venerable political proverb decrees that you can't
beat somebody with nobody. But how about nobody
against nobody? Or somebody against somebody?
March 21 Democratic primary, which features local
contests for legislative and party office, will
test those presumptions. Here's the outlook:
U.S. House District (Evanston, Skokie,
Lincolnwood, Morton Grove, Niles, Des Plaines,
Glenview, Rosemont, Norridge, Harwood Heights, the
Lakefront 46th, 48th and 49th wards, part of the
40th and 41st wards, and part of Park Ridge).
Frank Coconate is definitely a
"somebody" - at least in his realm of
influence, which is the Far Northwest Side, where
he is chairman of the Northwest Side Democratic
was fired from his city job last July after he
endorsed Jesse Jackson Jr. for mayor and launched
his "Opposition 2007" program to find
anti-Daley aldermanic candidates in area wards. He
currently is suing to reclaim his job, and he
filed to run for Democratic state central
committeeman in the 9th District.
Coconate had two huge problems. First, only the
41st Ward precincts north of Devon Avenue are in
the 9th District. That minimized his base. And
second, his opponent is Bill Marovitz, a definite
"somebody" - a committeeman since 1990,
a state representative from 1975 to 1980 and a
state senator from 1981 to 1992. He is the nephew
of Abraham Lincoln Marovitz, a longtime federal
judge, a pillar of the Jewish community and a
close friend of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley.
Marovitz, age 62, is a well connected attorney,
and he is married to Christie Hefner, who runs the
Playboy publishing empire.
Democrats elect both a committeeman and a
committeewoman from each of the state's 19
districts. The post is unpaid, but it makes the
occupant a definite party insider. The 38 members
pick one of their number to be the state
Democratic chairman (currently Illinois House
Speaker Mike Madigan). They meet to endorse state
candidates and discuss party strategy. And, most
importantly, they are expected to use their
contacts to raise money for the party. Marovitz is
among the most influential and prolific.
a district that gave John Kerry 68 percent of the
vote in 2004, that has a Democratic electorate
that is overwhelmingly liberal, and that has a
large Jewish vote, Marovitz is unbeatable. Back in
1986 Lakefront liberal Jeff Smith upset incumbent
Cal Sutker, the Niles Township Democratic
committeeman, by 19,174-16,753, in a turnout of
35,927. In 1990 Marovitz challenged Smith and
crushed him 38,441-19,268, with 3,097 votes going
to a LaRouche candidate; turnout was 60,806. In
1994 he beat Doug Heitz 51,849-12,658, in a
turnout of 64,507. He was unopposed both in 1998,
getting 47,010 votes, and in 2002, getting 61,279
year Marovitz has the backing of U.S.
Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-9) and her
political organization, plus the support of Mayor
Rich Daley and of every elected area Democratic
committeeman, legislator and alderman. Coconate,
as they say, was spitting into the wind when he
filed to oppose Marovitz, and on Jan. 20 he
withdrew. But still on the ballot is Pat
McDonough, another fired city worker who was a
"whistle blower" in the Hired Truck
Program scandal. The civil service commission
recently ruled that McDonough's firing was without
merit and ordered his reinstatement with back pay.
McDonough is a "nobody," but he could
develop some celebrity status.
called Marovitz "an elitist who is out of
touch Democratic values," adding, "He
has Playboy values." And, added McDonough,
"in a city overflowing with corruption,
incompetence and greed, he conducts business as
usual." McDonough noted that Marovitz has
closed his campaign account and transferred out
$65,728.81 for "personal use." Responded
Marovitz: "That's perfectly legal. I paid
taxes on that amount."
will be a voice for the average Democrat, the
union worker, the home owner," McDonough
said. "I will speak out on issues. I will not
grub support a corrupt system."
prediction: Never pick an unwinnable fight.
Coconate wisely folded. McDonough won't get more
than 25 percent of the vote.
