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The Spin: Is Kanye West getting a GOP boost in Illinois? | Rahm Emanuel’s November crystal ball | Illinois extends unemployment benefits 20 weeks, may have overpaid gig workers

Kanye West makes his first presidential campaign appearance July 19, 2020, in North Charleston, South Carolina.

Kanye West makes his first presidential campaign appearance July 19, 2020, in North Charleston, South Carolina. (Lauren Petracca Ipetracca/The Post And Courier via AP)

Several news outlets are reporting that Chicago rapper Kanye West appears to be getting help from Republican operatives, some allied with President Donald Trump, to get on the November ballot as an independent presidential candidate in a handful of states, including Illinois and neighboring battleground state Wisconsin.

That’s prompted observers to question whether West — who once visited the Republican Trump in the Oval Office, wearing a red MAGA hat — might be a spoiler, working to siphon votes from Democrat Joe Biden, The New York Times reports. In an interview with Forbes, West acknowledged it’s a possibility that African American voters, who boosted Biden’s campaign in the primaries, may instead vote for him in the general election.

Trump was asked during a news conference Wednesday at the White House whether he was aware of, or encouraging, anyone in the party to help West. Trump said, “I like Kanye very much” but “I’m not involved.”

Meantime, former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who worked in the Obama and Clinton administrations, this week discussed how he thinks the 2020 election may play out. Reflecting on the political activism of today’s youth, he even shared a personal update on his kids, two of whom are in college and another who graduated from UCLA and, Emanuel said, is now in the armed services.

Illinois is extending jobless benefits another 20 weeks as laid off workers continued to struggle with a state system that Gov. J.B. Pritzker has acknowledged is problem-plagued. Some, too, are saying they are being asked to return funds because they were overpaid.

And the executive director of the state’s massive Teachers’ Retirement Fund has stepped down, days after being placed on administrative leave for “performance issues.” Zachary Fardon, of the Chicago-based law firm King & Spalding and a former U.S. attorney in Chicago, was tapped to undertake an investigation related to Ingram’s unspecified performance issues

Kanye West makes his first presidential campaign appearance July 19, 2020, in North Charleston, South Carolina.

Kanye West makes his first presidential campaign appearance July 19, 2020, in North Charleston, South Carolina. (Lauren Petracca Ipetracca/AP)

When celebrity rapper Kanye West launched his eleventh-hour presidential bid last month, he disavowed President Trump, whom he had previously supported.

The ensuing state-by-state effort to get his name on the ballot as an independent, where possible, has drawn some scrutiny, with multiple news outlets reporting that Republican operatives seem to be aiding him. NBC News reported that West is receiving help from Republicans in Illinois, though the outlet had no details.

West’s team submitted nominating petitions here in Illinois — where independent candidates must submit a minimum of 2,500 valid signatures of registered voters to get on the ballot. The petitions are being scrutinized by state election officials amid a handful of objections, a routine maneuver by opponents trying to knock someone off the ballot.

The Chicago attorney representing West’s campaign before the state Board of Elections on those objections did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

This week, West made a move to get on the ballot in Wisconsin with help from attorney Lane Ruhland, who has ties to state GOP and is reportedly representing President Trump, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Wisconsin Public Radio.

Trump narrowly beat Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin in 2016, and polling suggests that Biden may have a leg up there.

The company Let the Voters Decide, run by a Republican operative, is collecting signatures for the West campaign to get on the ballot in Ohio, West Virginia and Arkansas, The New York Times reported this week. The firm told the Times that it is a nonpartisan organization. And Vice News reported West had a GOP strategist assisting him in Colorado, where the secretary of state announced a few hours ago that West would be on the ballot.

West’s ties to Trump go back at least four years, though the president has said the two have been “good friends for a long time.” West was part of a parade of boldfaced names who met with the then president-elect right after the 2016 election. West took to Twitter to say the two discussed violence in Chicago, where West spent part of his childhood. In 2018, West traveled to the White House, and during a photo op with the president donned a red cap with Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel arrives at the south air traffic control tower at O'Hare International Airport on April 22, 2019.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel arrives at the south air traffic control tower at O'Hare International Airport on April 22, 2019. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)

With a vast political career that includes having been the high-profile finance chair of Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign and former President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel offered some cautious predictions during a virtual discussion on the upcoming election.

Here’s what he was most certain of: “You’re gonna have a big (voter) turnout.”

Emanuel is team Biden, as if you needed the reminder.

With 90 days to go — fewer if you consider mail-in ballots — before the Nov. 3 election, Emanuel said during the 60-minute discussion yesterday, “I think it’s all but certain Donald Trump cannot win the popular vote,” riding the fence with “I think Trump’s only shot is through the electoral vote, not the popular vote, and I even think the doors on that are closing in on him.”

A reminder that the outcome of elections is often decided by what’s happening in the moment: “Whatever you think is true on Tuesday is probably not true by Thursday.”

