September 23, 2020


There are three enduring myths in life: That there is a Santa Claus, an Easter Bunny and a Tooth Fairy.

And now, courtesy of Michael Madigan Incorporated, the entity that owns the Illinois House, there is a fourth myth: That Michelle Darbro, the Madigan-recruited and Madigan-funded Democratic candidate for state representative in the Illinois 20th House District is going to "rescue Springfield" from "self-serving career politicians." That's a whopper.

Darbro is a firefighter/EMT, knows CPR and other life-saving techniques, and has rescued a lot of Chicagoans in peril. However, Illinois is in perilous fiscal straits and Darbro will be an epiphenomenon, which is a phenomenon caused by another phenomenon (Madigan) which has no effect upon anything.

Who are these dastardly politicians from whom Illinois needs to be rescued? Actually, it's just one politician - her opponent, appointed Republican incumbent Brad Stephens, the mayor of Rosemont, whose Springfield "career" has spanned all of 16 months. That's more like a training session. But Stephens has been Rosemont's $259,998-a year mayor since 2007 (a 13-year career), succeeding his father who founded Rosemont in 1956. Don Stephens was mayor for 51 years and built Rosemont into a commercial, restaurant, entertainment, convention and sports Mecca. So Stephens could be called "self-serving."

Quite curiously Darbro utters not a peep about her benefactor Mike Madigan, who has been a state representative for 50 years and speaker for 36 years, has been practicing law since the 1960s, and multi-tasks as state Democratic (DPI) chairman and 13th Ward committeeperson. That's five careers, and Madigan must be "serving" somebody to accumulate $23 million in his four political accounts as of June 30. DPI and Madigan's legislative flunkies have funded Darbro with over $800,000 since last November. She had six district wide mailings (with a dozen more to come I'm sure), been up on cable TV since early August, and is spending $125,000 per week on network TV with more "rescue Springfield" ads.

"He (Madigan) will spend over $2 million to defeat me," predicted Stephens, who plans to spend at least $1 million.

There are other Darbro "rescue" avenues she can take. She could support a Constitutional amendment with 6-year legislative term-limits...which, if passed by voters in 2022, would get Madigan out by 2028. Or support limits on leadership: 3 terms and out. Or she could demand, in light of the feds' ComEd/Exelon investigation, that Madigan resign as speaker, as 9 other House Democrats have demanded. ComEd has signed a "deferred prosecution" agreement acknowledging that it paid $1.3 million to Madigan sources and cronies to get "favorable" treatment in rate and regulation matters.

At the Fraternal Order of Police endorsement session, which both candidates attended, Darbro stated that she would vote to oust Madigan if he "is indicted." The Republicans under House Rules have empanelled a special 6-member Madigan investigative committee; its recommendation would have to be approved by the full House. With a 74D-44R majority, a non-indictment means a non-ouster. Asked about whether Madigan's money was "tainted," Darbro said she "took it" because she needed to "build name identification." FOP president John Catanzara called-out Darbro as Madigan's handpicked candidate and FOP endorsed Stephens, as have the Teamsters.

Firefighters Local 2 played a major role in Darbro's recruitment, and a $39,077 donation from the Carpenters union to 41st Ward Alderman Anthony Napolitano was used for a flurry of first responder mailings in the March 17 primary, which Darbro won 9,921-4,909 over Cary Capparelli. She had 26 mailings. The popular ex-firefighter Napolitano, a law-and-order champion is likely expecting a payback in 2023. He endorsed Darbro, calling her in a letter "a friend" who "is part of our neighborhood...(and) will be a voice for us." Napolitano added that Darbro "will not be pushed around or intimidated by those in power." Really?

Darbro joined CFD in 2012 and resides in Norwood Park with her wife and child. She formerly resided in the south suburbs and her first Chicago ballot was cast in 2019.

Madigan's operatives are running her campaign according to script:

(1) Get the candidate out in the precincts 6 hours daily. Preparatory is a mailing (or call) to 200-plus households stating that Darbro is going to be on your street on a certain date and time. COVID-19 is not an impediment. Darbro then zips through the precinct, has 25-30 face-to-face contacts, and leaves "sorry-I-missed-you" cards for the rest. The campaign then follows-up with phone calls or e-mails. (Believe me, everybody's e-mail is available for purchase.) The key is CONTACT. Voters remember a personal contact or at least an effort. They don't remember TV ads or spam.

