Factions square off in NW Side House races
by RUSS STEWART
"I’m not related to anybody who’s somebody." That’s the watchword in Illinois politics, where voter contempt for anybody who’s somebody is palpable. A fair number of "somebodys" will lose in the primary election.
Voter turnout on March 18 will be puny. Only the extremely motivated or extremely controlled voters will cast a ballot, but anger can be a great motivator.
In certain Democratic contests for state representative, as well as countywide races for judge and Metropolitan Water Reclamation District commissioner, the punier the turnout, the dimmer the prospects of outsiders’ attempts to beat the remnants of the fading Democratic machine. The political muscle of Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, county Democratic chairman Joe Berrios, former alderman Dick Mell, the 19th Ward, Alderman Ed Burke, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle will be tested. So, too, will be the rabidly anti-pension reform unions, especially the Chicago Teachers Union and the Service Employees International Union. There is even a "Soul Slate" to keep black committeemen energized.
It will be a matter of survivors or scalps. The unions are targeting, and will spend more than $500,000, to defeat state representatives Jaime Andrade (D-40) and Toni Berrios (D-39), Hispanics from the Northwest Side, and Christian Mitchell (D-26), of the South Side Kenwood area. Their "sin"? They are loyal to Madigan, and Madigan’s "pension reform" bill mandated retiree givebacks, caps on cost of living adjustments, and later retirement dates. The unions’ stance is: No negotiation. No change. No benefit reductions. Berrios actually opposed the pension bill.
The CTU is spending heavily to oust Mitchell, and Madigan and Berrios are sweating and spending to rescue Toni Berrios, while Mell and Madigan are masterminding the Andrade campaign. The unions need at least one scalp. They must beat one of the three.
In the Republican primary for governor, where the unions also are dabbling, the operative word is "winner." The party has a long history of nominating whiny, wimpy candidates whose premise is not to dismantle or reform state government, but rather to "run it more efficiently." After 4 or 8 years, nothing changes. Spending and taxes are up, debt and pensions are not curtailed, and public sector unions are ever more potent. It was Republican governors who imposed and increased the state income tax.
The 2014 primary is refreshing. First, because of an absence of social issue blather, and the pervasive venality and rascality of Springfield has focused voters on power abuses and fiscal insanity, not non-issues such as guns, gays or abortions.
Bruce Rauner has captivated the Republican base with his "shake up Springfield" theme. He’ll spend close to $20 million (half his own) by March 18, and he is on the cusp of being a very dangerous phenomenon — leading a crusade, not a campaign. In 2008 Barack Obama led a crusade. Electing a black president became a personal statement; it was trendy and fashionable, and it evidenced contempt for the white guys in the Bush Administration.
Very soon, as Rauner maintains his relentless television ad presence and is buoyed by the momentum of a solid primary victory, voters will conclude that a vote for Rauner over Pat Quinn is a grand way to show contempt for the selfishness and arrogance so pervasive in Springfield. They’ll conclude that he can’t be any worse than those in power, might be better, will be fun to watch, and will really infuriate all the insiders.
Rauner has made Republicans feel empowered. His opponents, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford and state Senators Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard, just make them yawn. The SEIU, the Illinois Education Association and some trade unions are pumping close to $1 million into Dillard’s campaign, but it is too late. Only Rauner has a well defined image, and negativity will not undermine it.
Republican turnout will not be puny. A fair number of Democrats, especially Downstate, will cross over to vote for or against Rauner. Turnout was 917,759 in 2002, 735,810 in 2006 and 767,485 in 2010. This year it will be in the mid-800,000 range.
The closer Rauner gets to 50 percent of the vote, the better positioned he will be in November. Polls have him with 40 to 45 percent. My prediction: Rauner will get more than 400,000 votes and will top Dillard by 200,000 votes.
The mood of the voters is sour. "I’m not related to anybody who is somebody" is every politician’s shield. Berrios faces Will Guzzardi in the 40th Illinois House District (Logan Square to Portage Park), and Andrade faces Nancy Schiavone, Aaron Goldstein, Mark Pasieka and Wendy Jo Harmston in the 39th District (Irving Park south to Logan Square).
The SEIU political action committee recently made expenditures of $90,000 for Guzzardi and $83,000 for Schiavone.
