November 11, 2020


Is Mike Madigan losing it? Maybe not his speakership, since that will happen eventually, but he spent more than $3 million in the 2016 and 2020 elections cycles to win the Northwest Side/suburban 20th Illinois House District and lost both times.

Appointed incumbent Brad Stephens (R) trounced the Madigan-picked and funded Michelle Darbro (D) 25,930-20,551 on Nov. 3, getting 55.78 percent of the total votes cast.

Stephens won the 41st Ward's 34 precincts 10,948-9,494, the 38th Ward's seven precincts 1,620-1,109, and the 43 suburban precincts 13,352-9,948. Stephens replaced 23-year incumbent Mike McAuliffe (R-20) in 2019. Madigan spent about $1.5 million in 2016 on Merry Marwig (D), and she lost 25,387-19,784, with McAuliffe getting 56.3 percent.

About 4,000 to 6,000 early mail Chicago ballots were uncounted as of Nov. 9, plus about 9,000 suburban ballots. Nevertheless, a Stephens victory is reasonably assured.

The "Madigan Method" didn't work. The "General," former alderman Marty Quinn from Madigan's 13th Ward and operative par excellence, failed to work his magic, which entails recruiting, deploying and funding.

Somehow Darbro, a Chicago firefighter/EMT who moved with her wife to Norwood Park, was a poor fit for a conservative district filled with a lot of cops. She walked precincts daily, mostly in the 41st Ward, but she lost 28 of the ward's 34 precincts. Her theme - that she was a first responder on a mission to "rescue" Springfield - was laughable.

"Rescue" it from the guy who was paying her tab? Did Madigan/Quinn really think voters were that stupid? After much ridicule, she switched to "protecting working families."

Firefighters union Local 2 put pressure on aldermen Anthony Napolitano (41st) and Nick Sposato (38th), both firefighters, to back Darbro - which they did. Both were featured in every Darbro mailing in their ward and on lawn signs. Darbro had at least 50 mailers, a quarter being attack pieces on Stephens, Rosemont's mayor since 2006.

They ripped Stephens for his $269,900 salary and his kin on Rosemont's payroll and as contractors. She was up on cable and network TV with that message. A mailer hit Stephens for being against abortion in cases of rape and incest - because he didn't answer a newspaper endorsement questionnaire query. That's standard operating procedure for Madigan: Deception and distraction.

Stephens responded in kind, raising and spending $1 million, with a barrage of mailings tying Darbro to Madigan and state's attorney Kim Foxx (who got 20.6 percent in the 41st Ward). FOP endorsed Stephens. "Every (cop and firefighter) door I knocked on was for Stephens," said retired CPD sergeant Mike Byrne, who worked three Oriole Park precincts.

"There will be consequences" for Napolitano in 2023, Byrne added. The alderman may have kowtowed to Local 2, but he alienated FOP, Stephens, McAuliffe and the Northwest Side GOP. Or maybe it was jut for optics. Still, a number of unions funneled money through Napolitano to pay for Darbro mailers, just as Madigan funneled money through various state reps that then donated to Darbro.

Stephens resurrected the old McAuliffe organization for his ground game, masterminded by veteran operatives Jack Dorgan and George Theo, who date back to the heyday of Roger McAuliffe. Kyle Haevers was the campaign manager, and ex-alderman Brian Doherty (41st) was also involved. "They had a Springfield team," said Stephens. "We had a great local team." Stephens won his home precinct in Rosemont 495-17.

It came down to this: Stephens was viewed as credible, with a proven record. Darbro was viewed as superficial and ill-informed, a puppet of the puppeteer. More critically, neither Darbro nor Marwig had roots in the district. Both were recent arrivals in the 41st Ward. Did they move in just to run? The result was an unmitigated Madigan failure.

PRESIDENT: Numbers tell it all. It was 65,853,514-62,984,828 Clinton-Trump in 2016, and it is unofficially 76,385,259-71,469,850 Biden-Trump in 2020. The ongoing major media presumption was that the Trump base was eroding due to fatigue and disgust, and that the anti-Trump base was expanding. In actuality, both bases were expanding. Biden got 10,531,745 more votes than Clinton, and Trump 8,485,022 more votes than in 2016. It is a demographic fact that the national electorate turns over by 5 percent every 4 years, with new voters exceeding deaths.

America's voter pool is becoming less White and less old. But the Trump base expanded. Trump lost because he lost at least four states that he won in 2016: WI (10), MI (16), PA (20) and AZ (11). And all were exceedingly close. The Biden blowout that his campaign and the media anticipated didn't happen. This was a close election. There is no Biden mandate. And the Republicans have not been made feeble and toxic by Trump, as demonstrated by their 2020 congressional pickups. It is clear that 2018 Democratic gains were precipitated more by a failure of the Trump Nation to turn out than by a repudiation of the president. That won't happen in 2022. If Biden-Harris lurch left, or if COVID-19 is not contained, Republicans will rebound.

