Dysfunction the rule in once-proud GOP
by RUSS STEWART
If being dysfunctional were a compensable disease, virtually every politician in northwest suburban Maine Township would be eligible for social security disability and would be spending hours in "Obamacare"-mandated psychological therapy focusing on anger management.
There are more political factions in the township than in the Israeli Knesset, more personal animosity and hatred than that between the Shiites and Sunnis, and more deceit, duplicity, stupidity and despair than can be found in the Halls of Congress in Washington, D.C.
Maine Township, which encompasses Park Ridge, Des Plaines and parts of Niles and Mount Prospect, is a microcosm of political ambition run amok. The prevailing mentality is me first, everybody else second as long as they put me first, and disembowel everybody who stands in my way.
The township’s once-vibrant and dominant Republican organization is in tatters. First-term Democratic state Representative Marty Moylan won a seat in 2012 that had been held by the Republicans since the 1860s. Rosemary Mulligan, who was elected the township Republican committeeman in 2010, was so inept that she couldn’t even procure enough nominating petition signatures to get on the ballot that year for re-election as a state representative, and she lost a primary write-in bid. The Republicans in Springfield so detested Mulligan, a fervent booster of abortion rights, that they staffed and funded the write-in campaign of Susan Sweeney, who topped Mulligan 2,223-46.
As payback, Mulligan endorsed Moylan, the Des Plaines mayor, who beat Sweeney 19,087-16,802, getting 53.2 percent of the vote. Moylan, whose campaign was managed by Illinois Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan’s operatives, spent more than $500,000, while the Republicans poured $300,000 into Sweeney’s race. Sweeney and her ally, Jim O’Donnell, who ran in 2012 for state senator against incumbent Democrat Dan Kotowski, blame the "township bunch" for their defeat, specifically pointing to township Highway Commissioner Bob Provenzano and Supervisor Carol Teschky, claiming that they made negligible effort to defeat the Kotowski-Moylan slate. The fact that Moylan and Provenzano are buddies who often vacation together was a subtext. Then, lo and behold, in 2013 the township’s Democratic organization, led by Committeeman Laura Murphy but actually dominated by Moylan and Kotowski, made no effort to defeat Provenzano and Teschky, leaving them unopposed.
"That’s the deal," said Mark Thompson, who was the township supervisor from 1989 to 2001 and the Republican committeeman from 2002 to 2010. "They give Moylan and Kotowski a free pass and, in turn, they get a free pass."
Thompson knows of what he speaks. He’s been double-crossed, as they say, more ways than Sunday. In 2001, as supervisor, he was dumped in favor of Bob Dudycz in a putsch led by Committeeman Bill Darr. He beat Darr for committeeman in 2002 by 153 votes, and he beat Provenzano in 2006 by 319 votes. He ran for Des Plaines mayor in 2009, but he got no support from the township crowd, who were aiding Moylan, then a Des Plaines alderman. Moylan won, with Thompson finishing third, with 23.2 percent of the vote. In 2010 Mulligan, his erstwhile ally whom he had supported in a plethora of intra-party fights, betrayed his loyalty and beat him for committeeman by 604 votes, and then she ran the party into the ground.
Newly elected Des Plaines Mayor Matt Bogusz, a onetime protege of Moylan, reportedly is estranged from Moylan, who thought he would be his puppet.
Can you follow this "me first" nonsense? In Chicago this would be called "Amateur Hour," or maybe even "Dancing with the Dunces." The underlying premise of political success is addition, not exorcism and expulsion. Republican activists, however few, want to battle the Democrats, not fight other Republicans. After bungling an attempt to take over Park Ridge, the Democrats have been similarly inept, so the purported antagonists are all retreating to their beachheads, gearing not for Armageddon, but rather for an Appomattox.
For 2014, the Republicans’ divisions have re-crystallized. Once, it was all about abortion rights, with the Mulligan-Thompson pro-choicers versus the Dudycz-Provenzano pro-lifers. Now, with Mulligan endorsing Teschky, it’s basically Tea Party versus establishment. Mulligan is quitting as committeeman, and Teschky is seeking that job, opposed by Charlene Foss-Eggeman, who is backed by the Sweeney-O’Donnell faction. Eggeman, a former president of the Park Ridge Republican Women, was Sweeney’s 2012 campaign chairman. Her faction is backing Mel Thillens, a Park Ridge Park District Board member who spearheaded a successful 2013 referendum to issue bonds to buy the youth campus property on Prospect Avenue and construct a swimming pool. "He raised taxes (in Park Ridge)," Moylan said. "That will be an issue."
