Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Republican Thugs Try to Intimidate Olympia Fields state Senator

If you drove by 222 Vollmer in Chicago Heights, you'd have noticed that there were no political signs up -- despite the fact that it is the headquarters (and district office, on separate floors) of state Senator Toi Hutchinson. The office complex doesn't allow yard signs on its property and that's a condition that the campaign of Toi Hutchinson accepted throughout the campaign.

But Adam Baumgartner -- who's support is so thin that I've never actually met anyone who'd admit they are voting for him -- didn't care. He thought he had a right to do whatever he wanted, just as all kids do. I doubt his blind disregard for the law was intentional, he's simply too immature to realize otherwise.

Having said that, the lack of support for Baumgartner in Cook County might be frustrating him. Until this week, I had never seen a sign for him INSIDE his district. Every single one of them had been placed inside Rich and Thornton Townships, not the 40th district. Understand, the "volunteer" who Baumgartner was paying to put up signs didn't live near the 40th, so it's probably not that much of a surprise that they were placed in the "volunteer's" neighborhood.

But the fact that a Republican campaign wouldn't respect private property is a little dismaying. Even after being told that signs were inappropriate on commercial property and the public right of way, Baumgartner's "volunteers" persisted.

If you've reached the conclusion that they were trying to provoke a confrontation, that was an easy place to go. Facing a formidable opponent who a lot of people thought couldn't win in an election, Baumgartner's staff has to try for a hail mary. Plus, Republicans are embarrassed by the stunt of Tony Peraica and his campaign, so why not try to trap a Democrat into the same thing?

Except for that pesky violation of private property. Most Republicans claim to have high regard for private property, and especially that used by small businesses. But Baumgartner's staff has repeatedly violated that high regard. Again, it's very easy to conclude that he's just a kid, trying to put on his big boy pants, or recognize that his campaign staff has never been involved in a campaign before. So can we really hold them to the same standard we hold others?

I buried the lede. It happens. The first I heard of this incident, which Senator Hutchinson took to the Chicago Heights police, was from a staffer who was concerned about Toi's personal safety. In front of witnesses, Toi was threatened. Now Toi, being Toi, shamed the young men who were there, noting that it isn't that easy for African-Americans to advance and why would they want to be a party to preventing that? When I was told this over the phone, I could hear her mommy voice kicking in. Toi, being Toi, was trying to help these young men understand the law, understand respect for private property and learn something from the incident.

In the end, this is really about political intimidation. I worked for Ronald Reagan (in two presidential runs) and we didn't pull this kind of crap. In fact, I was in the (staff) trailer at the Detroit convention when Reagan told his people that he was going to ask George Bush to be his vice president, and talked about the difficulty of 1976 and how he had held his head up high, nowing that he'd done the right thing.

Screwing around with yard signs, trying to intimidate opponents (or voters) isn't a Republican thing, it's a thuggish thing. Toi was right, Adam Baumgartner should be ashamed. Maybe, someday, he'll grow up. Maybe not. But he's chosen to be a thug, to associate with thugs and exploit thuggish behavior. That's not why he's going to lose today, but it is why he should lose...