STATE SENATOR (10th District): He's not quite the "mighty" Martwick, but neither is he the "microscopic" Martwick. Rob Martwick (D) kept his appointive state senate seat by an unofficial 5,550 votes, defeating Norridge cop Anthony Beckman (R) 48,508-42,958.

"I have a lot of work to do," acknowledged Martwick, who told me the same thing after beating Chicago cop Danny O'Toole 21,735 -17,511 in the March 17 Democratic primary, getting 53.8 percent. He was thereafter MIA, which he attributes to COVID-19 and having a young family.

He didn't do much door-to-door campaigning, had only four mailings, and finished with $200,000 on-hand and unspent. Beckman raised and spent only $30,000, had no districtwide mailings, and concentrated his door-to-door operation in Norwood Park Township (Norridge and Harwood Heights), where he has been circulating nominating petitions to run in 2021 for township supervisor against Tom Lupo (D), and in the 41st Ward. Beckman beat Martwick in the township and in the 10th's 43 west suburban precincts 14,980-13,042. He also beat Martwick 10,948-9,494 in the 41st Ward, where he had new committeeman Ammie Kessem's (R) fervent support. There was no integration between the Stephens and Beckman operations, with Stephen's districtwide and 41st Ward ground-game run by former McAuliffe operatives. Kessem beat McAuliffe, Stephens' predecessor, on March 17.

Martwick's salvation came in the district's east end (east of Nagle), which is the 19th House District that he held from 2012-19. Martwick won the 45th Ward 12,048-6,797 and the 38th Ward 10,416-7,582. The 20th Senate District contains the 19th and 20th House districts. The contest was close, Martwick explained, "because I didn't have a chance to introduce myself" to 20th District voters.

But Beckman already has, with a profusion of flyers and lawn signs that tied Martwick to state's attorney Kim Foxx (D), even though the 38th Ward Democratic organization didn't make an endorsement in that race. Martwick is the 38th Ward committeeperson.

They blared "Martwick = Foxx," and Beckman's supporters held up a huge "Martwick = Foxx" sign all day in front of Oriole Park School during early 41st Ward voting. By the way, Foxx got 20.6 percent of the ward's vote, down from 47.8 percent in 2016. Martwick, whose father is a well-connected tax appeal lawyer, also supported the progressive-income "Fair Tax," which tanked in the district.

Both O'Toole and Beckman are eyeing a 2022 rematch against Martwick. And the senator has got some serious introducing and decoupling to do.

19TH HOUSE DISTRICT: Appointed Lindsey LaPointe (D), a protege of defeated alderman John Arena (45th) and backed by Martwick, took Martwick's House seat in 2019. Arena's organization has vanished, which left Martwick and LaPointe on their own and they ran a somewhat integrated campaign, especially in Portage Park, where Martwick resides. The unofficial vote has LaPointe beating Chicago cop Jeff Muehlfelder (R) 26,235-17,557, or 59.9. LaPointe won the 45th Ward 11,678-6,440, or 62.2 percent, and the 38th Ward 8,919-5,798, or 58.7 percent. Biden got 67.7 percent and 58.3 percent, respectively, in those wards, and Foxx 40.3 percent and 31.2 percent.

Muehlfelder is aligned with Beckman and Matt Podgorski's pro-Trump NW Side GOP organization. LaPointe is getting entrenched, but Muehlfelder will likely be back in 2022.

STATE'S ATTORNEY: Incumbent Kim Foxx's (D) no-bail, minimal-incarceration, therapy-over-punishment policies made her toxic in certain quarters, but not toxic enough to lose. She won the March 17 Democratic primary with just under 50 percent. The unofficial Nov. 3 tally has her beating ex-judge Pat O'Brien (R) 1,053,048-760,101, with 58 percent, winning Chicago 644,365-299,260 and losing the suburbs 460,841-408,683. In 2016 Foxx won 1,459,086-565,671, or 72 percent, against an unknown and unfunded Republican. Her 2020 vote was down by 406,038 votes, a huge drop-off.

Trump got an uptick in Black and Hispanic votes in states like Florida, but Illinois deviated somewhat for state's attorney. Foxx won 17 of 19 Chicago Black wards with 70-90 percent and got under 60 percent in six of the 12 Hispanic wards.

Illinois' Democratic Wave did not wash into the Northwest Side. O'Brien beat Foxx 73.6-20.6 percent in the 41st Ward, 51.3-40.3 percent in the 45th, 60.6-31.2 percent in the 38th, but lost 49.5-42.9 percent in the 39th, 63-29 percent in the 40th, and 51.2-43 percent in the 50th Ward.