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Andy McKenna Jr. a No Show at Debate

Thomas F. Roeser 27 January 2010 15 Comments

“Junior,” the Republican candidate for governor, Andy McKenna, Jr. didn’t show up to debate with the other contenders on WTTW last night week because…well…he didn’thave to. Invitations had gone out on the debate last November 3 but Andy Jr. couldn’t fit it in to his schedule although the others did. Andy Jr. skipped a downstate TV debate too.

The reason he doesn’t do debates is he doesn’t do well in them. This is because of a congenital condition. He was born terminally bland. So bland, in fact, that if he had been at WTTW he would have been overshadowed in aggressiveness by the host, Phil Ponce. Besides when you’ve got a mega-multimillionaire daddy who funds your campaign and pays for the commercials, who needs a debate where things can go wrong?

The highly paid media strategists paid by Andy Sr. tell Andy Jr.–correctly—that he does far better on silent film TV commercials looking thoughtful than talking on them. A deep-voiced announcer says Andy Jr. is a bear-cat, tough-guy, ferocious on cutting the budget and fighting taxes, declaring he won’t accept a tax increase. They’ve since Andy Jr. McKenna is in the top-three candidates for governor without having said a word, staying away from most controversies, having his media people say his schedule won’t allow for debates and dodging ramifications of issues that go beyond bumper-sticker slogans.

Andy Says Nothing, Looks Great in Commercials.

But we do have him looking tough in his commercials. Sure, he looks over at his running mate, Matt Murphy for reassurance . That’s because Murphy is a state senator and has been in the fray for a few years, unlike Andy Jr.. Matter of fact every other Republican running for governor has got to this point by themselves—except Andy Jr. who’s got there through Senior, his old man. But anyhow the commercials Senior has paid for his kid are triumphs…one showing a baby wearing a Blago wig. But it’s revelatory that Andy Jr. looks up at Murphy for reassurance. Murphy is an adult. Andy’s one too but he doesn’t really fit the part.

His opponents say Andy put his own name in a poll paid for by state money. He won’t ever do that again. It happened when he didn’t ask Senior about it—and Senior would have gladly paid for a poll himself…but Andy Jr. never thought about that. After the poll was taken, Andy Jr. kept the findings to himself, not telling anybody he was thinking of running. What’s the big deal?

Now as state chairman, the guy whose job was trying to find the best candidate for governor he asked all the candidates what their ideas were for governor. Asked them how they planned to raise money. That’s all true. But it didn’t amount to much information since nobody but he had so rich a father.. Nevertheless, peeking at their plans was helpful: no doubt.

Once he was asked by Joe Birkett how he—Birkett—fared in the survey. It happened that Birkett was rated much higher than Andy. Somehow Andy kept the numbers to himself. So Birkett thinking his numbers were negligible, made other plans and dropped running for governor.

When he was caught, it was embarrassing for a while for Andy Jr.. Then a Republican lawyer, chairman of the state GOP finance committee, allowed that he—the lawyer—thought of adding Andy Jr.’s name…thus sparing Andy Jr. from blame. Sort of careless of Andy Jr. to allow the lawyer to do it…but then, remember what the narrator Nick says in The Great Gatsby?

Says: “They [the rich, those who have been born to a high position in life] were careless people, Tom and Daisy. They smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness. They can use their wealth to escape whatever they choose.”

Finally it was determined that the lawyer didn’t do it—Andy Jr. added his own name. No big deal, is it? Andy Jr. can reimburse the state party…and life goes on. But back to the campaign for governor.

I sometimes think that since Andy Jr.’s not assertive but very bland, it’d have been better if Andy Jr.’s old man was running, even at the age of 81 (my age). The old man has fire. Andy Jr.?

Behind the multi-million-dollar TV buys, you see maybe a floor-walker at Macy’s, the old Marshall Field; or a timid parson in the back office of a Presbyterian church, or a shy freshman on his first day at Phillips Exeter. You don’t see Andy Jr. saying no to Mike Madigan can you? Or fighting back when Mike Madigan says NO, can you? He looks as though hearing “no” from anybody would cause him to hide behind a sofa in terror.

Andy Sr.’s commercials could get Andy Jr. elected governor and if so it proves that money can buy anything. Still, though a supporter of the free enterprise system, somehow when you look at Andy Jr., you can’t see him saying NO to anybody.

