January 16, 2013


Bring on the guillotine. In the 2013-14 election cycle, heads will roll. Voter anger and disgust with the existing political ruling class is rising to a crescendo.

Mark this well. Over the next 2 years, every self-serving, decision-avoiding, mealy-mouthed, do-nothing, ethically challenged, long-entrenched incumbent is at acute risk. That covers just about every office holder.

Voters are approaching the conclusion that their government, at every level, is dysfunctional. That their so-called leaders, of both parties, are just a bunch of opportunistic charlatans. That politicians don't seriously want to fix problems, but instead want to exacerbate them so as to polarize the electorate, demonize their opposition, motivate their political base, foment dissension, spike their fund-raising, and get re-elected. In short, contemporary politicians don't want to solve problems, they want to exploit problems.

In 2010 voters reacted negatively toward the Obama Administration's profligate spending and borrowing. In 2012 voters reacted negatively toward the Republicans and their troglodyte intolerance. In the next 2 years voters will react negatively toward all incumbents not perceived as problem solvers. The political carnage will be epidemic.

There will be at least four elections in 2013 which will be harbingers of 2014, just as Massachusetts' January 2010 U.S. Senate election to fill Ted Kennedy's vacancy was predictive of the Republican/Tea Party November 2010 anti-Obama sweep. They are:

Massachusetts. With Senator John Kerry replacing Hillary Clinton as U.S. secretary of state, there will be a special election. Interestingly, legislative Democrats passed the special election law to prevent then-Governor Mitt Romney from appointing a Republican should Kerry have been elected president in 2004. In 2010 Republican Scott Brown, an obscure state senator, scored a 1,168,107-1,058,682 upset over Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley, in a turnout of 2,226,789, largely because he promised to oppose "Obamacare."

In November Brown faced Elizabeth Warren for re-election. Barack Obama beat Romney in the state 1,900,575-1,177,370, and Warren topped Brown 1,678,176-1,449,039, in a turnout of 3,127,215 -- 900,426 higher than in January of 2010. Brown received 500,806 more votes than Romney did, and Warren got 451,536 fewer votes than Obama but 619,494 more than Coakley.

Clearly, Brown had crossover appeal, as about 500,000 Obama voters opted for him. To have won, however, he needed about 615,000 Obama voters.

To fill Kerry's vacancy, the Democrats have trotted out 66-year-old U.S. Representative Ed Markey of Malden, in north suburban Boston. Markey has been in Congress since 1976, and he votes the liberal line on every issue. He and his wife, who is employed in Washington, D.C., own a home in Chevy Chase, Md. He is the kind of political and institutional relic, and insider, that voters now revile. Markey has been on the public payroll since 1972, when he was elected state representative at age 26.

According to press reports, Brown will run again. By the time of the mid-summer election, much will have transpired in Washington. The national debt has risen from $10.626 trillion when Obama took office to $16.433 trillion today. The president will seek a $1 trillion increase in the debt ceiling in March. The Republicans will oppose it, perhaps shutting down the federal government. Markey will vote for it.

Markey also supported -- as did Brown -- the "fiscal cliff" compromise, which raises taxes on the "wealthy" by $62 billion annually. That is far short of what is needed to balance the budget.

If Brown frames the issues right and demonizes Markey as a coddled and clueless insider, and if turnout is at 2010, not 2012, levels, Brown can win again, and that victory will be a template for all 2014 aspirants.

Illinois 2nd U.S. House District: The "Jesse and Sandi Show" has finally folded. One has to wonder: Did they not know that spending campaign contributions on lifestyle enhancements was a federal crime? Did they think themselves immune? Did they seek any legal advice?

Jesse Jackson Jr. is no longer a congressman, and his wife Sandi Jackson is no longer the 7th Ward alderman. Both have resigned, both might be indicted, and their squalid legacy hangs heavy over the Feb. 26 congressional primary.

Seventeen of the 22 candidates in the race are Democrats, and none has any association with the Jacksons. In fact, any Jackson taint would be fatal. The top tier includes state Senators Toi Hutchinson and Napoleon Harris, former state representative Robin Kelly, who lost a race for state treasurer in 2010, Alderman Anthony Beale, defeated 2004 U.S. Senate primary candidate Joyce Washington, and former U.S. representatives Debbie Halvorson and Mel Reynolds. All except Halvorson are black. Beale and Reynolds are the only Chicagoans. Reynolds served time in prison after he was convicted of engaging in a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old campaign volunteer and of bank fraud.

