Tuesday, February 24, 2009

GOP Mayor likely to replace Democrat in the House

When State Rep. George Scully (D-Flossmoor) finally got his appointment to the bench, he opened up the pandora's box in the South Suburbs. Terry Matthews, the Bloom Township Democratic committeeman, will decide who replaces Scully, and Matthews' loyalty is hardly to the Democratic party.

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)."

Friday, February 20, 2009

Rep. Debbie Halvorson Opens a New Office in Joliet

On Tuesday, freshman Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson officially opened her new district office in Joliet. The first sign that something was happening was on I-80. On the crowded stretch between Orland and Joliet, we all seemed to be going to the same place. There were green "Halvorson" stickers on many of the cars. If you eliminated the trucks who shared the road with us, we'd have legitimately been called a caravan.

Following the internet mapping programs only work if all the roads are marked. So I almost missed the road perpendicular to the Joliet baseball stadium. But I was familiar enough with the area to know that the next road (Clinton) was a road too far. Thank god for a tight turning radius.

Parking was the next issue. Everyone was looking for a parking spot ten minutes before the open house was supposed to begin. Thankfully, I noticed a spot back from whence I came and (again) turned around. As I did so, I noticed that Halvorson's district office manager was putting up the ribbon. So I had timed everything just right.

As I set up the camera (in the cold -- brrrr), dozens of people slipped inside to go to the fourth floor office of the new Congresswoman. Lots of familiar faces, lots of anticipation on them. The previous Congressman was known more for his time in Guatemala than in the district, and it showed.

About 20 minutes later, the crowded descended on the stairs. The staff readied the flags and ribbon and then Debbie Halvorson appeared. This video starts then.

What we saw was a Congresswoman adjusting to her new schedule, where her life was no longer her own -- and finding a place in it. She smiles as she talks about "Congress on the corners," where she gets to reconnect with the people in the district. But Halvorson was also realistic in explaining that her staff was really her connection to people's concerns, and inviting her guests to reach out to them and deal with them as if they were dealing with her.

This kind of outreach is exactly what is required to defend Democrats in Republican areas. Tip O'Neill may have believed that all politics is local, but that was 30 years ago. This is the internet age, and now all politics is personal. Debbie Halvorson is bridging that divide in her large Congressional District.

You can contribute to this Frontline Democrat here.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Flossmoor's Missing Mayor

I had previously posed the question, shouldn't the mayor live here? Flossmoor's mayor, Roger Molski, uses Flossmoor as a second home; in essence, a place where he can escape the people whenever he's in the village.

Which isn't at night. Once again, it snowed, and I could get visual proof that the mayor (and his wife) were at their (primary) residence downtown. They certainly weren't here in Flossmoor.

Now I understand the mayor's desire to be with his wife, to sleep in his own bed, to have his dog around. And I understand that the real estate market is tight -- probably even tighter for the mayor's condo, since he had our neighbor's torn down and all that remains is an ugly empty lot that no one appreciates. What I don't understand is why he would run for mayor in a place that he's basically abandoned.

The sparkling lights of the big city must be seductive. But if Molski really wants to be mayor, why doesn't he run in Chicago? Where he lives.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

South Suburban Democratic machine confronts Team Obama

I don't know about you, but I've had enough of the corrupt politics that plagues Illinois. I am aware of the patronage and pay-to-play aspects that defines Democratic politics in the South Suburbs, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Barack Obama's message of Hope and Change stimulated many of us here in the South Suburbs to get involved -- many for the first time ever. The fact is that the corrupt politics that defines Illinois politics represses democracy and participation by the average person. Quite frankly, that's the way the political machine likes it.

So it should be no surprise that I am suddently getting some very curious feedback about our OFA group, Team Obama. The first hint was when Hazel Crest mayor, Robert Donaldson, sent an email to his fellow candidate Joseph Bertrand about our Team Obama meeting. The email was forwarded to me:

For your information. We should discuss these false, misinformational and misleading statements from these two individuals. Please distribute to interested parties.

