Wrenches in the Works in Cicero and the 2nd Congressional District
Bring on the super-glue. Once-dominate political machines in Cicero, Niles Township and the 2nd congressional district are crumbling, as will be evident on Feb. 26.
In Illinois’ far South Side Chicago and south suburban 2nd District, vacated by the disgraced Jesse Jackson Jr. (D), the 3-G’s – guns, gender and geography – are primed to dictate the outcome of the Democratic primary. The winner should be “geography.” The precipitate withdrawal of Toi Hutchinson, a black south suburban state senator, starkly narrows the choices: Anthony Beale, a black Chicago alderman; former south suburban state representative Robin Kelly, a black woman; and former Will County U.S. Representative Debbie Halvorson, a white woman. The early consensus: Beale, backed by the crumbling Jackson-Meeks political machine, should win.
The Feb. 15 indictment of both the ex-congressman and his wife, former Alderman Sandi Jackson (7th), is crumbling Beale’s chances. There is no voter sympathy for the Jackson Twosome. There is no race card to play. The “white establishment” cannot be accused of persecution. Greed, as evidenced by a bloated, arrogant, millionaire lifestyle, was their undoing.
Beale’s close political and personal relationship with the Jacksons, and particularly with Sandi, has, according to one well-connected South Side politician, “given rise to a lot of nasty rumors.” One or more of Beale’s rivals, adds this source, is going to “drop a bomb” on Beale the weekend before the primary, blasting his “Jackson connection,” which, he said, “is now poison. He’s finished.”
Beale’s base, the 148 precincts in Chicago’s black-majority 5th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 34th wards, will cast 20-25 percent of the vote. Kelly will amass most of the considerable black south suburban vote, and Halvorson will get the bulk of the district’s white vote, concentrated in Will and Kankakee counties. Turnout will not exceed 40,000, barely half the 78,808 voters in the 2012 Jackson-Halvorson primary. The magic number is 12,000. Prediction: It will be 30, 29, 25, respectively, for Beale, Kelly and Halvorson, with the rest scattered among 11 others.
“This will be a test of the (Chicago) black committeemen. Can they deliver?” said a South Side source.
In west suburban Cicero, Biblical precepts and prophecies are under assault. Normally, one gets old, dies, and presumably (or hopefully) gets one’s eternal reward in the Kingdom of Heaven. In Cicero, one needn’t wait. One gets old, and lives in Cicero, and the Kingdom of Larry Dominick, the town president, provides a plethora of eternal earthly rewards.
How about free meals, snow shoveling, lawn service, driveway repaving, sewer and sidewalk repairs, and even a new garage? All paid for by Cicero’s non-seniors. King Larry coddles and pampers the oldsters, and they, along with the dwindling Cicero white population (now barely 13 percent), are his political base.
Despite an 87 percent Hispanic population, the remnants of the Republican political machine of disgraced Betty Loren-Maltese are still wheezing, gasping and working for Dominick, as are the invading hordes of precinct workers dispatched by neighboring Democratic powerhouses — Mike Madigan’s 13th Ward and Bill Lipinski’s 23rd Ward — as well as Victor Reyes and the Hispanic Democratic Organization, and Hispanic state legislators Marty Sandoval, Tony Munoz, Ed Acevedo and Lisa Hernandez.
Against this armada stands U.S. Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-4) and state senator Juan Garcia, who are backing Juan Ochoa, a former McPier authority and Hispanic Chamber of Commerce executive, who has been attacking Dominick’s nepotism, favoritism, and fiscal irresponsibility. According to press reports, 43 of Dominick’s kin and in-laws are on the town payroll.
The magic number for Dominick is 10,000. If turnout exceeds 12,000, Ochoa wins; if it’s under 10,000, Dominick wins. Prediction: Since a second white candidate, former senior director Joe Pontarelli, is slicing into Dominick’s vote, no candidate with get a majority, necessitating an April 9 Dominick-Ochoa runoff.
In north suburban Niles Township, the “Caucus Party” is a relic of the 1970s, when weary Skokie and Morton Grove Democrats and Republicans elected to stop battling, and divvy up the abundance of township and municipal offices and jobs among themselves. Now it’s run by the Democrats, specifically Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen and State Representative Lou Lang (D-16), the township’s Democratic committeeman.
The election of Republican Dan Staackmann as Morton Grove mayor, on the “Action Party” slate, sticks in their proverbial craw. Their strategy for 2013 is subvert and divide.
