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GOP legislator to press charges over tussle with Democratic foe

Sen. Kyle McCarter (left) Sen. Mike Jacobs

Sen. Kyle McCarter (left) and Sen. Mike Jacobs

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Updated: July 8, 2011 2:39PM

SPRINGFIELD — A Downstate Republican lawmaker vowed Wednesday to press criminal charges against a Democratic rival after a personality-driven debate on the Senate floor late Tuesday turned ugly.

Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) said he intends to ask the Sangamon County state’s attorney to file a criminal complaint against Sen. Mike Jacobs (D-East Moline) after McCarter said Jacobs “punched” him.

“As far as right now, I plan on placing charges. I just think his behavior shouldn’t be tolerated,” McCarter said.

Jacobs was kiddingly awarded a pair of boxing gloves by colleagues in 2007 after he claimed impeached ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich threatened to hit him during a closed-door meeting. Jacobs later told a Lee Enterprises reporter then that had Blagojevich been “in one of my local taverns, I would have kicked his rear end.”

This week’s fracas was triggered by McCarter’s remarks during debate over a Jacobs bill that would permit Commonwealth Edison and Ameren Corp. to raise rates to modernize their power grids.

McCarter questioned $70,000 in campaign contributions Ameren gave recently to Democratic legislative leaders and the fact that Jacobs is the chief Senate sponsor of a bill that could benefit his father, former state Sen. Denny Jacobs (D-East Moline), who is a ComEd lobbyist.

McCarter also criticized Sen. Mike Jacobs’ handling of a “six-minute” Senate Energy Committee hearing on his bill in which he muzzled critics.

“You know, if this was just some out of the ordinary situation, maybe we could just go to the side, shake hands and it would be over. But the problem is, this is an issue of culture of corruption. I simply stood up and protested a process that has been going on for too many years. I just thought, at some point, we need to take a stand for transparency in this capitol,” McCarter said.

After the Senate approved the bill, Jacobs walked across the Senate chamber and stood by McCarter’s desk as he presented a resolution naming a state highway.

Once that finished, McCarter said Jacobs began “using profanity and pointing his finger before he punched me with his fist in my chest.”

“For me to bring up what I think the public sees as a blatant conflict of interest and for him to behave so badly, we need to make sure this doesn’t happen again. That’s not the kind of behavior that should be tolerated on the Senate floor,” McCarter said.

On Wednesday, Gov. Pat Quinn refused to take sides in the Senate squabble despite being against Jacobs’ legislation. The governor called it “regrettable” that Jacobs squelched opposition to the utility bill during a committee hearing.

Jacobs did not return a message left Wednesday at his district office, and his father could not be reached.

But the sitting state senator told the Chicago Sun-Times late Tuesday that he took umbrage at having his father be injected into the debate and also said that McCarter “came at me” after relaying that criticism to him.

“If he wanted to say something about me, that’s one thing. For him to attack my family members, that’s out of bounds,” Jacobs said, holding a copy of the Senate rules book that bars personality-laden debate. “In effect, what he’s saying is I’m a 50-year-old man that does whatever my father tells me, which is a bunch of crap.”

There is a history of tempers flaring and arguments turning physical at the Statehouse.

The last time two lawmakers got into a similar public confrontation on the floor of either legislative chamber came when former state Rep. Bill Black (R-Danville) got into a shoving match with former Rep. Terry Parke (R-Hoffman Estates) in a 1992 school-funding dispute.

Even President Barack Obama was involved in shoving match with another legislator, former Sen. Rickey Hendon (D-Chicago). That altercation came during former Gov. George Ryan’s stint in office and occurred in the rear of the Senate chamber out of public view, Hendon wrote.

Contributing: Stephen Di Benedetto

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