October 30, 2002


Black voter rage means a surging black turnout. The drive for black empowerment, especially with a black candidate on the ballot for a major office, also means a surging black turnout.

In 2002, there is no surge. And that has Democratic candidates, especially those running for statewide office, exceptionally concerned. A dampened turnout among black voters in Chicago and the Cook County suburbs could shave up to 200,000 votes off the total of every Democrat running in Cook County. That won't necessarily be catastrophic. Democrats will win most statewide races, but that diminution will make the contests for attorney general, treasurer and, perhaps, governor, very tight.

Secretary of State Jesse White is this year's only black statewide contender, while in Cook County, County Board president John Stroger is seeking re-election. But neither has the popularity to energize black turnout, and neither is in danger of defeat. The Democrats need somebody like Carol Moseley-Braun -- whose bids for U.S. senator in 1992 and 1998 energized the black electorate -- on the ticket. Moseley-Braun won Chicago by a margin of 407,189 votes in 1998 over Republican Peter Fitzgerald and by 558,211 votes in 1992 over Republican Rich Williamson.

In 1992 Moseley-Braun got a total of 809,621 votes in Chicago, of which 442,612 came from the black-majority wards, and she got 484,819 votes in the Cook County suburbs, of which 144,616 came from the black-majority townships. In 1998 she got 552,729 votes in the city, of which 316,160 came from the black wards, and 316,067 votes in the suburbs, of which 107,763 came from the black townships. In 2000 Al Gore got 769,859 votes in Chicago, of which 381,115 came from the black wards, and 510,688 in the suburbs, of which 159,548 came from the black townships.

In most partisan elections, over 95 percent of black voters vote Democratic. When there is a popular black candidate on the ballot -- and particularly if he or she is running against a white candidate -- even more blacks vote.

Likewise, as in 2000, black voters stream to the polls when Democrats successfully demonize the Republicans. In 1996 Bill Clinton's campaign used Newt Gingrich and the villainous welfare-cutting Republican Congress to spur black turnout; in 2000 Gore's campaign insisted that a Bush victory would roll back black progress.

This year, there's nobody to demonize.  Of the state's 7.1 million registered voters, roughly 950,000 are black. If black turnout is 70 percent, that's at least 625,000 Democratic votes; if turnout drops to 50 percent, that's 450,000 Democratic votes -- a 175,000-vote falloff. A 50 percent black turnout is likely this year.


With the election days away, here are my predictions in key races:


Governor: Campaigns usually are won by the least flawed candidate. Democrat Rod Blagojevich's problem is that he is perceived as being shallow, inexperienced and opportunistic. Republican Jim Ryan's problem is that he is perceived as grim, pompous and inflexibly conservative.

There is no question that Illinois voters, after suffering through 4 years of George Ryan and the bribes-for-licenses scandal, are clamoring for a change. Blagojevich would certainly bring "change," which will mean higher taxes and hordes of Democrats in state jobs, but increasing numbers of voters don't think Blagojevich is up to the job. Ryan certainly appears up to the job, but voters don't believe that he would prompt any change in the complexion of state government, and he has failed to articulate how he would govern any better than George Ryan, or any differently from Blaogjevich.

My prediction: Ryan's only chance of an upset hinged on "doing a Dan Quayle" on Blagojevich. Ryan needed to show that Blagojevich is too dimwitted to be governor, and he needed some mammoth verbal blunder on the Democrat's part. That hasn't happened, so Ryan will lose.

In 1998 Democratic governor nominee Glenn Poshard got 344,285 votes in the black wards and townships, or 79,638 fewer than Moseley-Braun. Republicans are running ads on black radio stations tying Blagojevich to his father-in-law, Alderman Dick Mell, and Mell to his participation in the "Vrdolyak 29" during the Harold Washington years. Blagojevich will get even fewer votes than Poshard got, since blacks have no great incentive to back him, but he will carry the white-majority wards and the Lakefront, with close to 65 percent of the vote, and he will win the city overall by 410,000 votes. He'll carry the Cook County suburbs by 85,000 votes.

Ryan will score well in the Collar Counties, and he will carry Downstate, but that won't overcome Blagojevich's Cook County margin. The Democrat will win by 245,000 votes.


Attorney General: For blacks, the choice between a suburban white candidate (Republican Joe Birkett) and Mike Madigan's daughter (Democrat Lisa Madigan) is distinctly unappetizing, but they'll stick with the Democrat. In 1998 Democrat Miriam Santos got 265,627 votes in the black wards and 84,510 in the black townships, beating Jim Ryan in Chicago 269,614 votes but losing the suburbs by 214,101. Madigan will get fewer black votes than Santos, but she will get many more white votes in Chicago, carrying the city by 275,000 votes and the suburbs by about 10,000.

