Friday, December 15, 2017

Do Chicagoans want former cop as mayor? Could he learn from namesake?

It’s not surprising that former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy is peeved enough with Mayor Rahm Emanuel that he’d contemplate running against him come the 2019 municipal election cycle.

McCARTHY, G.: The future mayor?
As the Chicago Sun-Times has reported, McCarthy has gone so far as to hire a political strategist who theoretically would run his campaign – should he decide to seek the mayor’s office.

QUITE AMBITIOUS FOR a native New Yorker who came up through the NYPD ranks and eventually became the top cop in Newark, N.J., before his Chicago police stint from 2011-15.

Is Chicago anxious to give control of city government to a Noo Yawker? Are we ready to put someone originally from the Bronx (rather than the Sout’ Side) in the mayor’s Fifth floor suite of offices at City Hall?

It would seem that McCarthy thinks he can be the candidate of choice for all the people who are determined to “Dump Rahm” following two terms in office.

With the major offense being that it was under his watch the Chicago police became embroiled in the ongoing criminal proceedings against a police officer who allegedly fired 16 shots into a 17-year-old boy – ultimately killing him.

ACTUALLY, IT’S NOT really alleged that the officer now facing murder charges fired the shots. There’s police video (lacking accompanying audio) that clearly shows him firing the shots.

McCARTHY, T.: The failed politico
What’s questionable is the motivation for using force in subduing the 17-year-old. Defense attorneys for the officer have said they’re going to claim the lack of audio means the video has no context – and that the images by themselves are meaningless.

Not that any of this meant anything. When it became apparent nearly three years ago that this 2014 shooting wasn’t going to go away, Emanuel took the action of firing the police superintendent.

Meaning McCarthy had to go. He had to take the blame so as to save the mayor’s keister. Now McCarthy wants to return the favor by helping to deliver a blow to the mayor’s future political viability.

I QUESTION WHY anybody who wants to see Rahm Emanuel voted out of office because of this incident would want to have McCarthy as his replacement. I think Garry is the last person they’d consider voting for – and might well be enough to make them hold their noses pinched shut while casting a vote for Rahm’s re-election.
Can same political operatives drive Rahm Emanuel's rep ...

But McCarthy is likely to fight all-out. I find his choice of a political strategist interesting. It’s Joe Trippi, who most recently was working for the U.S. Senate campaign of Doug Jones of Alabama. Meaning he’s able to take credit for the campaign that caused the political downfall of Republican Roy Moore.

Does McCarthy think he can turn Rahm into as hated a politico as Moore – the former judge who liked to tout the 10 Commandments and other religious dogma, but now faces allegations of how he used to be attracted to teenage girls even though he was well into his 30s.

If that’s the case, the Chicago municipal elections that will come on the verge of the ugly brawl we’re going to face in 2018 for Illinois governor may become so vicious that the potential Rauner/Pritzker battle may come off as a few “love taps” by comparison. Because we all know if challenged, Rahm will fight back equally hard.

I HAVE TO admit that as I watch McCarthy’s preparatory actions, I’m reminded of the 1998 election cycle when Orland Park Police Chief Tim McCarthy (no relation) tried running for statewide office – specifically Illinois secretary of state.
... as low as that of Roy Moore in Ala.?

Tim McCarthy is the one-time Secret Service agent who actually wound up getting shot during a 1981 assassination attempt on then-President Ronald Reagan. He had hopes that memories of that moment could build up enough good will toward him that he could win office despite never having held a political post.

But Tim McCarthy became pushy and his backers wound up leading an effort against would-be opponent Penny Severns to get her kicked off the ballot – thinking he could clear the path for his own election. Even the Democratic operatives who liked the idea of feeding off a bit of Reagan love for their own benefit quickly turned on him – and we wound up getting Jesse White in the post. One he continues to hold to this day.

Is Garry McCarthy going to make the same mistake of getting too pushy? Perhaps he ought to learn from the actions of Tim McCarthy, who has never run for office since his ’98 bid and remains a beloved police chief in his Chicago suburb.

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

EXTRA: School district consolidation? Those are fightin’ words to many!

