March 10, 2004


There's an ancient saying that happiness equals reality divided by expectation.

When the ballots have been counted on March 16, there will be a boatload of distraught Illinois politicians whose expectations have been shattered by reality. Here's my statewide prediction:

U.S. Senator (Democrat): Whether it relates to personal relationships or to politics, another ancient maxim applies: Never explain. Never apologize.

Those who are compelled to do so often lose. In 1980 12-year state Attorney General Bill Scott tried to avoid explaining why he was under federal investigation for income tax evasion after his former wife told the feds that he had a much-used safe deposit box. He finally did, and he emphasized his innocence. But his Senate candidacy collapsed, and Scott, who had won statewide office five times, finished with a dismal 34.4 percent of the vote in the Republican primary.

Another example was U.S. Senator Alan Dixon, a Democrat elected in 1980 and re-elected in 1986. But he made the mistake of supporting Clarence Thomas's Supreme Court nomination in 1991, and he was viciously attacked for that decision by opponent Al Hofeld. Dixon's explanation was unacceptable to liberals, and he lost the primary to Carol Moseley Braun.

And now we have Blair Hull, the mega-wealthy liberal who champions women's issues: He has funded lawyers who fought to enforce Title IX, a federal law which mandates sports equity between males and females, he has contributed liberally to Personal PAC, which supports pro-abortion rights candidates, and he endowed a $450,000 "Hull Chair" in women's studies at the University of California.

But if press revelations are correct, his domestic actions belie his public actions and words. According to Hull's second wife -- whom he married in 1995, divorced in 1996, remarried in 1997, and divorced in 1998 -- unsealed divorce pleadings allege that he threatened to kill her and that he punched her on one occasion. Hull was hoping that his former spouse would do a Hillary Clinton and stand by her man, recanting her allegations, but she didn't do so. Now Hull is saying that he struck his wife in self-defense.

Hull's support, engendered by a self-funded $24 million media buy, always was superficial. He led the pack because he was better known than his rivals. Now it's pile-on time. The Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault has called for his withdrawal, and Hull is sinking in the polls like a rock. Even though Hull is pouring another $8 million into media ads during the final 2 weeks of the campaign, a candidate is toast when he has to explain or apologize -- especially on an issue as politically combustible as domestic violence.

Republicans are fervently hoping that Hull will somehow eke out a primary win and stumble into the November election crippled and beatable. But that won't happen. Downstate, Hull's big spending made him competitive with state Comptroller Dan Hynes; now Hynes is surging in the area. In Chicago and Cook County, Hull took white liberal votes away from county Treasurer Maria Pappas, and his proposal to lower prescription drug prices appealed to seniors and hurt Hynes in white ethnic wards. That's changing. The only candidate with a rock-solid base is state Senator Barack Obama, who will get a huge black vote.

My prediction: With John Kerry assured of the Democrats' presidential nomination, primary turnout will be low -- about 1,050,000. Downstate turnout will be just over 225,000, and Hynes will get 155,000 votes there (to Hull's 50,000, Pappas's 20,000, Obama's 30,000 and Gery Chico's 5,000). Collar County turnout will be just over 70,000, and Hynes will get 30,000 votes (to 15,000 each for Hull and Pappas, 8,000 for Obama and 2,000 for Chico). In Chicago and Cook County, turnout will be just over 760,000, and Obama will get about 245,000 votes and Pappas will finish strong, amassing nearly 180,000 votes, to Hull's 150,000, Hynes' 140,000 and Chico's 30,000, with the rest scattered between Nancy Skinner and Joyce Washington. The bottom line: Hull was on track to beat Obama. Now some of his voters will defect to Hynes and Pappas. Hynes will top the field with 285,000 votes, to Obama's 283,000, Pappas's 210,000, Hull's 205,000 and Chico's 37,000. If Hull's vote drops further, it will deflect even more votes to Hynes and Pappas.

