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“No Love Lost” Among State Senate Rivals

Russ Stewart 11 March 2010 One Comment

There are four psychological and emotional stages of personal grief: Anger, denial, bargaining and acceptance.

As for political grief, especially after losing an election, there are six stages: Anger, denial, blame, calculation, optimism and expectation. Depending on the severity of the defeat, the calculation is often colored by bitterness, the optimism illusory, and the expectation fatuous.

In the Northwest Side 10th state senatorial district, the three losers in the Democratic primary have already surpassed stages one through three, and have plunged into stages four through six. There is a multiplicity of blame, a rejection of acceptance, and an expectation of future glory.

According to official vote tallies (see adjoining chart), Edison Park attorney John Mulroe emerged as the victor, amassing 10,036 votes (42.5 percent), racking up 59.4 percent in his home 41st Ward, 46.5 percent in the 45th Ward, 35.2 percent in the 38th Ward, and 32.8 percent in the suburbs.

But the vanquished – Tom Ryan, Mary Sendra Anselmo, and Wanda Majcher – are unimpressed, unintimidated, unforgiving, and hesitant to embrace Mulroe, who is a definite underdog in his November contest against 41st Ward Alderman Brian Doherty, the Republican nominee. The three losers got a combined 57.5 percent of the vote: Ryan had 24.5 percent, Anselmo 22.3 percent, and Majcher 10.7 percent.

“I haven’t endorsed him (Mulroe) yet,” said Anselmo. “I’m still considering it,” said Ryan. “He’s the nominee, so I suppose I’ll endorse him,” said Majcher. Their drift is clear: Hey, John. Hope you lose.

But why did they lose?

“It was her (Anselmo’s) dirty tricks and unscrupulous campaign,” fumed Majcher, a state employee with extensive ties to the area’s large Polish-American community. “I was arrested and charged with DUI (driving under the influence) in 2003, when returning in daylight from chemotherapy treatments for my cancer, and becoming nauseous and vomiting. The case was dismissed. I was not intoxicated.”

Adds Majcher: “In January, fliers were circulated with my mug shot and arrest information. She (Anselmo) works for the Clerk of the Circuit Court. She has access to court records. She tried to destroy me.”

Responded Anselmo: “That’s totally untrue.”

In addition, Majcher said, the campaign of Adam Andrzejewski, a Polish-American businessman who sought the Republican nomination for governor, “siphoned off a lot of my votes. People had to pick a primary, and if they voted (Republican) for Adam, they couldn’t vote for me.”

In the heavily Polish 45th Ward, where Majcher got a disappointing 698 votes (11.3 percent), Andrzejewski had 504 votes; in the 38th Ward, where Majcher got 679 votes (15.5 percent), Andrzejewski had 454 votes; in the 41st Ward, where Majcher got 448 votes (6.7 percent), Andrzejewski got 707 votes. “Those votes,” amounting to 1,665, “would have been mine had he not run.”

“It was the unions,” complained Ryan, a former International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers member and longtime area Democratic precinct captain. “They (the unions) backed a lawyer over a tradesman. They gave him (Mulroe) money and workers, and ignored me. It makes no sense.”

Why did that happen? “It was (Patti Jo) Cullerton and (Tom) Allen. They delivered the unions.”

But the real culprit was lack of time, said Ryan. “My family, friends, co-workers and lifetime associates were excited, but they didn’t have enough time to network.” In the 36th Ward, where Ryan has family, he got 21 percent; in the 45th Ward, where Ryan was a precinct captain, he got 26.1 percent. Overall, on a budget of less than $20,000, Ryan finished second, with 24.2 percent. “If I had two more months, I could have won,” he said.

Anslemo, the chief deputy clerk for training and development in Dorothy Brown’s office, hails from the 36th Ward, and had the backing of outgoing senator Jim DeLeo and Democratic Committeeman Bill Banks. In a turnout of 4,560, roughly half the norm, Anslemo got 2,090 votes (45.8 percent). But in the 41st, 45th and 38th wards, Anslemo got only 2,728 votes (15.8 percent), to Mulroe’s 8,397 (48.6 percent).

“It was all about money,” said Anselmo, who spent $50,000, of which $35,000 came from her own pocket. “Mulroe had more money.”