Republican gubernatorial challenger Jeanne Ives, the state senator from Wheaton, is most likely trying to appeal to people from mid-sized communities that think they’re the ideal we all ought to follow, and that Chicago is just too damned big on so many levels.
IVES: Ed talk not thoroughly thought out

But I wonder if Ives has any idea how many people she’s going to tick off across Illinois with her latest talk about how school districts should be consolidated.

THE DAILY HERALD suburban newspaper reported how Ives said this week that we have too many school districts. She wants communities to merge their elementary and high school districts into one unit, and for those school districts in rural communities with the tiny graduating classes to consider merging into one with other area entities.

Meanwhile, she’s spouting off a routine claim about the Chicago Public Schools – it’s too big. It ought to be broken up into several smaller school districts.

What it basically amounts to is that Ives has the vision based off what exists in her home community that she thinks everybody in the state of Illinois ought to be obligated to follow.

Which is odd since one of the mantras of Republican dogma is the idea of local control. Local people know best what works for their communities.

SHE DOESN’T SEEM to be a strong believer in such ideals, if she’s really talking about this.

Because the reality for many of those rural communities that have tiny school districts because the overall population is small is that the school district often is the pride of the community, Something they tout as a sign of their individuality and independence.

Does Ives really want to be the candidate who tells certain communities they’re not important enough to have their own school district? Not if she really expects to get the votes of all those rural residents who are disgusted with the performance of Gov. Bruce Rauner!

As for Chicago, wanting to tamper with the Public Schools’ overall structure is just the usual nonsense-talk from someone who thinks they can undermine the schools’ influence by breaking it down further.

I’D EXPECT THAT schools officials across Illinois will now look skeptically at Ives’ candidacy for governor. She’s the one who would threaten to put many of them out-of-work.

It would be similar to those people who think that across the Chicago suburbs, there’s really no need for every single municipality to have its own police department. Let the county sheriff have authority over those communities.

Yet for a lot of suburban public officials, the one bit of significant authority they have is being able to hire (and fire) their own police chief. That’s something they would resist vociferously.

I suspect that a schools’ structure brawl has the potential to create an equal stink. One that I’m sure the Ives campaign would regret bringing upon itself should the issue actually catch on.

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I’m sure Van Dyke feels picked upon by reporter-type he wanted to silence

I felt a touch of relief when I learned Wednesday that a Cook County judge tossed out a subpoena that would have forced a freelance writer to get into the inner workings of how he learned the details that make us think Chicago cop Jason Van Dyke used excessive force in the 2014 shooting death of a 17-year-old.

VAN DYKE: Wants people to quit talking
For it was clear that the only reason for dragging reporter-type Jamie Kalvan into the criminal proceedings involving Van Dyke and the death of Laquan McDonald was to harass.

TO PICK AT a reporter-type for butting into something the police mentality would think was none of his business to look into. And to perhaps get the reporting process tangled up in so much legalese that when a jury someday does have to sift through the evidence presented in a trial, it will be so confused that it can’t decide anything beyond a reasonable doubt and will have to go with “not guilty.”

Meaning that getting sidetracked off on only marginally-related issues has little to nothing to do with getting at “the truth.”

It was good to learn that Judge Vincent Gaughan (who once presided over the trial of R. Kelly) saw things similarly; issuing a written explanation of his ruling to toss the subpoena for Kalvan’s testimony on the grounds it would be a “fishing expedition” to try to produce “information that the timeline of events, discovery documents and testimony suggest simply does not exist.”

Now in my own time as a reporter-type, I’ll admit to never having been called upon to appear in court.

ALTHOUGH I ONCE did have to give a deposition in a lawsuit filed by a woman who had lost her municipal government job. She was suing for damages, claiming city officials went out of their way to single her out for abuse.

I recall that deposition as being one in which I was asked to recall every petty action and insult that might have ever been directed her way in my presence.

Which was difficult because most of the stuff was so petty and minor I had long forgotten about the details. It was the kind of petty trivia I made a point of forgetting so as to avoid clogging my brain with stupid stuff. I have enough significant detail to remember without the trivia overflowing my mental capacity.

Besides, like many other reporter-types, my view is that anything relevant to a story I report actually goes into the copy I write.

