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The 5th Congressional District Special Election: A Real Life Lottery

Sam Royko 28 February 2009 4 Comments

I live in the Fifth Congressional District and will vote in the special election on Tuesday for Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley to replace Rahm Emanuel who left Congress to become President Obama’s Chief of Staff.  Even though this primary has been somewhat overshadowed by the Roland Burris situation, a large turnout of voters was never predicted for this race.  And because there are thirteen candidates, this election is a lot like a lottery.  Anyone can win.  No one should be surprised if the winner has somewhere between 15 and 22 percent of the total vote.  It’s the kind of election that could result in a recount with just a few dozen votes separating the top two or even three.  Whoever the winner is, it is generally conceded that that person will win the special election on April 7 and stands the best chance of winning the regular election in 2010.

The 13 candidates running for the Fifth Congressional District seat are an interesting group.   Mike Quigley is a sitting Commissioner on the County Board and has been endorsed by both the Sun Times and Tribune.   His vote, though, will be cut into by State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, one of only two women of the thirteen, and also by reform labor lawyer Tom Geoghegan and economics professor Charles Wheelan.

Most of the candidates have commendable credentials, including three doctors.  One of the doctors, Carlos Monteagudo is the only Hispanic in the race, and that is not an unimportant advantage.

State legislator John  Fritchey is Democratic Committeeman of the 32nd ward and his uncle in law, Ald. William Banks, is Committeeman of the 36th ward.  Ald. Patrick O’Connor is also Democratic Committeeman of the 40th Ward and these two candidates have a decided advantage stemming from the fact that they are political leaders who can deliver a localized vote in a small turnout election.

In this race anything could happen, but my guess is that the winner will be Quigley, Feigenholtz or Fritchey, but no one should be surprised if Wheelan (who’s first on the ballot) or O’Connor (who is last) wins, or the only Hispanic Dr. Monteagudo sneaks past the others.  But Annunzio and Capparelli, who have recognizable ballot names, will split the ethnic Italian-American vote, and while Dr. Victor Forys is the only candidate of Polish-American heritage, there are not enough ethnic Poles in the district to elect him.

Of the many qualified candidates, I’ve decided to vote for Commissioner Mike Quigley based on his endorsement by Forrest Claypool, his fellow Commissioner on the County Board, and based on his record as a reformer. It is a record that is easy for me to support.  According to the Chicago Reader, Quigley is one of the “greenest elected officials in Chicago”.  He has shown his willingness to stand up and support what he believes in.  In particular, his effort to create a more accountable and transparent Cook County government.  I also strongly support his position on health care since it shows passion that mirrors that of President Obama.  At this time, when people are eager for change, I believe that Quigley is the best person to represent my district to help to bring change about.  That said, if Rahm Emanuel decides to return to Congress, I would support him over any of the candidates who might win this election including Quigley.

This is the kind of election my Dad, Mike Royko, used to enjoy. It’s both local and unpredictable. This being my first foray into political commentary, I hope that on Wednesday morning I won’t look foolish with my predictions.  I can, however, say this.   If I were older than 25, I might have bought a lottery ticket in this race for myself.


Sam Royko is a new columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer


  • Phil Krone said:

    I was impressed with Sam’s reasoned analysis. I personally know six of the candidates and am impressed with a few of the others, but if I lived in the district I’d vote for Quigley (with Royko and Claypool’s recommendation as the major reason),though Geoghegan, Wheelan, Fritchey and Feigenholtz seem excellent choices. But I must say, the most intriguing possibility is Sam Royko himself sometime in the near future.

  • Hannah Cole said:

    I would be careful voting for anyone connected to Banks. His family empire, mirrors the Daly empire, hire the family first. Banks holds the key to rezoning, his newphew is an infamous rezoning attorney, his wife is an infamous real estate broker, and they also OWN a bank. So is this politics as usual. Keep the nephew-in-law out. Keep Fritchey out. Stop adding to the family political empires in Chicago.
    Go for green, Quigley..not in anyones pocket….YET!

  • John Powers (author) said:

    I don’t think owning a bank should disqualify anyone from politics. Zoning raises some red flags, but who cares if Fritchey’s family owns a bank. Maybe he is getting some practical experience in finance.

  • William S. Singer said:

    Sam Royko’s comments and analysis were right on – – both his choice and his judgment.

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