January 14, 2004


During election campaigns, this column normally contains an exhaustive analysis of state, county and local political contests and a fearless prediction of their outcomes. But, since it's the new year, a time for resolutions and prognostications, I'll put the proverbial cart before the horse and make the forecasts now and the analyses later.

Here's the early outlook for key races in the March 16 primary:

U.S. Senator (Republican): The upside for Jack Ryan, a young, charismatic and wealthy investment banker-turned-teacher, is that he got his name and message out early and effectively. Ryan has a $15 million campaign budget, of which $6 million came from his own pocket. From August through October of 2003, Ryan was on television with his ads, and he delivered two mailings to every Republican-voting household in Illinois. That gave him a huge advantage in name recognition over the eight other Republicans who filed to run for senator.

The downside is the plight of former governor George Ryan, who was indicted on 22 counts by the U.S. attorney in December. The two Ryans are not related, but the surname is not exactly a bouquet of roses. Jim Ryan, the Illinois attorney general, lost the 2002 governor's race by 252,080 votes, and there is no doubt that some voters didn't vote for him because they thought he was George Ryan or wanted a governor of a different party from the governor. The former governor won't go on trial until some time in 2005, but the "Ryan Confusion Syndrome" will be costly.

Other millionaires in the race are Andy McKenna, Jim Oberweis and Chirinjeev Kathuria. Each likely will match, if not exceed, Jack Ryan's self-funding level of $6 million. The other candidates -- Steve Rauschenberger, a state senator, John Borling, a former Vietnam POW and U.S. Air Force major general, Jon Wright, Norm Hill and Andy Martin -- lack the capacity to self-fund to the multi-million-dollar level.

The outlook: Ryan will win the Republican nomination, getting more than 35 percent of the vote. But the nomination is only worthwhile if the Democrats choose a beatable nominee, which they may do. If it's Ryan-versus-Hynes, Ryan loses. If it's Ryan-versus-Obama, Ryan wins.

U.S. Senator (Democrat): Unless there is a "Perfect Political Storm," state Comptroller Dan Hynes will win his party's nomination. And that storm would occur only if it's a "Carol Moseley Braun Redux." It will be remembered that in 1992 Braun rode the crest of black and female votes to beat two white male candidates with 38.3 percent of the vote.

Seven Democrats filed for senator, including Barack Obama, a black state senator, and Maria Pappas, the Cook County treasurer. That splinters the black and female vote. Also running are wealthy retired stock broker Blair Hull, who has pledged to spend $40 million of his fortune, former Chicago Board of Education president Gery Chico, who has appeal to Hispanic voters, Joyce Washington and Nancy Skinner.

To use the cliche of the "Highlander" movies and TV series, a "quickening" will decide the race. If Obama can precipitate a huge black vote -- which is roughly a 35 percent of the typical Democratic primary turnout -- he can win, but only if Pappas chips away white votes from Hynes. If Pappas, who has family wealth, spends lavishly and telegraphs herself as the woman/liberal/independent candidate in the race, she could crack the 30 percent threshold.

The outlook: Hynes, backed by some powerful unions, most white committeemen in Cook County and a growing number of Downstate county chairman, is good for about 35 percent of the vote. Obama will win the nomination only if Pappas surges and takes white votes away from Hynes and if both Hull and Chico get a significant vote. Hull has already spent millions on television ads, and he looms as the big bust of 2004; Chico has offered no coherent rationale for his candidacy.

A lot depends on the Democratic presidential race. If it is decided before March 16, then the Illinois contest will be moot, which will depress turnout. That will be fatal to Pappas and Hull. Obama's base vote is about 400,000, and Hynes' is about 450,000. A low turnout will ensure Hynes' nomination; a high turnout, with blacks solidly behind Obama and whites split between Hynes, Pappas and Hull, will ensure Obama's nomination. Give a slight edge to Hynes.

Clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court (Democratic): Incumbent Dorothy Brown, first elected in 2000, has the potential to run a credible race for Chicago mayor. She is well known in the black community, has run a scandal-free office, and has a great resume. She needs an issue to motivate her black base, and that issue is the allegation that Mayor Rich Daley and the white political establishment want to beat her.

Brown's primary opponent is former judge Jerry Orbach, who must be careful, in criticizing Brown's management of the clerk's office, not to prompt any racial polarization. Daley will not endorse in the race, but many of the pro-Daley white committeemen will push for Orbach. Brown is a solid early favorite.

20th District State Representative (Democratic): Seventeen-term incumbent Ralph Capparelli (D-15) moved into this Far Northwest Side district to run in 2004. Capparelli is the 41st Ward Democratic committeeman, and he represented the old 13th District, encompassing most of the new 20th, for 22 years. In the 2002 primary, then-incumbent Bob Bugielski was backed by Capparelli and Alderman Bill Banks (36th). Bugielski got 10,754 votes (53.9 percent), to 5,444 for Frank Coconate and 3,743 for Lou Giovannetti.

This year Capparelli is opposed by Coconate, chairman of the Northwest Side Democratic Organization, and Mike Marzullo, a city worker who lost a bid for alderman in 2003. The outlook: Capparelli is really a Republican in Democratic clothing. He is a conservative on fiscal issues, never having voted for a tax increase, as well as on cultural issues such as abortion, gay rights and gun control. Marzullo and Coconate are equally conservative, so the March 16 primary will be decided on the basis of candidate personalities and organization. And that means a Capparelli win.

It would be interesting if somebody ran against Capparelli from the left, attacking Capparelli as being too conservative. That could be a future winning strategy.

41st Ward Committeeman (Republican): Former state senator Walter Dudycz is challenging incumbent Mike McAuliffe, who is a state representative and who will be running for re-election against Capparelli in the 20th District. The outlook: A slight edge to McAuliffe.

41st Ward Committeeman (Democratic): Capparelli also is opposed in this race by Coconate and Marzullo. Capparelli has plenty of money, but he lacks precinct manpower. His foes lack both. With the anti-Capparelli vote split, the incumbent will win with more than 50 percent of the vote.

45th Ward Committeeman (Democratic): Community activist Bob Bank filed for committeeman against 36-year incumbent Tom Lyons, who is the Democratic county chairman. Lyons is in no real danger, but the outcome will be read as a harbinger for the 2007 aldermanic election. Lyons' attorney filed a challenge to Bank's nominating petitions. Bank likely will stay on the ballot, but he will waste both time and money. Ron Pacelt, one of Lyons' precinct captains, also filed for committeeman, simply as a tactic to splinter to potential anti-Lyons vote.

The outlook: Lyons will win with 65 percent of the vote, to Bank's 30 percent.

10th Judicial Sub-Circuit (Democratic): With two vacancies to be filled, the Democrats slated Joe Potasiak for the "A" vacancy -- the so-called "Polish seat" -- and Jim McGing for the Fleming vacancy. McGing faces former Circuit Court clerk Aurie Pucinski and Carolyn Quinn. Rank this as a toss-up. In the other race, Potasiak's death in December throws this race into chaos. First on the ballot is Clare McWilliams, followed by Bonnie Kennedy (the daughter of Judge James Kennedy), David Barry, Peggy Chiampis and Jim Snyder. If Lyons, Capparelli and the other Democratic committeemen coalesce behind Kennedy, she will win.

19th District State Representative (Democratic): Four-term incumbent Joe Lyons faces Jeff Holewinski, the son of former state legislator Mike Holewinski. The younger Holewinski is angling to run for alderman in 2007, so this race is viewed as a vehicle to elevate his name recognition and meet voters. Lyons will win handily.