JUST AS I’M presuming Kalvan has done the same with his own stories. My own self-interest would say that my stories could be offered up as evidence.

Of course, defense attorney-types want someone they can have answer back to them, and get caught up in double-talk. Then again, prosecutors will do the same; if it benefits their case.

The legal process is most concerned with coming up with a “guilty” verdict – with “not guilty” being the end result if guilt cannot be proven beyond that shadow of reasonable doubt.

This is an ongoing criminal case involving Van Dyke, who’s going to have to show that the 16 shots he fired at McDonald were not excessive and that the teen male truly was a serious threat who had to be “put down,” so to speak.

I DON’T DOUBT Van Dyke will do whatever he feels necessary to prevent his reputation from permanent damage – although it’s most likely that even an acquittal would not clear him in the minds of a certain segment of society.

The ones for whom only a conviction will assuage their anger.

In short, this is a very serious issue with significant life consequences to many people.

Seeing that the case will get bogged down in just a bit less trivia by refusing to turn the case into a legal proceeding about reportorial process may be the first step to thinking the courts may someday get at “the truth” about why Van Dyke acted the way he did toward McDonald.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Should “Happy Hanukkah” be used as weapon against those who assault us with hostile holiday greetings?

Whenever I encounter one of those types of people who insists on using “Merry Christmas!” as a form of cultural intimidation, there’s a part of me that is tempted to turn to my step-mother for a retort.
Chicago's public menorah from five years ago can create split reactions, regardless of its actual intent. Photos by Gregory Tejeda
As in every “Merry Christmas” I hear coming from someone who is inclined to take Donald Trump’s “War on Christmas” rants seriously, I’d respond with a fake cheery “Happy Hanukkah!”

I DON’T ACTUALLY do that in part because it strikes me as tacky to use my step-mother’s religious faith to score political partisan points against the nitwits of our society. It would make me no better than those who want to use “Merry Christmas” as a weapon.

I bring this up because the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah actually began Tuesday night and will continue into next week.

And with my step-mother being Jewish (my father is a late-life convert), it means the time of year to recall the survival of the Maccabees in the face of elements of society that would just as soon have seen them exterminated is once again upon us.

Now in my own family, the little kids are growing up. So there’s not as much pressure any more to indulge my nieces and nephews with lots of presents so that they don’t feel cheated compared to their school friends for whom Christmas is the thing!
Do people notice holiday decorations when passing through the airport en route to a sunnier locale?
IN FACT, IN my parents’ household, most of the eight days will be marked with the lighting of the candles, a prayer in Hebrew, and little else.

There will be one night of various relatives coming over to the household for something of a party – whose primary purpose it will seem like is consuming the potato pancakes referred to as latkes.
Gary, Ind., govt. brightens their chambers

Much of this, I’ll admit, is lost on me. I was baptized many decades ago by a Catholic priest and personally haven’t felt any need to change.

But that isn’t held against me. I’m likely to be included in any celebration as we recall the old story of how a Godly miracle enabled the Maccabees’ oil intended to last one night actually kept their lamps lit for eight nights.

THE REASON WHY the menorahs include eight branches in their candelabrums – and why a fully-lit menorah has the potential to be a fire hazard if the celebrants get too clumsy.

All of which has just enough of a solemn effect on me to refuse to use “Happy Hanukkah” as a retort to the less-than-solemn “Merry Christmas” talk I have heard in recent days. I’d like to think I’m better than those people who want to turn the Christmas holiday and the birth of Christ that it celebrates into a weapon touting the omnipresent existence of Trump that they’d like to impose on our society.

Because I know it would be the perfect retort in that it would force those ideologues whose use of religious symbolism to tout their beliefs borders on being as offensive as the Ku Klux Klan’s uses of the cross to tout their own racist rants to have to acknowledge that theirs is NOT the only holiday in this winter season.

While I’ll be the first to admit that some of the efforts to equate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa (don’t forget the “aa” at the end) and whatever other festival one can dream up do become absurd, I’ve never felt the need to tout my own thoughts over everybody else’s.

LARGELY BECAUSE I have viewed much of religious-inspired thought as a personal one. It is something we ought to be celebrating internally.

