‘Blowout’ win predicted in 55th House District
by RUSS STEWART
As time heals all wounds, so does time entrench all political office holders . . . especially well funded Democrats.
Such is the case in the 55th Illinois House District, where two-term Democrat Marty Moylan is about to have a breakout year capped by a blowout victory. After excruciatingly close wins in 2012 and 2014 against credible Republican candidates, Moylan is going to romp to a lopsided triumph in November. The district, which is centered on Des Plaines, Park Ridge and eastern Elk Grove Village, leans Republican, and it is one of 13 in the state carried by Bruce Rauner in 2014 that has a Democratic representative.
However, with Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan pulling the strings and directing the cash, Moylan spent nearly $1 million in each campaign, and he won by 2,610 votes in 2012 and by 1,556 votes in 2014. Moylan, who has been called "Energizer Marty" due to his frenetic door-to-door campaigning, understands his role and follows the script: Madigan got him to Springfield and has kept him there, and he expects Moylan to vote as he’s told and to campaign ceaselessly.
Another factor is that Madigan has a 60 percent 71-47 super majority in the House, so the Democrats cannot afford to lose any seat. According to Springfield sources, at least six Democratic incumbents are rated as very vulnerable, and the McHenry County seat of retiring Jack Franks is gone. Madigan can override any Rauner veto and pass any bill in overtime. If he loses four to five seats, his power and his credibility will be much diminished. Madigan needs Moylan as much as Moylan needs Madigan.
Moylan’s Republican opponent, Dan Gott, is not taken seriously. Nevertheless, the 55th District is ranked as a "Tier One" contest, if only because Rauner has more than $15 million in his campaign account, plenty more in his political action committee, and he could decide to inundate the district with negative mailers tying Moylan to Madigan. As such, a "Madigan Method" race is under way, with two Springfield staffers deployed to run Moylan’s campaign, with Moylan on the street 8 hours a day, with two to three mailers going to district residents per week, and with a blizzard of lawn signs. Another $1 million will be spent.
A key component of the "Madigan Method" is to gather political intelligence on what voters are thinking. That is critical in determining strategy and designing mailers. When Moylan or other "Tier One" Democrats knock on a door, their job is to elicit a response from the voter and say as little as possible. The candidate is accompanied by a paid worker. Here’s the script: "I’m (name). How can I help you? What are your concerns? What do you think of the candidates?" The voter spouts off, the worker takes notes, the candidate gives the voter literature and a card with a cell phone number. The candidate is noncommittal on every issue, speaks platitudes and, only if necessary, touts any bill sponsorships or antiseptic votes.
It works like a charm. Voters are so impressed that someone, especially an office holder, is at their door asking their opinion. They pinpoint their perceived problems, but they’re so intimidated that they fail to ask the candidate what he or she is doing to solve those problems. Property taxes are soaring. House Bill 318 mandated a statewide property tax freeze. Madigan never called the bill for a vote, as it would have been catastrophic for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s budget and injurious to Madigan’s tax appeal law practice.
Nobody asks Moylan, "Why didn’t you exert some leadership and make Madigan pass that bill?" They just remember that the genial and smiling Moylan was at their door. He’s a real nice guy, they think, and then they vote for him, keeping Madigan in power.
Moylan said that he has been to some households four of five times over the years. He followed the same regimen in 2012 and 2014, and before that in campaigns for Des Plaines mayor and alderman. "They sort of expect to see me now," he said. How can anybody beat that?
Excluding inaccessible condominium and apartment buildings, Moylan visits every single-family home with a registered voter. The last question is key. "People are focused on the Clinton-Trump race, and there’s a great deal of concern about Trump, especially among Republicans," Moylan said. By that, Moylan means negativity. According to Moylan’s precinct feedback, which is entirely anecdotal, Trump is getting negligible support from registered Democrats, is losing 20 to 25 percent of the registered Republicans, and is losing unaligned, independent voters 2-1. In the 2016 primary, when Trump was on the ballot, 20,432 votes were cast in the 55th District, 7,957 in the Republican primary and 12,475 in the Democratic primary.
