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Pact-Man Fever: Can Illinois Republicans Survive Deals with Democrats?

Russ Stewart 29 August 2014 No Comment

If the English bard Shakespeare were resurrected, and brought to Chicago’s northwest side and northwest suburbs in 2014 to pen some verse on political reality, he would undoubtedly coin the phrase: “To pact or not to pact? That is the question.” And the answer is: Those politicians who don’t pact, don’t win.

Among area “Pact-Men” and “Pact-Women,” past and present, are Pete Silvestri, Michael McAuliffe, John Mulroe, Mary O’Connor, Rob Martwick, Skippy Saviano, Barrett Pedersen, Brad Stephens, Bill Banks, Jim DeLeo, Marty Moylan, and Bob Provenzano. The two most pact-less and hapless 2014 candidates are Democrats Frank McPartlin and Mo Khan. McPartlin is opposing Silvestri for 9th District county commissioner, and Khan is running against McAuliffe for 20th District state representative. Both will lose big.

“Pacting” as an art was pioneered by the late Roger McAuliffe. It means making deals with your adversaries, so that they don’t oppose you and you don’t oppose them. Reciprocity is the word. Almost a quarter-century ago, McAuliffe, a Northwest Side state representative who thrived and endured as a Republican, and who untimely died in a 1996 boating accident, shared with me the secret to his political success.

It was a variation of the Peter Principle. I call it the Roger Principle.

In the business world, according to the much-hyped, but now long-forgotten Peter Principle, people rose to the level of their incompetence, and stopped. No more promotions. No more pay hikes. They simply stayed put.

The essence of the Roger Principle, McAuliffe explained, is that a politician has to know his limitations. Don’t let ego cloud judgment, he said. He or she has to recognize that they have risen to their highest level of electability. Don’t take the next step – and lose. And don’t try to defeat other local officeholders.

McAuliffe, a Chicago police office with a high school diploma, knew his limitations. He got himself elected 38th Ward Republican committeeman in 1969, and parlayed that to state representative in 1972. For him, it was a lifetime job. No thoughts of state senator or Congress. His sole focus was on getting re-elected, and that meant providing services (like helping seniors get their driver’s licenses renewed) and getting state jobs (primarily in the Illinois Department of Transportation) for people who would work precincts for him.

State patronage is gone, but pact-making and the Roger Principle endure.

In the Old Era, having workers on the street was critical. In the New Era, having gobs of money and checkmating and/or undercutting opposition is critical. Of course, the capacity and credibility of the negotiators to beat each other is also critical. They deal from a position of strength. And if they give each other a “free pass,” they have to have the ability to deliver.

On Chicago’s northwest side and adjoining northwest suburbs, the Roger Principle is everywhere evident, and will be especially beneficial to McAuliffe (R-20), who assumed his dad’s House seat in 1996, and Silvestri (R), a 20-year incumbent who is actually endorsed by Democratic Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, even though he is running against McPartlin (D), one of her staffers.

“It’s all me-first,” said McPartlin of the Pactmen and the pacting. “All they care about is their job security. They care not a wit about what’s good for the people.” Khan, a 29-year old law student, concurs. He said he’s “running against the insidious culture of Springfield,” of which “Mike Madigan are McAuliffe are a part.” Madigan will spend $1 million to re-elect Moylan in the adjacent 55th District, but will spend nothing to elect Khan, giving McAuliffe a “free pass.” McAuliffe has a pact with O’Connor, the 41st Ward alderman, and Mulroe, the area state senator. In the March primary, all three worked in unison to defeat Khan, who won by 1,028 votes.

Here’s a synopsis of the key pacts:

The McAuliffe-Cullerton 38th Ward Pact: A Cullerton had been the ward’s alderman since 1935, and McAuliffe actually ran for alderman in 1963. Once he became state representative, a deal was struck: McAuliffe’s legion of precinct workers labored only for McAuliffe and guys like Jim Thompson; they never worked against Cullerton or county Democrats. And McAuliffe got a “free pass.”

McAuliffe also had a pact with Ralph Capparelli (D), who represented the adjacent House district. Neither meddled in the other’s district.

In 1991, McAuliffe moved his operation to the 41st Ward, and got his protégé, Brian Doherty, elected alderman, defeating Roman Pucinski (D). End of Pact. State Senator Wally Dudycz (R) was no Pactman. He tried to beat the Cullertons in 1983, 1987 and 1991, getting no aid from McAuliffe. The Democrats labored mightily and spent heavily to beat Dudycz in 1988, 1992 and 1996; again, McAuliffe offered no aid. When Dudycz ran for Congress in 1990, the Democrats and Pactmen ganged-up on him.

After Capparelli ousted Pucinski as 41st Ward Democratic committeeman in 1992, he pacted with McAuliffe-Doherty: He never backed anybody against Doherty (who was alderman for 20 years), and they gave Capparelli a “free pass” in House races.