(2) In a contest between two unknowns, the priority is defining the other candidate negatively before they can define themselves. Darbro's TV ads highlight Stephens's $259,998 salary and assert that it is "on the backs" of Rosemont's 4,202 residential taxpayers. That is untrue, according to Stephens. He said that other area suburbs have village managers and economic development commissions. Rosemont has neither. "I do both" tasks, said Stephens. By floating infrastructure bonds, the village has created the 16,000-seat Allstate Arena, the 840,000-square foot Stephens Convention Center, the 4,000-seat Rosemont Theater, the 130-store Fashion Outlets, Rosemont Stadium, Parkway Bank Park and MB Financial Park, all with attendant tax-paying businesses, including 50 restaurants and 15 hotels. "We generate revenue ten times our (bond) debt," said Stephens. The village has a $200 million annual budget, almost entirely "on the backs" of commerce, he said.

Darbro's mailings have ripped Stephens for nepotism, noting his brother Mark runs Bomark Cleaning, which has the village cleaning concession, nephew Chris the convention center and nephew Donald III the police and fire department. He was also knocked for missing 16 days of the 2020 session, due to a hip injury and for taking nearly $250,000 in donations from the village's landscaping contractor since 1989 (with 2/3rds going to his dad). Pro-abortion PersonalPAC sent out a mailing claiming that Stephens is "pro-rape and pro-incest," based on the fact that Stephens is pro-life and favors abortion in cases of rape and incest. Darbro is pro-choice. "I expected this kind of (expletive)," said Stephens.

Madigan's script dictates that a candidate be seen but not heard. Don't talk to the media. This columnist's request for a Darbro interview was declined so I could ask some questions on the spot. Instead I was e-mailed a statement that Darbro will be a "trusted leader," has "proven her support of families," and that Stephens cares only "about people who are well-connected in Rosemont."

Stephens has had six mailings, tying Darbro to Madigan's ComEd "corruption" and Kim Foxx's "failed" criminal policies, and castigating Darbro as an "unqualified political opportunist." In the primary, the Chicago Sun-Times editorialized that "Darbro...struck us as poorly informed on basic issues."

Stephens said he "wants to be part of the solution" of Illinois' problems and that he has had "accomplishments" and "proven" his "leadership" as Rosemont's mayor. "I bring my experience to the table" in Springfield, said Stephens.

According to a county Democratic operative, Rosemont is not a player in the 20th District, Stephens is not Mike McAuliffe (the 23-year former state rep), and Joe Biden will out-perform Hillary Clinton. Maybe not. Unlike elsewhere, President Trump is not an anchor in the 20th District, which he lost 54-46 percent in 2016. It will be close to 50/50, with the Trump/Stephens/ O'Brien vote equal to Biden/ Darbro/Foxx.

(3) Then there's saturation, which means a mailer to every likely voting household every other day for the 3 weeks before the election on Nov. 3, alternating between attack/positive, and usually just re-mailing the previous stuff. They know voters will just glance at it and toss it, but it is a subliminal reinforcement. They think briefly about Darbro.

The template for 2020 is 2016, with some exceptions. That year McAuliffe (R) faced Merry Marwig (D), another Madigan import who adhered to the Madigan script and had a few million of Madigan money. It was a Madigan-Rauner proxy battle, with the governor and his rich donors supplying $3 million to McAuliffe. Both were all over TV and had 20 mailers apiece. McAuliffe won 25,387-19,784, or 56.3 percent, a margin of 5,603 votes. Turnout in the district's 84 precincts - 41 in Chicago and 43 in the suburbs - was 45,111. It will equal to that in 2020.

The key is/was Napolitano's 41st Ward, with 34 precincts. The McAuliffe name was well-known, dating back to 1972 when his father became state representative. McAuliffe beat Marwig 10,070-7,794 in the ward, a margin of 3,276 votes. McAuliffe won the suburbs 13,326-11,304, a margin of 2,202 votes. The suburbs include precincts in Park Ridge (9), Des Plaines (9), Rosemont (3), Niles (6), Schiller Park (7) and Harwood Heights/Norridge (9). A big Rosemont vote for Stephens matters little.

Prediction: Madigan/Darbro are focusing their attention on the 41st Ward. As of 9/16 over 11,000 mail ballots were requested district wide. The Stephens-Darbro result will replicate Trump-Biden. Stephens will win microscopically - like by a few hundred votes.