My prediction: Despite her thin credentials and lack of legal experience, Madigan has been endorsed by both the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, and her father's political machine, which reaches throughout Illinois, will be working mightily on her behalf. Birkett has plenty of prosecutorial experience, but his baggage -- his National Rifle Association endorsement, anti-abortion stance and association with the Rolando Cruz prosecution -- has dimmed his prospects.

Madigan's magic number is 300,000 votes. She must come out of Cook County up by that margin. Birkett will run significantly ahead of Jim Ryan in the Collar Counties and Downstate. Madigan likely will win, but her margin will be in the range of 10,000 to 15,000 votes. A Birkett upset is possible.


Treasurer: Ironically, a diminished black turnout won't necessarily help incumbent Republican Judy Baar Topinka, who has the backing of several black Democrats, including U.S. Representative Bobby Rush. If she beats Democrat Tom Dart this year, Topinka is on track to run for governor in 2006. Topinka first won her job in 1994, by 77,018 votes, and she was re-elected in 1998, by just 62,279 votes.

Topinka has been a competent state official, giving Dart little to criticize. Unlike Jim Ryan, Topinka is energetic and personable, and she avoids ideological tags and controversial stances. She will defeat Dart by 125,000 votes.


Secretary of State: Jesse White beat Al Salvi by 437,206 votes in 1998, with voters more against Salvi than for White. Blagojevich generated a recent headline when he reportedly referred to White's office as being a "cesspool of corruption." White indignantly rebutted that charge, insisting that he had "cleaned up" the office after 8 years of George Ryan. White has given voters no reason to oust him. On Nov. 5 he'll demolish the unknown and underfinanced Republican, Kris Cohn, by close to 600,000 votes.


State Representative (20th District): It's make or break time for a bunch of Northwest Side politicians. Redistricting pitted two incumbents -- Democrat Bob Bugielski and Republican Mike McAuliffe -- against each other. McAuliffe is the better known, but Bugielski has the better organization. McAuliffe's mailings have ripped Bugielski for voting 15 times to raise state taxes or fees, in an aggregate amount of $8.1 billion, and for living outside the boundaries of the new district.

Bugielski is backed by Alderman Bill Banks' 36th Ward organization and by state Representative Ralph Capparelli in the 41st Ward. They will have plenty of manpower on election day, with up to eight workers per precinct. They are counting on a local Blagojevich landslide, and they will pull out every possible Democratic vote.

But McAuliffe's "tax man" charges against Bugielski have clearly hurt. The Democrat is proving to be a hard sell for precinct captains, especially in the 41st Ward. Alderman Brian Doherty (41st) is running the McAuliffe campaign.

My prediction: The district runs from Niles all the way south to Diversey and Harlem, and McAuliffe has minimal precinct coverage south of Addison. Banks will deliver his ward by better than 2-1, which means that McAuliffe must get at least 58 percent of the vote in both the 41st Ward and Norwood Park Township. McAuliffe likely will win, probably by about 400 votes, but Bugielski is coming on strong.


Cook County Board (9th District): For Democrat Rob Martwick, the second time better be the charm, because his credibility can't tolerate much more erosion. Martwick ran for state senator in 1996, and in that campaign he was slammed for his "high pay" as a Norwood Park Township trustee, earning $12,000 a year and spending less than 12 hours a year at board meetings, leading to the charge that he earned "$1,068 per hour." Martwick, the son of Norwood Park Township Democratic Committeeman Robert Martwick, lost to Republican Wally Dudycz by just 2,318 votes.

After his loss, Martwick retired as township trustee and got a job with the Cook County State's Attorney's Office. But that didn't last long. Martwick soon became a trustee in Norridge and quit his county job to go to work for his father's law firm, which specializes in property tax appeals.

Now he's challenging incumbent Republican Pete Silvestri, who has been a commissioner since 1994 and who is the Elwood Park village president. Martwick is running on a "reform" platform, but Silvestri's mailings have resurrected the "$1,068-per-hour" issue and have ripped the elder Martwick's law firm for reportedly getting $6 million in property tax reductions for 187 clients in 2001 -- all of whom, according to Silvestri, were "big Downtown corporations." Silvestri says that Rob Martwick should instead be fighting to cut taxes for residential property owners, as he claims to have done.

My prediction: Martwick is running with Blagojevich, Madigan and Bugielski as a team, while Silvestri is allied with McAuliffe. Martwick will narrowly win his township and carry Banks' ward while losing the 41st Ward. Silvestri will eke out a win by 800 votes.