My Projections for Primary Season
There are three kinds of voters in Democratic primaries in Chicago and Cook County: Controlled, committed and casual – the proverbial 3-C’s. And the respective turnout amongst those groups determines whether an anti-machine independent or a pro-machine loyalist triumphs.
* Controlled. These are quid pro quo voters who have a self-interest in the outcome. Either they or a family member have a government job, or need to pay back a precinct captain or politician for some favor, or are ambitious and want to curry favor. Reciprocity is the name of the game. Controlled voters number about 350,000 countywide.
* Committed. These are people who view voting as a civic duty, feel guilt if they abstain, amass information on candidates, and seek direction for their choices from newspaper endorsements and media disclosures. Some have personal agendas, want to find out who is the “right” black, woman or liberal, and vote the way certain special interest groups recommend. They number about 250,000.
* Casual. These are apathetic, apolitical transient voters, who ignore politics until and unless a specific candidate becomes the flavor of the month – much like Barack Obama in 2008. Younger whites are trendy, self-centered, obsessed with the social media, and get their information from Facebook, Twitter, and Jon Stewart’s TV show. The blacks are transients with no stake in the community. They number about 450,000.
So, you ask, how did you arrive at these numbers?
There are currently 2,704,993 registered voters in Cook County, of which 1,406,037 (52 percent) are in Chicago, and 1,298,956 (48 percent) in the suburbs. In the 2004 Democratic primary, which featured a presidential contest, 764,163 voted. In 2008, with Obama on the ballot, 1,091,008 voted, an increase of 326,845. In 2010, an off-year, Democratic turnout fell to 596,147, despite heated statewide and county races. That was a decline of 494,861 compared to 2008 and 168,016 compared to 2004. So who didn’t vote? Primarily younger whites and minorities. Turnout may barely eclipse 20 percent on March 20.
In Cook County’s three black-majority congressional districts, the 1st, 2nd and 7th, turnout was 326,946 in 2004, surged to 445,869 in 2008, and plummeted to 241,990 in 2010. That’s about 150,000 “casual” voters.
In the county’s two most liberal districts, the 9th and 10th, both almost entirely white, turnout was 88,885 in 2004, up to 162,531 in 2008, and down to 93,817 in 2010. That’s about 60,000 “casual” voters, and also a base of about 90,000 “committed” liberal voters.
In the 4th congressional district, which is almost all the county’s Hispanics, turnout was 37,382 in 2004, up to 63,436 in 2008, and down to 34,000 in 2010. That’s about 30,000 “casual” voters.
In the two white-majority districts represented by white Democratic congressmen, the 3rd and 5th, turnout was 147,469 in 2004, up to 210,443 in 2008, and down to 130,723 in 2010. That’s about 50,000 “casual” voters.
So here’s my prediction: On March 20, the only noteworthy contests are for Clerk of Court and Illinois Supreme Court justice. “Casual” voters could care less, and “committed” voters are distinctly disengaged. The Democratic primary turnout will be less than 500,000, with under 150,000 blacks voting, less than 50,000 Hispanics, and about 300,000 whites. That means a majority of the turnout will be “controlled” voters.
Here’s a look at key contests:
Illinois Supreme Court (1st District): The Democrats have a 4-3 majority on the High Court, with three justices from Cook County’s 1st District – Charles Freeman, Anne Burke and Mary Jane Theis, all Democrats. Freeman is black, and occupies the traditional “black seat.” Theis was elevated from the Appellate Court in 2011 to fill the Thomas Fitzgerald vacancy, and is running for a full 10-year term with Democratic organization backing. A Republican has not won in the 1st District since the 1950s.
Opposing Theis on March 20 are Appellate Court justices Joy Cunningham, who is black, and Aurie Pucinski, former Clerk of Circuit Court and daughter of the late 41st Ward alderman, Roman Pucinski. Also running is white lawyer Tom Flannigan, who is inconsequential.
In 2010, Pucinski, then a Circuit Court judge, beat the endorsed Tom Hogan for a countywide Appellate Court nomination, getting 173,872 votes (35.7 percent), to Hogan’s 151,897 (31.2 percent). Black judge Pamela Hill-Veal got 19.9 percent. In 2006, for countywide Circuit Court judge, Pucinski beat the party-endorsed black candidate, Joanne Guillemette, by 184,721-125,597 (37.4 percent). Pucinski’s base vote is 160,000-170,000, or about 32-35 percent
In 2006, Cunningham, a private attorney, rode a crest of black votes to upset the endorsed white candidate, beating David Erickson by 135,910-135,400 (28.3 percent), a margin of 510 votes. In the other Appellate Court race, the endorsed white judge beat another black woman, Casandra Lewis, by 185,375-125,596, with Lewis getting 25.8 percent. The black judicial vote base is 125,000-135,000, or about 25-28 percent; plus, her Irish surname will get her a few white votes.
