December 21, 2011


This column strives to be entertaining, but it's still a political analysis. However, if it were a movie review, I'd be critiquing the just-released 47th Ward's "Man Show," the 45th Ward's "No Show," the 38th Ward's "Dumb Show" and the 49th Ward's "Family Show."

Last week the "stupid and futile gestures" of county candidates were explored. As a rating, an S&FG of "0" means brilliant avoidance while a "10" means political idiocy. Here's an analysis of contests for Democratic ward committeeman.

47th Ward (Ravenswood and Lincoln Square): It's definitely the "Man Show" -- the "Mayor's Man" versus the "Blago Man" versus the "Forgotten Man," with the "Clueless Man" hovering in the background. The contest for committeeman is Peter Coffey versus Paul Rosenfeld versus Gene Schulter, with Alderman Ameya Pawar in a dither -- or, some say, a stupor.

To the uninitiated, the upscale 47th Ward is home to a stellar cast of characters. Disgraced former governor Rod Blagojevich lives there, at least until he's trundled off to the "Big House." The media crews perpetually camped outside his Ravenswood home gave the local economy a boost.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel lives there -- at least since last summer. During his mayoral campaign, his nonresidency and prickly tenant got reams of media exposure. With the departure of Rich Daley, Ravenswood is now Chicago's Bridgeport.

Gene Schulter, the "Forgotten Man," a 36-year alderman and the current Democratic committeeman, lives there. He hasn't yet been tarred and feathered and run out of the ward on a rail. Schulter's astoundingly inept and deceitful 2010 attempt to hand off his aldermanic job to ally Tom O'Donnell has besmirched his legacy. Schulter filed for reelection, cleared the field of all credible contenders, had O'Donnell file on the last day, and then withdrew. That stunt might have worked in a less politically astute ward, but voter revulsion resulted in the upset win of the unknown Pawar. Once beloved, Schulter is now reviled.

Nevertheless, Schulter, after months of indecision, with $830,272 in his campaign account, filed again for committeeman.

David Axelrod, lately a counselor to President Barack Obama, also lives there, as do a passel of lower-echelon political movers and shakers, including Coffey, who is the director of intergovernmental affairs for DePaul University.

 Coffey worked for Paul Simon for U.S. senator in 1988, for Bill Clinton for president in 1992 and for Obama for U.S. senator in 2004 -- just like Emanuel and Axelrod. He also served a stint in City Clerk Jim Laski's office. The 47th Ward may not yet be Little Rock North, and there have been no sightings of Monica Lewinsky, but Clinton expatriates find the ward a congenial place. Emanuel and the "Clinton Brigade" are backing alumni Coffey, the "Mayor's Man," for committeeman. The mayor's New Chicago Committee, which is run by Tom Bowen, helped get Coffey on the ballot.

After defeating O'Donnell by 1,225 votes (with 50.8 percent of the vote), Pawar made it clear that he didn't intend to run for Democratic committeeman in 2012, that he wouldn't support Schulter, who he said offered no aid in the aldermanic transition, for the job, and that he would support another "progressive" candidate for the party post.

Rosenfeld, a heavyweight lobbyist, seemed to fit the bill. He said that he would not take sides in the unhealed Schulter-Pawar rift, that he wouldn't work against Pawar for reelection in 2015, and that he would nurture Schulter's still-potent precinct organization. Schulter could then ride off into the sunset. Pawar endorsed Rosenfeld.

But then Rosenfeld became the "Blago Man." He was an aide to Alderman Dick Mell (33rd), Rod Blagojevich's father-in-law, from 1993 to 1994, he worked in Blagojevich's campaigns for state representative (1992, 1994), Congress (1996, 1998 and 2000) and governor (2002), and he opened his own lobbying shop after Blagojevich went to Springfield. He raised money for Blagojevich, and he surfaced as "Lobbyist 2" in Robert Blagojevich's testimony at his brother's first trial. No wrongdoing has been alleged, but the "Blago Man" connection has been established.

"He is too close to Pawar, who is solely focused on beating Gene," observed one astute 47th Ward precinct captain, who attributed the sudden spurt of Rosenfeld negativity to the mayor's operatives. "The mayor wants his guy," which is Coffey, he added. However, he continued, "Schulter wins in a three-man race, and Schulter would have beaten Rosenfeld in a two-man race. (Rosenfeld is) finished. The only way Coffey can win is for the mayor to make a deal with Gene and get him out of the race." Give Schulter an S&FG of "0."

"Obviously, things have changed," admitted Rosenfeld, who noted that Pawar, the "Clueless Man," still backs him, that his campaign manager used to work for Emanuel and his New Chicago Committee, and that Coffey recently contributed to him.

 The outlook: A deal will be hatched. The mayor cannot let Coffey lose. Pawar cannot let Schulter win. Rosenfeld is toast. Schulter, who was bypassed for a Board of Review appointment, will get some reward. Coffey will win.

45th Ward: It's the "No Show." Democratic Committeeman Pat Levar skedaddled again. Just prior to the close of the 2011 aldermanic filing period, Levar, a 24-year veteran, retired and endorsed an unknown, Marina Faz-Huppert. Faz-Huppert finished third in a seven-candidate field, with 19.5 percent of the vote, evidence of the decrepitude of Levar's organization. John Arena beat John Garrido by 30 votes in the runoff.

Since day one of his aldermanic tenure, Arena has been angling for committeeman. Calling himself a "progressive Democrat," Arena said the party organization "has failed" in the 45th Ward, that it is "exclusionary," and that it "must be rebuilt to be open, accountable and inclusive."

"I will encourage good candidates to come to the forefront," Arena said. That, of course, does not mean aldermanic candidates in 2015, when Arena faces a rematch with Garrido. Arena wants the party post so that nobody else can use it to build a political base.

Levar vacillated for months, understanding that beating Arena would be expensive and physically draining. The unexpected retirement of Levar's ally, state Representative Joe Lyons (D-19), sealed the deal. Without Lyons on the March 20 ballot to help energize his precinct captains, Levar would have made a stupid and futile gesture. Levar has made no endorsement, and he fielded no organization member for the post. Give Levar a "0."

"It's a fluid situation," observed Arena, who has been endorsed by Faz-Huppert.

A surprise entrant is Jacquelyn Hathaway, a Portage Park community activist who promises "real change in the community" as committeeman, opining that having Arena as both the alderman and the committeeman is the "wrong change." Hathaway said she will devote her energies to "heightening voter registration" and securing "better city services." As for 2015, she pledged not to run for alderman.

An interesting subtext is the Democratic primary for Lyons' House seat. Levar, Lyons and most unions have endorsed Rob Martwick of Norridge. The sister of Garrido's law partner, Sandra Stoppa, filed against Martwick. Arena has made no endorsement yet.

My prediction: Arena surely doesn't want Stoppa to win, so a deal will be cut: Arena and Martwick will endorse each other and Levar's remaining captains will push the Martwick/Arena team. Remember the lyrics from the song by the Who? "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

38th Ward: Call it the "Dumb Show." Tom Caravette, after getting obliterated on April 5, is game for yet another stupid and futile gesture. Appointed Alderman Tim Cullerton spent more than $580,000, to Caravette's measly $25,000, and amassed 60.4 percent of the vote in the runoff.

Now Caravette is running for committeeman against incumbent Patti Jo Cullerton, Tim Cullerton's sister, who is on the ballot as "Patricia J. Cullerton," a name she does not normally use. Caravette filed 550 signatures, has had 178 challenged, and needs 437 to stay on the ballot. "There will be a switcheroo," Caravette said. "Tim will quit and Patti will be appointed. I want to give the voters an option."

Message to Caravette: Two bad losses mean no more credibility. Caravette gets a "10" on the S&FG scale.

49th Ward: It's the "Family Show." Alderman Joe Moore, who was first elected in 1991, had rocky years during the condominium conversion boom of 1995 to 2005. More than 8,000 rental units in the Rogers Park ward were converted, and the population mix transformed from renters to property owners. Moore got 54.7 percent of the vote in 2003, dipped to 51.6 percent (winning by a 251-vote margin) in 2007, but rebounded to 72.1 percent in 2011.

Moore may soon be named the director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, but he won't quit as alderman until Emanuel assures him that his wife, Barbara, "coordinator" of the 49th Ward Green Corps, will be appointed.

Barbara Moore raised $60,000 and gathered 17,000 signatures in a bid for Metropolitan Water Reclamation District commissioner, which she aborted due to a potential "conflict" if her husband got the state job. Give her a big "0" on the S&FG scale. She wasn't slated for the water district, and she would have lost. Now she'll be an alderman.