Cozy arrangements in townships in suburbs
by RUSS STEWART
Baseball legend Yogi Berra once said of a pennant race, "It ain’t over till it’s over."
That’s the situation in northwest suburban Maine and Leyden townships. The battling which culminated on March 18 may be over, but the raging internecine wars ain’t over, and they will continue indefinitely, with dust-ups in 2017 and 2018.
In both townships, party loyalties and rivalries are so acrimonious, jumbled and juxtaposed that even Alice in Wonderland could not discern and unravel the convoluted and complex alliances. The operative word in both townships is "cozy." That means that everybody is looking out for number one, friends and allies are rewarded, the enemies of my friends and allies are my enemies, and the friends of my enemies are my enemies.
In short, political affiliation is meaningless. Self-perpetuation reigns supreme. Insider Republicans keep pliable Democrats in office, and Democrats reciprocate by giving a pass to Republican office holders.
In Maine Township, which encompasses Park Ridge, Des Plaines and parts of Mount Prospect and Arlington Heights, coziness evaporated on March 18, but acrimony persists. Char Foss-Eggemann, the president of the Republican Women of Park Ridge, won a stunning upset over township Supervisor Carol Teschky in the contest for Republican committeeman. It wasn’t even close. Foss-Eggemann campaigned relentlessly, put out nine mailings, and spent $60,000 to win the unpaid party post. She crushed Teschky 5,068-3,010 (with 62.7 percent of the vote), winning 68 of the townships’ 98 precincts and carrying most of the Park Ridge precincts.
"It’s time we stopped fighting each other and started winning elections and defeating Democrats," said Foss-Eggemann, who has made the defeat of state Representative Marty Moylan (D-55) and the election of Bruce Rauner as governor her top priorities.
"It was a nasty, negative campaign," Teschky said, citing mailers paid for by Dan Proft’s Liberty Principles political action committee, which called her a "career politician," a "member of the ruling class and a "pal of Democrats" like Moylan, and ripped her for "giving herself a 12 percent township salary hike," for not assisting Republican Susan Sweeney in her losing 2012 race against Moylan, and for being endorsed by the much-reviled Rosemary Mulligan. Proft’s involvement was "all about revenge," Teschky said, noting that Sweeney and Proft are members of the Illinois Policy Institute. She also expressed anger at the "fancy math" used to compute the 12 percent charge. "The trustees passed the hike in October 2012, six months before the 2013 township election, effective for the 2013-17 terms. The pay raise was three percent per year. They multiplied it by four."
Teschky also scoffs at Foss-Eggemann’s "disavowal" of knowledge of the negative Proft pieces. "Proft needed to show his PAC has power, and he picked me as one of his targets," she said. "Carol should know better," Foss-Eggemann responded. "Super PACs make independent expenditures for or against candidates or on issues. It is a violation of federal law for there to be any coordination between the Super PAC and the candidate."
Teschky, however, can’t claim her campaign was pristine. She unleashed several negative, factually incorrect pieces. In one laughable mailer, featuring a smiling Mike Madigan, Foss-Eggemann is accused of possessing the kiss of death since, as Sweeney’s "campaign chairman" she "lost" the 55th Illinois House District seat in 2012 and that, as a "volunteer" for Jim O’Donnell and Bob Dold, she also "lost" those races.
Another mailer claims Foss-Eggemann "did not publicly support" the Stroger sales tax cutback and the township tax levy cut and "provided no assistance" for tax relief. "That’s utter nonsense," Foss-Eggemann said. "That’s her job. I’m a private citizen."
"I’m a real Republican," Foss-Eggemann said. "We need a committeeman who will support all Republicans, and build the party."
There is a convoluted subtext. The Republican "township crowd," led by road Commissioner Bob Provenzano and Teschky, are very cozy with Moylan, the former Des Plaines mayor and onetime Republican township precinct captain. Moylan and Provenzano are buddies, and they often vacation together. The "township crowd" long feuded with Mulligan, a pro-choice and generally liberal Republican who was first elected state representative in 1992. Mulligan was elected committeeman in 2010, but, pathetically, she couldn’t secure enough signatures to run for re-election to the Illinois House in 2012. Sweeney, a buddy of Foss-Eggemann, with close ties to the women’s club, won the nomination as a write-in over Mulligan, 2,223-46. Mulligan then endorsed Moylan.
