Charles N. Wheeler III


The director of the Public Affairs Reporting (PAR) graduate program is Professor Charles N. Wheeler III,  a veteran newsman who came to the University of Illinois at Springfield following a 24-year career at the Chicago Sun-Times.

Wheeler covered state government and politics for the Sun-Times since 1970, when he covered the Sixth Illinois Constitutional Convention. For the last 19 years of his Sun-Times tenure, Wheeler was assigned to the newspaper’s Statehouse bureau. During that time, he was elected to 16 consecutive one-year terms as president of the Illinois Legislative Correspondents Association and served for many years on the PAR program and admissions committees.

Since 1984, he has written a monthly column for Illinois Issues magazine, which has won five Capitolbeat awards for magazine commentary/analysis. In 2006, the Illinois Associated Press Editors Association inducted him into The Lincoln League of Journalists, which honors men and women who have provided exemplary service to other journalists and to daily newspapers published in Illinois. In 2013, he was chosen as the Journalist of the Year by the Journalism Department at Eastern Illinois University.  He is also a regular on the panel for State Week, WUIS' weekly political analysis program that airs on public radio stations across Illinois.

Before joining the Sun-Times in 1969, Wheeler served more than three years as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in the Republic of Panama. He is a graduate of St. Mary’s University, Winona, MN, majoring in English, and received a master’s degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Wheeler draws on the talents of many UIS faculty with expertise in such fields as public budgeting, political science, and communication, as well as professional journalists and state officials, to present students with a well-rounded program to bridge the academic and professional areas.

A week before the primary election, Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the first gun-control legislation sent to him after the mass murder at a school in Parkland, Florida. It would have required gun dealers to obtain state licenses.

Senate Democrats say they'll try to override the governor — eventually. They bought themselves more time by refusing to immediately recognize his veto, breaking with past practice and the Illinois Constitution.

This week, House Speaker and Chairman of Illinois' Democratic Party Michael Madigan faced more criticism over his handling of sexual harassment allegations against party workers and lawmakers.  Also, Governor Bruce Rauner is not saying if he supports gun control legislation in Illinois.

Bernie Schoenburg of the State Journal-Register and NPR Illinois' Maureen Foertsch McKinney join the panel.

A series of gun control measures advanced in the Illinois Statehouse this week — requiring state licenses for gun dealers, banning "bump stocks," and raising the purchase age for so-called assault weapons, among other bills.

In Washington, an Illinois case was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. Janus v. AFSCME challenges "fair share" fees for workers who are in collective bargaining units but don't want to join a union, and could have dire financial implications for public employee labor unions across the country.

Five of the six Democrats running for governor met in Springfield for a debate. House Speaker Michael Madigan was once again a hot topic, as the speaker had earlier in the week cut ties with a second aide over allegations of harassment.

Meanwhile, Republicans were distancing themselves from their own problem candidate — one who'd used racial and anti-gay language in a conversation with Republican attorney general candidate Erika Harold.

This week, Governor Bruce Rauner delivered his annual Budget Address before the General Assembly and House Speaker Michael Madigan fired a long-time campaign worker due to sexual harassment allegations.

Gatehouse Media's Doug Finke joins the panel.

Rich Saal / The State Journal-Register (pool)

Commentary: The governor's plan would rely on some iffy savings from shifting pensions costs to schools and universities and getting state workers to pay more for their health care.

Billionaire hotel heir and Democratic candidate for governor J.B. Pritzker apologizes after another Chicago Tribune story about his 2008 phone conversations with then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Meanwhile, Republican candidate for governor Jeanne Ives, a state representative from Wheaton, is not apologizing for an ad that's been condemned by people across the political spectrum.

Governor Bruce Rauner sparred with Republican primary challenger Jeanne Ives before the Chicago Tribune editorial board this week; the Democratic challengers continued to jockey for position; and Rauner delivered the annual State of the State Address.

NPR Illinois' Daisy Contreras and the Chicago Tribune's Rick Pearson join the panel.

The Democratic candidates for governor appeared in the first of several televised debates, an unsealed lawsuit reveals Gov. Bruce Rauner has been more involved in his personal finances than he let on, and an audit finds the administration could not properly account for more than $7.11 billion in Medicaid payments to private insurance companies. 

This week, Gov. Bruce Rauner dodged a Nerf-ball question about whether former Congressman and Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke was a racist. Meanwhile, Rauner, a Republican, is running an infomercial about Democratic primary candidate J.B. Pritzker. And we hear the latest on the school funding overhaul that just won't end.


Commentary: Expanded economic interest disclosures would lead to more accountability

Gov. Bruce Rauner wrapped up his stay at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy, where 13 people have died from Legionnaires' Disease since 2015. It came a day after a legislative hearing at which members of the Rauner administration defended their response to outbreaks.

