September 6, 2006


Like the title of the Stanley Kubrick movie, Democrat Mark Dobrzycki's campaign for state representative in the Northwest Side 20th District can be characterized as "Eyes Wide Shut." Dobrzycki, a Harwood Heights trustee, hasn't a clue as to how to win or why he'll lose.

After defeating two Democratic powerhouses -- state Representative Bob Bugielski in 2002 by 2,583 votes (with 53.7 percent of the votes cast) and state Representative Ralph Capparelli in 2004 by 7,773 votes (59.2 percent) -- incumbent Republican Mike McAuliffe (R-20) surely deems Dobrzycki's challenge a mere nuisance, akin to Tiger Woods playing miniature golf after winning the U.S. Open.

Dobrzycki lacks money, manpower, name identification and the visible support of key Democrats in the district, most notably state Senator Jim DeLeo (D-10) and 36th Ward Alderman Bill Banks, who also is the Democratic committeeman. McAuliffe boasts all of the above, including the behind-the-scenes support of DeLeo and Banks. Dobrzycki's only hope is for a Democratic "wave" in November which drowns all Republicans.

"It's time for a change," insisted Dobrzycki, age 44, who was elected a trustee in 2003 and who plans to run for re-election in 2007 and again for the Illinois House in 2008 if he is not successful this year. "The McAuliffes have been in office too long," he said, referring to Roger McAuliffe being state representative from 1972 until his death in 1996 and his son Mike holding the seat since.

Of course, Dobrzycki ignores the fact that Democrat Mike Madigan has been the Illinois House speaker for 22 of the past 24 years and a state representative for 36 years. And the fact that Capparelli, when he lost to McAuliffe in 2004, had been in Springfield for 34 years. And the fact that Democrats have held a majority in the Illinois House for 28 of the past 32 years and that they currently have a 65-53 majority. And the fact that Democrats control the state Senate and House and the governorship.

In fact, should Dobrzycki defeat McAuliffe, the only "change" would be the substitution of a junior, powerless, irrelevant newcomer for a go-along, nonconfrontational 10-year Republican incumbent for whom local and Springfield Democrats have no particular animosity.

With the election just 2 months away, there's no way that McAuliffe can lose. Here's why:

First, Dobrzycki has yet to launch his campaign. He has no campaign office, no campaign staff, no campaign literature, no campaign money, and only a vague campaign plan. He admits that he is getting no assistance from Madigan and no support from Banks, DeLeo or Capparelli, who is still the 41st Ward Democratic committeeman. Only Norwood Park Township Democratic Committeeman Bob Martwick is helping him.

McAuliffe, age 42, is a chronic campaigner, a veritable "Eveready Bunny." In past races he walked precincts from May through November. His office keeps track of his contacts, follows up on problems or requests, gets a commitment for a yard sign, and locks in the vote. McAuliffe is especially strong in the 41st Ward, where his ally, Brian Doherty, is the alderman. McAuliffe has replicated that strategy again in 2006, and he has been out walking while Dobrzycki has been doing nothing.

Second, Dobrzycki has no money. The latest state board filings indicate that his committee has raised $16,917. McAuliffe had $15,765 on hand on July 1. In 2004 McAuliffe raised $600,890 and spent $580,825. Capparelli, who chose not to seek re-election in the 15th District, spent $288,073. In 2002, after Madigan created a district for Capparelli, who then ran elsewhere to open the seat Bugielski, McAuliffe spent $470,296, to Bugielski's $411,821. McAuliffe will get plenty of money from Springfield Republican sources if he needs it. Without Madigan's financial help, Dobrzycki is going nowhere.

And third, without a personal precinct organization, Dobrzycki must rely on the committeemen to generate a big vote in the 36th and 41st wards. He will be disappointed. In 2002 Bugielski, backed by Banks and DeLeo, won the 36th Ward with 61.1 percent of the vote but lost the 41st Ward, where McAuliffe got 62.5 percent. In 2004 McAuliffe won the 36th Ward with 56.1 percent of the vote and the 41st with 63.3 percent.

McAuliffe could not have won Banks' ward without Bank's support. He will have it again in 2006. And in the 41st Ward, Capparelli's organization is practically nonexistent. To win, Dobrzycki needs 60 percent of the vote in both the 36th Ward and Norwood Park Township and must hold McAuliffe under 60 percent in the 41st Ward. That just won't happen.

Dobrzycki expects to use his ethnicity to his advantage. Born in America, he is the son of Polish immigrants. Dobrzycki noted that half the voters in Harwood Heights, 45 percent of the voters in Norridge and a third of the voters in the 36th Ward are of Polish ancestry. "I have a database," Dobrzycki said. "I will target them with mailings. They will support me." He also claimed that his "life experience" better qualifies him for the job. "I am a family man, and can better relate to the needs of families in my district," he said, a slap at the fact that McAuliffe is unmarried. My prediction: McAuliffe will win easily.

Speaking of "change," Chicago home owners will get socked with a huge change in their property tax bills next year if the General Assembly doesn't extend the 7 percent cap on property assessment increases, which expires this year, in the fall veto session. As detailed in the adjoining vote chart, all the area representatives voted for an extension of the cap until 2010, but the bill was defeated 69-37.

McAuliffe, and Republicans in general, are trying to make that a major campaign issue. Without the cap, tax bills will increase substantially next year. "This will especially impact senior citizens," McAuliffe said. "People are worried." The vote rejecting the cap was based on geography, not party. Downstaters and suburbanites of both parties opposed it, not wanting to be viewed as pro-Chicago.

So where is Mike Madigan when we need him? The speaker is legendary for his iron control of his House troops. Madigan raises enormous sums of money and doles it out to needy legislators. He dictates to the Democratic Caucus members how they will vote, and the legislators, if they want Madigan's campaign cash in the future, comply.

Included in the vote chart are eight other state representatives, including Chicago Democrats John Fritchey (D-11), Rich Bradley (D-40), John D'Amico (D-15), Joe Lyons (D-19) and Larry McKeon (D-13) and suburbanites Lou Lang (D-16) of Skokie, Elizabeth Coulson (R-17) of Glenview and Rosemary Mulligan (R-65) of Des Plaines.

McKeon, the House's only openly gay member, will resign later this year due to health problems. He represents a North Lakeview district, and Gregory Harris, the chief of staff of Alderman Mary Ann Smith (48th), who also is openly gay, has been chosen as his replacement.

All incumbents are safe except Coulson, who was absent on numerous end-of-session votes due to her mother's illness. She narrowly defeated Skokie trustee Michele Bromberg in 2004 by 28,422-24,315, getting 53.9 percent of the vote and spending $474,299 to Bromberg's $452,039. Madigan targeted that race, and he poured in money and sent staff to aid Bromberg. Her 2006 Democratic foe is 21-year Skokie trustee Judith Rae Ross, who, unlike Dobrzycki, will have plenty of help from Madigan. She could win.