The Dan Hynes-Pat Quinn race for the Democratic Gubernatorial nomination produced one of the most interesting communications stories of the 2010 primary race.
By now, we’re all familiar with the Hynes’ Campaign ad showing Harold Washington discuss his regret hiring Pat Quinn in the 1980’s, pointing to Quinn’s incompetence.
The message was pretty hard to argue with – coming straight from Democratic and progressive icon Harold Washington’s mouth that Pat Quinn is unqualified to handle budgetary matters. At first, it helped to bring Hynes up in the polls with Quinn.
But then something remarkable happened. To the Quinn campaign’s credit, the Governor was able to turn the Washington ad into an issue of race and M achine politics where Dan Hynes and the Hynes family stood on the wrong side of that debate. This was a good and pretty predictable response from the Quinn camp.
The Hynes response to this was deeply flawed. Hynes could have distanced himself from the Quinn attacks, stating his father’s politics was ancient history and that his father was not running against Pat Quinn. He could have voiced disagreement with the race wars of the 1980’s and Tom Hynes’ role.
Instead, Hynes fell off message, defending his father and allowing Quinn to shift the conversation that previously focused on job performance to a much more emotionally-charged issue of race. There was no doubt that Quinn worked for progressive candidates and causes and he was able to use the Hynes attack to his advantage to demonstrate solidarity with minorities and middle class voters. The message completely escaped Hynes.
The timing of course was critical. This all took place a few weeks before Election Day. Leading in to this period, a candidate wants to be focused on their message. The Hynes defensiveness was very costly communications hiccup.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-9) announced today that she is forgoing a run for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Obama, now occupied by the blighted Roland Burris. In a video announcement she told viewers she would stick with House seat and continue serving the various leadership positions she reeled off. Showing great humility, Rep. Schakowsky even said that she would have no problem raising close to $30 million she thinks it would take to win the primary and the general election for the Senate seat.
Given that Schakowsky is now out of the race, Ramsin Canon at Gapers Block points out this leaves State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (and his Bright Start mess) as the only Democrat who has decided to run. Chris Kennedy of the Merchandise Mart is the other big Dem still left undecided.
Schakowsky’s entrance in the Senate race would have caused a ripple effect impacting so many elections. No doubt a host of names, possibly various state reps and state senators, would have stepped up for the 9th District seat. Those elected officials who would have subsequently thrown their hat in the ring would see various candidates or other local elected officials bid for their state seats, and so on. Clearly, Schakowsky’s decision not to run for Senate saved a lot of election activity.
But is that a good thing? Schakowsky has served for 10 years in her seat and her predecessor served 48 years in that seat. I question whether it is keeping with progressive values for one person to dominate a single elected congressional seat for so long. Nobody will challenge, let alone defeat Schakowsky, as long as she stays continues to serve and run for that seat.
Maybe it would have been a good thing if Schakowsky tried her luck for the US Senate. Here in state politics, the Illinois Reform Commission has put forth a proposal on term limits. That was largely rejected by Illinois state leaders. But many in Illinois support the commission’s position that term limits are a good thing for a health democracy.
Progressivism, which I’ve discussed before and which is a term I believe has been hijacked from its original meaning, is something that Schakowsky has self-annointed. True progressivism is a belief in accelerated change and more direct democracy. But with one person serving in a seat for so long, that reality seems at odds with progressive values.
West Side Alderman Ike Carothers and a local real estate developer were indicted today by US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. Carothers is accused of receiving $40,000 worth of home improvements from developer Calvin Boender in exchange for Carothers re-zoning an area in his ward that netted Boender $3 million.
There seems to be two stories happening here. One, is that Patrick Fitzgerald seems to be Illinois’ savior when it comes to rooting out the Illinois’ cancerous corrupt politicians. Carothers is just the latest in a string of high-profile indictments. And unlike other US Attorneys, Fitzgerald is not aiming at well-known figures to inflate his own ego. As Springfield bargains and waters down real political reform measures this week before its recess, Fitzgerald is running past our legislature to fight corruption.
