‘Free pass’ pacts still guide area politicians


If the English bard Shakespeare were resurrected and brought to the Northwest Side and the northwest suburbs to pen some verse on political reality, he undoubtedly would coin the saying: "To pact or not to pact? That is the question." The answer is, politicians who don’t pact don’t win.

Among area "Pact Men" and "Pact Women," past and present, are Pete Silvestri, Michael McAuliffe, John Mulroe, Mary O’Connor, Rob Martwick, Skip Saviano, Barrett Pedersen, Brad Stephens, Bill Banks, Jim DeLeo, Marty Moylan and Bob Provenzano. The two most pactless and hapless candidates this year are Democrats Frank McPartlin and Mo Khan. McPartlin is opposing Silvestri for 9th County Board District commissioner, and Khan is running against McAuliffe for 20th Illinois House District state representative. Both will lose big.

"Pacting" as an art was pioneered by the late Roger McAuliffe. It means making deals with your adversaries so they don’t oppose you and you don’t oppose them. Reciprocity is the word. Almost a quarter of a century ago, McAuliffe, a Northwest Side state representative who thrived as a Republican and who died in a 1996 boating accident, shared the secret to his political success.

It was a variation of the "Peter Principle." I call it the "Roger Principle."

In the business world, according to the much hyped but now long forgotten "Peter Principle," people rise to the level of their incompetence and stop. No more promotions. No more pay hikes. They simply stay put.

The essence of the "Roger Principle," McAuliffe explained, is that a politician has to know his limitations. Don’t let ego cloud judgment. Recognize that you have risen to your highest level of electability. Don’t take the next step and lose, and don’t try to defeat other local office holders.

McAuliffe, a Chicago police office with a high school diploma, knew his limitations. He was elected 38th Ward Republican committeeman in 1969, and he parlayed that to state representative in 1972. For him, it was a lifetime job. He had no thoughts of state senator or Congress. His sole focus was on getting re-elected, and that meant providing services (like helping seniors get their driver’s licenses renewed) and getting state jobs (primarily in the Illinois Department of Transportation) for people who would work precincts for him.

State patronage is gone, but pact making and the "Roger Principle" endure.

In the old era, having workers on the street was critical. In the new era, having gobs of money and checkmating or undercutting opposition is critical. Of course, the capacity and credibility of the negotiators to beat each other also is critical. They deal from a position of strength, and if they give each other a "free pass," they have to have the ability to deliver.

The "Roger Principle" is everywhere evident in the area, and it will be especially beneficial to Michael McAuliffe, who assumed his father’s House seat in 1996, and Silvestri, a 20-year incumbent Republican who is actually endorsed by Democratic Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, even though he is running against McPartlin, who is one of her staffers.

"It’s all me first," McPartlin said of the "Pact Men" and the pacting. "All they care about is their job security. They care not a wit about what’s good for the people."

Khan, a 29-year-old law student, concurs. He said that he is "running against the insidious culture of Springfield," of which "Mike Madigan are McAuliffe are a part." Madigan will spend $1 million to help re-elect Moylan in the adjacent 55th District, but he will spend nothing to help Khan, giving McAuliffe a free pass. McAuliffe has a pact with O’Connor, the 41st Ward alderman, and Mulroe, the area state senator. In the March primary, all three worked in unison to defeat Khan, who won by 1,028 votes.

Here’s a synopsis of key pacts:

The McAuliffe-Cullerton 38th Ward Pact: A Cullerton had been the ward’s alderman since 1935, and McAuliffe actually ran for alderman in 1963. Once he became a state representative, a deal was struck whereby McAuliffe’s legion of precinct workers labored only for McAuliffe and candidates such as Jim Thompson. They never worked against Cullerton or county Democrats, and McAuliffe got a free pass.

McAuliffe also had a pact with Democrat Ralph Capparelli, who represented the adjacent House district. Neither meddled in the other’s district.

In 1991 McAuliffe moved his operation to the 41st Ward and got his protege, Brian Doherty, elected alderman, defeating Democrat Roman Pucinski. End of pact. Republican state Senator Wally Dudycz was no "Pact Man." He tried to beat the Cullertons in 1983, 1987 and 1991, getting no aid from McAuliffe. The Democrats labored mightily and spent heavily to beat Dudycz in 1988, 1992 and 1996; again, McAuliffe offered no aid. When Dudycz ran for Congress in 1990, the Democrats and the "Pact Men" ganged up on him.

After Capparelli ousted Pucinski as 41st Ward Democratic committeeman in 1992, he pacted with McAuliffe and Doherty. He never backed anybody against Doherty (who was the alderman for 20 years), and they gave Capparelli a free pass in House races.

