Wednesday, December 4, 2013

From prison to electoral politics?

The upcoming election cycle may wind up showing just how sympathetic the electorate is to the idea of someone with a criminal record being able to get back into the game of government.

SANCHEZ: Wants back in to politics
The process of people getting themselves on the ballot for the March 18 primary elections ended Monday. Nominating petitions were required by the close of business that day.

LOOKING THROUGH THE list of people with political dreams, at least three people with criminal records and stints in prison want to get back into politics.

Two of them – Al Sanchez and Isaac “Ike” Carothers – want to serve on the Cook County Board. While Kenneth Williams (not the one-time Chicago White Sox general manager) wants to serve in the Illinois House of Representatives.

Sanchez is the former Streets and Sanitation commissioner whose simultaneous control of the old Hispanic Democratic Organization resulted in him committing acts (that were supposedly done in the name of advancing Latino political empowerment) that wound up putting him in federal prison for a stint.

Carothers is a former alderman who lost his City Council seat when he pleaded guilty to bribery and tax fraud charges. He, too, wound up doing prison time.

WHILE WILLIAMS WAS the school board president with Thornton Township High School District 205 in suburban South Holland who was removed by a Cook County judge earlier this year because of his 28-year-old criminal conviction in Indiana for aiding in the commission of a forgery.

Williams, who has never done anything to hide his criminal record and has not been convicted of any felony since then, was twice elected to the school board post. But the judge ruled that he was never eligible to hold the post – and that the voter support he got was irrelevant.

WILLIAMS: Booted from old post
The appeals courts have not been sympathetic to his case thus far. Which caused Williams, a suburban South Holland resident, to decide to run for the Illinois House instead.

Particularly since that legislative body has a history of members (Rep. Coy Pugh of the West Side back in the 1990s) who had done prison time.

WILLIAMS WILL HAVE to take on state Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City, a two-term House member who has the strong support of Thornton Township Democratic Party operatives. But he is developing a slew of supporters in his community who think he’s being singled out for abuse because of his race (he’s African-American).

CAROTHERS: Filling a vacancy?
Whether that would be enough to defeat Jones is uncertain. But he’s determined not to make the 22 months he did in prison back in his early 20s define the rest of his life. Particularly since the breakdown that seems to have developed is that someone with a felony record cannot serve on a school board or the City Council (aldermen specifically approved that change a few years ago), but can serve in state, county or local government.

As for Sanchez and Carothers, both of them are hoping to take advantage of special circumstances on the Cook County Board.

Carothers is going for a county board seat that was held by Earlean Collins, who has decided to retire from politics. She’s not seeking re-election.

WHICH MEANS AN open seat. No one has the benefit of incumbency. It may well be that Carothers will have enough name recognition amongst his old ward constituents to win – particularly since he’s one of six people running for the post.

He won’t exactly have to win a majority to win the election. A 30 percent support level could be more than enough for him to get a political comeback.

As for Sanchez, the seat he’s going for currently is filled by Stanley Moore, who was appointed to fill the vacancy created when William Beavers was found guilty of the tax-related charges that sent him off to prison for a six-month sentence beginning Monday.

Sanchez hopes that Moore, who has less than a year in office thus far and keeps a low profile amongst the county board members, is beatable. As though he hasn’t been around long enough to gain the benefits of incumbency!

HE MAY EVEN try to claim that he’s benefitting the cause of Latino empowerment by adding to the number of Latinos now on (Jesus Garcia and Edwin Reyes) the Cook County Board.

Whether anyone buys that argument is questionable.

Although the idea that Sanchez wants back in to the game of electoral politics is so predictable. Political retirement, particularly when it is imposed on someone, is deadly dull.


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