Designed by Springfield Democrats as a "majority-minority" district, it has a black population of 55 percent. It extends from Hyde Park in Chicago to the southern border of Kankakee County, encompassing all the south Cook County suburbs east of Interstate 57. It has 194 precincts in Chicago, 263 precincts in the suburbs, 27 precincts in Will County, and 85 precincts in Kankakee County.

Halvorson, of Crete, was Hutchinson's predecessor as state senator when she was elected to Congress in 2008 from the old 11th District, which was centered in Will County. She lost in 2010 to Republican Adam Kinzinger. The 2011 remap absorbed a third of Halvorson's district into Jackson's 2nd District. Halvorson challenged Jackson in the 2012 primary and got thumped 56,130-22,678, getting 28.8 percent of the vote, in a turnout of 78,808. Roughly 70 percent of the 2012 primary voters were black.

The contest will be determined by race, gender, geography and the clout of Thornton Township Committeeman Frank Zuccarelli, who controls 123 precincts in a township with 103,130 voters. Zuccarelli had been backing state Senator Donne Trotter until his arrest when he attempted to board a plane at O'Hare Airport with a handgun in a carry-on bag. The freshest face in the race is Harris, a former NFL linebacker who was elected in November. Beale and Hutchinson are relative newcomers. The rest are veteran office holders or rejects.

With four credible women running, the gender vote will be diluted. Had just one woman run, she would have won. So, too, will be the black suburban vote among Harris, Hutchinson and Kelly, and the overall black vote among the six black aspirants. Turnout will be around 40,000. The frontrunner is Halvorson, whose base is in the 7,000- to 8,000-vote range, almost entirely of white voters. She got 22.6 percent of the Chicago vote and 25.6 percent of the suburban primary vote in 2012, more than half of which was an anti-Jackson vote.

With six credible black candidates fragmenting the 30,000-plus black base, and with another 10 minor candidates drawing 100 to 500 votes apiece, it's hard to envision a Halvorson loss. Her win would be a racial win, but if either Harris or Hutchinson surge and triumph, it would be proof positive that even pro-Obama black voters are weary of the same old same old. My prediction: 2nd District voters will find and elect the least conventional, least connected and least tainted candidate.

*Cicero: Jokes abound about the west suburban town, which is more than 85 percent Hispanic. That Cicero's motto is "grab all you can," that Cicero's seal is a greased palm, that clownish Town President Larry Dominick is another Kim Jong-il. Following in the footsteps of the infamous Betty Loren-Maltese, who spent time in federal prison, some 20 of Dominick's extended family are on the payroll. Dominick is seeking his third term.

Cicero's population is 83,891. Fat employee salaries, lifetime benefits, generous perks, rampant nepotism and hefty outside legal and public relations vendor contracts are epidemic. P.T. Barnum once proclaimed that "there's a sucker born every minute." Most of them, it seems, now live in Cicero and tolerate this sham.

In 2009 Dominick was re-elected 6,608-3,628. His methodology is elemental, reminiscent of the bygone days of the Chicago machine: put Hispanics on the payroll, have them work precincts and promise voters whatever is necessary, deliver votes, and stay on the gravy train. Juan Ochoa, the former executive officer of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, which runs McCormick Place, is running as a "reformer." If he wins, it will prove that a voters' throw-off-the-yoke mentality is mushrooming.

Niles: Tranquil and obscure -- that described this north suburban town of 29,803, with a large Polish ethnic population, but disgraced former Mayor Nick Blase put it on the map in 2009 when he pleaded guilty to mail and tax fraud. The Blase machine had controlled Niles since 1961. His ally, Trustee Bob Callero, was elected mayor in 2009 with 50.1 percent of the vote.

This year, with Blase a distant memory, the insiders are hoping for voter amnesia. Trustee Andy Przybylo, a cog in the Blase machine who has served for 24 years, is endorsed by Callero. Chris Hanusiak, who got 22.2 percent of the vote against Callero in 2009 and who was elected trustee in 2011, is running on a slate with two current trustees, making him a cog in the "Trustees machine." If voters want a change, they'll need a magnifying glass. The lesson: When in trouble, hope voters are too stupid to remember.