If the elections were held today, Democrats would take the Senate — the longtime Democrat says: “The Democrats would win both the White House, Senate and add to their ... majority in the House. When that has also been the form of national elections, and you’re gonna have a big turnout.”

Trump is trying to campaign a la 1968 — This election looks more like 1980 when Ronald Reagan Democrats crossed over to help the Republican win the first of two terms, Emanuel said.

“We’re about to coin a phrase I think ... of what I call Biden Republicans,” who may boost the Democrat’s chances of winning. With senior citizens, the nation’s largest voting bloc, concerned about Trump’s response to COVID-19 and college-educated suburban women increasingly moving out of the GOP trenches and becoming Democratic loyalists, that could make all the difference for Biden.

Today’s kids — including an update on Emanuel’s: The former mayor said today’s younger generation is far more politically engaged than his generation when they were young, saying he was an “anomaly” among his peers. He reminds that while his daughters are still in college, his son just graduated from UCLA and “joined the armed services as an officer.”

The vice presidential factor: With Biden expected to announce his running mate any time now, Emanuel said he has his favorite but is keeping his mouth shut beyond a mysterious, “I have a personal favorite for political reasons.”

Deciding factor: “To me this is the closest thing you get to a partner for life,” and while politics and policy are a factor, there has to be an innate trust — a go-to person when negotiations breakdown in a Cabinet session, for instance.

FILE - This Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, file photo, shows the Illinois Department of Employment Security office in Springfield, Ill. On Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, the Labor Department reports on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits the week before.

FILE - This Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, file photo, shows the Illinois Department of Employment Security office in Springfield, Ill. On Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, the Labor Department reports on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits the week before. (Seth Perlman/AP)

Illinois extended jobless benefits another 20 weeks as laid off workers continued to struggle with the claims process, including some who say they have to return funds because they were overpaid.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security, the state agency tasked with handling jobless claims, said the extension was available starting Thursday to people who have gone through 26 weeks of state benefits. Illinois is among 19 states providing 20 weeks of extended benefits, the agency said in a news release.

At the same time, several gig and contract workers who were able to apply for benefits under the federal coronavirus relief package told the Tribune they owe thousands of dollars back to the state after learning they were overpaid. Read the full Tribune story here. (Abdel Jimenez)

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tests positive for coronavirus ahead of planned meeting with President Trump: Read The Associated Press story here.

Richard Ingram, who resigned Monday as executive director of the Teachers' Retirement System, is shown speaking at Fremd High School in Palatine in 2012.

Richard Ingram, who resigned Monday as executive director of the Teachers' Retirement System, is shown speaking at Fremd High School in Palatine in 2012. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)

The board had commissioned Zachary Fardon, of the Chicago-based law firm King & Spalding and a former U.S. attorney in Chicago, to undertake an investigation related to Ingram’s unspecified performance issues. The findings were presented during executive session of the board’s Friday meeting, prior to the unanimous vote to place Ingram on administrative leave, Urbanek said.

The executive director of the massive Teachers’ Retirement System resigned earlier this week after being placed on administrative leave days earlier following an internal investigation into “performance issues.”

The Teachers’ Retirement System board voted unanimously last Friday to place Richard Ingram on administrative leave “due to performance issues covered by his employment contract,” the board said in a statement issued Thursday. Read the rest of the Tribune story here. (Jamie Munks)

Outside Chicago City on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019.

Outside Chicago City on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. (Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)

Chicago’s controversial special property taxing districts are expected to bring in a record $926 million this year, accounting for more than a third of the city’s haul, according to a report issued Thursday.

That enormous sum, to be collected at a time of plummeting revenue for the city as it grapples with an economic downturn caused by the pandemic, is sure to spur another debate about whether so-called tax increment finance districts are sucking money away from where it’s needed most.

Some background on how the special taxing areas work: When the city establishes a TIF district, the property tax collections distributed to the city, CPS and other taxing agencies are frozen for up to 23 years. As property values rise, the extra tax collections that result are put into a fund to be used to spur economic development.

The money is used to pay for new roads, sewers and other infrastructure, as well as job training and sometimes new schools made necessary by new residential development. Money not used for those costs can be declared surplus and distributed to all the city’s taxing agencies.

They were first used under the late Mayor Harold Washington, and their use grew dramatically under former Mayor Richard M. Daley. Today, there are 136 districts in the city, covering about a fourth of the city’s landmass. Read the rest of the Tribune story here. (Hal Dardick)

Early 2021 groundbreaking planned for controversial $6 billion Lincoln Yards megadevelopment on North Side: The Tribune’s Ryan Ori has the details here.

Thanks for reading The Spin, the Tribune’s politics newsletter. Sign up here to have it delivered to your inbox weekday afternoons. Have a tip? Email host Lisa Donovan at ldonovan@chicagotribune.com.

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