April 7, 2004


An astute politician picks his battles wisely.

On March 16, two experienced Northwest Side politicians -- Alderman Berny Stone (50th) and former state senator Walter Dudycz -- proved themselves to be horrendously inastute and unwise. Both lost the 2004 battles that they had chosen.

Stone chose to back an opponent of state Representative Lou Lang (D-16) in the primary, thereby precipitating a fissure within both the 50th Ward Democratic organization and the West Rogers Park Jewish community. State Senator Ira Silverstein (D-8), Stone's erstwhile protege, committed himself early to Lang and worked hard on Lang's behalf in the ward. When the votes were counted, Stone-backed Mike Moses got 3,531 votes (50.6 percent) in the 50th Ward, to Silverstein-backed Lang's 3,453 (49.4 percent).

Stone had promised to carry Moses by 2-1 in his ward. As a result of the debacle, there is now growing doubt as to whether the 76-year-old Stone, who has been the ward's alderman since 1973, can pass his job to his daughter, Alana Stone, in 2007. Before Stone opted to take on Lang, there was no doubt that Alana Stone, her father's chief of staff, would be the next alderman.

Dudycz chose to let his blatant Republicanism override his political instincts. In 2002, after the Democrats' legislative remap, Dudycz wisely chose to retire from the Illinois Senate rather than try to beat a fellow incumbent, Democrat Jim DeLeo (D-10), in a heavily Democratic Northwest Side district.

After chafing in retirement, and eager to do oratorical battle with the Democrats in general and Governor Rod Blagojevich in particular, Dudycz decided in 2003 that he wanted to be the Chicago Republican chairman, so that he would have a forum from which to attack the Democrats. To be city chairman, however, required that Dudycz be a Republican ward committeeman. Dudycz lives in the 41st Ward, where state Representative Mike McAuliffe (R-20), is the committeeman.

McAuliffe is engaged in a tough legislative re-election battle with incumbent Democrat Ralph Capparelli (D-15). McAuliffe could ill afford to lose to Dudycz; had that occurred, his credibility in the Illinois House race would have suffered greatly. So McAuliffe campaigned hard, spent more than $30,000 on mailings, and crushed Dudycz 2,238-838, getting 72.8 percent of the vote. McAuliffe now has some momentum going into November against Capparelli.

Here's an analysis of both contests:

16th House District (50th Ward, a few precincts in the 40th and 49th wards, all of Lincolnwood and Skokie south of Main Street): Skokie Democrat Lang is the 17-year incumbent, and he is a major power in Springfield, where he is an assistant majority leader. "It's tough to beat a longtime incumbent," said Silverstein, who ran against Lang in the 1988 primary, the year after Lang was appointed to the House seat. Now Silverstein, elected to the Senate in 1998, calls himself and Lang "the strongest legislative team in Springfield." In addition, Lang had more than $200,000 in his campaign account, and he spent heavily on mailings. Moses raised and spent less than $35,000.

Lang has never been challenged in a primary. Nevertheless, Stone, the 50th Ward Democratic committeeman since 1999, when Howie Carroll resigned, was publicly critical of Lang's alleged inability to "deliver state projects" to his ward, and he backed attorney Moses in the Democratic primary. Stone had guaranteed that Moses would defeat Lang. Stone's prediction was based on the fact that the vote in the district's Chicago precincts historically exceeds that in the suburbs, and that a 2-1 city edge for Moses, coupled with a Lang edge of not more than 2-1 in the suburbs, would mean victory.

Moses, who lives in the 50th Ward, carried Stone's ward by 78 votes, lost the other Chicago precincts by 91 votes, and got buried in the suburbs. Lang carried his suburban base overwhelmingly, by 4,639-1,496 (75.6 percent). Despite Moses' direct mail attacks on Lang, especially on Lang's SBC rate-hike vote, Moses lost districtwide to Lang by 8,535-5,301, with Lang getting 61.6 percent of the total vote.

Prior to the primary, Stone said that Lang had "only 20 percent (name) identification" in the 50th Ward. Nevertheless, Lang got half the ward's vote on March 16. That's because Silverstein's supporters canvassed for Lang, because some of Stone's precinct captains didn't work diligently for Moses, and because Silverstein has become more influential than Stone among the ward's Orthodox Jewish community. Both Moses and Lang are Jewish, but Silverstein delivered almost half of the Orthodox vote to Lang.