Illinois Senate District (Oak Park, suburban
Leyden Township and parts of the 36th, 41st, 37th
and 29th wards). Created by the Democrats to elect
an Oak Park state senator, the district is an
electoral oddity. Of its 208 precincts, 38 (18.3
percent) are in the black-majority 37th and 29th
wards, 42 (20.1 percent) are in Oak Park, 11 (5.2
percent) are in the white-majority 36th and 41st
wards, and 117 (56.2 percent) are in Leyden
Township (Elmwood Park, Franklin Park, Northlake,
River Grove, Schiller Park), Proviso Township
(Melrose Park) and River Forest Township. The
district also contains a small part of Bensenville
in DuPage County.
the Senate district's two Illinois House
districts, Skip Saviano (R-77) of Elmwood Park,
who is white, represents the 84 percent white 77th
District, while Deborah Graham (D-78) of Chicago,
who is black, represents the 39 percent black and
50 percent white 78th District, which includes
liberal Oak Park. The state senator is Don Harmon,
a white Democrat from Oak Park who was first
elected in 2002.
the fact that the Senate district is 67.6 percent
white and 76.4 percent suburban, Harmon crushed
his Republican foe in 2002 with 70.3 percent of
the vote. In that election Rod Blagojevich won
67.3 percent of the vote in the district in his
bid for governor.
year Mike Nardello, a precinct captain in Alderman
Bill Banks' 36th Ward Democratic organization and
the director of finance in the city Department on
Aging, is challenging Harmon. Nardello's problem
is positioning. To win, he must portray himself as
an "independent" and
"reform-minded" Democrat and build an
anti-Harmon, anti-Blagojevich, suburban coalition.
is socially conservative and anti-Blagojevich.
Harmon supported the governor's 2004, 2005 and
2006 budgets, including the $165 million
"budget sweep" of state agencies in
2004, the "pension raid" to reduce state
obligations, and a myriad of tax and fee hikes.
Harmon also voted to roll back the gaming tax by
50 percent. On social issues, Harmon backs
abortion rights, gay rights, gun control and local
early outlook: Harmon is the Oak Park Township
Democratic committeeman, an area where Blagojevich
is not particularly popular, especially among
teachers. In 4 years Harmon has not clearly
defined himself or politically entrenched himself.
But all the local committeemen, including Banks
and state Senator Jim DeLeo (D-10) of the 36th
Ward, have endorsed Harmon. To win, Nardello would
have to run a targeted, lavishly funded campaign.
He would have to run up a huge vote in the suburbs
by blasting Harmon as a liberal, keep down
Harmon's vote in Oak Park by blasting him as a
Blagojevich toady, and depress Harmon's vote in
the black areas by attacking him as a foe of
educational reform. That negative campaign would
take more money and manpower than Nardello can
muster. Expect a 60 percent Harmon win.
Illinois House District (Northwest Side, parts of
the 30th and 33rd wards). Democrats often do the
talk about minority empowerment, but they
hypocritically don't always do the walk. An
example is Democratic state Representative Rich
Bradley's district, which is 47.1 percent
Hispanic. The district is bell-shaped, running
from Lawrence to Belmont, from Damen on the east
to Laramie on the west.
first elected to the House in 1998, is a
clout-heavy Democrat. He is an assistant general
superintendent of the city Department of Streets
and Sanitation. His wife, Cynthia Santos, a
Metropolitan Water Reclamation District
commissioner, has a job with the Illinois
Secretary of State's Office and is the 5th U.S.
House District Democratic committeewoman. Wilfredo
Aponte, who is Hispanic, filed against Bradley.
bottom line: Bradley is living on borrowed time. A
Hispanic opponent will beat him some day - but not
perhaps until 2010 or 2012. In the meantime, he's
a loyal cog in the "Madigan Machine,"
and he piles up his pension dollars. Bradley wins
because no credible Hispanic has the money or
fortitude to oppose him.
Township (Skokie, Lincolnwood, parts of Niles and
Glenview). Sutker has been the Democratic
committeeman since 1973, and the township
regularly delivers solid margins for the
Democrats. Kerry got 62.4 percent of the vote
there in 2004, and Blagojevich got 62.4 percent in
2002. Sutker lost for re-election as a county
commissioner by 4,427 votes in 2002 to Larry
Suffredin of Evanston, who was backed by
Schakowsky's organization, but he carried his
township with 60.4 percent of the vote.
is retiring, and he backs Lou Lang, a state
representative since 1987 and the president of
Sutker's organization, as his successor. Lang is
popular, and he has the money and manpower to
churn out votes. Rich Reeder of Skokie, who
previously worked for the campaigns of Schakowsky,
Suffredin and Barack Obama, also filed for
outlook: Reeder is a "nobody," and he
will go nowhere without support from the
Evanstonian S&S crowd. Lang is a
"somebody," who if elected at age 56
will be committeeman for a long time. According to
insiders, the deal is done: Suffredin is unopposed
for renomination for commissioner, and Reeder will
get no outside-the-township support.
note: Stewart was McDonough's attorney in his
unemployment claim against the city.)