U.S. Senate (Republican): Figuring that it takes a millionaire to beat a millionaire, and also figuring that the odor attached to George Ryan's governorship (or at least to the Ryan surname) will dissipate, Republicans are eager to nominate businessman/teacher Jack Ryan. There are roughly 800,000 registered Republicans in Illinois, which translates to about 475,000 households. Ryan, a wealthy former investment banker (like Hull, but not quite as rich), poured $2.6 million of his own money into the campaign, and he has hit every Republican household at least five times with mailers. He also has had more TV ads than any of his opponents.

My prediction: No issues predominate, and no single candidate has a particular geographic base. So, in a turnout of 490,000, Ryan will prevail with 40 percent (196,000 votes), to Jim Oberweis's 20 percent (98,000), Steve Rauschenberg's 16 percent (78,000), Andy McKenna's 12 percent (58,000) and John Borling's 8 percent (39,000), with the rest scattered among Chirinjeev Kathuria, Jon Wright and Norm Hill.

Here's a look at county and local races:

Clerk of the Circuit Court: Former judge Jerry Orbach, who is white, is trying to tar first-term incumbent Dorothy Brown, who is black, with the brush of incompetence, and he has accused her of politicizing the office. Some of Orbach's charges have been validated in the news media, but there is no developing groundswell of outrage, and Brown will benefit from a huge black turnout for Obama. Brown will win with 58 percent of the vote.

16th House District (Skokie, Lincolnwood, 50th Ward): 17-year Democratic incumbent Lou Lang faces a surprisingly tough race against Mike Moses, who is backed by Alderman Berny Stone (50th). "Nobody knows who he is," said Stone, who is annoyed that Lang "doesn't bring projects back to the district." Lang, of Skokie, is backed by Niles Township Committeeman Cal Sutker's creaking and sputtering organization. Moses has been blasting Lang in mailed pieces, and Lang has been responding defensively. That's not good. Turnout is critical. Lang must carry his Niles Township base by 2-1, and Moses must carry his West Rogers Park base by 2-1. If either falls short of that goal, they lose. My prediction: In a tight race, Lang will win 54-46 percent.

15th House District (Northwest Side 39th and 40th Wards, Niles, Morton Grove): In this open district, the favored Democrat is John D'Amico, the grandson of the late Alderman Tony Laurino and the nephew of current Alderman Marge Laurino. D'Amico has taken some hits because of the fact that he is a district foreman in the city Department of Water Management and that seven of his crew were suspended after the Sun-Times' "Hired Truck" investigation reported that they took "long lunches" and "falsified time sheets." In a high-visibility race, those revelations would put D'Amico on the proverbial ropes, but he is opposed by attorney Dennis Fleming, who is unknown and underfunded. Expect D'Amico to win, but with less than 60 percent of the vote.

19th District (Northwest Side 45th, 38th wards): Four-term incumbent Joe Lyons is on a track to the House Democratic leadership. Challenger Jeff Holewinski is on a track to defeat. Lyons will prevail with 64 percent of the vote.

41st Ward Committeeman (Republican): Former state senator Walter Dudycz's political intentions are good, but his timing is bad. Dudycz is running for the ward post because he wants to be county chairman and a Republican spokesman. The party certainly needs someone with Dudycz's intelligence and acumen to attack the Democrats, but the incumbent committeeman is Mike McAuliffe, the area state representative who is embroiled in a tough re-election fight against Democratic incumbent Ralph Capparelli. McAuliffe is backed by his ally, Alderman Brian Doherty (41st), and the Springfield Republican establishment fears that a McAuliffe loss to Dudycz would cripple his November race against Capparelli, so they are funding McAuliffe heavily. My prediction: In a light turnout, McAuliffe will win by 300 votes.

45th Ward Committeeman (Democratic): 36-year incumbent Tom Lyons won't break a sweat. He'll crush challenger Bob Bank with nearly 70 percent of the vote.

10th Judicial Subcircuit: In the highly contested Democratic primary for the "Fleming vacancy," Jim McGing will eke out a victory by fewer than 200 votes over Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Democrat Aurie Pucinski, the former clerk of the Circuit Court. Appointed Judge Carolyn Quinn will finish far behind. In the "A vacancy," Clare McWilliams will top the field.