Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Rich/Bloom Political Deal Falling Apart?

At the August Rich Township Democratic meeting, Democratic committeemen Tim Bradford and Terry Matthews beamed with pride as they announced the (unofficial) slated candidates for the 15th Subcircuit openings: George Scully (Flossmoor/Bloom Twp), Lindzey Jones (Olympia Fields/Rich Twp) and T.J. Somer (Chicago Heights/Bloom Twp). I say that they were the unofficially slated candidates because slating wouldn't occur until after filing; Tim Bradford told me that he was confident these would be the slated candidates because he was chairing the slating committee involved.

Upon this announcement, people like me (who aren't exactly a part of the Regular -- or Machine -- Democrats in Cook County) were told to fall in line, although in much nicer language. "Don't question the deal," I was explicitly told, which indicated just how precarious the whole thing was to start off with.

Of course, Democrats across the 15th Subcircuit had all kinds of reasons to "question the deal." First off, T.J. Somer was formerly the Bloom Twp REPUBLICAN committeeman before he switched parties to run for judge. So the spectre of the local Democratic party chairs endorsing a former Republican party chair was a bit much.

But then George Scully -- who resigned his state House seat (to which another Republican powerhouse was appointed) to be appointed to the bench this year -- quickly separated himself from "the deal." If I hadn't been at the Rich Twp Democratic meeting, I might never have known that Scully had any connection to the Bradford/Matthews slate.

Word was that it was against convention for appointed judges to work against each other. John Griffin (Palos Heights/Worth Twp) was appointed to the bench by the Supreme Court at the same time as Scully, so it wouldn't do for Scully to be supporting a candidate (Somer) running against Griffin.

Those were hardly the only problematic issues. The stated reason for the "deal" (as it became known) was because the east side of the subcircuit was under-represented -- which is true. The statement that we (those of us on the east side) had no representation among judges on the subcircuit bench was false. But why coalesce around Somer, who was not only a recent Republican party chair but also comes out of the whole Bloom Township/Chicago Heights/Republican mess? Not coming from here, quite frankly, I'm always a little uncomfortable with anyone who has even tenuous connections to the Mob or the political culture that grew up around it in Bloom Township/Chicago Heights.

It doesn't help that there's an ongoing federal investigation into all of that.

That's not all. Both Bradford and Terry Matthews can be criticized for not looking amongst Democratic activists for people to appoint, promote or slate. The South Suburbs is blessed with rich political talent and highly competent people among Democrats; we don't need to look to Republican officials to fill Democratic vacancies.

The new wrinkle to all this is the endorsement of judicial candidates by the Chicago Federation of Labor. As part of this process, I am told, candidates were specifically asked if they would support all the endorsed CFL candidates, basically pledging not to work against any other candidate who received the CFL endorsement.

All three CFL endorsed candidates, Jones, Scully and Griffin are said to have agreed to this. For Scully, this was an easy pledge to make. He had distanced himself from the announced deal in August almost immediately. Scully ran his own race from the start, and really made the effort to stay out of the other two races that Matthews and Bradford had announced support for. And Griffin, coming from the west side of the subcircuit, was never party to a deal to begin with.

For Lindzey Jones, though, agreeing to this would complicate things. Jones and Somer apparently planned on splitting the costs of their mail program. When I asked him if allying himself with former Republican partisan Somer wouldn't hurt him, he expressed confidence that their mail program would overcome any negatives that might result.

But sending out multiple pieces of mail jointly with T.J. Somer would be exactly the opposite of what Jones has now (apparently) pledged to do -- which is to not work against any other CFL-endorsed candidate.

This is not an instance where local party chairs got outmaneuvered -- which is what I think they were initially afraid of -- but where the facts on the (political) ground have altered dramatically. The Chicago Fed brings to the table considerable resources and has stated an intention to get involved in this primary to the same degree that they were involved in the 2007 Chicago Aldermanic races. Which means they will get money, talent and volunteers to their endorsed candidates. Very, very few candidates could refuse that kind of help -- or jeopardize it once they got it.

So the question is, is the much-discussed "deal" between Bradford and Matthews now caput? Is Somer officially left out in the cold?

Perhaps because I've known of Chicago Fed head Dennis Gannon's work in 2007 and 2008, I can say this: standing up to (and, perhaps, slighting) Tim Bradford and Terry Matthews would be much easier than standing up to Gannon. While Bradford and Matthews may be concerned about their "juice" in the (political) game, Gannon brings gallons of certified Vitamin C (and D) to the table. The Rich/Bloom "deal" is dead. It is only time before all the parties involved realize it...

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