“Glass Ceiling” will be Busted in 55th District
The tinkling of falling glass is imminent in the northwest suburban 55th Illinois House district, where the proverbial “glass ceiling,” of which feminists so relentlessly complain, is about to be thoroughly busted – but in a very contrarian way.
In the Park Ridge-Des Plaines-centered district, which has elected a woman as state representative since 1976, a man may be elected.
In a district which has elected only Republicans since single-member districts were created in 1982, and which always elected two Republicans and one Democrat in the previous 110 years of multi-member districts, a Democrat may be elected.
In an upscale, independent-minded and relatively liberal district, where so-called “soccer moms” are a predominant political force, which has repeatedly rejected culturally conservative (meaning anti-abortion) candidates, and which has elected a pro-choice Republican woman for 20 years, a pro-life Republican woman may be elected.
And, in a district where the outgoing incumbent, Rosemary Mulligan, has been a fiscal conservative, where Democrats like Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and Governor Pat Quinn are roundly unpopular, and where Madigan is spending at least $700,000 to elect his candidate, the next state representative, if a Democrat, will be under Madigan’s thumb.
The candidates: Marty Moylan (D), age 61, Des Plaines’ mayor since 2009, a retired electrician who has held an IBEW card since 1966, and who proclaims himself to be “conservative on fiscal issues and liberal on cultural issues.” And Susan Sweeney (R), age 56, presently a substitute teacher, who has extensive business experience with IBM and Avis, and who is running against Madigan, not Moylan. “We don’t need more of the same in Springfield. And Moylan will do what Madigan tells him.”
“I will not take orders from anyone (in Springfield),” pledges Moylan. “I will vote to cut spending. I will not vote to raise (state) taxes.”
“We need to restore Illinois’ fiscal health,” asserts Sweeney. “We must restrain taxing, borrowing and spending. We must live within our means.” Sweeney said she will work to repeal the state income tax hike.
The new 55th District, previously the 65th District, was designed by Madigan to get rid of Mulligan, and elect a Democrat – specifically Moylan. It used to run from Canfield, at the Chicago border, to I-53, at the west edge of Elk Grove Village, south of Oakton to roughly Devon. That meant it encompassed all ofPark Ridge, half of Des Plaines, and two-thirds of Elk Grove.
Madigan’s remap sliced out half of Park Ridge (north of the Northwest Highway), and added all of Des Plaines (north of Oakton). Overall, the new districtis now 20 percent in Park Ridge, 40 percent in Des Plaines, 18 percent in Elk Grove, and the rest scattered among Chicago (four precincts in the Pavilion apartment complex along Cumberland), plus sections of Arlington Heights, Mount Prospect and Rolling Meadows. By chopping out north Park Ridge, the affluent area around the Park Ridge County Club, Madigan whacked Mulligan’s base; and by adding north Des Plaines (to Central Road), which was in Democrat Elaine Nekritz’s district, Madigan enhanced Moylan’s base.
But then Mulligan, age 71, in an astounding display of self-immolation, got rid of herself. Elected in 1992, defeating the vociferously anti-abortion Penny Pullen in the Republican primary, Mulligan, of Des Plaines, carved out a niche in Springfield and entrenched herself in the district. She rose to become ranking Republican on the Appropriations/Human Services committee, where she championed funding for social service providers. She was an adamant proponent of abortion rights, which meant that PersonalPac and other pro-choice groups poured money and manpower into her campaigns. Madigan recruited pro-choicePark Ridge women to run against her in 2000, 2002 and 2008, but she prevailed.
Of course, Mulligan’s liberalism estranged her from the cultural conservatives who dominated the once-powerful Maine Township Republican organization. A decade of internecine warfare, beginning after state senator Marty Butler’s death in 1998, reduced the party to ashes. Finally, through attrition, Mulligan got herself elected township committeeman in 2010, supposedly to ensure that she could anoint or appoint her successor in 2012 or later.
But it was all for naught. Conservatives, led by township road commissioner Bob Provenzano, hate Mulligan. And, after pushing aside her ally, Mark Thompson, as committeeman, Mulligan had no precinct workers. In late 2011, the complacent Mulligan didn’t motivate herself to procure the necessary 500 nominating petition signatures until just before Thanksgiving, a week prior to filing; she then panicked, beseeched Republican House leader Tom Cross to send workers, and filed 649 signatures, of which 400 were challenged as defective, and 320 stricken, leaving just 329 as valid. Mulligan was off the ballot.