In 92 precincts in Maine Township, about 75 percent of which are in the 55th District, Trump got 6,236 votes, compared to 8,196 for the rest of the field. Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders 10,737-9,784 in the township of her birth.
Two trends seem clear. First, there is minimal enthusiasm for Clinton. She has become simply the alternative to Trump, the least objectionable candidate for president. Her ethics pale before Trump’s credibility. Second, a high tide floats all boats. Virtually all of those who vote for Clinton will vote for every other Democratic candidate. Important demographic constituencies, such as women, Hispanics and Asians, both in the 55th District and elsewhere, have great incentive to vote straight Democratic. Moylan will be listed sixth on the ballot, beneath four women: Clinton, Tammy Duckworth for senator, Susana Mendoza for comptroller and Laura Murphy for state senator, and in the western portion of the district, Raja Krishnamoorthi for 8th U.S. House District. "If they vote for them, they’ll vote for me," Moylan said.
Moylan noted that there are at least 4,500 registered Hispanic voters and about 4,000 Indian voters in the district. "There are 732 households with a Patel and about 500 with a Shah," he said, adding that Indian voters are "really excited" about Krishnamoorthi. In 2012, when he first won, turnout was 40,032. Those constituencies will make the difference between a squeaker and a blowout.
Moylan said that polls commissioned and paid for by Madigan show him winning with 60 percent of the vote. That is not implausible. Gott, a 71-year-old chaplain and retired medical products engineer, is unknown, has never run for office, has no lawn signs and has had no mailings. As of June 30 he had $2,344 in campaign funds. When I contacted him he said that he was "busy" and that he did not do phone interviews and to send questions in writing.
Gott’s Web site proclaims that "career politicians have stolen Illinois’ future" and that he is the "turnaround" candidate.
The 28th Illinois Senate District race is virtually imponderable. Dan Kotowski resigned in 2015, and Maine Township Democratic Committeeman Laura Murphy appointed herself as his successor. Both parties want the seat, and they will spend extravagantly, pumping in well over $1 million each. The district takes in all of Moylan’s 55th District and the 56th House District to the west, encompassing Schaumburg, Streamwood and Roselle. The Republican candidate is Mel Thillens, a Park Ridge Park District Board member who lost to Moylan in 2014.
Murphy, a former Des Plaines alderman, is spending most of her time campaigning in the 56th District, where the Republican organization is nonexistent and where the Democrats hold most township and municipal offices. To win, Thillens needs 55 to 60 percent of the vote in Park Ridge and Des Plaines. If he wins, that theoretically could benefit Gott. "We are not running a joint campaign," Thillens’ campaign manager said.
With Gott so obscure, Madigan’s media machine has to shift gears. It is axiomatic that you never attack anyone who no one knows, as that makes them known, so Moylan’s mailers contain the usual "fighting for" and "fighting against" gibberish, with some "standing up" to Rauner thrown in. The mailings are carefully targeted, with the right piece going to the right constituency.
The major "accomplishment" for which Moylan claims credit is a bill passed in December of 2015 ordering the release of $3.2 billion in sequestered funds. Because the General Assembly did not pass a fiscal year 2016 budget after July 1, 2015, the Illinois Comptroller’s Office refused to distribute earmarked revenues from the motor fuel tax, casino gambling and the lottery to various government entities, townships and municipalities. That put them in a huge squeeze. It is Madigan’s practice to put "Tier One" incumbents on various bills as the "chief sponsor" so they can so boast that they really did something.
Moylan can now boast that he single-handedly saved $3.2 billion from the evil clutches of Rauner.
"I didn’t vote for any tax hike," Moylan said. Of course he didn’t, since Madigan is smart enough not to sponsor a bill to raise the state income tax without Republican votes. He will not put members like Moylan on record and at risk.
Moylan had $583,072 in campaign funds as of June 30. He won in 2014 because his Des Plaines-Elk Grove base outvoted Park Ridge. If he wins with more than 60 percent of the vote, his seat will be off the table, and Madigan can spend his $1 million elsewhere.
Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.