McCarthy faces uphill fight in 2019 mayor bid
by RUSS STEWART
I distinctly recall the lyrics from a John Mellencamp song that went like this: "When I fight authority, authority always wins."
On the streets of Chicago, the cops’ lament goes like this: "When I fight criminals, criminals always win." Stops are way down, crime is up, murders will likely exceed 600 in 2017, and Chicago’s minority neighborhoods on the West Side and near South Side seem like war zones. Public safety should be the paramount 2019 mayoral campaign issue, but since the carnage is geographically isolated and does not occur in the Loop, Lincoln Park or even Six Corners, politicians like Mayor Rahm Emanuel can ignore it.
The Chicago Police Department’s annual budget is $1.3 billion, there are supposedly 12,294 sworn officers and 1,925 support personnel, and the police superintendent earns $260,004 annually. Is there any accountability? What are Chicagoans getting for their $1.3 billion?
Police officers, especially upper-echelon brass, make very poor politicians. They are used to exercising authority and issuing commands, military-style. It would be nice to have a cop as mayor, or at least a mayor who is pro-cop. That’s not likely in Chicago, and not somebody named Rahm Emanuel.
Voters in general are resistant to authority. The common public stereotype is that cops tend not to talk to or socialize with non-cops, that they feel they are over-worked and under-appreciated and forever being harassed and hassled by bureaucrats and politicians for just doing their job.
Besides that, there is the ACLU report provision in the collective bargaining agreement which requires cops to describe in writing each stop and interrogation, there are body cameras and squad car cameras, there is the new Civilian Office of Police Accountability, with a bunch of earnest second-guessers making career-breaking decisions, there is the mayor’s "police reform," with a federal "monitor" to be put in place to enforce compliance.
And of course then there are the punks and gangbangers who shove their iPhone in officers’ faces, recording every moment of every "interaction." And then Alderman John Arena (45th) decides he is going to report "racist" social media postings by police officers critical of the 5150 N. Northwest Highway housing project, which Arena says will begin to "desegregate" Jefferson Park, to the Anti-Defamation League,
And last year State’s Attorney Kim Foxx decided that shoplifting arrests would not be prosecuted as felonies unless the pilferage exceeded $1,000 in value, and only then if the suspect had ten prior felony convictions.
In suburban municipalities like Norridge and Harwood Heights, retail thefts are referred to local ordinance courts, where some penalty and fine is imposed. In Chicago, they go to misdemeanor courts, like Grand-Central or Skokie, where they get nolle-prossed, meaning dismissed.
No wonder cops invariably develop a "bunker mentality": it’s us against them. They are under siege.
Enter Garry McCarthy, Chicago’s police superintendent from 2011 to 2105. McCarthy, age 58, was born in Bronx, New York, joined the NYPD in 1981, moved up the ranks, and in 2000, when Rudy Giuliani was mayor, became deputy commissioner of operations. Giuliani, who became mayor in 1991, employed a "broken window" crime-fighting philosophy: When crime rose in any geographic area, he would flood that area with police until crime abated. It worked. McCarthy went on to become Newark’s police chief in 2006, and moved to Chicago in 2011.
McCarthy was superintendent until 2015, when Mayor Rahm Emanuel threw him under the proverbial bus as scapegoat for the Laquan McDonald fiasco. He has formed an "exploratory committee" to raise money, do polling and lay the groundwork for a 2019 mayoral challenge to Emanuel. If history is a guide, McCarthy should fold his tent right now, not waste his time, and not squander other people’s money.
For those prone to forgetfulness, remember the parade of high-visibility, tough-on-crime superintendents who followed O.W. Wilson from the 1960s onward. Under Richard J. Daley, through 1976, it was James Conlisk, James Rochford and Jim O’Grady, under Jane Byrne from 1979 to 83 it was Richard Brzcezek, under Harold Washington from 1983 to 87, it was Fred Rice and LeRoy Martin, under Rich Daley from 1989 to 2011, it was Matt Rodriguez, James Hilliard, Philip Cline and Jody Weis. Under Emanuel it was McCarthy and now Eddie Johnson. All were competent, all were burdened by the drip-drip of police controversies and community pushback, and none was ever seriously seen as a future mayor. Brzeczek ran for state’s attorney against Rich Daley in 1984, but Byrne was then out of City Hall. O’Grady switched parties and won for sheriff in 1986, but then Washington died, racial politics diminished, and he lost for re-election in 1990.
