, two giving each 1 1/2 votes or three, which meant each would be 1 vote apiece.

There are so many more stories about Tom Hanahan. I’ve asked some to send me their favorites. If you have any, I’d like to hear from you, too.

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