Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bloom Township Dem Committeeman Race Heats Up

If you're a Democrat living in Bloom Township, you probably received a very official looking piece of mail entitled "Voter Alert." While the voter alert was faked, voters in Bloom should have been alerted to one of the more interested contested primaries this cycle.

It sits at the bottom of the ticket. A place where fewer voters wander, after the long list of judges that one is supposed to vote for. If a voter chooses to vote on the computer (which most voters do), then you have to at least pass through the Democratic committeeman race. Voters who choose a paper ballot may ignore it altogether.

I'd like to argue that voters shouldn't ignore this race, but I won't (I won't suggest that you do ignore it, either). Because, well -- like that Facebook designation -- it's complicated.

You see, incumbent Democratic Committeeman Terry Matthews is running against challenger Joe Faso on the message that he (Matthews) is the "Real Democrat" in the race. You can see Faso's primary voting record here. There is no question about that. The Vote Builder logarithm characterizes Matthews as "Leaning Democrats," while it characterizes Faso as "Leaning Republicans." I've talked to Matthews about this race, and he said (basically) that I should support him because Faso is exactly the kind of Republican-turned-Democrat (Faso voted in the last Democratic primary, like all the other TJ Somer Republicans, to support Somer in his race for judge) of whom I've been critical. And he's right.

Except that it's complicated.

Because Matthews has made backing Republicans-turned-Democrats into a pattern that I (at least) can't ignore. Matthews appointed Republican-turned-Democrat Anthony DeLuca to George Scully's state representative seat (80th ILGA District). DeLuca voted in the same Republican primaries that Faso did (in 3/16/04 and 3/19/02), as well as in 2000 and 1998.

And Matthews has been the major promoter Republican-turned-Democrat TJ Somer in his race for judge. Somer was the former President of the Republican Party in Bloom Township (I've incorrectly said previously that he was the Republican committeeman), but Somer has admitted in the press that he has to be a Democrat to win a seat on the bench.

Somer voted in the Republican primary in 2006, 2004, 2002, 2000 and 1998.

But Matthews support of Republican-turned-Democrat TJ Somer is so great that, according to neighboring Democratic committeeman Tim Bradford, Matthews made a deal that he would support Democrat Toi Hutchinson for state senator in the vacant 40th District (Debbie Halvorson's former state senate seat) if Bradford would help slate Republican-turned-Democrat TJ Somer in the upcoming 15th subcircuit judicial race. Matthews is not just supporting Republican stalwarts in Bloom Township, he's getting other Democratic committeeman to do the same.

Politics is all about give and take, but it's hard to see how Democrats get stronger when their choice is between a Republican-turned-Democrat (like TJ Somer, Anthony DeLuca or Joe Faso) and a Democrat who goes out of his way to see that Republicans-turned-Democrats are placed into Democratic seats at every available opportunity. (Matthews couldn't have appointed a Republican-turned-Democrat to Debbie Halvorson's seat because there were other Democratic committeemen who had votes, too.)

So what's a Democrat to do in Bloom Township? Hard to say. This is, I am told repeatedly, not about Bloom Township but about the Chicago Heights mayoral race in 2011. And that's a shame. Because the Barack Obama campaign mobilized thousands of Democrats to work in the last election, and they must be disappointed with the performance of their local Democratic party (and the barroom brawl it's currently engaged in). "How can I vote for Faso," one newly activated Democrat asked me. (I just listened.) Another new Democratic activist admitted that she'd probably vote for Faso in the race given her disappointment with Matthews' appointment of Republican-turned-Democrat Anthony DeLuca, but it didn't sound like she would like it. Why should Democrats be holding their nose to vote for Democrats in the age of Barack Obama?

The unions have been asking that very question. In fact, the reason that Joe Faso (Republican-turned-Democrat) is in the race is apparently because he was recruited by the trade union officials to run against Matthews. The local unions have coalesced sufficiently around their choice that they convinced the Chicago Federation of Labor to endorse Joe Faso in this race. As far as I know, this is the only instance where the Chicago Fed has endorsed a non-incumbent in a party race.

Why have the unions turned against the "Real Democrat" to a Republican-turned-Democrat? This is less clear, but the anger is real. The unions in the South Suburbs had been the backbone of Democratic politics through the years when Republicans ruled Bloom Township. But when Democrats in Bloom got a little power -- and the ability to appoint a state senator and state representative, as well as slate the subcircuit judicial races is a little bit of power -- the locals felt ignored. There is a natural temptation to think that local Democratic politics is starting to resemble local Republican politics -- dictatorial, secretative, elitist. So again, one asks: Why should Democrats be holding their nose to vote for Democrats in the age of Barack Obama?

We are better than that. And we have better (and more loyal) Democrats than that. We really do...

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