"Our goal is to get Rahm into a runoff" with McCarthy. "If that happens, Rahm loses," said a source affiliated with the McCarthy Mayoral Exploratory Committee, who refused to be quoted by name but laid out the McCarthy campaign strategy. "It’s not that McCarthy is exceptionally popular. But we have a solid base of 25-30 percent of the vote, and it’s bi-racial," he said, counting the 12,500-plus sworn police officers, the 2,000 police support personnel, their families, the 600 to 800 annual retirees, of whom half remain in Chicago, and their families, which, dating back to the 1980s, number around 40,000, plus firefighters, plus another 40,000 current and retired city workers who, the source said "hate Emanuel." Emanuel is so unpopular, the source added, that "no amount of money can re-elect him." McCarthy, he said, because of his cop base, will get 20 to 25 percent of the minority vote.
"Plus," the source said, "McCarthy will draw a significant sympathy vote. Everybody knows that the McDonald shooting occurred in October 2014, and that it was Emanuel and (then-State’s Attorney Anita) Alvarez who suppressed the video for political reasons. He (McCarthy) was the scape."
According to the source, Brian McCormack, a film producer and investor in Groupon, will be McCarthy’s finance chairman. The goal will be to raise as much money as Emanuel over the next year. "We can do it," said the source. The mayor raised $3,014,945 through June 30, and had $1,577,209 on-hand.
Chicago’s population is 2,695,598, of which 1,570,529 are registered voters. In 2015, turnout was 478,204 in the primary and 586,602 in the Emanuel- Jesus Garcia runoff. Current speculation is that Garcia will not run in 2019. That leaves only black businessman Willie Wilson, who got 11 percent in 2015, in the race. McCarthy needs more candidates to push the ABE – Anybody But Emanuel – vote over 50 percent, necessitating a runoff. In a primary, McCarthy would likely not get much more than 35-40 percent in a primary, and Emanuel would spend millions on negative ads, as he did against Garcia. To win, McCarthy needs money, a runoff, and for crime to be rampantly out-of-control.
The Last Madigan Standing: It was long presumed that Speaker Mike Madigan would precede his daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, into retirement. With Lisa Madigan’s announcement, coupled with the retirement of deputy majority leader Barbara Flynn Currie, the speaker, age 75, may hang around for another decade. I asked state representative John D’Amico (D-15) if Madigan is shooting for the Big-5-0, meaning 50 years as speaker. That would occur in 2034. "Ask him," replied D’Amico.
Or, since Lisa Madigan’s "succession" is now moot, he may just bail out.
Growing cobwebs is a whole generation of would-be speakers, the most frustrated being Skokie’s Lou Lang (D-16), who is also a deputy majority leader, has $1,075,594 on-hand, and is age 67. He wants to be speaker, like, right now. There are seven assistant majority leaders, four of whom want Currie’s job including Sara Feigenholtz (D-12), from Chicago’s Lincoln Park, Art Turner Jr. (D-9), a South Sider who has the support of the Black Caucus, Downstaters Jay Hoffman (D-113) and Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-92), and conference chair Greg Harris, (D-13). Feigenholtz is the favorite, and likely next speaker – maybe in the 2030s.
The Last Martwick: In a surprise, Robert Martwick, Norwood Park Township Democratic committeeman since 1962, is retiring. His successor was long expected to be his son, Rob Martwick, who is the 19th District state representative, first elected in 2012. But young Martwick has moved from Norridge to west Portage Park in the 38th Ward. Two Democrats seek the township post: Fire Board member Frank Avino, backed by Martwick, and plumbing business owner Dan Donnelly. The Republican committeeman will be Anthony Beckman.
In the 19th District, which includes the 45th Ward and most of the 38th Ward, Rob Martwick faces two cops – Jeff LaPorte in the primary and Ammie Kessem in the election. LaPorte, a 23-year patrolman, said he is running because Martwick "refuses to take a position" on the 5150 project and supported the income tax hike.
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