‘Trash Talk’ abounds in Martwick vs. Jones race
Analysis and Opinion by Russ Stewart
Misdirection is different than re-direction. The first connotes an intentional deception. The second is less pejorative, and simply connotes an intentional omission. In the 15th and 19th Illinois House District primary races, re-direction is the name of the game.
Incumbent Lindsey LaPointe in the 19th District and candidate Michael Rabbitt in the 15th District are progressive liberals, but both are cloaking themselves in more electable garb for the June 28 Democratic primary.
Omission is the name of their game in Democratic circles. Even they know the word “liberal” is a dirty word these days thanks to all of that woke nonsense.
LaPointe, who supported Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in 2016 and was appointed to the post in 2019, is running on her 3-year record of service, while Rabbitt is championing “ethics reform” and running against Mike Madigan and the “corrupt Laurino (political) machine.”
Their opponents are Tina Wallace and incumbent Mike Kelly, both of whom have positioned themselves as centrist Democrats. Both LaPointe and Kelly, being incumbents, will get at least $300,000 in direct and in-kind services from new speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch’s “Democrats for Illinois” fund and the state Democratic Party, which is standard operating procedure for any sitting member. The party designs the mailers, pays the postage, and assigns a “handler” to the district, who is a Springfield staffer on-leave and who runs the campaign.
Madigan had his “Friends of Madigan” fund and “Democratic Majority” fund which, when combined with the Madigan-run Democratic Party of Illinois, gave him over $13 million in cash for the 2020 cycle. Madigan is gone, and LaPointe boasts that she was one of the “Steadfast 19” who refused to support him for speaker in January 2021 and precipitated his demise.
She omits the fact that Madigan’s cash paid for her mailers in 2020 in her attacks against Patti Vasquez and Joe Duplechin, accusing them of being funded by right-wing donors, implying that they both cannot be trusted with women’s health issues and they wouldn’t “stand up to the extreme Trump agenda.” They were both livid.
So nothing has really changed in the way Springfield operated since Madigan is gone.
“She’s getting the money,” said Kevin Wunder, Wallace’s campaign manager, of LaPointe. From here on, he added, LaPointe “will be totally dependent” on Welch and “vote as she’s told.”
There are four components to crafting a political election victory: The first is strategy, which means finding the right wedge issue and the right message. The second is having the money to communicate the message to the voter base. The third is the political environment and what issues resonate at the time. And the fourth is opponent stupidity, meaning campaign ineptitude, poor or wrong messaging, or simply lack of money.
A primary is different. All that matters is finding a majority – or plurality in a multi-candidate race – slice of the ideological base on the Left or Right. The state’s population is 12.8 million, which means 110,000 in each of the 118 House districts. The number of registered voters is half that, and primary turnout is half or less of the registered voters.
In 2020 LaPointe won the 19th District primary with 42.2 percent in a 17,281 turnout, getting 7,305 votes to 5,979 for Patti Vasquez and 3,865 for Joe Duplechin. Turnout is always higher in a presidential year, but this year’s atypical late June primary, delayed because of COVID, will have turnout of under 25 percent.
19TH DISTRICT: Essentially anchored in the 45th Ward, the district has a large liberal/progressive base in the south end, which encompasses Portage Park west of Six Corners into the 38th Ward, and east along Irving Park into Old Irving, where Wallace, a 57-year old realtor, resides. LaPointe is a native of Maine who lives in Portage Park, is a social worker and broke into politics as a precinct worker for former alderman John Arena.
Arena lost re-election for a third term in 2019 to Jim Gardiner, but he was still Democratic committeeperson. When state Senator John Mulroe resigned in mid-2019 to be a judge, Rob Martwick, the district’s state rep since 2012 and 38th Ward committeeman, allied with Arena to accumulate enough weighted-votes to get the senate appointment. Shortly thereafter, in August 2019, Arena and Martwick worked to appoint LaPointe to Martwick’s vacant seat.
In the 2020 primary for state’s attorney, both Arena and LaPointe (but not Martwick) endorsed Kim Foxx, who got 31 percent of the vote in the 45th Ward, 24 percent in the 38th Ward, and 27 percent overall in the current 19th District, which extends northwestward along Milwaukee Avenue to Nagle-Devon. These are areas – north Jefferson Park and Gladstone Park – which Gardiner won in 2019 by 60 to 80 percent. Wallace must do likewise on June 28 to win.