As far as the Provenzano-Teschky faction is concerned, Thillens’ candidacy is DOA. The outsiders have now become the insiders, and control of township government has become their beachhead. Provenzano earns $80,000 annually to maintain 25 miles of non-state, non-municipal roadways, and Tecshky earns $50,000. The Republicans also hold the assessor, clerk and four trustee posts. With an annual budget of $4 million and 30 job holders, they are the party base. The township has 98 precincts.
"We need to rebuild the (Republican) party," said Teschky, who has been the supervisor since 2009, when Dudycz resigned, and a Republican precinct worker for 30 years.
Another faction is the Park Ridge Republican Women, once the lair of anti-abortion zealot Penny Pullen, who Mulligan beat in the 1992 primary. The eminence grise is Gerry Butler, the widow of former state senator, Park Ridge mayor and township committeeman Marty Butler, who died in 1998. They are closely aligned with Park Ridge Mayor Dave Schmidt, who was re-elected comfortably in 2013, and they have no use for the townshippers. Foss-Eggeman is their choice.
Foss-Eggeman said that the "party disloyalty" of Provenzano, Mulligan and Tecshky "directly contributed" to Sweeney’s loss and to the Democrats’ "super majority" in the Illinois House. "I am running so that we can beat back the Democrats who have infiltrated our township and jeopardized our state," she said, adding added that it is "unacceptable" to have a Republican committeeman who supports a Democratic state representative.
In 2014 the tempestuous Republican gubernatorial primary will draw a significant turnout. Thompson beat Darr 4,520-4,362 in 2002, in a turnout of 8,882, Thompson beat Provenzano 3,947-3,627 in 2006, in a turnout of 7,574, and Mulligan beat Thompson 3,964-3,360 in 2010, in a turnout of 7,324. Thompson was viewed as the pro-abortion rights "moderate," and the conservative base was about 3,707. Now the Eggeman-Sweeney-O’Donnell faction are the anti-establishment, anti-spending conservative hardliners, so who do the "moderates" back?
The outlook: Republican township turnout in the 2010 primary for governor was more than 100,000, with Tea Party right-wingers Bill Brady, Andy McKenna and Andy Andrzejewski aggregating 61,601 votes and "moderates" Kirk Dillard and Jim Ryan getting 48,947 votes.
Teschky has superior name recognition and more money and manpower than Foss-Eggeman. Thompson said that Teschky’s running "because Provenzano is too polarizing." Being the Maine Township Republican committeeman is sort of like driving an Indy 500 race car without wheels. It’s a vehicle to nowhere. Teschky is a solid favorite.
9th County Board District: Arithmetic is the key to the re-election of 20-year county Commissioner Pete Silvestri’s (R-9), and the numbers are getting a bit precarious.
First elected in 1994, Silvestri, who was the Elmwood Park village president, built and nurtured bipartisan support. His backers included Democrats from the Galewood-Montclare 36th Ward, including Bill Banks and Jim DeLeo, as well as Republicans from the north end of the district, including the 41st Ward’s Brian Doherty and Mike McAuliffe. All but McAuliffe are now nestled in retirement.
Silvestri retired as Elmwood Park’s mayor in 2013, handing off the job to his ally, defeated state representative Skip Saviano, who won with 54 percent of the vote. The group allied with Joe Ponzio, who lost to Saviano, are backing Frank McPartlin, an aide to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and the son of a former state representative, as his Democratic foe.
The district runs from North Avenue to Golf Road, takes in the 36th, 38th and 41st wards in Chicago, the western suburbs of Elmwood Park, Schiller Park, Franklin Park, Northlake, Norridge and Harwood Heights, and pushes north through Park Ridge and Des Plaines. "It should have a Democratic commissioner," McPartlin said, adding that Silvestri’s "mismanagement" of Elmwood Park will be his major issue.
In 2010 Silvestri defeated Cary Capparelli 26,977-13,199, with 63.5 percent of the vote, and he defeated Jodi Biacalana in 2006, with 60.9 percent of the vote. Those are not intimidating numbers, but that begs the question, is McPartlin an intimidating opponent?
Silvestri’s alliances have crumbled, but can McPartlin, a total unknown, build a winning coalition? He claims he will be endorsed by Aldermen Mary O’Connor (41st) and Nick Sposato (36th) and state Senator John Mulroe (D-10), but expect Silvestri to define McPartlin as the "Preckwinkle candidate," as an insider who will vote with the board’s Democratic majority, not with his constituents.
My prediction: Silvestri’s "shelf life" has grown stale after 20 years, but he will squeeze out one more term.
Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.