There’s nothing wrong with sharing. But feeling the need to force one’s thoughts or celebration on others just seems wrong.

Just as it can be confusing at times when someone feels the need to say “Merry Christmas” to every single person they encounter. Are they just overly cheerful? Or are they making a politically-partisan statement that requires a retort?

Quite honestly, I resent having to try to interpret every holiday greeting to figure out if the call for sharing and celebration is more intended as an excuse to act as society’s religious-motivated bullies.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

How some can rationalize anything to benefit their own political partisanship

We as a society are going to learn something about ourselves Tuesday, regardless of the outcome of the special election in Alabama to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy from that state.
MOORE: Will one-time 22 point leader prevail?

That, of course, is the one in which Republican Roy Moore (a one-time judge of right wing sensibilities) ought to be the favorite to win. Yet the disclosures of Moore’s past attractions to teenage girls extending well into his adult years have some wondering/hoping/praying that Democrat Doug Jones can prevail.

WHICH WOULD HELP Dems extend their efforts to undermine the amount of Congressional support President Donald J. Trump can count on for his goofy whims of political fantasy.

Trump is fully aware of that, which is the reason why he has publicly endorsed Moore – saying the need to keep a congressional seat Republican is more important than any repulsion that one may feel toward Moore’s attraction to a 14-year-old girl back when he was 32 (he’s now 70).

Just as “the whole world is watching” back in 1968 when protests in Chicago became violent due to police behavior, the world will be watching Alabama on this day to see whether the political party that usually likes to think of itself as overly moral (it’s not, but that’s a debate for a future day) will back someone who, if he’d been caught at the time, could have faced statutory rape charges.

Considering he was an assistant district attorney in his home county at the time, that would have made it particularly repulsive. Moore ought to have comprehended the law well enough to know better.

WE’RE GOING TO see how intense political partisanship is over any true sense of morals amongst the portion of our society that lives in Alabama.

As it stands, the Birmingham News reported Monday on two polls – both of which show Moore with solid leads. A Trafalgar Group report shows 51 percent of people planning to or leaning toward voting for Moore, compared to 46 percent siding with Jones.

JONES: Can former KKK prosecutor overcome?
Another poll by Gravis Marketing showed 49 percent for Moore compared to 45 percent for Jones.

We’ll know by the end of Tuesday how close these polls are to reality, particularly since the ideologues most likely to put partisanship ahead of morals are more willing to cite a new poll done for the Fox News Channel – one that shows Jones leading Moore 50 percent to 40 percent. Which strikes me as a large number of undecideds still; and whose intent most likely is to scare right-wingers into turning out to vote for Moore!

MY OWN EXPERIENCE in watching government and politics is that every now and then, public officials and voters surprise us by doing the right thing. Putting aside their own personal interest and doing what is for the good of the people.

But those moments truly are rare and come as a surprise. So I’m not about to predict how Moore will do in Tuesday’s vote down in the Cotton State. As much as I’d like to think Alabamans would like to put an end to the number of nasty stories about how intolerant their region of the nation is, I’m sure some will be more than willing to add to it by giving Moore an electoral victory.

Now some in Washington, D.C., have said they consider Moore to be unfit to serve in Congress. Perhaps that has some thinking that even if Moore wins, he’ll be rejected and this vote is about deciding which political party will get to pick his replacement.

Although I’d argue that continuing to back someone like Moore (who with all the right-wing nonsense he’s spewed throughout the years was unfit for office even before all the stories about young girls started cropping up) shows Republican leadership in Alabama is unfit to have any say on the issue.

OTHERS, I’M SURE, have their own odd rationalizations. Such as one I read in a public comments section of the Birmingham News.
Are Alabamans eager to add to list of absurdities built up during Civil Rights era?
One reader says everybody needs to vote for Moore because a vote for a Democrat is just too harmful to our societal morals. “Pedophilia will be legal if Democrats have their way! It will become a Civil Right and be protected by Title IX,” one wrote.

Now if one looks up the definition of pedophilia, one learns that it relates to people who have sexual attraction to children 12 and under. Which means that for them, Moore’s okay because his attraction was to girls 14 and up. He's in the clear, morally!