In 1994, Theis, who had been a Circuit Court judge for 6 years, was nominated for the Appellate Court, getting 147,239 votes (31.4 percent) as the party-endorsed candidate, with a white Irish-surnamed male getting 25.4 percent, and a black getting 14.9 percent. Theis will spend over $1.2 million in her 2012 campaign, but she is getting minimal traction, and her name has no magnetism. The “controlled” white judicial base vote is about 140,000. Were Pucinski not running, Theis would win easily.
Democratic powerhouses in Springfield, especially Speaker Mike Madigan, need a Democratic Supreme Court majority. The High Court consistently invalidates tort reform and malpractice caps, approves Madigan’s remaps, and kept Rahm Emanuel on the ballot for mayor. For them, Theis is safe, Cunningham tolerable, and Pucinski a nightmare. My prediction: In a turnout of 440,000, Pucinski wins with 33 percent, to Cunningham’s 32 and Theis’s 31.
Clerk of Court: In a recent column, I predicted that black incumbent Dorothy Brown, fresh from failed bids for mayor and county board president, would lose to Alderman Ric Munoz (22nd), a “reformer” endorsed by Toni Preckwinkle. But, according to Democratic sources, black committeemen are now energetically coalescing behind her, as are key white committeemen. If this were 2008, the committed and casual vote would overwhelm the controlled vote. But, in 2012, the controlled vote equals the committed vote. If black turnout is under 150,000, Munoz wins; if not, Brown takes a fourth term.
Metropolitan Water Reclamation District: “Bullets” are flying. Before multi-member Illinois House districts were abolished in 1982, voters could elect three of four candidates, and cast one vote for three, 1.5 for two, or a 3-vote “bullet” for one. At the Water District, three commissioners are nominated every two years, and voters cast one vote each for three candidates. But this year, the leading candidates are busily trying to corral single “bullet” vote for themselves, and no second or third votes for anybody else.
The “slate” consists of incumbent Debra Shore, attorney Patrick Daley Thompson, and 2010 loser Kari Steele. Shore, of Evanston, is gay and an ardent environmentalist; she is urging a “bullet” vote in her North Shore/liberal base. Thompson, nephew and grandson of Mayors Daley, is his family’s next generation. Daley allies are pushing him, and nobody else. Steele, daughter of a former black alderman and current Appellate Court justice, is seeking “bullets” among blacks.
Also running are former commissioner Patty Young, and dumped incumbent Pat Horton, who is black. In prior primaries, Young has run exceedingly well in both whiter and black areas. Horton will draw some West Side black votes. My prediction: The Shore/Thompson/Steele ticket is working feverishly to undermine each other, instead of consolidating the “controlled/committed” vote for all three. Shore and Young will win; Thompson will barely edge Steele.
Appellate Court: There are six vacancies, and two blistering races. For the O’Brien vacancy, Justice Rudy Garcia was dumped, Judge Jesse Reyes slated, and Judges William Stewart Boyd, who is black, and Judge Ellen Flannigan are running. Irish-surnamed females are tough to beat. For the Cahill vacancy, Judges Mathias Delort, Jim McGing, Kay Marie Hanlon, and Pamela Hill-Veal are running, plus lawyer Laura Sullivan.. Four whites and three Irish surnames will insure the nomination of the sole black, Hill-Veal.
U.S. Representative (2nd District): “Jesse’s been everywhere,” said a black source, referring to incumbent Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2), who faces white former congresswoman Debbie Halvorson. A lot of black ministers have spurned Jackson, citing personal and legal ethical issues. But the new district is 55 percent black, and blacks will compose almost 65 percent of the primary turnout. “Junior” wins with 54 percent.
U.S. Representative (8th District): This primary is all about Tea-Party incumbent Joe Walsh (R), with pro-Obama Democrats Tammy Duckworth and Raja Krishnamoorthi bickering as to who is best able to defeat the “extremist.” Turnout won’t exceed 55,000. Duckworth has the better name ID, but Krishnamoorthi has the better ground game. Duckworth wins with 55 percent.
U.S. Representative (10th District): This is the Year of the Yawn on the North Shore. First-term Republican Bob Dold is vulnerable, but the Democratic field is forgettable. Brad Schneider will be nominated.
State Representative (19th District): For Joe Lyons’ seat, Rob Martwick, whom I have dubbed “Silver Spoon Rob,” has party backing and plenty of money. But he was jolted when the Chicago Tribune endorsed Sandra Stoppa, a Chicago cop. Martwick wins 60-40 percent.
State Representative (78th District): Madigan has unleashed a torrent of money and manpower to rescue Camille Lilly, the black incumbent who is facing a tough onslaught from Mike Nardello. Slight edge to Lilly.
State Representative (39th District): Toni Berrios, whose father is Big Daddy Joe Berrios, is spending gobs of money, and will beat Will Guzzardi.
Ward Democratic Committeemen: Winners will be John Arena (45th), Nick Sposato (36th), Patti Jo Cullerton (38th) and John Fritchey (32nd).
Russ Stewart is a political analyst for the Chicago Daily Observer