Despite Andy, Sr. having either personally funded Andy Jr. and/or scooped up as much largesse as his two hands can carry from his decades of blue-chip connections: his former board membership on the Tribune which did wonders in winning the paper’s editorial endorsement… …Senior’s string of current and past board memberships: executive chairmanship of McDonald’s, of AON, Dean Foods, Notre Dame, Skyline Corp and, former chairmanships of the Chicago Cubs and the White Sox…as well as a covey of cushy civic memberships allowing the old man to network in behalf of Andy Jr. with his pals also of the Big Money: the Museum of Science and Industry; the Economic Club.

Initially, Senior advised Andy Jr. to go straight up from the executive suite to U.S. senator and challenge the incumbent Peter Fitzgerald in the 2006 primary. He was told to be angry that Fitzgerald’s no-team-player independence, refusal to sign on to Illinois pork projects was not good: and so Ray LaHood schooled him on challenging Fitz…yeah, the same Ray LaHood who now is Obama’s transportation secretary—of course you might say to me: why bring that up?

Fitz bowed out because Chairman Topinka, Speaker Hastert and Bill Cellini signified it would be a very expensive primary…not withstanding that Fitz had cited George Ryan for trying to turn the Lincoln Museum into a patronage dump, refused to support Boss Daley’s O’Hare expansion—and horrors! Named a tough U.S. attorney to prosecute the Combine. Then Andy Jr. was convinced by his Dad to run for the Senate anyhow but he lost well down the list to State Rep. Jim Durkin who was starved for money so Dick Durbin won.

After losing the Senate nod to Jack Ryan…Ryan later quitting, his berth taken by Alan Keyes…Andy Jr. turned to Andy Sr. and asked: what to do? Andy Sr. said he’d do well to get political management experience. So Andy Sr.’s money made Andy Jr. State Republican Chairman in 2005. Andy Jr.’s critics say: Nothing happened.

Lots Happened During McKenna Chairmanship.

No, wait—that’s not right. Lots of Losses happened! From the time Andy Jr. took over as State Republican Chairman to the day he stepped down and ran for governor, here’s what happened: Republican Judy Baar Topinka got nominated for governor and lost even though the incumbent, Rod Blagojevich, was knee-deep in ethics trouble…Republicans lost the state treasurer’s job so that the Dems controlled all state constitutional offices including both houses of the legislature….Republicans lost the 11th district seat held by the retiring Jerry Weller to Democrat Debbie Halvorson…Republicans lost the 14th district—a solid Republican one held by the party for many decades and until lately Speaker Dennis Hastert—to Democrat Bill Foster…the Dems elected a freshman, Phil Hare in the old Tom Railsback district, the 17th.

And oh yes, I forgot. In 2008, Republicans ran a candidate for the U.S. Senate a physician named Steve Sauerberg to oppose incumbent Dick Durbin. Durbin won 68% to 29% because Sauerberg was under-financed.

So it isn’t like nothing happened when Andy McKenna, Jr. served as state Republican chairman. Lots happened: just none of it good.

After that experience as state chairman, Andy Jr. took Senior’s advice and resigned that GOP job. He had gained enough experience to run for governor.

The Republican WTTW Debate.
I’d say they all did well. Kirk Dillard, my favorite, did well…his experience and thoughtfulness came through even though he didn’t try to interrupt. I thought Dan Proft did very well: showing himself to be a phrasemaker and excellent advocate. Adam Andrzejewski the first timer, showed extraordinary insight and forensic skill—he’s got a future. Jim Ryan was frankly surprisingly remarkable. He seemed like the patriarchal father of the group—extending the great maturity that comes from his long service to the state. He handled his political disadvantages in such a way that he was really compelling.

Andy McKenna, Jr. did better than he would have had he shown up for reasons explained earlier. Bill Brady interrupted everybody, hurling barbs at them…heckling them, really, but as often with a heckler he unintentionally created sympathy for those he interrupted and sought to throw off subject. Dillard brushed him away like a pesky fly. I rooted for Ryan when he fought back against Brady’s machine-gun chatter. This was probably the first time being heckled for Andrzejewski and he did very well. I don’t remember Brady heckling Proft because, wisely, he knew he would be verbally decapitated if he did.

15 Comments »

  • JAROFJAM said:

    I agree that the debate last night was very interesting. I just hope McKenna multi-million dollar ad campaign doesn’t buy him the elect; I think all of the candidiates that I agree that the debate last night was very interesting. I just hope McKenna multi-million dollar ad campaign doesn’t buy him the elect; I think all of the candidates that participated last night (with exception of Andrzejewski) would be a better Governor than McKenna.

    I share your thoughts on Jim Ryan performance. His tone of integrity and experience shined above the political bickering from the rest of the group. Jim Ryan has the experience we need in the Governor’s Office and secured my vote last night.
    participated last night would be a better Governor.

    I share your thoughts on Jim Ryan. His tone of intergrity and expeience shined about the polical bickering from the rest of the group. Jim Ryan has the excperience we need in the Governor’s Office and secured my vote last night.

  • Dan Kelley said:

    Andy McKenna was also a “no show” at the radio debate for Republican gubernatorial candidates on WLS 890 AM this afternoon. One of the hosts noted that McKenna aired radio commercials during the broadcast, but he declined an invitation to participate in the event which was aired live before an audience of actual Illinois voters.

    McKenna’s absenteeism is not an example of the type of inspired leadership that Illinois so desperately needs.

  • Mike F said:

    I heard Andy on Don and Roma this morning, and they asked him why he didn’t show up at the debates. He said he’s too busy stumping in person. He also said Jim Ryan previously stated that if a candidate went to every forum, he wouldn’t have time to do everything.

    Right after the interview, there was an Andy commercial.

    Jim Ryan was at both events, which weakened Andy’s excuse.

  • Don baker said:

    Sounds like if he is elected even after serving 4 years Andy McKenna will still be an outsider. Kind of like Pat Quinn. If he cannot handle the heat and confrontational situations of a debate than he will be eminently unqualified to be governor. He will be steamrolled by the corrupt power mongering Democratic congressional leaders.

  • Windy City Commentary said:

    So Tom, you support Dillard? The former Obama supporter? Whatever? Keep up those steely principles, Tommy. You’re a true old timer Chicago media man.

  • CAROL BELL said:

    ANDY MCKENNA IS THE MOST HONEST PERSON ON THE BALLOT.
    You must realize this man is not your typical politician, he is a businessman who has been successful his entire life. McKenna is known for his honesty and integrity. These values are his constant companions. We would be fortunate to have him govern the state of Illinois. This man is someone the state of Illinois needs to get up back on track. Andy McKenna is a man we can trust. Who cares about a debate….I care about actually attention to the matter at hand. You might be able to talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?? Your vote for Andy McKenna will help Illinois be the best it can be. Andy will do the work that has been ignored by the passed governors. Illinois needs a change. Why not choose the man who care….Andy McKenna.

  • Ron Carson said:

    Just another trust fund baby going through a midlife crisis and wants to run for office, imo. This guy’s enticing voters with some “candy” by not raising taxes but has yet to say how he’s going to do it….in other words, what’s he going to cut to make up the difference? Also, this not showing up at debates/functions is highly suspect. Illinois has a lot of issues going on right now and I’m really curious why anyone is going to put their trust in this guy who grew up in a “money is no object” environment, an obvious North Shore product, went to Notre Dame/Northwestern (I’ll give him this since I can’t say whether he got in those by his own merits or not…..a la George W going to Yale), referred to as a “business man” when in reality he just walked into the business that daddy started, etc. …..

    Maybe I’m totally wrong, but Illinois deserves somebody else that can really feel the pain of the common people as opposed to McKenna….

  • John Powers said:

    Ron,

    If the best you can come up with is “Illinois deserves somebody else that can really feel the pain” then we should all get in line to vote for Quinn. Quinn, unfortunately, is also the cause of much of the pain for Illinois voters, as well as our sympathizer in chief.

    McKenna has many solid conservative positions and a history of good business practices. Tom brings up some of his shortfalls, which include a quiet personality, but I don’t think we need a teddy bear to cry on. We need a governor.

    JBP

  • leon said:

    “Illinois deserves somebody else that can really feel the pain”
    This is what we are looking for?? Are you serious??
    College diplomas from N.D. and Northwestern are not good enough for you?? Too “North Shore” for you??

    We all can feel the pain, RON. What we need is someone who can feel the pain and find a cure for it. An honest businessman with a sterling reputation should be governor of Illinois. If you are looking for someone to fit YOUR description “Illinois deserves somebody else that can really feel the pain of the common people” maybe you should run…….
    Illinois deserves the best, Andy McKenna.

  • disappointed said:

    You’re kidding me right? How can you possibly state that Andy McKenna is honest? He just got caught for ethics violations as a Chairman. Imagine what he’d try and get away with as a Governor. It will be like having Rod all over again. You all keep saying that Andy is a great businessman. What proof of this do you have? Investigate it because there’s more than meets the eye there. You have to do your own homework because do you know when a politician is lying? When they’re moving their lips! Andy is a disgrace and haven’t we had enough of that?

  • leon said:

    ANDY MCKENNA IS THE MOST HONEST MAN IN THE RACE.
    I KNOW HIM ON A PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL LEVEL, FOR OVER 30 YEARS.
    YOU WILL NEVER FIND A MAN MORE QUALIFIED TO RUN THE STATE OF ILLINOIS THAN ANDY MCKENNA. COMPARING HIM TO ROD B. IS COMICAL.
    HOMEWORK??? DO YOUR HOMEWORK!
    YOU CANNOT COMPARE ANDY MCKENNA TO ANY ONE ON THE BALLOT.
    HE WILL RUN THE STATE OF ILLINOIS JUST LIKE A BUSINESSMAN, NOT SOME POLITICIAN ON AN EGO TRIP. THE STATE OF ILLINOIS IS IN NEED OF HELP, AND ANDY MCKENNA IS THE ONLY MAN TO DO IT.

    MR. DISAPPOINTED……….DO YOUR HOMEWORK! IF YOU THINK ALL POLITICIANS LIE……YOU DON’T KNOW ANDY MCKENNA. YOUR NEGATIVE FEELINGS TOWARD POLITICIANS MUST COME FROM YOU CONSTANTLY SUPPORTING A LOSER. TRY SOMETHING NEW……….SUPPORT A CANDIDATE THAT WILL MAKE CHANGES WE NEED, NOT CHANGES YOU WANT TO HEAR ABOUT IN THE NEWS.
    NEGATIVISM BREEDS NEGATIVISM. THIS WORLD HAS NO PLACE FOR YOU AND YOUR POOR VIEWS ON LIFE. BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE.

  • Chuck Fargley said:

    I think some of these responses are confusing Andy Grifith with Andy McKenna – wrong Andy folks.

    Andy McKenna is either dishonest, or mentally deficient. He claims to be an “outsider” while he had just previously held the IL GOP Chair since 2004. That is just obscene.

    His scandal concerning the use of party resources to investigate his own viability over his potential running mates is just disgusting. He is right to cower from the debates, because his actions are inexcusable.

    Andy and his daddy are not going to buy my vote, and I sincerely hope that the IL voter is smart enough to understand that Andy is ethically challenged. He has not even made it into office and the scandals are starting.

    Who else would hire the voice of Satan to do their commercials? “ONLY ANDY”!

  • disappointed said:

    MR. LEON Eat your words and do YOUR HOMEWORK. Apparently you don’t know Andy as well as you think. He comes from a very respectable family and though he was respectable until he got into politics. He STOLE $28,OOO from the IL State Republican Party by including himself in that poll.

    He STOLE the email addresses from the IL State Republican Party.

    He lied/stretched the truth about being an outsider.

    He portrays that he can create jobs when he can’t even generate jobs in his own company.

    And the best yet….So listen well LEON….He STOLE the email addresses from Notre Dame. google it!

    I seem to see a pattern here. Lie, cheat and STEAL seems to be his platform. Oh and buy the election not earn it. If that’s the change you think we all need, you need to open your eyes.

    And by the way I do support winning candidates so don’t judge me and who I support because you don’t know what you are talking about. Any negativity that you are picking up on is because of gullible, uneducated voters like yourself. Again follow your own advise and DO YOUR HOMEWORK!

  • leon said:

    Disappointed….in you and your lack of knowledge.

    You sound like a disgruntled employee unable to be an educated voter.
    Your negativism is getting in the way of your good judgement.

    Stole email addresses?? Do you think it was just like Watergate?? Flashlights and cameras?
    Stole $28,000 from the Republican Party?? Again, do your homework, the polls did not represent one person, they represented the party.
    Lied about being an outsider?? Another felony. Like we all did not know he was the head of the Illinois Republican Party since 2004.
    Can’t generate jobs for his business?? His business has been around for decades………extremely successful, employs hundreds. The business has survived wars, recessions, good times and bad.
    Judge you?? I can’t judge you. I can only ascertain from your comments that you have a lot to learn.
    Lie, cheat and steal…….Compared to the former governors of this state, McKenna is spotless.
    The people of Illinois deserve a leader who can get the job done.

    Uneducated voter? If the shoe fits………

    May the best man win.

  • andy mckenna sr said:

    Junior,

    I have tried and tried again to get you a “job” outside of the company to no avail… It’s time you went out on your own son.

    Good Luck.

    Daddy

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