Scriptures not relevant in world of city politics





by RUSS STEWART

In the world of Chicago politics, Biblical prophecies and parables are quite absurd and wholly irrelevant. "The meek shall inherit the earth"? Forget about it. "’Tis better to give than to receive"? Not a chance. This is Chicago, where the taxpayers and special interests give and the politicians receive.

As a columnist for 44 years, here’s a few non-Biblical parables which I have discerned and learned, with a few prophecies to come: "Blessed are those who expect nothing, for they shall not be disappointed." Right on. Another: "What you don’t say, you don’t have to later explain." In other words: Silence won’t get you into deep trouble. For those readers who are married men, you know exactly what I mean.

But the best is: "Never explain; never apologize." For errant husbands, that means get a divorce lawyer. For errant politicians, like George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich, that means hire a good criminal defense attorney, and expect serious jail time.

Here’s another: "Never under-estimate the under-estimated." Who is Kurt Summers? Sounds like a character from an Ayn Rand novel. But Summers, Chicago’s city treasurer, who is black, has proven himself to be astute, and is on-track to be either Chicago’s next mayor or Illinois’ next lieutenant governor…or maybe both.

Given Bruce Rauner’s disapproval ratings, the Democrats’ 2018 nomination for governor is a prize worth having. Attorney General Lisa Madigan opted out, and a bunch of white guys jumped in, including billionaire venture capitalist and Hyatt Hotel heir J.B. Pritzker, wealthy business executive Chris Kennedy of the Kennedy Clan, Evanston state Senator Daniel Biss (D-9), downstate school superintendent Bob Daiber, Alex Paterakis, plus Ameya Pawar, a Chicago alderman of Asian Indian descent.

Pritzker can dump $200 million of his own fortune into the race, and still feel no financial pain. Both Pritzker and Biss are Jewish, and share the same North Shore political and demographic base. However, Biss can’t compete with Pritzker’s money, and he’ll be out of the race by autumn, perhaps as Kennedy’s lieutenant governor running mate.

Summers, a South Sider and protege of County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, was appointed treasurer by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2014, and elected without opposition in 2015. His name recognition stands somewhere between zero and non-existent. But then he began talking about there being no black candidate for governor who could represent the needs and desires of the black community. So he threatened to run.

And, quite predictably, Democrats went into panic mode. In any statewide Democratic primary, blacks constitute 25 to 30 percent of the vote, so Summers, in a multi-candidate field, as the sole black candidate, could plausibly have won, or at the very least estranged blacks from the ultimate white winner. Everybody beat a path to his door, and Pritzker was first and had the most. In April, Summers aborted his fledgling gubernatorial candidacy and endorsed Pritzker.

Here’s another parable: In any quid pro quo, both the giver and givee get something tangible. By cutting a deal, Summers gets future access to Pritzker’s fund-raising machine, and Pritzker gets immediate access to Chicago and Cook County’s black votes, because he will have no black opposition, and Summers will deliver the Preckwinkle Machine. Expect that when nominating petitions hit the street in late August, Democratic slatemakers, controlled by state chairman Mike Madigan, will have endorsed a Pritzker-Summers ticket for governor/lieutenant governor, as both aspirants must run on a joint ticket.

Summers’ task will be to lock down the black vote for Pritzker, putting Summers in a win-win situation. First, there is always a group of publicized black candidates for state, county and judicial offices who are listed on a sample ballot, distributed by Democratic committeemen and other groups. Since there won’t be a black running for governor, a Pritzker-Summers ticket would be the next best thing. Illinois has never had a black lieutenant governor. The only other black person on the statewide slate would be Secretary of State Jesse White, who will be unopposed. If Pritzker gets 60 to 70 percent of the black vote, he’s the nominee.

Second, Summers would spend most, if not all of his time campaigning in the city and Cook County suburbs, and be all over radio, hyping the putative Pritzker-Summers ticket. That will elevate his name recognition, embellishing his credentials as an anti-Rauner Democrat. It will also create an invaluable political network for later usage, like the 2019 mayoral race. Summers is busily positioning himself as Chicago’s new Great Black Hope.

