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.
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.
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.
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.)
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...