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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Russ Stewart talks about the State's Attorney race

Right now there must not be a clear front runner. So it looks like the odds are about equal and the one who works the hardest will break out of the pack. Or so I can think. From the column...
For Northwest Side Alderman Tom Allen (38th), who is seeking the Democratic nomination for Cook County state's attorney in the Feb. 5 primary, the recent Democratic slatemaking session sent mixed signals about his viability.

The bad news is that he was not slated. Hence, he will not have the automatic backing of committeemen allied with Mayor Rich Daley. The good news is that nobody was slated, and the 50 Chicago ward Democratic organizations and 30 suburban township organizations can endorse whomever they wish.

The bad news is that Allen, who has been an alderman since 1993, is not a ward committeeman, is largely unknown among white city committeemen outside the Northwest Side, and is totally unknown among black and suburban committeemen. Allen must spend the next 4 months trekking from precinct captain meeting to precinct captain meeting, making his pitch. The good news is that his principal white foe, county Commissioner Larry Suffredin, whose political base is in Evanston and Skokie, is equally obscure, and the principal black contender, Alderman Howard Brookins (21st), is not viewed enthusiastically by black committeemen.

The bad news is that Allen lacks gravitas as a candidate. He can't claim to have a lifetime of experience in putting crooks behind bars. The good news is that neither can Suffredin nor Brookins. But expect the newspapers to endorse Suffredin, viewed as the "reform" candidate.

The bad news is that if a slated Democrat in a countywide primary is not assured of victory, what chance does a nonslated regular Democrat have? In 2000 Alderman Pat Levar (45th) was slated for clerk of the circuit court. His campaign was orchestrated by the late Tom Lyons, who was the county Democratic chairman and a close Daley ally. Levar lost badly to a black independent candidate, Dorothy Brown.

But the really bad news is that having a political base on the Northwest Side, which consists of 10 wards, pales by comparison to having a political base in the predominantly black wards or among Lakefront and North Shore liberals. To win a county primary, Allen has to win upwards of 75 percent of the vote in the Northwest Side and Southwest Side white ethnic wards, 60 percent of the suburban vote, half of the Lakefront vote and 10 percent of the black vote. That's just not going to happen.

At the Sept. 6 slatemaking, Allen got 90,861 weighted votes, or 33.6 percent of the 270,162 votes cast by the 80 committeemen. His support came from the white ethnic wards. Brookins got 107,904 weighted votes, or 39.9 percent of the total, all from black committeemen, and Suffredin got 66,522, or 24.4 percent, primarily from north suburban and Lakefront committeemen. A fourth candidate, assistant state's attorney Anita Alvarez, got 4,875 votes.

The primary, featuring Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in the presidential contest, will engender a huge turnout. Turnout in 2000 was 573,012 in Cook County, with 148,370 in the suburbs and 424,642 in Chicago. In 2004, when Obama was embroiled in a U.S. Senate primary, turnout zoomed to 764,163, with 279,538 in the suburbs and 484,625 in Chicago. Expect the 2008 turnout to equal or exceed that of 2004.
How might Ald. Howard Brookins fare in the primary next year...
In 2008, aided by a huge black turnout, Brookins will get 90 percent of the vote among blacks. Even though he has desultory support from the Daley-allied black committeemen, black voters will flock to Brookins once they focus on the race and realize that an African American could become state's attorney for the first time in history. But Brookins will be lucky to get 50,000 votes in the white and Hispanic areas.
The prediction...
Brookins will win if Suffredin and Allen split the white vote and Brookins gets 15 to 20 percent of the white liberal vote. Suffredin could win if Allen tanks like Levar. It's hard to imagine any scenario in which Allen wins.
The rest of the column goes into what happens if you decide that you can't make it to a slatemaking meeting. If you're running for office and you want to be slated (that is have the support of your local political organization) you might need to schedule a vacation at another time. This is about another race but here's a case in point...
Metropolitan Water Reclamation District: Smith faces stiff competition for the dunce cap from water district Commissioner Cynthia Santos, who has served since 1996. Santos was on vacation on Sept. 6. To use the phrase from the 2006 governor's race: What was she thinking? As a result, incumbent commissioners Kathy Meany and M. Frank Avila were reslated, and Dean Maragos was slated. Now Santos must circulate petitions and collect 15,000 signatures -- a job which the committeemen will do for the Meany-Avila-Maragos ticket.

Santos and her husband, state Representative Rich Bradley (D-40), probably can start contemplating a permanent vacation. Bradley is facing a tough primary against Deborah Mell, the daughter of Alderman Dick Mell (33rd). Both will be jobless after 2008.
What was she thinking?

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