April 14, 2021

A postmortem is an examination performed after a death to determine what was the cause.

A postmortem also has a political context: It's defined as a detailed evaluation or examination of some event that just ended. It's a determination of whether mistakes and/or poor judgment of a losing candidate were the cause of defeat, or whether other factors like changing demographics, opponent spending, incumbency or just simple non-electability were at play. On April 6 all 30 suburban Cook County townships and 120 municipalities had elections.

Several trends were clear: (1) Local elections are about quality of life, viability of neighborhoods, tax levels and home resale values. Elected officials are usually those who have been active in their community, attend or coach sports events and have built a network. An "outsider" with money will not usually win, even with a deluge of mailings. (2) Turnout was miniscule, barely cracking 30 percent. Only community-minded people with a stake in the game voted.

NORRIDGE: "I may run again," said Tom Benigno, Illinois' $188,000-a year deputy Secretary of State. 2025 would be his fourth attempt.

"He can't be serious," scoffed village president Dan Tannhauser, who beat him 1,695-1,448 on April 6, a margin of 247 votes. Benigno lost 1,747-1,155 to the now-retired James Chmura in 2017, by 592 votes and 1,722-1,206 to Chmura in 2013, by 516 votes. Tannhauser and Chmura were the candidates of the Norridge Improvement Party (NIP), which has run the village since 1952.

Benigno ran a patented Mike Madigan-scripted, distort-and-attack campaign, which means lots of lies and lots of negative mailings. "He (Benigno) lied about my pension, about my 'defunding' the police (stance), about the village economy and about the gas station issue," said Tannhauser. Benigno told me he would spend "about $80,000," but he raised close to $200,000, including $45,000 in the last 2 weeks, all of it from other Democratic politicians, unions and entities who do business with the Secretary of State. Tannhauser added that Benigno "had 50 paid workers, most from outside Norridge" who flooded the 9 precincts and "at least 18 mailings." Benigno rebutted that he "had only 11 mailings" and that his precinct workers were volunteers.

Norridge has a population of 14,800 in 5,727 households, with 8,989 registered voters. Turnout was 3,090 on April 6, or 34 percent. Tannhauser said he won, despite only a half-dozen mailings and a budget of $80,000, "because voters asked themselves two questions: Why is he (Benigno) spending all this money? And what's in this for him?" Benigno got more votes in 2021 than in 2017, but after three tries, he is still an outsider.

NORWOOD PARK TOWNSHIP: Matt Podgorski's NWSGOP, a grassroots Republican operation which was strongly pro-Trump last year, got the idea that the township was ripe for a 2021 takeover. Their candidate for supervisor was Norridge cop Anthony Beckman, just coming off a 53,351-45,814 loss for state senator against Robert Martwick, having won 11 of the township's 17 precincts last year. NWSGOP put together a Law-and-Order Party slate.

The township consists of Norridge, Harwood Heights and a slice of south Park Ridge. Trump won the township 6,655-5,909 in 2020.

Incumbent supervisor Tom Lupo, elected in 2001, was perceived as complacent and beatable. But he defeated Beckman 2,275-1,738, getting 57 percent in 17 precincts. Township government spends about $700,000 annually, half on salaries, and does virtually nothing. Voters like that. Under the watch of Lupo, a Norridge Improvement Party ally, there were no spending or tax hikes, and no pensions. In other words, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Beckman will be back in 2022 to challenge Martwick again.

MAINE TOWNSHIP (Des Plaines and Park Ridge): It takes a lot of work to build a molehill into a mountain, and also to bulldoze a mountain into a molehill. But township Republicans have done a spectacular job of doing just that, culminating in a historic April 6 wipeout for all eight township offices. To be sure, Trump lost Maine Township 37,884-27,310 in 2020, but Republicans have always maintained a beachhead in the township. Their dwindling base was enough to prevail in low-turnout local elections. Now Democrats control everything, including the area's state Senate and House seats.

Republicans on April 6 maintained total control of northwest suburban township governments in Barrington, Elk Grove, Leyden, Palatine, Wheeling and Schaumburg, and kept the supervisor's job in Northfield - despite the fact that Trump tanked there.

