DECATUR - She was a Democratic member of the Illinois Senate from 1987 to her death in 1998. She ran for lieutenant governor alongside Dawn Clark Netsch for governor in 1994 - the first two women team for the state's top two slots. She was Minority Caucus Whip for several years while serving in the Senate.
And, known only to Springfield insiders, Penny Severns was sleeping with Terry Mutchler, the Associated Press’ first woman statehouse bureau chief in Illinois - a same-sex relationship at the State Capitol, Mutchler writes in her new tell-all.
Scandalous? Political editor Carol Marin confronted Mutchler about the undisclosed relationship - an AP reporter and a senator on whom she reported. Mutchler said the relationship was "unforgivable."
“There is no way to sugarcoat this part of the story: being involved with a source without disclosure was unforgivable.” An editor, Mutchler told Marin, long ago had advised her, “I don’t care if you screw the elephants, just don’t cover the circus.”
Despite the admonition Mutchler and Severns continued the affair.
“I couldn’t face the fear of being out,” she emailed. “While the landscape is surely different and more welcoming now — I think it was the inner part of me, and perhaps Penny, our own homophobia that we were fighting. I think those components would still exist today . . . we would be braver no doubt seeing there are more people in the pool, so to speak, but each person still has to overcome their own thoughts and feelings.”
Marin tells how the relationship ended with Mutchler not being able to claim assets because the two were not married because same sex marriage was illegal in 1998 when she died. Severns did not will any of the couple's assets to her - as she could have to anyone she chose.
Mutchler's book, Marin says, found its title when during last year's debate on same sex marriage, State Rep. Ann Williams told the story of Mutchler and Severns love affair that went on in Springfield in the 90s, "Under the Beautiful Dome."
Mutchler's insider track at Springfield led her into several lucrative jobs In Illinois. She worked as
- Associated Press reporter and bureau chief in Springfield, as well as reporter in Harrisburg, Pa.; Atlantic City, N.J.; and Juneau, Alaska, 1989-95.
- Adviser to Illinois Senate Democratic whip, 1995-98
- Law clerk for the Illinois Supreme Court, 1999-2000
- Litigation attorney for Chicago law firm, 2001-03
- Public access counselor in Illinois attorney general's office, 2003-2007.
Mutchler is now involved with another woman in Pennsylvania, were she was appointed executive director of Pennsylvania's Office of Open Records in 2008.
Marin's column is HERE.