Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Patrick “Daley” Thompson – the start of something bigger than water district?

I must confess. When I covered a candidate forum a couple of weeks ago on behalf of a suburban daily newspaper, I filed a story about the people who wanted to be a local legislator even though I was more interested in one of the candidates for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.
THOMPSON: The next 'Mayor Daley?'

My attention kept wandering over to the five of the nine people on the ballot for three seats on the board that oversees wastewater and storm water treatment who were at that forum.

INCLUDING PATRICK THOMPSON, a 42-year-old who has never held political office and has never even ran in an election before. He’s a political rookie – although not really, which is why much of the night I was focusing on him.

For Thompson is the guy whose uncle, Rich, is the former Chicago mayor. Of course, he also has an uncle, Bill, who is a former presidential chief of staff and cabinet member. Then, there’s also his grandpa, Dick, whose stint as Chicago mayor made him internationally reknowned.

Which is why it amuses me that on forms he filled out for the Chicago Tribune, the only political ties he acknowledges is his uncle, John – who is on the Cook County Board.

Yes, we’re talking about a Daley. We’re talking about potentially the first person in the next generation of that family to get into the business of running for elective office.

WHICH HAS MANY people wondering privately, “Is this the ‘next’ Mayor Daley?”

Although technically, he’d be “Mayor Thompson.” Or, “Daley Thompson,” depending on your sensibilities. And also, perhaps, where you are.

Because I have noticed campaign signs for Thompson’s water district campaign that declare him to be “Patrick Daley Thompson” if they are erected in Chicago proper.

Get out in the suburbs, and he suddenly becomes “Patrick D. Thompson.” Trying to cover up, so to speak, for those suburbanites who might think that Daleys belong in Chicago – and not the suburban areas that are nearly as large as the city proper?


But I was curious to know if that night in suburban Glenwood (where the village government sponsored a candidate forum) was going to be one I would long remember as the first time I personally saw someone who could become a political bigwig in future years.

In all honesty, I can’t remember a thing he said. And when I look back on my notes from that night, none of it seems particularly repeatable.

The one impression I did get was that Thompson has obviously done some reading up on what the water district does. He didn’t seem as clueless as many first-time candidates for public office appear to be – because the truth of the matter is that they really can’t appreciate what they’re getting themselves in to.

THEN AGAIN, I got a bigger impression from water district candidate Stella Black – who seems like the “crazy granny” type who will say or do anything, and who also was handing out emery boards with her name and campaign slogan (“Stellaaaaaaaaa!!!!”) printed on them.

I also can’t help but notice the fact that Thompson isn’t following the typical route for someone who has aspirations to hold a major political office – in fact, the same routes that were followed by his uncle Rich and grandpa Dick.

He’s NOT running for a seat in the Illinois General Assembly!

How many generations of Chicago pols got themselves elected to a term or two in the Illinois House of Representatives or state Senate before coming back home to do the “important” stuff? Way too many.

I’M SURE THERE are those who will think Thompson is condemning himself to a career of sludge. Then again, there have been many state legislators who waited an eternity in Springfield for a Chicago political opportunity that wound up never occurring.

But Thompson does have the party’s backing for Tuesday’s primary election. With the amount of publicity he has been getting, his name may be one of the few that people actually recognize when they go to their polling place.

Although I must make another confession. I cast my ballot at an early voting center, and I didn’t vote for Thompson.

Stella Black (emery boards and all) got my support, along with incumbent member Debra Shore and Patricia Young, a former board member who wants to make a political comeback.

SO PERHAPS SOMEDAY, if Thompson ever does become the next-generation “Mayor Daley,” I’ll be telling the story about how I didn’t vote for him. Similar to the stories I now tell about how on the first occasion I met Barack Obama (back in ’97 on his first day as a state senator), I decided I didn’t really have time for him and just engaged in a few seconds of mindless chit-chat.

How little I knew!


No comments: