April 14, 2010


Not unexpectedly, a few credible Republican politicians in Cook County are fervently and ferociously committed to the extermination of their enemies.

However, those enemies aren't Democrats, they're fellow Republicans.

The emergence of the so-called "Tea Party" has reinvigorated Republicans elsewhere, but the Feb. 2 primary election proves that some Republican politicians are indisputably members of the "Arsenic Party" -- short-sighted, insecure, venomous and dysfunctional.

The premise of the "Tea Party" is fiscal opposition to government bailouts, government takeovers of private corporations such as General Motors, socialization of the health care system and an unsustainable federal budget and deficit. That resonates with rank-and-file conservative Republicans.

This November the "fervor factor" will be determinative. Those who are angry with the people they detest are more inclined to vote. Those who are disillusioned or disgusted with the people they have supported are disinclined to vote. This should be a huge Republican year.

But that's problematic, as local Republicans may endeavor to defeat Republicans. Here's why:

Cook County Board of Review (1st District): This obscure entity has enormous power, as do the three commissioners. It can lower the assessed valuation of residential or commercial property, and the incumbents can generate a stream of campaign donations, particularly from lawyers of commercial property owners who win a hefty tax cut.

Three districts were created, effective in 1998. The 1st District, which was supposed to elect a Republican, included all or part of 27 suburban townships out of a total of 30, plus parts of the 41st and 45th wards on the Northwest Side and half of the Southwest Side 19th Ward. Excluded were suburban minority and liberal areas, including Evanston, Niles, Lincolnwood, Oak Park, Cicero, Berwyn and the near South suburbs.

Maureen Murphy, an Oak Lawn state representative who was defeated in 1996 and the Worth Township Republican committeeman, won a six-candidate 1998 primary with 32 percent of the vote. She beat a Democratic opponent in 1998 by 199,647-173,940, and she was unopposed in 2002, getting 363,630 votes. During that period Murphy was the only county elected Republican. On the board she allied herself with Democrat Joe Berrios, who was the board's chairman.

However, in the 2006 Democratic tsunami she lost to obscure Democrat Brendan Houlihan by 242,227-231,851, a margin of 10,376 votes. Houlihan was recruited, supported and funded by county Assessor Jim Houlihan (no relation), a rival of Berrios. After his election, Houlihan allied himself with fellow Commissioner Larry Rogers Jr., and Berrios was ousted as chairman.

As of Jan. 1, Berrios had $613,978 in his campaign account, Rogers had $20,750, and Houlihan had $228,001. The job is a cash cow.

Having narrowly won in 2006, Houlihan is eminently vulnerable, but, according to Dan Patlak, the Wheeling Township assessor, a former Board of Review analyst and the slated Republican for the 1st District spot, a "shill" backed by southwest suburban "Vrdolyak Republicans" was put on the ballot to ensure Houlihan's reelection.

Patlak's foe was Sean Morrison, a suburban security company owner with roots in the 19th Ward who, according to Patlak, never voted in a Republican primary. "I will beat Houlihan," Patlak said. "(Morrison) would have made sure he lost.

According to final results, Patlak topped Morrison by 48,218-43,600, getting 52.5 percent of the vote and winning by a margin of 4,618 votes. Patlak won 15 of the 27 townships. His share of the vote in his northwest suburban base -- the townships of Wheeling (69.5 percent), Maine (57.2 percent), Elk Grove (55.9 percent) and Schaumburg (56 percent) -- were barely enough. Morrison won Worth, Bloom, Rich, River Forest, Palos, Orland, Lyons and Proviso townships, getting the bulk of the south suburban vote.

The outlook:  Patlak can win, but not if half the Republican committeemen in the district do their utmost to do nothing or surreptitiously assist Houlihan. Berrios is running for assessor, to replace the retiring Jim Houlihan, so Brendan Houlihan is on his own. The emerging "reform" candidacy of county Commissioner Forrest Claypool for assessor as an independent is a win-win situation for Patlak, who is emphasizing the same issues. Houlihan will have to stick with Berrios.

My early prediction: Patlak will win narrowly.

Maine Township (Park Ridge, Des Plaines, part of Mount Prospect): Once mighty, Republicans have collapsed from dominant to decimated in the past 12 years, since state Senator and Republican Committeeman Marty Butler's death in 1998.