Note that the mayor does not dispute the fact that he pushed through the village council a massive pay raise for himself -- and in these tough economic times! Nor does he challenge the public perception that he conducts village business in secret, or that he has engaged in the age-old practice of patronage. Rather, the mayor has apparently plotted to destroy Team Obama. Just because.

As followup, I got email from a machine hack who tries to convince me that we are choosing amongst Democrats "who supported President Obama." Of course, the truth is that the village races in Hazel Crest are nonpartisan. I have no idea whether the mayor (or Joseph Bertrand) are Democrats, although it is probably safe to assume that they are. Instead, as I mentioned in the previous post, we invited people who were involved in helping to elect President Obama to come speak to us. I'm unclear why I should have investigated these candidates' opponents before inviting them to pitch their candidacy before a group of people who lived in their community. Of course, the logic of machine pols probably escapes me anyway.

President Obama challenged us to get involved in our communities and work towards positive change. That does not mean that there won't be other people, Democrats to boot, who won't resist Change in our communities. Illinois has previously resisted the involvement of the national party in the state, and it is clear that they are resisting change again. Barack Obama may have come from Illinois, but the party leadership, both local and state, have every intention of resisting his Agenda for Change and his interest in seeing people get involved in their communities. The status quo in this area are Democrats. It just so happens that the forces for Change in the area are Democrats, as well...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Team Obama rises in the South Suburbs

On Tuesday, February 3rd, former volunteers and supporters of Barack Obama's presidential campaign -- christened "Team Obama" after the volunteers who conceived the term in the Ohio Democratic primary last year -- met at the Flossmoor Station Restaurant & Brewery.

Team Obama grew out of the "Thank You" party for the South Suburban volunteers held in Park Forest in November. There was a very broad consensus that the former volunteers active in the Indiana effort (and other primary states) wanted to stay together, stay active in our communities and stay involved in local politics -- in expectation that we would be needed again in the 2012 presidential contest.

In January, the Obama campaign evolved into Organizing for America, being folded into the Democratic National Committee. Both were expected, at least on my part. The people involved in facilitating "Team Obama" believed that our goals and OFA's goals were similar, and adopted the OFA goal of supporting President Obama's Agenda for Change.

Our program was fairly simple, driven more by the approach of local elections than anything else:


7:00 Introduction/Survey
7:15 Rep. Will Davis
7:30 OFA/Economic Recovery Suggestions

Candidates for Local Office:
8:00 Vernard Alsberry
8:10 Diane Williams
8:20 Susan Pate
8:30 Brace Clement

8:40 Wrap-Up/Open Discussion

On the advice of one of our participants, Rep. Will Davis was invited and talked (briefly) about Blagojevich's impeachment before talking at length about the stimulus package and the need for Economic Recovery in the South Suburbs.

You can download the video for Rep. Davis' talk here for offline viewing.

Rep. Davis' talk led nicely into our Economic Recovery session. Comments, stories and suggestions from that segment were forwarded to Organizing for America, or Obama 2.0. We are committed to working towards President Obama's Agenda for Change.

Afterwards, we heard from four local candidates who have embraced the President's Agenda for Change. The candidates for office that spoke before the group were people who were involved in helping to elect President Obama. Susan Pate, specifically, had asked me how to get literature to Democrats in Mississippi. We heard from:

* Vernard Alsberry is a candidate for President of Hazel Crest this April. You is talk can download the video of Vernard Alsberry here.

* Diane Williams is a candidate for re-election to the Flossmoor Board of Trustees. Her talk can be downloaded here.

* Susan Pate is a candidate for Trustee in Hazel Crest. Her talk is available here.

* Brace Clement is a candidate for School Board in 227. His talk can be found here.

All in all, a productive meeting attended by ~90 people who are interested in helping enact President Obama's Agenda for Change.