July 28, 2004


After George Ryan’s scandals, Jim Ryan’s dismal 2002 gubernatorial campaign, and Jack Ryan’s implosion as a 2004 candidate for U.S. Senator, Republicans in Illinois should have cause to be upbeat and optimistic. After all, it can’t get any worse.

In near northwest suburban Maine Township, however, it’s getting worse.

Republican leaders in this once-Republican bastion, which is bordered roughly by Harlem, Devon, Mount Prospect Road, and Central Road, and contains Park Ridge, Des Plaines, and parts of Niles and Glenview, are engaged in political fratricide. And, because of the venom and bitter antagonism, the upcoming 2005 township and municipal elections may result in a political cleansing – with Democrats expelling Republicans on the township level, as well as winning the Park Ridge mayor’s job.

The protagonists in this bitter spat are township Supervisor Bob Dudycz, brother of former Northwest Side State Senator Wally Dudycz, and township Republican Committeeman Mark Thompson, whom Bob Dudycz ousted as supervisor in 2001. Thompson thereafter ousted Bill Darr, a Dudycz ally, as committeeman in 2002, by a narrow 153-vote margin. And now Thompson is poised to challenge Dudycz for supervisor in 2005.

A subtext to this personal rivalry is the lingering cultural and ideological schism among the township’s Republicans, who are split into two factions: the moderates, led by Thompson and State Representative Rosemary Mulligan (R-55), who generally favor abortion rights, gun control and gay rights; and the conservatives, led by Dudycz, who favor abortion restrictions, and oppose gun control and gay rights. Trying to straddle this yawning divide is State Senator Dave Sullivan (R-28), a fiscal and cultural conservative who realizes that continued Republican warfare will jeopardize his 2006 re-election prospects. If the Democrats prevail in 2005, Sullivan will have huge electoral problems.

In addition, there are buckets of sour grapes. After Thompson lost in 2001, he filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Darr and Dudycz conspired with then-Governor Ryan to get Thompson transferred to Springfield from his legal job at the Chicago office of the state Department of Professional Regulations. The lawsuit was dismissed.

Darr, who was head of the state Office of Banks and Real Estate under Ryan, lost that post when Rod Blagojevich assumed the governorship. Regarding Thompson, Darr called him a “political eunuch” who is “obsessed” with winning back the supervisor’s job, and added that his (Thompson’s) organization is “a joke.”  Responded Thompson: “If I’m a eunuch, then how could he have lost to me?”

And Dudycz, who intends to run for a second term in 2005, derided Thompson for his “lack of accomplishments” during his 12 years as supervisor.

All this tumult and bickering has caused many Republicans to yearn for the quietude of the Marty Butler era.

Butler, Park Ridge’s mayor from 1973 to 1991, was elected township Republican committeeman in 1990, defeating 16-year incumbent Phil Raffe. When State Senator Bob Kustra was elected lieutenant governor in 1990, Butler appointed himself as his replacement. After bitter House primaries in 1990 and 1992, in which abortion was the primary issue, and in which Mulligan ultimately triumphed over anti-abortion incumbent Penny Pullen, Butler imposed peace on his fractious Republican family. Thompson, a Butler protégé, had been a township trustee for 12 years, and was elected supervisor in 1993, and re-elected in 1997, the same year that Dudycz was elected one of four trustees.

But Butler died in 1998, and Sullivan was named to replace him in Springfield, and Darr to replace him in Maine Township. And, according to local political observers, it’s been downhill since then. Without Butler to keep the peace, the personal sniping has escalated into vituperative and bloody combat. Already, there have been three inconclusive battles, with the final climactic struggle set for 2005.

Battle Number One: The Dudycz-Darr faction blindsided Thompson in 2001. As required by statute, the respective township committeemen have the right to call a caucus, on the second Tuesday in January, to select their parties’ township nominees; or to call for a primary on the third Tuesday in February. The election is the first Tuesday in April.

In 2001, Darr called for a caucus. Unsuspectingly, Thompson showed up with 50 of his supporters. The Dudycz-Darr group had 251 of their people in attendance. By a vote of 251-50, Dudycz was picked as the Republican candidate for supervisor, and proceeded to beat Democrat Mike Yesner 9,545-7,075 in April. After the caucus, Darr fired Thompson as both a precinct captain and as president of the Republican organization. Thompson responded by endorsing Yesner.