In 2009, Staackmann beat Caucus Party incumbent Rick Krier 1,542-1,326 (53.8 percent), and has been a competent and popular mayor. So how to beat him? They recruited Trustee Danny DeMaria, circulated his petitions, and set up a Feb. 26 Action Party primary, where the turnout will be less than 600. Prediction: Staackmann should win, but not by much. And then he has to face Larry Gomberg, an alleged “independent” who will have Democratic backing on April 9.
Here’s more on the 2nd District:
Stretching 66 miles from Burnham Park (3800 South) in Chicago to the southern Kankakee County border, this “majority-minority” district is 55 percent black. In 1995, incumbent Mel Reynolds (D) resigned after being convicted of criminal sexual assault, and “Junior” won the special Democratic primary for the seat. Boosted by his eponymous surname, Jackson got 30,017 votes (46 percent), to Illinois Senate president Emil Jones’ 24,097 (37 percent) and state senator Alice Palmer’s 6,343 (10 percent), in a turnout of 62,228. Jones was the “establishment” candidate, backed by the black ward committeemen and then-Mayor Rich Daley. Notably, Palmer was so confident of winning the November election that she didn’t file for re-election in 1996, and tabbed a young “community organizer” named Barack Obama to run for her spot, with the understanding that he would quit and let her retake the seat if she lost. She lost, and he didn’t quit.
In a district with a population of 572,188, which had a 1996 turnout of 183,528, the 1995 primary corralled barely 30 percent of the registered voters.
The 2012 primary is a template for Feb. 26. Halvorson, from Crete in Will County, was elected state senator in 1996, rose to become majority leader, and was poised to succeed Jones as president. But she unwisely chose to run for Congress in 2008, and was elected from the white, Will County-dominated 11th District. She backed the Obama agenda, voted for Obamacare, and lost humiliatingly in 2010, getting just 42.6 percent. Had Halvorson stayed put in 2008, she, not John Cullerton, would be Illinois’ senate president.
With Will County remapped in 2011 into the 2nd District, Halvorson chose to challenge Jackson, beset by a multitude of legal and ethical problems, including formal investigations by the U.S. Attorney and House Ethics Committee. He had not yet checked into the Mayo Clinic, with alleged depression and bi-polar issues. Jackson, largely due to race, obliterated Halvorson, 56,130-22,678 (71.2 percent)
Jackson won 20,204-5,897 (77.4 percent) in the 194 Chicago precincts, in a turnout of 26,101; 32,575-11,219 (74.4 percent) in the 263 south Cook County suburban precincts, but got only 38.6 percent in the 27 Will County precincts and 36.5 percent in the 85 Kankakee County precincts. Overall, 33.1 percent of the vote was cast in Chicago, and 55.5 percent in the Cook County suburbs. Halvorson tried to make the race a referendum on Jackson; instead, Jackson made the race about race: don’t elect a white. His political operation, centered in the 7th Ward, and aided by the Reverend James Meeks, former state senator and pastor of the gigantic Salem Baptist Church, delivered huge Chicago margins.
2013’s salient issue, following the Newtown massacre and the Hadiya Pendleton slaying, is guns. Frontrunning candidate Donne Trotter withdrew after he was arresting for possessing a gun at an airport. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s “Independence USA” super PAC has spent $1.3 million in TV ads attacking Halvorson for opposing an assault weapons ban and background checks. . Kelly, a former state representative and aide to state treasurer Alexi Giannulias and county board president Toni Preckwinkle, is hit for state investment in gun manufacturers’ stock.
“The issue is crime control and drug control, not gun control” said the South Side source. “The issue is street gangs with guns who are dealing drugs supplied from Mexico and the South American cartels who shoot anybody who invades their turf. The issue is white people in expensive cars who drive into the (black) community to buy drugs. The issue is the police’s inability to stop the flow of drugs.” He adds: “Most (black) people have guns in their homes for self-defense. They resent white people, in their safe suburbs, telling them to give up their guns.” In sum, the “gun issue” is a non-issue.
Though Kelly worked for her, Preckwinkle endorsed Hutchinson. Meeks and most Chicago clergy back Beale. The key is Frank Zuccarelli, the white Democratic committeeman from racially-mixed Thornton Township, centered around Chicago Heights, with a population of 103,130 in 123 precincts. Jackson beat Halvorson 15,067-4,649 (76.4 percent), and Zuccarelli initially endorsed Trotter. He has not yet made a Feb. 26 endorsement. If he backs Beale, Beale wins. More likely is a last-weekend embrace of Kelly. Expect a Beal upset in a squeaker.
Russ Stewart is a political analyst for the Chicago Daily Observer.
E-mail Russ@russstewart.com or visit his website at www.russstewart.com.