Third, being the lieutenant governor, a completely superfluous and inconsequential job, is a great – and visible – sinecure, with plenty of free time. Summers would have a 4-year term, through 2022. Like now, Summers doesn’t have to give up his city post to run statewide; likewise, if LG, he wouldn’t have to give up that job to run for mayor. As an Emanuel appointee, he might be construed as an ingrate and opportunist if he ran against the mayor, and Pritzker, if then governor, might be disinclined to open his money spigot for Summers. The last governor who tried to undermine a Chicago mayor was Dan Walker, and he lost the 1976 primary.

But a lot can change before 2019: Emanuel might retire at the last moment, like Rich Daley in 2010, or might be so unpopular as to be unelectable – and Pritzker, if governor, might not want somebody like Chuy Garcia as mayor. Summers would be the obvious successor.

That’s another advantage for Summers: If he’s running statewide, he need not address any Chicago issues – like runaway crime and the pension/budget shortfall.

In a post-Emanuel Chicago, white voters may face the proverbial Hobson’s choice: The least repulsive. That would be Summers in a black-Hispanic runoff.

In Chicago’s Far Northwest Side 41st Ward, the scourge of Emanuel is writ large. Anthony Napolitano, a city firefighter and former cop, upset pro-Emanuel Alderman Mary O’Connor 9,702-9,087 in 2015, while Emanuel won 12,007-6,766. How does O’Connor lose an overwhelmingly white ward, packed with city workers, cops and firefighters, when Emanuel won? O’Connor, who as alderman for a term proved to be a staunch ally to Emanuel, never bonded with her constituency. Now her protege, Tim Heneghan, who succeeded her as committeeman, is attempting to position himself to oppose Napolitano in 2019. However, Heneghan’s credibility is dubious, his seriousness is questionable, as is his electability in 2019.

Heneghan, an Elmwood Park firefighter and Ebinger School Local School Council member, has stumbled out of the gate. First, his ground game has been atrocious. The committeeman’s job is to get people into precincts and deliver votes. In this, Heneghan failed. After his 2012 election, he backed Merry Marwig, Speaker Mike Madigan’s hand-picked choice for state representative in the 20th District, who got $2 million in Madigan-paid staffing and advertising. Yet Marwig lost the 41st Ward to Republican incumbent Mike McAuliffe 11,070-7,794, or 58.7 percent. Also, Donald Trump got 42.6 percent in the ward, his highest in Chicago.

Second, I think that he has much of a presence. Heneghan’s ward office was ensconced in John Mulroe’s law office. When Mulroe, the area’s state senator and erstwhile ally of Mary O’Connor, remained neutral in the McAuliffe-Marwig race, Heneghan moved out. Heneghan, however, has a presence on social media, and tweets frequently about his community activities. He recently hosted events with candidates for governor.

Third, Heneghan has a bunker mentality. Numerous phone calls to a phone number listed on his Web site were unreturned. I wanted to ask him if he was running for alderman, his views on the ward’s condition, and any critique on Napolitano. Let’s hope, if alderman, he’s more responsive.

Fourth, Heneghan’s fund-raising has been anemic; from his Jan. 1, 2016 election through March 31, Heneghan has raised $33,103. Napolitano raised $47,791 during that same period, and he and McAuliffe have a strained relationship, as he did not endorse McAuliffe over Marwig. In 2016, McAuliffe got an infusion of close to $4 million from Springfield Republican and Rauner sources, for mailings and TV ads. If Rauner is out of the governorship by 2019, there is no Republican cavalry to ride to Napolitano’s rescue.

As alderman, Napolitano has been a critics of Emanuel, opposing the mayor’s 2016 and 2017 budgets, opposing higher property taxes, opposing funding to defend deportation of "Sanctuary City" illegals, opposing the shifting of 16th (Jefferson Park) District police to higher-crime areas, and demanding more police officers in the area. In Emanuel’s city council, Napolitano is tolerated but ignored. He’s a gadfly.

As alderman, Napolitano has kept the ward’s Zoning Advisory Board in place, initiated a participatory budget process for the $1.3 in menu funds, supported a legislative inspector general, pressed for TIF money to fund Chicago Public Schools, started a "Support the Police" campaign after the Laquan McDonald revelations, resurfaced 40 streets, made sewer improvements, and advocates using military-style assault rifles by the police. His ward, he said, "has the best schools in the city," has had an "economic resurgence" in Norwood Park, and property values are "rebounding."

Napolitano will be tough to beat in 2019.

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





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