Monday, February 23, 2009

“Childish brawl” campaign TV spot not worthy of legitimate Congressional bid

Insofar as political minutia is concerned, the Congressional bid of state Rep. John Fritchey, D-Chicago, has achieved something “significant” – it may have come up with the most memorable television spot for Campaign ’09.

Fritchey, who wants to replace Rahm Emanuel in representing the Northwest Side in Congress, has come up with what may be the most memorable television spot for Campaign ’09.

BUT IF THAT is the only thing one can say for Fritchey (who wants to replace Rahm Emanuel in representing the Northwest Side in Congress), that could become the reason he does not prevail in the special Democratic primary to be held next week.

For those of you who have watched Chicago-area television, you know what campaign ad I’m referring to.

It’s the one with two children yelling and screaming at each other, only to have Fritchey play the part of the responsible adult who tells the two to knock it off and quit acting like children.

Of course, those children are supposed to be portraying Fritchey’s most significant Democratic opponents – state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, and Cook County Board member Mike Quigley.

SO FRITCHEY KICKED off the broadcast portion of his congressional campaign by going on the attack against the two. He could have done something more positive, but decided it was more important to try to take his opponents down a notch or two.

Forget about emphasizing that he has some fairly significant endorsements thus far.

Although this ad ends with a graphic letting us know Fritchey is the Congressional preference of the Independent Voters of Illinois, the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO, it nearly gets lost in the shuffle of seeing two children scream and poke at each other.

I could understand Fritchey downplaying those endorsements if the Republican Party were strong enough to put up a serious candidate in the April 7 general election. But they’re not, so his support from factions of organized labor is not going to come back and bite him in the behind a month from now.

SERIOUSLY, IT IS bizarre to hear kids scream at each other over which one is more venal – the one who has worked with Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, or now-impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

It is even more odd to see the time and trouble that someone went to in order to do up the girl in the advertising spot with a hairdo nearly identical to the way Feigenholtz wears her own mane.

But the fact that Fritchey hired people and spent significant money (roughly $175,000) to go to such detail to prepare an attack ad that will air until Monday strikes me as vapid. It makes me all the more glad I no longer live in this Congressional district (as I did for one summer about 25 years ago) so I won’t have to pick between the two dozen or so mopes who want to move politically “up and out” to Capitol Hill.

I suppose those people who specialize in running electoral campaigns will tell me that I am underestimating this television spot. After all, it is the one spot of this year’s election cycle that sticks in my mind. It inspired me enough to feel the need to write a commentary on the matter.

IT’S NOT LIKE I noted anything memorable about the Feigenholtz television spot that promotes her interest in healthcare issues, or her mother’s experience practicing medicine in the immigrant neighborhoods of 20th Century Chicago.

It has planted the name “Fritchey” in my brain as ranking (in this one category) above all the others. I suppose for some people, when they walk into that polling place on March 3, this advertisement could be the factor that causes them to decide who to vote for.

Yet I can’t help but think that this trivial campaign spot will turn off as many voters as it turns on.

How many people will think (as I do) that it is pompous of Fritchey to appear in the ad, quoting President Barack Obama of all people, in saying, “it’s time to put aside childish things.”

AS SOME POLITICAL observers have noted, the “charges” in the ad that the boy playing Quigley makes against the girl playing Feigenholtz are not allegations put forth by the real Quigley. They’re really Fritchey’s talking points for the campaign trail.

Hence, Feigenholtz becomes the woman who tried to work with Blagojevich and former Gov. George Ryan (even though any state legislator is going to have to work with an incumbent governor to some degree), and Quigley is the guy who’s too chummy with Stroger (although what kind of county board member would Quigley be if there wasn’t some connection).

Of course, things could be worse this campaign season.

We could have more candidates in this race with big-enough campaign funds to pay for television airtime. We could be inundated with spots, although some of the lesser candidates have tried to prepare video segments that can be seen only on the Internet.

OR, WE COULD have some of the other elections for municipal office believing that they wee worthy of political television. Anyone who has been watching Campaign ’09 as a whole knows that two of the nastiest electoral situations have taken place in south suburban Calumet City and west suburban Cicero.

Incumbent officials tried to use their local electoral boards to kick any potential challengers off the ballot – thereby making Tuesday a routine primary election in those two municipalities. Ballots for Tuesday’s elections wound up having to be decided by the courts, and weren’t settled until last week.

They failed in Cicero (Mayor Larry Dominick will face a challenger), but were successful in Calumet City (Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush got rid of her opposition, and will have significant advantages against them when they try to run write-in campaigns, both on Tuesday and on April 7).

Just think if these nasty brawls had worked their way onto our television screens? We’d have had to have a moratorium on television watching through early April.

-30-

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