December 13, 2006


The Republican Doherty/McAuliffe/Silvestri/Saviano political "machine" scored an impressive victory in Northwest Side and northwest suburban voting on Nov. 7. So, too, did the Democratic 36th Ward's Banks/DeLeo "machine."

But since they were all working for a common goal, and not against each other, it is more appropriate to state that the Banks/DeLeo/Doherty/McAuliffe/Silvestri/Saviano "machine" was resoundingly successful.

Say what? Why did two Republicans, state Representative Mike McAuliffe (R-20) and Cook County Commissioner Pete Silvestri (R-9), have support from the Democrats? Why did the Republicans ensure that state Senator Jim DeLeo (D-10), Alderman Bill Banks' ally who has been a senator for 14 years, was unopposed? Say that the Northwest Side's non-aggression pact is still in full force and effect.

McAuliffe (R-20) carried the 36th Ward, where Banks is the Democratic committeeman, 4,870-4,261 over Democrat Mark Dobrzycki, and Silvestri lost the ward by just 229 votes (6,112-6,336) to Democrat Jodi Biancalana, a ward resident who was not backed by Banks' organization.

Every other Democrat running for office, except Todd Stroger, who lost by 1,667 votes to Republican Tony Peraica for Cook County Board president, won the 36th Ward by sizable margins. Governor Rod Blagojevich won by 5,613 votes, Secretary of State Jesse White by 8,054 votes and Attorney General Lisa Madigan by 10,613 votes. The unopposed DeLeo got 8,901 votes in the ward.

In short, McAuliffe and Silvestri won because the Banks-DeLeo "machine" wanted them to win. Banks is the chairman of the City Council Zoning Committee, and he had $853,578.41 in his campaign account as of October. DeLeo is an assistant Democratic majority leader, is close to Blagojevich, and allegedly does the impossible: He gets state jobs for ward residents. In any given election, their "machine" has four or more workers in each of the ward's 55 precincts, and six or more on election day.

They can always deliver, in their ward, for whomever they desire. Back in 2002, legislative redistricting created a new 20th District for longtime Democratic incumbent Ralph Capparelli, who also was the 41st Ward Democratic committeeman. But Capparelli chose to run in a different district. McAuliffe, who was placed in a suburban district, chose to run in the 20th District, and incumbent Bob Bugielski, who lived in another district but who was a member of Banks' organization, was slated to run against McAuliffe.

The Banks-DeLeo "machine" exerted maximum effort for Bugielski, who won the 36th Ward by 2,490 votes, getting 61.1 percent of the votes cast, but who lost districtwide by 2,583 votes, with 46.3 percent of the vote. McAuliffe, who is the 41st Ward Republican committeeman, won his ward by 4,079 votes and got 62.5 percent of the total, and won Norwood Park Township by 991 votes, with 57 percent of the total.

Silvestri won the 36th Ward in that election by 3,222 votes, getting 61.1 percent of the votes cast, despite being opposed by Rob Martwick, the son of the Norwood Park Township Democratic committeeman. Silvestri won districtwide by 7,057 votes.

In 2004 Capparelli decided to run in the 20th District, and he expected Banks' support. He didn't get it. In the 36th Ward, the Banks-DeLeo "machine" backed McAuliffe, who won the ward by 1,512 votes and got 56.1 percent of the votes cast -- a swing of 4,000 votes from 2 years earlier. In fact, Capparelli got just 5,684 votes in the ward, while U.S. Senate candidate Barack Obama got 15,696 votes. Capparelli has said many times that he was "sold out" by Banks and DeLeo.

In 2006 the Democrats slated Dobrzycki, a Harwood Heights trustee, to face McAuliffe, but, again, the 36th Ward delivered for the Republican candidate, giving him a margin of 609 votes and a share of 53.4 percent. McAuliffe carried his 41st Ward by an overwhelming 5,426 votes, getting 68.1 percent of the votes cast, and he even won Dobrzycki's Norwood Park Township base by 393 votes, getting 54.1 percent of the vote there. McAuliffe was re-elected to his sixth term by 18,206-11,945, with 60.4 percent of the vote. He carried the 77 Chicago precincts by 14,945-9,146 and the 28 suburban precincts by 3,261-2,784.

So what is the connection? It is somewhat convoluted, but characterized by a go along/get along attitude and a recognition of political reality.