Each Chicago ward has a population of approximately 71,300, but the Democratic turnout in the 50th Ward for the Lang-Moses race was only 6,984, less than 10 percent of the ward's population. The ward's large and growing Pakistani, Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese and Hispanic population is not a political factor, as many are non-citizens or unregistered. That leaves a very small voter pool.

The 2004 outcome has ominous portents for Stone, as it indicates that his political base is eroding. Stone won his ninth term in 2003 against desultory opposition, with 5,755 votes (76 percent) to Tom Morris's 1,803. In 1999 he was unopposed and got 7,445 votes. Lang may have been better funded, and Moses may have been a flawed candidate, but bringing in just 3,531 votes in the 50th Ward for Moses is a huge embarrassment for Stone.

The Lang-Moses race gave Stone's 50th Ward adversaries an opportunity to organize and demonstrate their prowess. The Stone machine, once presumed invincible, is now sputtering, and his foes are encouraged. His daughter will have serious opposition in 2007 if she runs for her dad's job, and Stone himself could have strong opposition if he seeks another term.

And in Niles Township, where Lang runs the Democratic organization and where Committeeman Cal Sutker won 7,410-4,852 in the 2002 primary for county commissioner against Larry Suffredin (who was backed by Stone), the 2004 outcome is reassuring. Even though Sutker lost his county commissioner's post in that election, the Sutker-Lang machine is still operational and viable.

41st Ward: Dudycz decided to run for the right office in the wrong ward against the wrong opponent. Dudycz served in the Illinois Senate from 1985 to 2002, and he resigned in September 2002 to become executive director of the Illinois Racing Board. Dudycz, age 54, retired in 2000 after 28 years as a Chicago police detective. He was eager to re-enter the political wars, and he had a reputation as a tough and resourceful campaigner, having survived four nasty and expensive re-election campaigns (1988, 1992, 1996 and 1998) and having come close in a 1990 congressional challenge to Frank Annunzio.

Well known and well liked by Republican voters, and with more than $70,000 in his campaign account, Dudycz was a campaign waiting to happen. He ran an upbeat campaign, never spoke ill of McAuliffe's tenure, urged Republican voters to back him for committeeman and McAuliffe for state representative, and never mentioned the fact that the 41st Ward does carry for Republican statewide candidates and has a Republican alderman (Brian Doherty).

For McAuliffe, the committeeman's contest was a do-or-die proposition. Facing Capparelli, the 41st Ward Democratic committeeman, who has more than $1 million in his campaign fund, McAuliffe could not afford to lose to Dudycz. Had that occurred, his November prospects would have been crippled. The ward primary turnout was 3,076, far higher than the turnout of 2,249 in 2000 and nearly equal to the 3,528 in 1996. Statewide, Republican turnout was down, but McAuliffe motivated a heavy turnout in his ward.

McAuliffe, having crushed Dudycz, now goes into the general election with significant momentum, and he is a slight favorite to beat Capparelli.

If Dudycz really wanted to be a committeeman, he could have switched his 41st Ward voting address to the 38th Ward, where he once lived and where he ran for alderman in 1983, or to the 45th Ward. In both of those wards, the incumbent Republican committeeman retired, and Dudycz would have been a cinch to win if he had run there.

But, in defeat, Dudycz unwittingly aids his party. Having beat Dudycz by a nearly 3-1 margin, McAuliffe now looms as a political giant killer, and as such he will be the beneficiary of mountains of Springfield Republican money and manpower in the general election. Having lost by such a lopsided margin to McAuliffe, however, effectively ends Dudycz's political career.

Articulate and intelligent, Dudycz is precisely the kind of spokesman the Republicans desperately need. The current Republican county chairman, Maureen Murphy, is inept and invisible. But Dudycz chose the wrong race in the wrong ward in the wrong year.






50th Ward



49th Ward



40th Ward



Niles Township




(61.6%)   8,535 

(38.4%)   5,301 





(72.8%)   2,238 

(27.2%)     838