But that’s very doubtful.
To be sure, there are clear contrasts between the two women: Wallace decries crime, including carjackings in her neighborhood, and demands more police. At present, CPD is under-manned by about 2,000 officers, and academy classes have far below the usual number of recruits. LaPointe’s response to gun violence is that we can stop the CPD’s rush-to-retirement by hiring more mental health clinicians who can counsel disaffected cops and persuade them not to quit.
As to Foxx’s performance and no-bail policies, LaPointe had no comment.
As to policies, LaPointe said that she and her office team have been on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic and that her priority in Springfield has been to insure mental health and wellness among her constituents and all Illinoisans. That’s commendable.
Thus far LaPointe has had five mailers, all paid for by Welch’s group, the first being a re-introductory piece to hard Democrats, meaning about 20,000 households in which somebody voted in two of the three most recent Democratic primaries, and soft-Democrats, meaning just once. The three subsequent mailers focused on mental health issues. Not a peep about federal issues. That’s very astute. LaPointe said she will have four to five more mailers.
The point is that LaPointe is undefined. She is somewhat defined as that nice young woman who is a state legislator.
“People care mostly about their alderman,” said LaPointe as to the response when she knocks on doors. But 2022 is all about clarification. LaPointe’s job is to embed her image as that of a public servant. Wallace’s job is to define LaPointe as an out-of-touch leftist. Thus far Wallace, with two mailers, has failed. She needs to go seriously negative on LaPointe but that will be difficult since LaPointe has not emerged as a polarizing figure like her mentor Arena. Wallace loaned her campaign $80,000, but an avalanche of LaPointe mailers and paid precinct workers will flood the district in June.
LaPointe has also dovetailed her campaign with Martwick’s, who is in the process of spending $750,000 in his primary against CPD officer Erin Jones, who has been promised maximal funding by FOP.
Prediction: In a turnout of 11,800 LaPointe will win 54-46.
15TH DISTRICT: The district is anchored in Chicago’s 39th Ward, where the Laurino dynasty has dominated since 1965. Its last and final legacy was John D’Amico, who was state representative from 2004-21 (and his aunt alderman 1993-2019). When D’Amico quit to take a lucrative job as Plumbers Union Local 120’s political director, the powers-that-be in the 39th Ward, meaning D’Amico, Alderman Samantha Nugent and state Senator Ram Villivalam (D-8), the ward’s committeeperson, coalesced behind Kelly, a CFD firefighter from Mayfair.
Rabbitt works for Argonne Laboratories and calls himself a “business transformation leader” who will provide “community-centered” representation in Springfield, as contrasted to what he calls “corrupt, machine politics.” Rabbitt, from Edgebrook, laments the fact that 40 percent of current state reps (like Kelly, LaPointe, Brad Stephens, Eva-Dina Delgado) got their seats “through an engineered handoff” by the politicians in control. Rabbitt wants a special election to fill all vacancies. Rabbitt wanted the appointment for D’Amico’s seat…but didn’t get it.
He also wants to broaden the power of the Legislative Inspector General and forbid ex-legislators from lobbying for 6 months after quitting. D’Amico, for example, said to me that he does spend considerable time hanging around Springfield when the legislature is in session.
Rabbitt has had just one mailer so far.
Kelly is a conventional pro-Labor Democrat and has been endorsed by a plethora of trade unions as well as the FOP and Firefighters Local 2. He has had over a dozen mailers, all introductory-type pieces, and will spend over $300,000. He said he is “not anti-2nd Amendment” and supports the “right to have guns for hunting and home protection.”
The district runs from Mayfair north of the Milwaukee Avenue corridor to Golf Mill, and then west long Golf to the massive condo and apartment complexes to near Route 53. It contains 70 percent of Niles and 50 percent of Morton Grove. Mark Albers is the Republican candidate from Morton Grove.
Prediction: Kelly is the better fit for the district, which has an older, non-Woke demographic.
In a turnout of 10,600, Kelly will win 58-42.