So it should be no surprise when Matthews' choice for the seat is:
a man known to some as a Republican....
Chicago Heights Mayor Anthony DeLuca is said to be on Matthews' short list. The Bloom Township Republican organization endorsed DeLuca when he ran for mayor in 2003 and loaned $5,000 to his campaign.
His campaign that year was run by conservative political consultant and commentator Dan Proft, who then served as his chief of staff for 10 months until DeLuca asked him to leave after Proft ruffled the feathers of some aldermen.
Proft said DeLuca "was a Republican the entire time that I knew him." Indeed, he said he met DeLuca while the two were supporting Republican Flora Ciarlo, whom Scully defeated to win his first term in office.
"He was elected, I would say, on a small-government, entrepreneurship, classic Republican philosophy," Proft said. "I did the messaging. I ought to know."
This is causing a number of headaches among Democrats in the Southland. 80 is a solidly Democratic seat, and the only way a Republican could gain the seat is through a maneuver like this.
I've asked several activists who know DeLuca if he would pledge to remain a Democrat once he was selected to the seat, but no one seems to know. however:
Nonetheless, DeLuca said: "My philosophy has never changed. I am who I am. The candidates I have chosen to support in the primaries may have changed."
He declined to call himself a Democrat, saying it would be inappropriate for him to declare he is a member of a party given that Chicago Heights municipal races are nonpartisan. But, "If I am appointed to a Democratic seat, I am a Democrat," he said.
Can Matthews appoint someone with a "classic Republican philosophy" in a solidly Democratic district? Of course he can. Such are the vulgarities of Illinois politics.
Normally, one would celebrate the switching of an elected official from the Republican party to the Democratic party. But DeLuca is noticeably opaque about his loyalties. And there may be a reason for that.
South Suburban Democrats are upset not only because of DeLuca's history as a Republican (and his unwillingness to say that he has switched parties). They are also afraid that some of the things that have historically tainted the local Republican party will begin to filter into South Suburban Democrats. And DeLuca is thought likely to retain his mayor's seat in Chicago Heights (just as Al Riley has retained his supervisor position in Rich township). Concern is growing over elected officials with multiple and divided loyalties who make it very confusing for residents to understand where the conflicts of interest lie.
Will DeLuca vote with the speaker? Who knows. Matthews could hardly be punished if his protege wondered off the reservation, as the speaker is thought to crave Bloom Democratic support for his daughter's race. That puts Matthews in the catbird's seat -- for the second time this year. Democrats in the 80 district may be steamed that a Republican will be their representative in Springfield, but there is nothing to be done about it.
Until February 2010. As one local Dem told me today: "Thankfully, they haven't changed the primary (date)."