Moylan beat Sweeney in the 2012 election 21,321-18,711 (with 53.2 percent of the vote), and Sweeney said that the "township crowd" did "nothing to help me." Then in 2013, magically, the Democrats did not field candidates against Teschky, Provenzano or other township Republicans except Clerk Gary Warner. Republicans won every township office.
As 2014 unfolded, Park Ridge Park District Board member Mel Thillens filed to run against Moylan and Mulligan retired as committeeman. Foss-Eggemann and Teschky both filed for committeeman, and the presumption was that the better known Teschky, who has been a supervisor for 12 years, would win. "She just outworked Teschky," said Mark Thompson, who was dumped as a supervisor by the "township crowd" in 2001. "They better start worrying about their own jobs," he said, referring to the fact that all township offices are on the ballot in 2017 and that Foss-Eggemann’s term runs through 2018. In 2001 then-committeeman Bill Darr called a snap Republican caucus, packed it with his allies, and replaced Thompson with Bob Dudycz. That marked the beginning of the party’s slide into the abyss of animosity and futility.
Foss-Eggemann noted that in 2017 she will have the power to call a caucus or mandate a primary. "They had better start rehabilitating themselves," she warned, adding that either overtly or covertly aiding Moylan will not be tolerated. "I better see them working for Mel," she said.
"We know," Teschky responded. "She’s out to get us. There will be 3 more years of fighting." Teschky said she will endorse Thillens, even though she resides in another district. "Just sour grapes," Foss-Eggemann said, inferring that Teschky wanted the committeeman’s job to protect her supervisor job and those of her pals. "My job will be to elect all Republicans," she said.
Until 2014, the only two active Republican entities were the Park Ridge women and the Teschky-Provenzano "machine’s" 30-plus township employees. "We are the last bastion of Republicanism," Teschky said. Now there’s going to be a viable third entity. The Foss-Eggemann faction has no doubt that Teschky if had won she would have "given a pass" to Moylan in 2014 and that Thillens would be undermined and tanked, just like Sweeney. Now Moylan, who benefited from about $500,000 in mailings and staff paid for by Madigan’s campaign fund, will have to build his own precinct operation. Moylan and newly elected Des Plaines Mayor Matt Bogusz are estranged, and it is rumored that Bogusz won’t be crestfallen if Thillens beats Moylan so he can run for the House seat as a Democrat in 2016.
Both Teschky and Provenzano were present at Foss-Eggemann’s March 22 "unity breakfast," which was attended by Rauner, 10th U.S. House District candidate Bob Dold and a myriad of other Republican office holders. If the March 18 outcome created any "unity," it’s been well concealed.
In Leyden Township, the political convolutions and connivances make Maine Township look like an oasis of clarity. The political pie is bigger and sweeter. The township encompasses Rosemont, Schiller Park, Franklin Park, Elmwood Park, River Grove, Northlake and part of Melrose Park.
The grand poo-bah is Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens, who also is the Republican committeeman and who until 2013 was the township supervisor. In 2013 he had more than $500,000 in his campaign account. Among his subalterns is Franklin Park Mayor Barrett Pedersen, the township’s Democratic committeeman. The have a nonaggression pact whereby Pedersen gets his slice of the pie — Franklin Park and about 35 job holders — while Stephens and his allies hog the rest. Pedersen does not run anybody for township offices, and he refrains from meddling in other towns, all but one having a Republican mayor.
Among Stephens’ chief allies are Mayor Skip Saviano and county Commissioner Pete Silvestri of Elmwood Park, River Grove Mayor Marilynn May and Northlake Mayor Jeff Sherwin. In 2013, while Stephens was busy propping up Pedersen by discouraging Republican opposition and getting Saviano elected, he neglected his ally in Schiller Park, Anna Montana. She was upset for mayor by 10 votes by Barbara Piltaver, who was part of a loose but growing band of dissident Democrats who detest Pedersen. They include Joe Ponzio, who lost to Saviano by 509 votes, and Bob McPartlin, a top aide to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle who is running against Silvestri.
They tried to oust Pedersen in the 2014 Democratic primary, backing Jon Medina for committeeman. The Stephens and Saviano came to Pedersen’s rescue, helping him squeeze out a 1,553-1,254 win (with 55.3 percent of the vote), in a turnout of 2,807. Pedersen’s 633-354 margin in Franklin Park was decisive, but Medina ran surprisingly well in Elmwood Park.
Now the Stephens needs to spend about $250,000 to salvage Silvestri, a 20-year incumbent whose base is crumbling. McPartlin could come very close.
Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.