Second, Carothers gained much notoriety when he made it his mission to skewer then-recently appointed Police Chief Jodi Weiss. Weiss was no doubt humiliated and many could say that Carothers’ attack could also be interpreted as an attack on Mayor Daley, who appointed Weiss. As Daley now faces his own criticisms about less than transparent practices regarding parking meters and Midway Airport leasing, the Carothers indictment can viewed as somewhat as a vindication for the Mayor. After all, when the Mayor’s critics get that kind of attention and embarrassment for their own corrupt practices, certainly the heat shifts away from their political targets.
Watching the drama unfold at the Cook County Board yesterday was like watching a bad, predictable sitcom.
County President Todd Stroger wasted no time in stooping to the lowest common denominator. He diverted attention away from the sales tax hike by making yesterday’s a vote a referendum on North Side v. South Side, black v. white, rich v. poor, the haves vs. have-nots, etc.
Not that Stroger received overwhelming support – 11 of 17 commissioners voted to overturn the tax increase. But, his framing of the issue was enough to win the day. I guess Commissioner Debora Simms quoted as saying, “this is about the haves vs. have nots” (she representing the “have nots”) does not offend her constituents. Ironicaly, her very rallying cry to support the tax is a slap in the face to the people in her own district!
That aside, it’s important here to see how powerful fear drives policy. Stroger’s doomsday rhetoric of what the county would look like without the tax helped push him over the edge with a key vote or two, including Commissioner Mario Moreno, who switched his vote twice. By invoking fear, Stroger forced key votes by commissioners who did not want to appear responsible for the likely attack by tax supporters that the county healthcare system would suffer.
Well, the same sort of scare tactics are working in Springfield, albeit in a different way. Governor Pat Quinn has laid out his doomsday scenario for Illinois’ budget. In all fairness, Illinois’ fiscal situation is much more dire than the County’s.
However, it seems to work. When Quinn first talked of raising state income taxes by 50 percent, he was met with a chorus of opposition. Fast forward several weeks later and talk about all the state services ceasing if the state can’t raise revenue is not provoking legislators to speak up quite as loudly. Whether there is no room to cut the budget at the state level or not, there simply has been no alternative to Quinn’s ideas presented in a serious way.
Fear is winning the day.
It seems the odds are stacked against Todd Stroger to win re-election. The litany of antics and policy that has incensed Cook County voters, such as the sales tax increase and the nepotistic hiring practices, would all seem to suggest voters are fed up.
Stroger’s chances seem so dim that even the racially-motivated voting patterns of the city do not seem to line up in favor with Todd Stroger, considering that Alderman Toni Preckwinkle (an African American representing the Hyde Park neighborhood) has announced her intention to run for the County Board presidency. Russ Stewart highlights the ins and outs of how voting will potentially break down in the 2010 election for board president.
How could Stroger be competitive given the popular misgivings about his taxation and governance policies and the regular media thrashing he receives?
Well, Stroger may be competitive if he plays his message correctly. One thing we know for sure is that Stroger is not below playing to voters’ sympathy for poor Todd. He regularly blames the media for unfairly attacking him and making him the scapegoat for all the County and City’s problems. That carries some weight considering the regular lambastings he receives from the major dailies.
Plus, I doubt that Stroger is unaware that he was elected with sympathy running high for his father’s illness during the 2006 election that helped Todd’s victory.
I will predict that Stroger plays both the sympathy and the race card very hard. Those are the two strengths of his message because his record certainly hardly appeals to anyone. He will use his staffer who liases with churches to work the African American church-going community, he will rely on traditional Stroger African American strongholds and he will pit Toni Preckwinkle as not representing the concerns of the African American community.
Plus, he actually has a chance to gain sympathy from voters because the media is, and will continue to be, relentess in their criticism of Todd. That will be plain to voters and Todd will try to play on those emotions.
In the end, he should fall short to Forrest Claypool as Russ Stewart predicts. But, he will put up a stronger fight than most predict.