August 5, 2009


In the' upscale North Shore 10th District, Democrat Dan Seals has discovered, to his chagrin, that no good deed goes unpunished. Failure, despite his best intentions and effort, is not forgiven.

The twice-defeated congressional candidate, who lost to incumbent Republican Mark Kirk in 2006 and 2008, has the mistaken notion that his investment of time and money entitles him to a third shot, now that Kirk is running for the U.S. Senate and the seat is open.

But some area Democrats think otherwise. Their advice to Seals, whom they view as damaged goods, is succinct: Step aside. Not again. No third run.

"He should have won in 2008," said one area Democratic insider. "He had his chance."

In 2006 Seals lost to Kirk by 13,651 votes, getting 53.4 percent of the vote and spending $1.9 million. In 2008 he lost to Kirk by 14,906 votes, getting 52.6 percent of the vote and spending more than $3.6 million. Seals' 2008 campaign had two themes: Kirk is a George Bush stooge, and get out of Iraq. Both premises were thoroughly rejected by the district's voters, as Kirk proved himself impervious to Seals' demonization.

Barack Obama won 61 percent of the 10th District vote in the presidential race. Seals ran far behind Obama.

The developing 2010 Democratic field, in addition to Seals, of Wilmette, includes state Representative Julie Hamos (D-18) of Evanston, who lives outside the district, Highland Park Councilman Jim Kirsch and attorney Elliott Richardson. But the residency issue may not be salient, as Seals still resides two blocks outside the district.

State Senator Mike Bond (D-31) of Grayslake announced for the seat in May, but he withdrew from the race on Aug. 2, claiming "an obligation to continue working" to solve Illinois problems. Make no mistake about this: The "Julie Juggernaut" steamrollered him. His money base suddenly evaporated.

There are subtexts to every political contest. In the upcoming Democratic primary, geography, gender, religion and ideology will be critical, as will personal political aspirations.

It's Seals versus Hamos, and Lake County will be the battleground. Hamos' gender appeal gives her an edge. U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-9) rode a tide of female and Jewish votes to win her seat in 1998. What about the "Obama Factor"? Obama said in 2008 that there is "nobody better suited to be in Congress" than Seals. Both Seals and Hamos are ultra-liberal Obama boosters.  In a district with a large Jewish population, Hamos, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, is the most prominent Jewish candidate.

And Evanston's "Jan/Bob Machine," run by Schakowsky and her husband, Bob Creamer, of which Hamos is a part, has a major stake in the outcome. The word in Springfield is that Schakowsky wants to reconfigure her 9th District, currently centered on Evanston and Rogers Park, to absorb eastern Lake County and jettison further west suburbs such as Park Ridge and Des Plaines in the 2011 congressional reapportionment.

Highland Park, Deerfield, Riverwoods, Buffalo Grove, Lake Bluff, Lake Forest and Lincolnshire, in eastern Lake County, all have large Jewish populations and are in the 10th District. "There's 100,000 liberal, wealthy Jews" in that area which Schakowsky "would love to have in her district," said one observer. "Think of the fund-raising potential. She wants to be (U.S. House) speaker. That would give her the financial base."

It also means that the "Jan/Bob Machine" prefers that a Republican replace Kirk so that the Democratic General Assembly could dismantle the 10th District, as Illinois is losing one congressional seat. If a Democrat won, complications would ensue.

The 10th District encompasses Lake County east of Routes 83 and 45, plus Vernon Hills, Mundelein and Libertyville west of Interstate 94; it also includes Waukegan and North Chicago, with large black and Hispanic populations. In Cook County it includes Wilmette, Winnetka, Kenilworth, Glencoe, Northbrook, Northfield, Glenview, Palatine, Wheeling, Arlington Heights, Barrington and Inverness.

Here's the early outlook:

Democrats: Seals beat Zane Smith in the 2006 primary by 23,462-9,694, getting 70.8 percent of the vote; turnout was 13,168 in Lake County and 19,988 in Cook County (60.2 percent of the total). In 2008 Seals beat Jay Footlik by 75,877-17,271, with 81.5 percent of the vote; turnout was 42,473 in Lake County and 50,675 in Cook County (54.4 percent of the total). Footlik, a lobbyist for Israeli causes, tried -- and failed -- to paint Seals as anti-Israel.

