March 30, 2005


After winning the acrimonious Feb. 22 Republican primary by just 58 votes, and after having that margin whittled to just 22 votes after an extended discovery recount, Maine Township Supervisor Bob Dudycz should be hanging by the proverbial political thread, ready to be ousted on April 5 by an invigorated Democratic opponent.

            Instead, a reinvigorated Dudycz has apparently closed Republican wounds and gotten the support of his erstwhile foes. And it is the candidacy of Democrat Karen Dimond that is hanging by a thread.

The “they divide/losers defect/we conquer” scenario anticipated by the Democrats has failed to materialize. Dimond and the Democrats have run an insipid and virtually invisible campaign. And the liberal faction of the Republican party, led by Maine Township Committeeman Mark Thompson and State Representative Rosemary Mulligan, has not moved to embrace Dimond, either overtly or covertly. “I’m reaching out to them,” said Dimond, who admits that none have reached back.

            “Voters want a change,” insisted Dimond, echoing the mantra of Thompson, Dudycz’s primary opponent. “Voters are tired of the bickering and the endless politicking,” she added. Thompson was supervisor for two terms (1993-2001), but was ousted at the 2001 Republican caucus by Dudycz, then a township trustee. He is the brother of former state Senator Wally Dudycz.

            Thompson was a sore loser, contending that Dudycz and then-Committeeman Bill Darr deceived him into thinking that he would be renominated at the 2001 caucus. Instead, they brought in 251 people (to Thompson’s 50), and dumped him from his $30,000-a-year job. Thompson subsequently endorsed Democrat Mike Yesner, who went on to lose to Dudycz 9,432-6,991.

            Despite that political apostasy, Thompson scored a comeback in 2002, ousting Darr as committeeman by 153 votes (4,505-4,352). Thereafter, the township’s once-formidable Republican organization was rent asunder, with Thompson firing 22 precinct captains, including township highway commissioner Bob Provenzano, and with Thompson filing a federal lawsuit against Dudycz, Darr and former Governor George Ryan alleging that they conspired to transfer him from his state job. The state’s civil service commission recently upheld Thompson’s claim of wrongful treatment, and could award him damages, even though the federal lawsuit was dismissed. “This fighting is costing the taxpayers money,” noted Dimond, who claimed that the recent Republican primary “cost the Cook County Clerk’s office $250,000 to administer” while the Democrats’ Caucus “cost nothing.”

            As in the 2002 committeeman’s race, the 2005 primary was inspired and motivated by vengeance and ideology. But the outcome was determined by geography and energy. Thompson represents the more liberal faction, which is pro-choice on abortion, while Dudycz and Darr are more conservative on social issues. Thompson’s backers tabbed the Dudycz the “Sneaky Supervisor” after he conspired with Darr to dump Thompson, and that was a powerful issue in 2002; Dudycz dismisses Thompson as an inept party leader.

            So, as some would put it, a fight for the soul of the party occurred on Feb. 22. An astonishing 5,674 voters came out to vote in the Republican-only primary – and the more conservative faction eked out a win. According to local sources, this was the first primary for township office in the last century. Dudycz, from Niles, won because he had more precinct workers and a broader geographical base. Thompson, from Des Plaines, scored heavily in his base, but failed to perform sufficiently well in Park Ridge. He had only sporadic precinct coverage.

            There are 137 precincts in the township, which includes all of Des Plaines and Park Ridge, and part of Niles, Morton Grove, Glenview and Rosemont. According to the official returns, Thompson topped Dudycz in Des Plaines by 307 votes (1,577-1,270) and in Rosemont by two votes (39-37), while Dudycz won his base in Niles by 83 votes (351-268), and carried Park Ridge by 111 (856-745) and Glenview by 173 (247-74) votes; in Morton Grove, there was a 105-105 tie. The discovery recount added more Des Plaines votes to Thompson’s total. In 2002, Thompson won Des Plaines by more than 350 votes, and lost Park Ridge by about 150. Thompson nearly replicated his 2002 showing in 2005, but ultimately lost because the eight Glenview precincts went 3-1 for Dudycz – and because Dudycz had an election day operation to get out his voters.

             Despite Thompson’s loss, and despite the uncertainty of the discovery recount, which was not finalized until mid-March, Dimond does not accrue any advantage. Unlike the “sneaky dumping” of 2001, which engendered great animosity, the 2005 outcome has engendered great relief among Republicans. It’s over. Dudycz beat Thompson fair-and-square, albeit narrowly. Dudycz has promised that he won’t run against Thompson for committeeman in 2006. Thompson called a meeting of his organization, and they endorsed Dudycz and the entire Republican slate; Mulligan has also endorsed Dudycz.

