Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Why let a little thing like the “wrong” political party stand in the way?

Perhaps political cynics are correct when they say there’s really no difference between Democrats and Republicans – a politician is a politician regardless of what label he uses.

At least that is what the political organization in Chicago Heights would like for people to think. For the political leaders in that south suburb managed to get one of their own chosen to fill a vacancy in the Illinois House of Representatives.

WE NOW HAVE state Rep. Anthony DeLuca, D-Chicago Heights, who was mayor of his hometown for six years. But what makes his selection unusual is that the Democratic committeemen who picked DeLuca last week to serve did so even though the Chicago Heights mayor always went by the Republican Party label.

He now says he was a Republican until about two years ago, and claims he will eagerly serve in the Democratic caucus of the Illinois House.

On a certain level, I believe DeLuca.

He’d like a higher-level office than serving as a suburban mayor (which ensures that no one outside of his hometown will ever hear of him). If he has to go by the Democratic Party label, he’ll do so.

FOR THE RECORD, DeLuca replaces George Scully, a south suburban-based attorney from Flossmoor who got himself elected to another term in the November 2008 elections, then gave up the post last month when he was chosen for a judicial post in Cook County Circuit Court.

Scully wasn’t exactly a flaming liberal of the Democratic caucus. His moderate record of voting on legislation was one that Republicans in the area could tolerate.

So the idea of DeLuca being a Republican whom some Democrats can tolerate means the people of that particular south suburban legislative district will not notice any radical change in the mindset of their particular representative.

But this wasn’t really a matter of the Democratic committeemen from the parts of Cook, Will and Kankakee counties that comprise the district deciding that DeLuca was someone they could live with ideologically.

THIS WAS TRULY a case of the people from Chicago Heights imposing their will on the rest of the legislative district. It all goes back to the way that legislators are replaced when vacancies occur.

The committeemen gather, but their votes are not all equal.

Their votes are weighted according to what percent of the vote came from their particular portion of the legislative district.

That means the Cook County committeemen had a majority of the vote all by themselves. It didn’t matter that the committeemen from Will and Kankakee counties wanted other people – or anyone, for that matter, who had a prior record of being a Democratic political official.

IT IS INTRIGUING in that the south suburbs of Chicago are an area that used to provide solid Republican majorities of votes on Election Days. But population shifts have seen many more African-American people move into the area, and they have maintained their Democratic Party ties.

The end result is that when it comes to the land south of Chicago, there are Democratic legislators galore and mayors/village presidents who are willing to identify with the Democratic Party – even though many claim its because of support for labor issues, and not because of liberal ideology on social concerns.

There are still pockets of Republicans trying to assert themselves, while dreaming of the past when they had the influence.

The pick of DeLuca almost reeks of an attempt by the aging GOPers to reassert themselves politically.

BECAUSE DELUCA MADE it clear last week that he’s still willing to listen to Republican officials – even though he carries the “D” as part of his political label.

“I will reach across the aisle if I believe it will benefit my constituents,” DeLuca told reporter-types. “We must look beyond party labels in search of good ideas.”

It sounds nice. But the suburban mayor who openly admits to be in opposition to his new political party’s platform on the issue of abortion seems like he’s an unofficial vote for the Republican caucus.

In fact, there may be but one plus to the presence of DeLuca in the Legislature, and it could force some people to think seriously about what constitutes a “Democrat” versus a “Republican.”

SO HOW DOES this political conversion rank in the annals of government history?

I don’t know that I’d put it up there with that of Edward R. Vrdolyak, who was once a leading City Council member and chairman of the Democratic Party for Cook County when – upon finally realizing that Mayor Harold Washington would prevail over him in “Council Wars” – converted himself to a Republican. He even tried running for office under the GOP label, although he never won.

It also falls short of the so-called conversion of the legendary Democratic political boss Richard J. Daley, who due to a quirk in state election law that is no longer applicable, was elected to his first governmental post as a write-in candidate, with the voters of Bridgeport and Back of the Yards choosing him to be their token Republican legislator.

Hence, there was once a time when “state Rep. Richard J. Daley, R-Chicago,” would have been totally accurate.


EDITOR’S NOTES: The Democratic Party primary (http://daily-journal.com/archives/dj/display.php?id=436650) is going to be feisty (http://www.southtownstar.com/news/election/1465074,030709scully.article) come the year (http://www.nwi.com/articles/2009/03/08/news/illinois/doc4dd578555c79a29486257572008155a3.txt) 2010.

No comments: