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Cook County Dems Dump Dorothy Brown Pending Federal Investigation

Russ Stewart 30 October 2015 No Comment

Among Democratic ward and township committeemen, there is a dirty four-letter word: It’s W-O-R-K. And having dumped Dorothy Brown as their slated candidate for Clerk of the Circuit Court, that’s what they will have to do to.

Otherwise, there will be another obnoxious four-letter word: L-O-S-E.

The Democrats’ fear is that Brown and/or her husband may get indicted before the March 15, 2016 primary, or thereafter. A myriad of allegations have surfaced in the FBI’s ongoing investigation, ranging from questionable loans to the Browns to pay-to-play donations by employees in exchange for jobs and/or promotions in the Clerk’s office. The feds just grabbed her cellphone. It’s a very serious, very nasty situation, which means – depending on the timing of any indictment — that Jacob Meister, Brown’s announced opponent, could win the primary, or that Republican Diane Shapiro could win the election.


In Brown’s stead, Democratic slatemakers anointed Alderman Michelle Harris (8th), a onetime protégé of John Stroger, and aldermanic successor to Todd Stroger. Slatemakers adhered to an unwritten party rule: Once a black is elected to any major office, it must be occupied forevermore by a black; and once a woman is elected to any major office, it must be occupied forevermore by a woman. Since Brown is a South Side black woman…well, you can guess. Harris is a South Side black woman. No others need apply.

Harris’s credentials to run the country’s second-largest court system, in which 2.4 million cases are filed annually, and ____ million documents are filed and catalogued monthly, are stellar: She’s a lifelong, nepotistic payroller, just like most of her Clerk predecessors. She was chief-of-staff to her aunt, Alderman Lorraine Dixon (8th), who died in 2001 and was replaced by Todd Stroger. She also spent time as ward sanitation superintendent and Cook County Board secretary. When ward boss John Stroger died in 2006, the Toddler got his job as county board president, and Harris the aldermanic spot. To analogize, making Harris Clerk is akin to putting a truck driver in charge of NASA. But, hey, that’s Standard Operating procedure in Cook County.

“It was a done deal,” said Alderman Nick Sposato (38th), who is the current 36th Ward Democratic committeeman, but was remapped into the 38th Ward, where he is running for the party job in 2016. “I was notified on Wednesday for a Friday meeting,” he said. The Oct. 23 vote to dump Brown was supposedly “unanimous,” even though half the committeemen were not present.

“Whatever happened to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty?” asked Sposato. “Sure, there’s a federal investigation. But it’s all still rumor, not fact.” Sposato is nevertheless backing Meister in the primary.

That makes for a sticky problem: Slating is not nominating. Voters may resist. Harris has zero name identification, has Stroger-related baggage, and is an Emanuel stooge in the city council. According to sources, she is one of the “Emanuel 26” that will vote for the mayor’s budget and $588 million property tax hike on Oct. 29. The primary is March 15, so her opponents will have plenty of time to broadcast that fact in white and Hispanic wards.

It takes 5,365 nominating petition signatures to get on the Democratic primary ballot, and they are due during the week of Nov. 23-30. To withstand a challenge, a Democrat must amass 10,000 signatures.

Because incumbent State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez was dumped by committeemen in August, with “no recommendation” their verdict, there are no joint petitions. Every slated countywide Democrat is on a separate petition, not all on one petition. There are individual petitions on the street for Brown, Karen Yarbrough for Recorder, a single petition for the 4 candidates for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, and single petitions for 2 slated candidates for the Appellate Court, and 8 for the Circuit Court. Each slated candidate pays the party $25,000 upfront, for circulating and mailing “expenses.”

With petitions in the hands of 80 committeemen (50 Chicago, and 30 suburban), getting on the Democratic primary ballot is a no-brainer; that’s a guaranteed 20,000-30,000 signatures. But Brown has an acute problem: “I told them (the committeeman) not to submit the Brown petitions” that they gathered. ” said Joe Berrios, the county Democratic chairman. Brown’s getting her $25,000 refunded. So now she must get 10,000 signatures on her own, in 30 days, without the aid of black committeemen. Good luck.

Brown has been Clerk since 2000, when she beat Pat Levar in the primary. Her office controls 1,800 jobs, about half occupied by blacks, which means a lot of black committeemen have precinct workers, donors, friends or family on Brown’s payroll. The office’s budget exceeds $100 million. Those committeemen have already circulated her petitions, starting Sept. 1. They’re now going to shred them, and get new sheets for Harris.