The outcome of the 2010 committeeman's race, which was won by state Representative Rosemary Mulligan (R-65), may be the death knell -- or a resurrection.

"It was absolute treachery," said Mark Thompson, whom Mulligan beat by 3,964-3,360, getting 54.1 percent of the vote and winning by a margin of 604 votes. "She sold her soul. I helped keep her in office for the past 8 years, and she was part of my organization. She intends to resign (as state representative) in 2011, and she wanted my job so she could appoint her successor."

Thompson adds that Mulligan was an integral part of the 2009 "peace treaty" between the township's conservative faction, led by Supervisor Carol Teschky, former supervisor Bob Dudycz and road commissioner Bob Provenzano, and Thompson's more moderate group, which included Mulligan and her pro-choice supporters. Thompson planned his own 2009 slate of Republicans for township office; the incumbents planned to run as the Township Incumbents Party. Such a scenario would have ensured the election of Trustee Peter Ryan, who headed the Democratic ticket for supervisor.

The "deal" was that Thompson backed the incumbents and let them run as Republicans, and they promised to support him for reelection as committeeman in 2010. Since Teschky beat Ryan by just 1,734 votes (with 54.4 percent of the vote), no deal would have meant no Teschky-Provenzano win.

Then Mulligan, age 68, who was first elected in 1992, approached the "township" clique and enlisted their backing for her candidacy against Thompson. The deal was undone, but the stubborn Thompson, who lost a bid for Des Plaines mayor in 2009, refused to fold and ran both for reelection and for the Republican nomination for Cook County commissioner in the 17th District, a seat occupied by Liz Gorman, the Orland Township Republican committeeman, who was part of the south suburban anti-Patlak group.

Gorman and her allies are engaged in a blood feud with Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica, the Lyons Township committeeman, who lost bids for Cook County Board president in 2006 and for state's attorney in 2008. Peraica rushed to embrace Thompson, and the Mulligan/township bunch backed Gorman. Wheeling Township's Republicans, where Patlak is a major player, endorsed Thompson over Gorman, enraging the South Siders.

Let's take a breather here. Can you follow this idiocy? Democrats are king of the mountain, and Republicans squabble over a molehill.

The 17th District is a geographic monstrosity, extending from Orland Park to Mount Prospect, encompassing all or part of seven south suburban townships (Bremen, Lemont, Lyons, Orland, Palos, Proviso and Worth), all or part of five northwest suburban townships (Maine, Wheeling, Northfield, Leyden and Elk Grove), and connected by a thin strip of territory running from 87th Street to Devon Avenue.

Thompson beat Gorman in the north by 3,422-2605, getting 56.7 percent of the vote and winning by a margin of 817 votes; Gorman beat Thompson in the south by 9,353-5,901, winning with 61.2 percent of the vote and by a margin of 3,452 votes. Gorman won overall by 2,635 votes. The outlook: Gorman should defeat Democrat Pat Maher, but only if the Mulligan/township group produces votes in the north.

16th District (west suburbs): What is a "Vrdolyak Republican"? Gorman's husband is a former business partner of Ed Vrdolyak, the former Democratic alderman and party chairman. Vrdolyak, as the village attorney for Cicero, was a subject of Peraica's constant attacks. Gorman and her allies supported February opponents of Peraica, but he won for committeeman by 4,630-1,665 (with 73.5 percent of the vote) and for commissioner by 9,290-3,085 (with 75.1 percent).

Peraica was reelected commissioner in 2006 by just 1,669 votes (with 51.2 percent of the vote), and his area is trending Democratic. His Democratic foe in November is Jeff Tobolski.  My prediction: As one of the most vituperative critics of Todd Stroger, it is ironic, if not incomprehensible, that Republicans are more eager to oust Peraica than Democrats. Peraica will win in November, despite the Vrdolyak Republicans' best efforts.

In Russ Stewart's column on judicial elections last week, he mistakenly stated that Thomas V. Lyons was the beneficiary of "party insiders' tricks" and was slated for a late-developing vacancy. That is incorrect. It was Daniel Gallagher who was slated for the McCarthy vacancy.