Saturday, September 12, 2009

Will it matter that Quinn is now the officially preferred gubernatorial candidate of the Cook County Democratic Party?

There’s only one statement I can positively make. The attention span of Chicagoans on Friday was focused on a Springfield. Of course, I suspect more cared about the Massachusetts version of the city rather than the central Illinois version.

I’m realistic enough to know that more people were probably intrigued by the hoopla surrounding the Basketball Hall of Fame – which on Friday officially recognized Chicago Bulls immortal Michael Jordan as one of the all-time athletic greats – than they gave any consideration about who should become this state’s next governor.

BUT THE POWERS-that-be of the Cook County Democratic Organization held their slating sessions in recent days, and on Friday made the announcement that they are backing Pat Quinn’s campaign for election to his own full term, instead of picking the son of longtime Chicago politico Tom Hynes – who also wants to run for that office.

There is a part of me that finds such action ironic.

For these slating sessions are the 21st Century version of the old “smoke-filled rooms” of party hacks who would decide among themselves who the candidates should be that “the people” will elect to government office in upcoming elections.

Pat Quinn has always tried to be the ultimate good government type – the “goo goo” who rails against the indecency of having Democratic Party hacks having any say in terms of who gets to run in a primary election.

YET HE SURE didn’t do anything to reject such slating. It will enhance the political rhetoric when Republican opponents try to label Quinn as just another Chicago political hack.

Of course, the modern-day GOP always tries to label any Democrat in this state as a Chicago political hack – even if they have no connection to Chicago. So Quinn might as well take the ceremonial rhetoric that comes along with being the officially slated candidate for governor in the Feb. 2, 2010 primary.

The real question is whether people will care about who gets slated for governor.

Could this be an election where all those Democrats who throughout the years were dumped on by Quinn and his good government antics will be willing to openly ignore the decision of the Cook County Democratic organization and vote for Dan Hynes – who in many ways fits the image of what a 21st Century Chicago Democrat is about.

BECAUSE THE REALITY is that the only people who care about who gets slated by the party for political office are the party regulars – the ones who are in government because it is their employer or they support some interest group.

How many local Democratic voters with ties to the labor unions that have endorsed Hynes will decide that their union, and not their party, got it right in the pick for governor?

The ones who are “into” politics because of ideology aren’t going to care who gets slated. If anything, they may be the ones who will wonder if this means that Pat Quinn has now “sold out” his soul in order to get himself elected to his own four-year term as governor come the November 2010 general election.

There was a part of me that thought the Democratic organization types who gathered at the hotel Chicago insiders will always think of as the Bismarck Hotel would decide to slate no one.


It may sound cowardly to some, but it is a way of saying that the party faithful are so split that no one should be able to go through a campaign season calling themselves the officially preferred choice of the Democratic Party.

That is what the Cook County Dems did for lieutenant governor and for county board President. Despite the pleas of Todd Stroger that his incumbency status warranted some special consideration, the party is doing nothing – thereby leaving him on an equal playing field with the other four candidates who wish to replace him at the head of county government.

But when one thinks about it rationally, I can understand why Quinn got the slating.

HE IS THE incumbent. After going through a 26-year time period in Illinois with Republicans as governor of the state, I’m sure one of the last things that Democrats here want is to lose this office to a candidate of the GOP.

I’m sure there is a part of the Democratic Party that would like it if Hynes were to back down so that more attention could be spent focusing on keeping the U.S. Senate seat from Illinois in the hands of a Democratic candidate.

There is the fact that the older party types can remember 1976, when incumbent Gov. Dan Walker was dumped in a primary fight led by Chicago politicos who were disgusted by him. The winner of that primary – Michael Howlett – wound up so weak that he lost to James R. Thompson (the man who began that 26-year GOP streak).

It ultimately is because of this factor that Lisa Madigan backed away from her preferred goal of running for governor and decided to try to keep her current post of state attorney general – why run for governor if there’s no chance you get slated and your candidacy gets viewed in some segments of Illinois political society as a spoiler.

NOW, IT IS Hynes who has the potential to fulfill that role. And it is Quinn who gets to fill a niche I’m sure he never would have envisioned for himself eight years ago – the officially slated choice for governor by the Cook County Democrats.

What next; Michael Jordan returns to the NBA? Then again, the idea of Quinn as an establishment Democrat is about as absurd as that stint Jordan did with the Washington Wizards.


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