Gov. Bruce Rauner is staying at the Illinois Veteran Home in Quincy, in response to accusations that his administration has not responded well to repeated outbreaks of Legionnaires' Disease at the facility.

Meanwhile on the gubernatorial campaign trail, Chris Kennedy says Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel should be held accountable for driving African American people out of the city while Bob Daiber is getting detailed about a graduated income tax.

Twenty-seventeen was a wild year in Illinois government and politics: it began without a budget and ended with the Republican governor facing a primary challenge.

Along the way there was a tax hike, a once-in-a-generation overhaul of education funding, hot-button bills relating to abortion and immigration, and accusations of a culture of sexual harassment in the Statehouse.

Gov. Bruce Rauner requested a sit-down with the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune, and covered a range of grievances in his hour-long conversation.

He blamed Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for not supporting the governor's agenda, he said House Republicans were not principled enough, and he seemed disappointed that Illinois no longer had a crisis he could leverage to pass his business-friendly, union-weakening agenda.

Over the last few years, 13 residents of the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy have died from Legionnaires’ disease. Public radio station WBEZ this week published an investigation into problems at the home. The political reaction was swift, with calls for investigations that could last well into next year.

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday declared he's "not in charge" of Illinois government. Rather, he says, House Speaker Michael Madigan is really running the show.

That same day, Rep. Jeannie Ives filed to challenge Rauner in the Republican primary, saying the governor has "betrayed" their party.

The conservative magazine National Review has called Gov. Bruce Rauner "the worst Republican governor in America." We'll discuss the claim, and how it might affect next year's elections.

Meanwhile, a group of Republican lawmakers and anti-abortion groups have sued over a new law that extends abortion coverage to women enrolled in state health insurance programs.

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Commentary: Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Madigan fixation may reflect how little the governor has to show for his first three years in office.

Rep. Jeanne Ives continues her campaign to deny Gov. Bruce Rauner renomination as the Republican candidate for governor — a race in which Congressman John Shimkus, the Illinois delegation's senior Republican, is declining to endorse.

Then, do voters care whether candidates release detailed tax returns — or any tax returns — and should they?

Finally, a name from Illinois politics past surfaces as a potential challenger for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Gov. Bruce Rauner and Republican challenger Rep. Jeanne Ives hit the road this week. On the Democratic side, J.B. Pritzker sets a deadline for releasing his tax returns, after Sen. Daniel Biss compared him to President Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, Rauner signs ethics legislation that will allow the new legislative inspector general to investigate a backlog of complaints dating back nearly three years.

The Illinois General Assembly's fall veto session is over, lawmakers have been though sexual harassment awareness training, and Comptroller Susana Mendoza is beginning to pay down the backlog of bills.

More allegations of sexual harassment in state government — and this time someone is naming names. But with a watchdog position vacant for years, who's holding lawmakers accountable?

Rauner loses a string of veto overrides in the Illinois House, but avoids disaster on a few key bills. Meanwhile, allegations of widespread sexual misconduct prompt a quick legislative response in the Statehouse. /

Commentary: Gov. Bruce Rauner recently criticized the Democrats for passing a spending plan that is more than a billion dollars out of balance, according to analysis from his budget office. That same report noted that if one-time revenues are included, the state could see a surplus at the end of the year.

Chicago and Illinois submit their joint bid for Amazon's "HQ2" — a second headquarters for the web retailer. We'll talk about the incentives arms race, Illinois' strengths and weaknesses, and the secret bid.

The field of Democrats running for governor has gotten smaller as Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar ends his campaign. Meanwhile, the AFSCME union says the Illinois Department of Corrections isn't doing enough to keep correctional officers safe.

Fallout continues from Gov. Bruce Rauner's decision to sign a pro-abortion bill, with some Republicans calling him a liar and others courting primary challengers. How will this affect his bid for reelection?

Gov. Bruce Rauner's office

*Editor's Note: This piece was published prior to Gov. Bruce Rauner's announcement he signed House Bill 40, the abortion bill. 

Commentary: A capital bill; spending cuts; a veto of the abortion bill? A look at some pending questions for the fall legislative session. 

When Illinois lawmakers return for their fall session next month, they, and by extension, taxpayers, will face tantalizing questions.

With Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's announcement last week that she won't be running for re-election, hopefuls are lining up to run.  Opposition is building against Cook County's controversial soda tax.  And Governor Bruce Rauner is promoting Illinois as a great location for Amazon's new headquarters.

Rick Pearson of the Chicago Tribune and the State Journal-Register's Bernie Schoenburg join the panel.