            Can Dimond win? In her favor is the fact that Maine Township is trending Democratic. Al Gore won the township by 1,533 votes in 2000, and John Kerry upped that to 3,695 votes in 2004. By comparison, Ronald Reagan won the township by 25,717 votes in 1984, and George Bush by 15,157 in 1988. 

Also, the Republican vote trajectory in township elections is not on the upswing: It was 12,746 for supervisor in 1989, 9,931 in 1993, 12,582 in 1997, and 9,545 in 2001. But the Democrats have no reason to be sanguine, as their trajectory is much worse: Their vote declined from 11,651 in 1989 to 9,304 in 1993 to 7,466 in 1997 to 7,075 in 2001.

There is a logical explanation for this development – namely: the collapse of the local Democratic organization. Niles Mayor Nick Blasé was Democratic committeeman for 30 years, until the early 1990s, when he resigned. He was replaced by Niles Trustee Andy Przybylo, who was elected in 1994 and 1998. As mayor, Blasé had heft: He could raise money, and could deploy city workers to man precincts. Przybylo was not nearly so effective, and his replacement, after he resigned in 2001, Des Plaines Alderman Laura Murphy, has been even less effective.

A major battle is raging for mayor of Park Ridge, between Howard Frimark, a Republican, and Mike Tinaglia, a Democrat – although both are running as an “independent.” Turnout should be high in Park Ridge on April 5, although neither mayoral candidate has made an endorsement in the supervisor’s race. That doesn’t help Dimond. In Niles, Blasé is unopposed for a twelfth term, having first won his job in 1961; that means a low turnout. In Des Plaines, Mayor Tony Arredia is unopposed, but a District 62 school bond referendum will hike turnout. “The higher the turnout, the better for me,” said Dimond, of Niles, who lost primary bids for Circuit Court judge in 1994, 1996 and 1998. She currently works for the Illinois attorney general.

According to the Democrat, Dudycz and township government need to be “more accessible and more accountable.” She wants to have weekend and evening hours, and greater dissemination of information. She also decries the alleged increase in township salaries, which she said has risen from $1.6 million in 2002 to $1.795 million in 2004. She said that Republicans have engaged in “nepotism,” hiring their kin, and that she would “bring reform.”

Dudycz dismisses the accusations, noting that over the past three years he  reduced the township workforce from 58 to 54, that he cut the township budget from $3.129 million to $3.1 million. “We haven’t raised taxes, and we’ve provided services,” said Dudycz. Specifically, Dudycz touts his single-hauler garbage pickup plan in the unincorporated areas, as well as town hall upgrades, a website, zoning reforms, sewer repairs, and a mandatory work-a-day-a-week program for welfare recipients. The mantra of Dudycz and his slate is no tax increases, and a pledge of no future hikes.

Dudycz recently sent out a mailer attacking Dimond for her stewardship of school district 63, where she has served on the board since 1997, and where she was president from 1999 to 2001. The district, in 2000, issued $10 million in new bonds, and Dimond was quoted as saying that the bond sale would not result in any tax increase. By 2003, even with the bond money, the district’s $33 million budget had a $3 million shortfall, and a March 2004 referendum to increase school district taxes by 40 cents per $100 of assessed valuation failed. A second referendum, in November 2004, passed, and property taxes were increased. “We made some hard choices,” said Dimond.  Responded Dudycz: “This is an example of gross mismanagement. The Board could have frozen administrative salaries or cut pensions or other benefits.”

 My prediction: Like Dudycz, Dimond’s geographic base is in Niles; that means Park Ridge and Des Plaines will be battlegrounds. Dudycz has a sizeable precinct army, consisting of township workers and assorted volunteers. Even though Frimark has not endorsed him, the Dudycz workers in Park Ridge are pushing Frimark. The Tinaglia organization is not backing Dimond. In Des Plaines, Arredia has endorsed Dudycz, and his organization is pitted against Murphy’s to see who can deliver.

Turnout on Feb. 22 was just above 5,600. The township’s base Democratic vote is around 7,500, the Republican about 9,500. If half of Thompson’s voters switch to Dimond, she could win; but if some don’t vote at all, which is especially likely in Des Plaines, then Dudycz will squeeze through. Expect Dudycz to win by about 450 votes.