So what happened in Maine? The answer is purge-and-purify. Instead of being inclusive, Republicans became exclusive. It began in 1992 when Rosemary Mulligan beat anti-abortion crusader Penny Pullen for state rep. The social conservative vs. pro-choice was adeptly papered-over by committeeman/senator Marty Butler until his 1998 death. Bill Darr took over and maintained his Big Tent policy, perpetuating Republican dominance.

That changed in 2001 when Darr and Trustee Bob Dudycz engineered a coup at the Republican caucus and dumped incumbent supervisor Mark Thompson, a Mulligan ally, and replaced him with Dudycz. All was well until the 2002 primary, when Thompson ousted Darr. That created an unbridgeable chasm between the "township" (anti-abortion social conservative) Republicans, led by Dudycz, and the more moderate (pro-choice) faction, led by Mulligan and Thompson. Amid the internecine fighting, the Republican organization withered and collapsed. Dan Kotowski (D) was elected senator in 2006 and Marty Moylan (D) was elected representative in 2012. Township Democratic committeeperson Laura Murphy replaced Kotowski in 2015. In 2020 both Murphy and Moylan were unopposed.

But the township remained a Republican bulwark. Dudycz was succeeded by Carol Teschky, who was succeeded by Laura Morask in 2017. Morask was initially elected trustee as a Democrat, but switched. The election of rabidly conservative, pro-Trump Charlene Foss-Eggeman as committeeman in 2018 changed the dynamic. Her two township allies, trustees Susan Sweeney and David Carrabotta, constantly squabbled with Morask. "Voters got tired of the constant political bickering," said Moylan.

Foss-Eggeman called a Republican caucus last December and dumped Morask, replacing her with Earl Wilson, a total unknown. Murphy's 8-person Democratic slate had Karen Dimond for supervisor and two Republican incumbents. Dimond beat Wilson 6,662-5,426, a margin of 236 votes. Morask won unopposed in 2017. After a self-inflicted 20-year slide, Republicans have finally arrived at their purge-and-purify molehill.

DES PLAINES: Mayor Matt Bogusz, elected in 2013, was termed out and he was really bummed-out when he didn't get appointed to Kotowski's seat in 2015. Murphy essentially appointed herself. In the non-partisan 2021 mayoral race Murphy and Moylan supported Alderman Andrew Goczkowski, an ambitious staffer for "progressive" U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-9). The Republicans backed Alderman Mike Charewicz. Also running was Alderman Malcolm Chester.

The result wasn't even close. Goczkowski won 3,859-2,665-565, getting 53 percent to Charewicz's 36 percent. Another Republican flop. The mayor's job is part-time, paying only $9,600, so Goczkowski will keep his gig with Schakowsky. Moylan and Murphy better keep checking their rearview mirrors. The presumption is that Des Plaines Alderman Colt Moylan will get his dad's job when he retires. But Goczkowski's next rung on the political ladder is Springfield.

LINCOLNWOOD: What a difference a generation makes. About 20 years ago the village was populated by an affluent Jewish voting base, with an Orthodox Jewish enclave at the east end. Now it's still-affluent population of 12,590, residing in homes worth $800,000 and up, has new demographics, with Asians, Asian Indians and Hispanics comprising nearly half the population.
But its politics has not changed. The Lincolnwood Alliance Party (LAP), founded by longtime (1931-77) mayor Henry Proesel in the 1940s, is back in power after a 4-year hiatus. Barry Bass beat LAP incumbent Gerald Turry 1,167-884 in 2017, ending 86 years of LAP dominance. Bass retired. This year LAP fielded a slate including Jesal Patel for mayor and Jean Ikezoe Halevi, Grace Diaz Herrera and Mohammed Saleem for trustees. All won, albeit narrowly, but results are still being counted. Patel beat Georjean Nickell 1,346-1,270.

NILES, SKOKIE AND NILES TOWNSHIP: Some things stay the same - like the iconic Caucus Party, founded in the 1950s by a coalition of Republicans and Democrats who decided it was more advantageous to share the spoils rather than fight each other over them. The Skokie and township Caucus, since the 1980s, has been wholly owned by the Democrats. Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen, first elected in 1999, was unopposed and got 3,958 votes in a city of 61,758; Caucus won 5 of 6 trustee spots, with their usual slate.

The township's Citizen Caucus Party ticket, with incumbent Bonnie Kahn for supervisor, was unopposed, as was restaurateur George Alpogianis for Niles mayor and incumbent Dan DeMaria in Morton Grove.