Battle Number Two: Having disposed of Thompson in 2001, Darr figured he was safe in 2002 from a Thompson challenge for committeeman. He was wrong. Butler’s widow, Gerry, worked actively for Thompson, as did Mulligan’s supporters. By cobbling together a coalition of everybody who was anti-Dudycz, anti-Darr, and pro-choice, and who knew the Thompson name better than the Darr name, Thompson prevailed 4,505-4,352.

Battle Number Three: Maine Township has 138 precincts. In 2000, Al Gore won the township 24,729-23,196. As committeeman, Darr claimed that he had coverage in 120 precincts; his campaign disclosure reports indicated that he raised about $18,000 annually (compared to Butler’s $35,000). Thompson claims that he has coverage in 100 precincts, and has raised less than $10,000 annually. So, by comparison with his predecessors, Thompson comes up short.

And then there’s the Athena Frentzas Bubaris fiasco. The 12th Judicial Sub-circuit encompasses 58 of Maine’s 138 precincts. The Maine Township Republicans endorsed Bubaris, but only after Thompson fired 22 precinct captains – including township Road Commissioner Bob Provenzano, a Dudycz ally who stuck with the party after Darr’s defeat. A letter sent to Provenzano by Thompson three days before the endorsement session said that he was fired because he “did not demonstrate the level of involvement and commitment necessary to be a precinct captain,” even though he had been a captain for 36 years. Provenzano and his allies had been circulating nominating petitions for Jack Ryan, and were also supporting Kay Hanlon, a judicial candidate. Had Provenzano and his fellow 21 precinct captains voted, Bubaris would not have won the endorsement. “I didn’t know who he (Provenzano) would support (for judge),” retorted Thompson.

Between December 15, 2003 and the 2004 primary, Paul Bubaris, the candidate’s husband, contributed $13,513, to Thompson’s organization. “He (Thompson) allowed the purchase of an endorsement by a wealthy lawyer as a present to his wife,” said one former precinct captain.

The outcome was less than auspicious: Bubaris lost big, finishing an embarrassing third in the primary, with 960 votes in Maine Township, to Hanlon’s 1,482 and Roger Fein’s 1,046. Overall, Bubaris got just 4,852 votes in the subcircuit, to Hanlon’s 10,615 and Fein’s 7,295. Bubaris’ husband’s investment didn’t reap dividends.

And then there’s the Rauschenberger angle. Steve Rauschenberger, a state senator from northwestern Cook County, was a candidate for U.S. Senator in 2004. He was endorsed by Mulligan, Sullivan and Dudycz, and by the Maine Township Republicans. He carried the township 2,478-2,355 over Ryan, one of only seven (of 30) suburban townships won by Rauschenberger. Thompson takes credit for Rauschenberger’s township win – as do Dudycz, Mulligan and Sullivan.

The 2005 outlook:

Dudycz just resigned his state job as facility manager at the old Maine North High School building, which is owned by the state. The Illinois State Police are investigating whether Dudycz used state computers to send and receive e-mails relative to township business. “It’s a serious situation,” said Thompson. “There will be revelations of wrongdoing.” But Dudycz retorts that it “simply a witch-hunt. The Democrats (in the Blagojevich Administration) are trying to get rid of me. They didn’t target my assistant facilities manager, who is a Democrat.” Rather than subject himself to the “aggravation” of a termination proceeding, Dudycz said he resigned on June 21, after 21 years with the state.

Thompson is coy as to whether he will opt for a caucus or primary in 2005, or whether he will even run for supervisor. That’s non-sense. Expect a Dudycz-Thompson February primary. Of course, either could opt to run as an Independent, but that would open the way for a Democrat to win in a three-way contest. As of this early date, Dudycz is the favorite. He has a solid record of accomplishment, including requiring welfare recipients to do work for the township, a single-hauler program for refuse pickup, computerization of the township, an emergency response plan, and a town hall renovation.

In Park Ridge, Alderman Mike Tinaglia, a onetime Republican, will be the Democratic-endorsed “Independent” mayoral candidate in 2005. The Republican will be Alderman Howard Frimark. This contest, to succeed Ron Wietecha, who resigned as mayor in 2003, will mean a heavy turnout. And that means votes for any Democrat who runs for supervisor.