The 36th Ward-Elmwood Park-Rosemont Pact: The Banks-DeLeo Machine ran the Montclare-Galewood 36th Ward for over 30 years. Bill Banks was elected alderman in 1983 and appointed committeeman in 1981; DeLeo was elected state representative in 1984 and senator in 1992. DeLeo’s legislative aide was Skip Saviano, now Elmwood Park’s mayor. Saviano was elected Leyden Township in 1989, and state representative as a Republican in 1992. Silvestri was elected Elmwood Park mayor 1989, and served 24 years. The Banks-DeLeo Machine regularly sent workers into Elmwood Park to prop up the Silvestri-Saviano Machine during elections. Banks and DeLeo retired in 2010, and Saviano lost in 2012. End of pact. But Silvestri, who was allied with the 41st Ward’s Dohnerty-McAuliffe operation, still survives, having pacted with Stephens, Martwick, Mulroe and O’Connor.

The Doherty/McAuliffe-Banks/DeLeo Pact. After McAuliffe 1996 death, all pacts dissolved. Young McAuliffe faced Tom Needham (D), an Edison Park lawyer backed by local and Springfield Democrats. McAuliffe eked out a 1,895-vote win, and then promptly re-pacted with Capparelli, Banks and DeLeo. Matters unpacted in 2002, after Madigan put McAuliffe and fellow incumbent Bob Bugielski (D), the 36th Ward’s guy, in the same district. Capparelli ran in a different district. The McAuliffe-Doherty-Stephens-Silverstri machine prevailed by 2,583 votes. They everybody re-pacted, the deal being that both DeLeo and McAuliife got “free passes.” When Capparelli ran against McAuliffe in 2004, all the Pactmen coalesced to beat him by 7,773 votes.

Matters severely unpacted in 2010, when Doherty decided to run for DeLeo’s open state senate seat. DeLeo, along with Springfield Democrats, wanted Mulroe. After spending close to $1 million, Mulroe beat Doherty by 5,884 votes In the 2011 battle for Doherty’s open aldermanic seat, the O’Connor-Mulroe forces prevailed, with O’Connor beating Maurita Gavin, Doherty’s aide, by 250 votes. But then everybody repacted: Mulroe was unopposed in 2012, McAuliffe got a “free pass” in 2012 and 2014, and O’Connor will get no McAuliffe-backed opposition in 2015.

The Leyden Township Pact: The township consists of Rosemont, Schiller Park, Franklin Park, Northlake, Elmwood Park and River Grove. The Grand Poobah is Brad Stephens, Rosemont mayor and Republican township committeeman. He has a pact with Barrett Pedersen, Franklin Park mayor and Democratic committeeman. Pedersen rules the roost in Franklin Park, but doesn’t field or support Democrats in any of the other cities or in the township. :

The Moylan-Provenzano Pact: It’s over. In Maine Township, Provenzano, the road commissioner, surreptitiously helped his good buddy, Moylan, win in 2012. And Moylan made sure the township Republicans got a free pass in 2013. With a new Republican committeeman, there will be no more pacting.

Here’s the 2014 outlook:

9th District: 2014 portends to be a breakout year for Silvestri, who consistently won with around 55 percent since 1994. His old district was 50/50 city/suburban, containing just the western suburbs. His pacting in the 36th and 41st wards insured victory; but the 2011 remap sliced out all of the 45th Ward, and most of the 38th and 36th wards, and added all of Park Ridge and most of Des Plaines. It’s now 75 percent suburban, and much more Republican. Silvestri will bombard his new voters with mailers hyping his support for eliminating the sales tax hike, voting to cut spending by $400 million, creating an independent hospital board, and applying Shakman to the county’s 250 “exempt” jobs (one of which is held by McPartlin).


But Silvestri’s real edge is money. He had $219,549 cash-on-hand as of June 30. McPartlin had zero. Silvestri will win with 60 percent. You can’t beat somebody with a nobody who has no money.

20th District: Khan’s plight parallels McPartlin’s. Khan had $7,322 cash-on-hand as of June 30; he raised $43,873 during 2014. McAuliffe had $96,909 on-hand, and raised $73,737. Madigan’s 2011 remap bolstered McAuliffe; he shed 36th and 38th ward precincts, gained all of Park Ridge north of Busse, plus bits of Des Plaines, and kept Rosemont, Harwood Heights and most of Norridge. Of the district’s 85 precincts, 44 are suburban, with 34 in the pacting 41st Ward. McAuliffe is unbeatable.

A future column will more extensively analyze these races.

Russ Stewart is a political analyst for the Chicago Daily Observer

E-mail Russ@russstewart.com or visit his website at www.russstewart.com

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