The 36th Ward-Elmwood Park-Rosemont Pact: The Banks-DeLeo machine ran the Montclare-Galewood 36th Ward for more than 30 years. Bill Banks was elected alderman in 1983 and appointed committeeman in 1981, and DeLeo was elected state representative in 1984 and senator in 1992. DeLeo’s legislative aide was Skip Saviano, now Elmwood Park’s mayor. Saviano was elected Leyden Township supervisor in 1989 and state representative as a Republican in 1992. Silvestri was elected Elmwood Park mayor 1989 and served 24 years. The Banks-DeLeo machine regularly sent workers into Elmwood Park to prop up the Silvestri-Saviano machine during elections. Banks and DeLeo retired in 2010, and Saviano lost in 2012. End of pact. Silvestri, who was allied with the 41st Ward’s Doherty-McAuliffe operation, still survives, having pacted with Stephens, Martwick, Mulroe and O’Connor.

The Doherty/McAuliffe-Banks/DeLeo Pact. After Roger McAuliffe’s death in 1996, all the local pacts dissolved. Michael McAuliffe faced Tom Needham, an Edison Park lawyer backed by local and Springfield Democrats. McAuliffe eked out a 1,895-vote win and then re-pacted with Capparelli, Banks and DeLeo. Matters fell apart in 2002, after Madigan put McAuliffe and Democratic incumbent Bob Bugielski, the 36th Ward’s guy, in the same district. Capparelli ran in a different district. The McAuliffe-Doherty-Stephens-Silvestri machine prevailed by 2,583 votes. Everybody re-pacted, the deal being that both DeLeo and McAuliffe got free passes. When Capparelli ran against McAuliffe in 2004, all the "Pact Men" coalesced to beat him by 7,773 votes.

Matters severely fell apart in 2010, when Doherty decided to run for DeLeo’s open state Senate seat. DeLeo, along with the Springfield Democrats, wanted Mulroe. After spending close to $1 million, Mulroe beat Doherty by 5,884 votes. In the 2011 battle for Doherty’s open aldermanic seat, the O’Connor-Mulroe forces prevailed, with O’Connor beating Maurita Gavin, Doherty’s aide, by 250 votes. Then everybody repacted, and Mulroe was unopposed in 2012, McAuliffe got a free pass in 2012 and 2014, and O’Connor will get no McAuliffe-backed opposition in 2015.

The Leyden Township Pact: The township consists of Rosemont, Schiller Park, Franklin Park, Northlake, Elmwood Park and River Grove. The "grand poobah" is Brad Stephens, the mayor of Rosemont and the Republican committeeman. He has a pact with Franklin Park Mayor and Democratic Committeeman Barrett Pedersen. Pedersen rules the roost in Franklin Park, but he doesn’t field or support Democrats in any of the other cities or in the township.

The Moylan-Provenzano Pact: It’s over. In Maine Township, Provenzano, the road commissioner, surreptitiously helped his buddy, Moylan, win in 2012, and Moylan made sure the township Republicans got a free pass in 2013. With a new Republican committeeman, there will be no more pacting.

Here’s the outlook for the fall election:

9th County Board District: This looks to be a breakout year for Silvestri, who has consistently won with around 55 percent of the vote since 1994. His old district was half city and half suburban, containing just the western suburbs. His pacting in the 36th and 41st wards ensured victory, but the 2011 remap sliced out all of the 45th Ward and most of the 38th and 36th wards and added all of Park Ridge and most of Des Plaines. It’s now 75 percent suburban, and much more Republican.

Silvestri will bombard his new voters with mailers hyping his support for eliminating the sales tax hike, voting to cut spending by $400 million, creating an independent hospital board and applying the Shakman decree to the county’s 250 "exempt" jobs (one of which is held by McPartlin).

Silvestri’s real edge is money. He had $219,549 in cash on hand as of June 30, while McPartlin had zero. Silvestri will win with 60 percent of the vote. You can’t beat somebody with a nobody who has no money.

20th Illinois House District: Khan’s plight parallels McPartlin’s. Khan had $7,322 in cash on hand as of June 30, and he raised $43,873 during 2014. McAuliffe had $96,909 on hand, and he raised $73,737. Madigan’s 2011 remap bolstered McAuliffe, who shed 36th and 38th ward precincts, gained all of Park Ridge north of Busse Road plus bits of Des Plaines, and kept Rosemont, Harwood Heights and most of Norridge. Of the district’s 85 precincts, 44 are suburban, with 34 in the pacting 41st Ward. McAuliffe is unbeatable.

A future column will more extensively analyze those races.

Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.