The 2008 primary turnout was spiked by the presidential race. In 2010 it will revert to 2006-like numbers, which means about 34,000, not 93,000. A low turnout means that identifying, motivating and delivering one's base is paramount. The magic number to win the election is 17,000 votes.

Bond, in an upset, was elected state senator by 1,112 votes in 2006. The Republicans had a nasty primary, in which Suzanne Simpson beat 88-year-old Adeline Geo-Karis, a 28-year incumbent. Geo-Karis refused to endorse Simpson and covertly aided Bond. It is common knowledge that Bond is running for Congress because he cannot win a second term. The Lake County party establishment, led by state Senator Terry Link, was behind Bond but likely will shift to Seals.

Hamos, a longtime Springfield staffer who was elected to Schakowsky's Illinois House seat in 1998, is married to state Appellate Court Judge Alan Greiman, a former state representative from Skokie and a longtime confidant of Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan. Hamos' Greiman-Madigan connection will surely augment her fund-raising.

An outspoken advocate of public transportation funding, Hamos has a reputation as a thoughtful -- albeit very liberal -- legislator. She was aiming to run for state attorney general in 2010 before switching to the congressional race. She is crafting a liberal/female/Jewish coalition -- call it "Julie's Jewish female Juggernaut."

The usual Evanston suspects -- state Senator Jeff Schoenberg and county Commissioner Larry Suffredin -- are backing Hamos, as is state Representative Elaine Nekritz (D-57) of Northbrook and Northfield Township Committeeman Mike Kreloff. Schakowsky will endorse her, and Hamos already has key backing in Lake County, having been endorsed by state Senator Susan Garrett of Lake Forest, state Representative Karen May of Highland Park and county Commissioner Anne Bassi and Buffalo Grove Mayor Elliot Hartstein. To win, Hamos needs 55 percent of the Cook County vote (11,000) and 45 percent of the Lake County vote (6,000).

In 2008 the bi-racial Seals had 2,500 enthusiastic volunteers in the district. After two losses, that enthusiasm has diminished but not dissipated. Seals' 2010 plea is simple: I did the hard labor. Kirk is gone. I deserve another shot. To win, Seals needs to run even with Hamos in Cook County and win a solid majority in Lake County.

The early outlook: More than half the primary voters are women, and 40 percent are Jewish. Seals is on the defensive. He must argue that he can win, he must be endorsed by Link and Bond, and he must slam Hamos as an out-of-district opportunist with an "Evanstonian liberal agenda." That's a lot of expensive negativity. Make Hamos the slight favorite.

Republicans: In the 2008 election Seals won Lake County by 1,592 votes, but Kirk won Cook County by 16,498 votes. Kirk's reputation as a fiscal conservative and a social moderate fit the district. Can the Republicans find a Kirk clone in 2010? Here's the early field:

Dick Green of Kenilworth, a wealthy businessman backed by the New Trier Republicans. "He's got no charisma," said one Republican.

Bill Cadigan of Winnetka, an attorney and a former staffer for Republican John Porter, the district's popular congressman from 1979 to 2001. Cadigan has key support from Wheeling Township, in the western portion of the district.

Bill Strong of Lake Forest, a Morgan Stanley investment banker who, as John McCain's 2008 Illinois finance chairman, raised $5 million. "He could buy the seat if he wants it," said another Republican.

Hamilton Chang of Wilmette, a wealthy Taiwan-born investment banker.

Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran, who was elected as a Democrat in 2006. He switched parties in 2008. Curran is a staunch social conservative and a law-and-order advocate. He initially ran as a Democrat to beat the scandal-stained Republican sheriff.

Beth Coulson of Glenview, a state representative since 1996 and well known  "RINO" -- Republican in name only. "She's a Hillary Clinton Republican," sneered one area party member. However, she wins tough elections, she is a Kirk-like social moderate, and she is the only woman now in the Republican contest.

Brendan Appel, who got 29.1 percent of the vote in a 2008 Illinois Senate race against Schoenberg.

Party insiders' "dream candidate" would be Lake County Clerk Willard Helander of Libertyville, a woman who has won countywide elections three times, who was the top vote-getter in 2006, who has no public record to defend, and who would easily carry Lake County in the election. But she resists running.

The early line: Strong, Curran, Cadigan, Coulson and Helander all possess assets that would make them competitive, and possibly electable, but the outcome of the primary is still murky.