That’s quite a rationalization some are willing to make just to win an election with an unfit official. One whose stain will be smeared over the nation as a whole if he prevails on Tuesday.

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Monday, December 11, 2017

Reminiscences of childhood, and how bad Chicago baseball once was

The Baseball Hall of Fame’s veterans committee gave its consideration Sunday to ballplayers from the 1970s-80s who deserve a second glance at membership, and hearing of the nine ballplayers under consideration brought back one depressing memory.
White Sox traded Hall of Fame possibility ...

Chicago baseball was pretty putrid back when I was a kid. I was 14 back in 1979 when the Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series to the tune of Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family.” It was a wonder I didn’t get turned off on the game by the mediocre-to-lousy teams that existed back in those decades.
... for the decade's best Chicago ballplayer

PARTICULARLY THE 1970s, when the Cubs had sort-of decent teams in 1970-71, while the White Sox had a near championship in 1972. Both teams were respectable enough in 1977 that I still remember the dreams that the year of “Saturday Night Fever” and “Star Wars” would be the year of an all-Chicago World Series.

Of course, it didn’t happen. It was a possibility in 2008 when both ball clubs won division titles, but then both got knocked out in the first round.
Did Garvey cost Cubs '84 championship?

Otherwise, the decade was pretty dreary -- with the year of the Bicentennial possibly being the worst. While the rest of the nation was celebrating 200 years of the United States, and the National League hit its own 100th anniversary, 1976 was dreadful in Chicago – even though future Hall of Famers Rich Gossage and Bruce Sutter played here that season.

The Cubs had a losing record of 75 wins, 87 losses, with both the St. Louis Cardinals and Montreal Expos worse. While the White Sox were 64 wins, 97 losses. Dead last in their division.
Too good to play in Chicago back then?

LOOKING AT THE ballplayers who were under review Sunday for the Hall of Fame -- with two, Alan Trammell and Jack Morris of the Detroit Tigers -- explains the situation perfectly.

None of the nine had a strong connection to a Chicago ballclub. Only Tommy John pitched for the White Sox back in the 1960s, and by the early 1970s was one of the ballplayers they sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers to get Dick Allen – the American League MVP for 1972 who nearly single-handedly led the White Sox to a championship dream that year.
Thwarted White Sox '84 chances?

If anything, the other Hall of Fame considerees were ballplayers who created local memories of beating up on our ball clubs.

How many Cubs fans are still bitter about how an aging Steve Garvey, later in his ballplaying career in 1984, got some of the big hits that led the San Diego Padres to a National League championship over the Cubs in the playoffs that year.

HE MIGHT NOT be public enemy number One like Tim Flannery (who got that base hit beneath the glove of Cubs first baseman Leon Durham that was a premonition of former Cub Bill Buckner’s game-losing error against the Boston Red Sox two years later in the World Series).
One of baseball's most unique pitchers

Or the Detroit stars like shortstop Trammell and pitcher Morris – who led the 1984 Tigers team to 104 wins and a World Series title. One that squashed all over the White Sox dreams for that year.

After all, the White Sox won a division title and went to the playoffs in 1983, only to fall short to the Baltimore Orioles (remember Jerry Dybzinski?). But they thought the acquisition of future Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver would be the key to put them over the top.
Future Hall of Famers Gossage ...

Instead, they fell short of Detroit, and the South Side had to wait another 21 years before finally getting a World Series victory.

AS FOR THE rest of the considerees, Dale Murphy of the Atlanta Braves, Dave Parker of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Ted Simmons of the St. Louis Cardinals were among those who gave Cubs fans bad on-field memories – although many of those fans learned to take their pleasure from having all-day games and a chance to play hooky from work or school.
... and Sutter didn't rise quality of ball clubs

While Don Mattingly of the New York Yankees and Luis Tiant of the Boston Red Sox did more than their share to tick off the boo-birds throughout the years at Comiskey Park because of the way they beat up on White Sox pitchers like Britt Burns or hitters like Bill Nahorodny.