Madigan has dispatched $75,000 to $100,000 for manpower, printing, mailings and robocalls, but Andrade has the better chance of surviving. Joe Berrios and his allies in the district’s Puerto Rican areas are swarming the precincts, and an anti-Guzzardi mailing hits almost daily, the most repetitious being that Guzzardi believes that "dangerous sex offenders should not be required to register," a charge Guzzardi denies.
Toni Berrios’ problems are more insoluble than Andrade’s. First, the unpopularity of her father has rubbed off on her, exacerbated by allegations of Barrios family nepotism (with 15 relatives on some payroll), while Andrade was a former Mell aide, and Mell is still popular. Second, Berrios needs more than half the vote to win, while Andrade needs only about 33 to 35 percent, as he has four opponents. Third, the Berrios-Guzzardi race is a referendum on the incumbent, with Guzzardi as the "change" and "shake up Springfield" contender, while Andrade is merely one of five choices. Voting against Andrade sends no message.
Fourth, Toni Berrios has been in the House for 12 years, which makes it hard to reinvent oneself. She beat Guzzardi by 125 votes in 2012, so the Madigan strategy is to go negative on Guzzardi and have Berrios parrot his liberalism (anti-charter, anti-voucher, anti-school closings, more taxes on the "rich"). Joe Berrios’ job is to deliver Hispanic votes. The negativity "is making people angry," Guzzardi said. Andrade, who has been in office 6 months, is barely known, has no enemies, is the only Hispanic candidate running, and can win just by getting 70 percent of the vote in Mell’s 33rd Ward and a half the Hispanic vote.
My predictions: Andrade will win, and Berrios will lose by 450 votes.
It’s difficult to be a conscientious voter if one has no information about the candidates. Then, ethnicity, gender, ballot position, bar association ratings, geographic base, sexual orientation and party slating are critical. Having three or more of those criteria, such as like woman/Irish-surname/19th Ward/slated/qualified, is golden.
The test of a Democratic election is whether they can carry for obscure, down-ballot offices such as judge and Metropolitan Water Reclamation District commissioner, and for Burke, the chairman of the judicial slating committee, having party favorites on the bench is critical to party survival.
There are three Appellate Court vacancies, and Burke’s slated candidates are struggling in two. John Simon, son of a former alderman and a confidant of Preckwinkle, faces Judge Sharon Odom Johnson, who is on the "Soul Slate." That puts Preckwinkle in a bind. If she helps Simon, that will infuriate blacks and affect her base if she runs for mayor in 2015. In the other race, former alderman Freddrenna Lyle, also on the "Soul Slate," faces Judge Susan Kennedy Sullivan and Judge Shelly Harris, who is a man and who has a huge television ad buy. Sullivan is favored. The third slot went to David Ellis, formerly on the speaker’s staff.
There are 11 countywide Circuit Court races, of which five are uncontested. Judge Al Swanson, who lost in 2012, faces Bridget Mitchell, who has the edge. Brendan O’Brien, another Madigan staffer, faces Judge Kristal Rivers. Tough call. Bill Raines, a former cop and state’s attorney, is slated, but faces he three women, one Irish-surnamed (Carolyn Gallagher); the gender-vote split helps him. Another slated black judge, Andrea Buford, faces gay attorney James Patrick Crawley, putting liberal Democrats in a dither.
In the Northwest Side 10th Subcircuit, slated Judge Tony Kyriakopoulos is in a nightmarish situation, with a Greek surname versus Katherine O’Dell. Committeemen in the 39th, 40th, and 47th wards are pushing "Judge Tony" hard, but he’ll lose.
In the water district contest, where three $70,000-a-year commissioners will be nominated, obscurity is the norm, and usually seven to 10 Democrats run. Ballot position (first or last), gender, ethnicity (Irish surnames), slating, name familiarity (often with other’s names) are the key, in that order.
Incumbent Frank Avila is on the slate, along with Tim Bradford, the south suburban Rich Township committeeman on the "Soul Slate," and Josina Morita, a Japanese-American executive whose base is in Niles Township. They are 2-3-4 on the ballot. First is incumbent Cynthia Santos, who was dumped by the party and who is Greek but whose name appears Hispanic. Last is Brendan Houlihan, a former Board of Review commissioner who can be confused with the former assessor. Also running are Frank Gardner and Kathleen O’Reilley, the son and the wife of a former commissioner, and Tom Courtney, Adam Miguest and John Xydakis. Prediction: Avila-Santos-Bradford.
Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.