McAuliffe's political ally in the 41st Ward is Alderman Brian Doherty, the City Council's only Republican, first elected in 1991. McAuliffe and Doherty share an office in Edison Park with Silvestri, a county commissioner since 1994 and Elmwood Park's mayor. Silvestri's political ally in west suburban Leyden Township is state Representative Skip Saviano (R-77), who has served since 1993 and who is a former township supervisor. Saviano was an aide to DeLeo when DeLeo was a state representative in the 1980s. McAuliffe and Saviano room together in Springfield. Elmwood Park is adjacent to the 36th Ward. And Banks, DeLeo, Silvestri and Saviano are all of Italian heritage.

Another key player is Rosemont Mayor Don Stephens, who is the Leyden Township Republican committeeman. Stephens' top political operative is Jack Dorgan, who has close ties to McAuliffe and Doherty. Stephens wants a Rosemont casino, a concept strongly supported by McAuliffe, Capparelli and DeLeo.

Silvestri won in 1994, beating incumbent county Commissioner Marco Domico, who was allied with the Banks organization. Thereafter, Silvestri and Banks struck their deal.

The 41st and 36th Ward "machines" squared off in the 2002 McAuliffe-Bugielski race, and McAuliffe triumphed because he won his base by a larger vote than Bugielski won his base. Banks was assured by Capparelli in that contest that Bugielski would do well in the 41st Ward, but Banks nevertheless sent two of his best operatives, John Malatesta and Dominic Longo, into the ward to organize for Bugielski. They were appalled at the Capparelli organization's state of disrepair. Banks dispatched a lot of 36th Ward workers to the 41st Ward, as did Alderman Dick Mell (33rd) on behalf of his son-in-law, Blagojevich, but they were ineffective.

Bugielski was hobbled by a heart attack early in the year, and the youthful McAuliffe simply out-campaigned him. He also unleashed some devastating mailers blasting Bugielski as the "abominable taxman" and charging that he lived outside the district.

Had McAuliffe lost, the plan was to run Malatesta for alderman against Doherty in 2003. That would have expanded the Banks-DeLeo base. But Bugielski lost, and shortly thereafter everybody made nice -- and a new non-aggression pact was born. Doherty did not face tough opposition, and in 2004 the 36th Ward dumped Capparelli, despite the fact that he was Banks' fellow committeeman, a 34-year incumbent and Italian.

The late state Representative Roger McAuliffe, Mike McAuliffe's father, crafted the Northwest Side's original non-aggression pact. Roger McAuliffe was the 38th Ward Republican committeeman, and he was elected state representative in 1972 under the old multi-member system in which each district elected three representatives from among four candidates. McAuliffe's "pact" was with the 38th Ward's Cullerton "machine." In 1982, when the state went to single-member districts, McAuliffe beat the 38th Ward's Roman Kosinski, a fellow incumbent, by just 607 votes.

Thereafter McAuliffe won easily, observing a cardinal rule: His organization, consisting of close to a hundred state employees, would work only for him and a few chosen statewide candidates, such as Jim Thompson. They would not back Republicans in county or city contests, and the Democrats would reciprocate and not back McAuliffe's opponent.

After Roger McAuliffe died in a boating accident in 1996, his son was his successor. McAuliffe won a brutal 1996 race with just 52.4 percent of the vote (20,666-18,71), but he upped his share of the vote to 66.5 percent in 1998 (19,452-9,785) and got 61.8 percent in 2000 (23,150-14,436). However, the 2002 remap consolidated McAuliffe's old 14th District with Capparelli's 13th District, added the 36th Ward, excised Niles Township, and put the 38th Ward in state Representative Joe Lyons' district.

In the ensuing election, the elder Martwick lost Bugielski in his township by 991 votes, so Martwick can't complain that his son lost Banks' ward by 3,222 votes.

Besides Silvestri and McAuliffe, another 2006 beneficiary of the non-aggression pact was DeLeo, who was unopposed. The 2002 remap put DeLeo and Republican incumbent Wally Dudycz into a heavily Democratic Northwest Side district encompassing McAuliffe's and Lyons' House districts. Dudycz declined to run, and DeLeo was unopposed.

In fact, DeLeo has had no opposition in his 1992, 1996, 1998 and 2002 Senate races. No Republican filed to oppose him in 2006, but an attempt was made over the summer to put the late John Fitzgerald, a Chicago police officer, on the ballot to face him. McAuliffe intervened, whipped his fellow Republican committeemen into line, and chose Fred Rupley instead. Rupley later withdrew, so DeLeo was again unopposed. That was the quid pro quo.

The McAuliffe/Doherty group could make life difficult for DeLeo, and the Banks/DeLeo bunch could make life difficult for McAuliffe and Silvestri. But they do not, and will not for the foreseeable future.