Remember this: Harris is one of the “Four Sisters” that control much of South Side Chicago politics. They include County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, the slatemaking chairwoman who spearheaded the “Dump Brown” move, along with Aldermen Pat Dowell (3rd) and Leslie Hairston (5th). They are Democratic committeemen in four wards which generate a combined _______ primary votes.

The Preckwinkle/Harris Combine, aided and abetted by Berrios, have grievously overextended themselves. They are backing Kim Foxx, Preckwinkle’s former chief-of-staff, for state’s attorney, along with Harris and Yarbrough. That’s three black women for the top three countywide positions, plus another three women (one black) for the MWRD. In the U.S. Senate primary, Andrea Zopp, who is black, is challenging Tammy Duckworth. That’s diversity? Or is it exclusivity? NWMNA – no white males need apply.

Where will the white committeemen gravitate? Such powerhouses as Ed Burke and Mike Madigan are supporting Alvarez. All other white committeemen will back the “slate,” simply because there’s nobody else to back.

Countywide, in presidential years, the turnout in Democratic primaries is roughly 900,000, with roughly half from Chicago and half from the suburbs. The black vote is about 350,000, and the Hispanic vote about 125,000. To triumph, the Foxx/Harris/Yarbrough “Soul Slate” needs support from white wards. To be sure, Hillary Clinton will sweep Illinois’ presidential primary, and an outpouring of female voters could filter down the ballot. The U.S. Senate primary features U.S. Representative Tammy Duckworh against Andrea Zopp

But Sposato’s not so sure. There could be too many women, and too many blacks. He’s

backing Alvarez and Meister. “Slating means nothing,” he said. As for Alvarez’ dumping, Sposato is incredulous: “They (the slatemakers) claimed that she’s too tough on crime. Isn’t that her job?”

Brown, presumably, will not quietly fade away. She is well-known, especially in the black community. Her fundraising is anemic, with only $36,986 as of Oct. 1. But, in the black community, potential prosecution by the feds is an emblem of persecution, and evokes instant sympathy and empathy. A lot of politicians have gone to the slammer, but until he or she is behind bars, black voters are extraordinarily non-judgmental and supportive. And, from a legal (and negotiational) standpoint, Brown is not going to quit absent a plea bargain.

It is unprecedented, and perhaps a harbinger of the future, to have minorities battle each other for the Clerk’s job, once a crown jewel in the Democrats’ armada. From the 1930s onward, the office was “owned” by the Bridgeport 11th Ward. “Impressment” was the word. Those who got the office’s low-paying, paper-shuffling jobs had to work precincts. Bridgeporters Joe

McDonough, Matt Danaher and Morgan Finley ran the officse, until Finley got ensnared in the feds’ Operation opportunistic successor was Aurie Pucinski (D), who beat both Jane Byrne (D) and Eddie Vrdolyak (R) in 1988, switched to the Republicans in 1998 to run against Stroger, and then switched back, after retiring in 2000, to run for judge; she is now on the Appellate Court.

X With solid black support, Brown beat the slated Levar in 2000 48.4-27.5 percent. In 2004, Brown beat white former Judge Jerome Orbach 74.1-25.9 percent. But, as clerk, the office ranked somewhere between inert, inept and outright negligent. Brown was mired in the 1990s. The federal courts, in the mid-2000s, introduced ECF – electronic case filing. All pleadings were done by e-mail, and paid by attorney credit cards. Ditto for DuPage County and Lake County. Not Brown’s office.

Every morning, a thousand litigants throng the Daley Center to file their appearances in eviction, housing and foreclosure cases; it could be done on-line. Likewise, there’s courtroom management.

The court docket for civil and collection cases might number 10-12 per courtroom on the 11th and 14th floors, but nearly 100 in the 28th floor foreclosure courtrooms. Paper is everywhere, especially on the 8th floor, which accepts foreclosure pleadings.

Only in the Law Division can cases be filed on-line, and while docket entries can be reviewed on-line for all divisions, filed documents cannot. Brown had a consulting study done in the late 2000s, which has yet to be fully implemented.

She is beyond incompetent, said Shapiro of Brown. “And that’s because the office is incompetently run.”

This much is clear: Brown is toast. She won’t get on the ballot. And, if Foxx and Harris win on March 15, Toni Preckwinkle will be the undisputed political boss of Cook County, eclipsing even Rahm Emanuel.


Russ Stewart is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer
Russ@russstewart.com or visit his website at www.russstewart.com.

image un-indicted co-conspirators Dorothy Brown and Governor Pat Quinn

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