All of those players give me memories (Tiant’s herky-jerky windup when pitching was unlike any others, while I’ll never forget Parker’s throw from deep right field to home plate during the 1979 All Star Game that nailed former White Sox catcher Brian Downing) not necessarily tied to the Second City.
Which means that those of us who came of age during the 1970s and remember how bad baseball here used to be (along with first-hand memories of Disco Demolition from '79) were probably the ones who most appreciated that 2005 White Sox’ World Series win – or even the 2016 title that the Cubs managed to bring back to Chicago.

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Saturday, December 9, 2017

Does Kennedy have right to make same ol’ accusations against Joe Berrios?

I comprehend why Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Chris Kennedy feels compelled to do something to jump-start his campaign this electoral cycle.

KENNEDY: Will he gain from Berrios bashing?
The man who early on was supposed to be the one legitimate challenger to J.B. Pritzker and his millions is fizzling out to the point where he maybe as much a fringe candidate as Daniel Biss – who likely will win the vote in his home suburb of Evanston but will be unknown elsewhere in Illinois.

HE NEEDS TO do something drastic to draw attention to himself, although perhaps not as drastic as 2008 presidential hopeful John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate. That was just politically suicidal.

Although I’m wondering if Kennedy’s attempt at an attention-grabber this week is going to have a similar backfiring effect – did the man who can claim a senator for a father and a president and senator as uncles come across as some out-of-town goof who has the nerve to criticize our local political people?

I wonder if Kennedy’s attempt to call for the resignation of Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios will offend the local types who would figure this Kennedy kid (who has never held elective office before) ought to mind his own business.

Even though, to be honest, the accusations he made against Berrios are the same exact bad things that many local people say about Joe – he operates his office that assesses property tax rates for the benefit of people who make prominent financial donations to Democratic candidates. Oh yeah, he also stocks his government payroll with every relative and political friend he can find.
BERRIOS: Always under fire politically

KENNEDY, AFTER ALL, is a Boston-born type who was raised in the suburbs of the District of Columbia. He’s not native Midwestern by any means, let alone a life-long Chicagoan.

He did eventually get an MBA from Northwestern University, but his local tie is because of the fact the Kennedy family for many years owned the Merchandise Mart property. The family has since sold it, but during the time in the 1990s and 2000s that they owned it, Chris Kennedy was the family member they sent to Chicago to run it for them.

During those years, Chris Kennedy became the Chicago connection to the Kennedy political family and also a fairly solid financial contributor to our local politicos. He often talked about running for higher office himself, but always managed to find excuses for which to drop out.
MADIGAN: Will he back Berrios?

Giving some the impression of a political dreamer who doesn’t actually have the nerve to put his own name on the ballot for voter scrutiny.

HECK, THERE ARE some people who are still convinced he’ll find a reason to drop out of this election cycle – even though by filing nominating petitions, he’s already carried out more of a campaign than he’s ever done previously.

The point is I can envision local politically-interested types who will agree with Kennedy’s comments about Berrios running a “racket” in the way property values are assessed in Cook County. But perhaps by being a candidate for governor, it is questionable whether he’s the one who should be saying such things.

For the record, Kennedy responded to a report by the ProPublica.com study of the assessor’s office (which the Chicago Tribune says it will publish in the Sunday paper whose early editions will be for sale come Saturday) by issuing a critical statement.

“Berrios has used the property tax system that is defunding our public schools, defunding our social safety net, and defunding efforts to end gun violence as means to keep the political machine in power and enrich the entitled, politically connected few at everyone’s expense,” Kennedy said.

THOSE ARE FIGHTIN’ words, to some. Particularly to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, who in his day job as a tax attorney downtown often gets his name dragged into any criticism of Berrios.
BISS: Has he become stronger fringe candidate?

After all, it is likely that Madigan’s support is the reason Berrios has been able to survive years of similar criticisms from local people. Now instead of inspiring Berrios critics to support him, Kennedy may have merely offended the powers-that-be (most of whom already are lining up behind Pritzker’s campaign) to make a special point of defeating him come the March 20 primary.

That is, if they don’t get all politically vindictive and try to have him knocked off the ballot before that date.

Because in the end, Chris Kennedy may well have a legitimate point to make. But he may not be strong-enough politically to be the one to make it.

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