But Anslemo, who is Polish and ran with her maiden name (Sendra), hinted that she could have won if she was the only woman and the only Polish-American candidate. Get real. The combined Anselmo-Majcher vote was 33 percent. Anselmo lost because she had only one committeeman’s support.

“Doherty will win,” said one loser, who wished to remain nameless. “And I won’t be unhappy.”

Incumbent DeLeo (D) is retiring after 18 years. The winner of the Mulroe-Doherty race will serve only until 2012. In 2011, the state legislature will redraw the boundaries of all 59 senate districts.

After interviewing each loser, this columnist sensed that none wish Mulroe well. If Doherty wins, each can try again. If Mulroe wins, that prospect is foreclosed.

After DeLeo announced his retirement, Democrats played a game of musical chairs. Patti Jo Cullerton, the 38th Ward Democratic Committeeman, claimed the plum, forcing out the 36th Ward’s Mark Donovan and Norwood Park Township’s Rob Martwick. But then she aborted, urging Alderman Tom Allen (38th) to run. Allen passed. And the local Democratic committeemen did not slate anybody.

Each committeeman backed whom he or she chose, with all but Banks supporting Mulroe.

Mulroe, who ran for judge in 2008, is a close ally of 41st Ward Democratic Committeeman Mary O’Connor, who is tight with Cullerton, who is closely allied with Alderman Pat Levar (45th), his ward’s Democratic committeeman. “They produced votes,” said one area politician of Levar, Cullerton and O’Connor. In a low turnout of 23,618, and with three opponents splitting the anti-Mulroe vote, Mulroe coasted to an easy victory.

But, in actuality, the outcome can be ascribed to three causes: No time. No money. No interest.

The primary was on Feb. 2, with nominating petitions filed by Nov. 2. Voters pay no attention to politics during the holiday season, and the frigidity of January makes door-to-door campaigning an ordeal. DeLeo retired in July, but the insiders’ vacillation extended into October, when Allen finally opted out. That gave Mulroe, Majcher, Anselmo and Ryan barely a month to organize their campaigns, recruit volunteers, raise money, craft a strategy and image, and raise their visibility.

While each contender was a relative unknown, Mulroe, the son of Irish-born parents, spent $90,000 and had the most viable personal, political, professional and ethnic base. That was enough to win. Here’s why:

Mulroe, age 50, has been an attorney for 22 years, and has officed in Edison Park for ten years. He is active in Saint Juliana’s parish, is president of the 41st Ward Democratic organization, and lost a bid for Circuit Court judge in the 10th subcircuit by just 190 votes. He has a wide coterie of friends and family who will work and vote for him.

A legislative bid is, for Mulroe, a win-win situation: If victorious, he goes to Springfield for a decade, and his law practice prospers; if defeated, he elevates his name identification, and is a slam-dunk to win the next subcircuit Democratic primary for judge.

More importantly, Mulroe’s candidacy was a political test for his ally, O’Connor, who was elected Democratic committeeman in 2008, defeating incumbent Ralph Capparelli. O’Connor aspires to run for Doherty’s aldermanic seat in 2011. Could she deliver for Mulroe? In a 41st Ward primary turnout of 6,712 – barely a fifth of the ward’s voter registration – Mulroe got 3,984 votes (59.4 percent). That’s O’Connor’s base.

Their strategy is to morph the 2010 Mulroe campaign apparatus into the 2011 O’Connor campaign operation. Of course, if Mulroe wins, Doherty will seek re-election as alderman. But the Mulroe effort gives O’Connor a huge edge, with all the Mulroe workers in place to aid her in February.

The bottom line: Mulroe’s victory has validated O’Connor as a political force in the 41st Ward, and demonstrated that Levar and Cullerton can still deliver, albeit weakly. Levar only mustered 3,984 votes in his ward, and Cullerton 1,544 in hers. Those are not intimidating numbers.

Both Ryan and Majcher, who live in the 41st Ward, are pondering a 2011 aldermanic bid. Anselmo said she will not run for alderman in the 36th Ward, but will seek state legislative office in the future. As they say, it ain’t over until it’s over.

One Comment »

  • Mike F said:

    Mulroe has a ton of support from his home Edison Park neighborhood, which is a bastion of City patronage and cop/fire employees. While his parish, St. Juliana’s is very publicly behind him, many of his parishoners have noted that Mulroe is solidly pro-abortion.

    He is endorsed by Planned Parenthood.

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