Not to worry, she thought. Nobody else filed. After the primary, she, as committeeman, could pick herself as the nominee. Or she could get 500-plus write-ins, and be nominated in the primary. But Cross had other ideas – like finally getting rid of the obstreperous and irritating Mulligan. He recruited Sweeney, funded her, and coordinated her write-in campaign with Provenzano and the conservatives. On March 20, she got 2,229 write-ins, to Mulligan’s 46. The incumbent’s career was over.
Now it gets convoluted. “I’m a conservative Democrat,” boasts Moylan. And, in fact, he was a Republican precinct captain when Bill Darr was committeeman from 1998-2002, succeeding Butler. Moylan is personally close to Provenzano and the township crowd. The Mulligan-backed Thompson ousted Darr in 2002. Thompson beat Provenzano in 2006. Moylan beat Thompson for Des Plaines mayor in 2009.
“Their goal,” meaning the township Republican officials, “was to beat Mulligan, not to elect Sweeney,” said one observer. “They’re not backing her. They’re for Marty.” When asked if any township Republican officeholder has endorsed her, Sweeney equivocated, stating that she has had “positive feedback” – whatever that means. Plus, there is considerable resentment that Cross picked Sweeney, who was never active in local politics, rather than somebody allied with the conservatives.
“He (Moylan) is not a good fit for the district,” said one of Cross’s operatives. He is correct. The 55th is a wine-and-cheese district, more comfortable with genteel and compassionate female legislators than with the blue collar, beer-and-pretzels type exemplified by Moylan. But neither is Sweeney, a fire-and-brimstone conservative who minces no words excoriating Madigan, Quinn and the Democrats.
Both candidates concur that voters are in a sour and hostile mood, but differ as to who will bear the brunt of their wrath. “There’s a lot of negativity against all incumbents,” said Moylan, who refused to state whether he is supporting Barack Obama. “Voters are so frustrated, so fed up with politicians. They feel totally disenfranchised and disempowered, especially with Springfield,” said Sweeney, who said she is not running in tandem with the Romney-Ryan campaign.
But, on the bright side, voters will not lack clogged mailboxes. They will soon discover every so-called dastardly and despicable aspect of the candidates’ backgrounds. A torrent of negativity awaits them. Moylan expects at least 15 Madigan-funded mailers, and Sweeney at least three paid for by Cross.
Moylan’s mayoral tenure is fair game. “Property taxes have increased by 22 percent, the city telephone and local gas tax has doubled, water rates have increased by 50 percent, and many fees were hiked,” said Sweeney of Des Plaines under Moylan. “He’s no fiscal conservative.”
Absurd, retorts Moylan, who presided over the opening of the Rivers Casino at River Road and Devon, which will generate $4 million in revenue for the city in 2012, and $6-7 million in 2013 and thereafter. “The (Des Plaines) budget was $111 million in 2009; it’s now $96 million. I cut 68 jobs. The city property tax levy was down three percent in 2011. Our bond rating went to AA2. Our reserve fund went from $4.2 million in 2009 to $18.9 million in 2011. The city’s debt, which was $102 million in 2005, and $76 million in 2009, is now $64 million. And we passed a law in 2011 to use the casino revenue only to pay down the debt, and for infrastructure repairs, which will create jobs,” asserted Moylan.
Other issues: Alleged “police brutality” in Des Plaines under Moylan’s watch, and the $4 million city contract to Lindahl Brothers Construction for the repaving of River Road near the casino. Republicans charge that Moylan got a pay-to-play contribution; Moylan says he returned Lindahl’s $500 donation.
In 2008, against Democrat Aurora Austriaco, in the year of Obama’s landslide, Mulligan broke even in Park Ridge and the rest of the district, and won 55 percent in her Des Plaines base, for a 21,307-17,698 victory, in a turnout of 39,005. In 2004, the previous presidential-year election, Mulligan won by 25,207-13,019 against a male Democrat, carrying both Park Ridge and Des Plaines with over 60 percent. In 2000, against Mary Beth Tighe, a Park Ridge Democrat lavishly funded by Madigan, Mulligan won17,448-16,119. The common thread: Mulligan had a fervent base of support among pro-choicers, and her enemies failed to coalesce around her equally liberal foes.
The outlook: Through July 1, Moylan raised $92,079 and Sweeney $63,965. Madigan’s mailings will portray Sweeney as a right-wing nut; Sweeney’s mailings will portray Madigan as a tyrant and Moylan his stooge. But it comes down to base – and Moylan has it in Des Plaines. Moylan will win by 55-45 percent.
image Motorola commissioned drawing of the House of the Future, which has a sort of glass ceiling.