Thursday, March 15, 2018

Electoral gamesmanship: It’s not just a matter of voting for the best candidate

I once covered a mayoral election cycle in the suburbs where we didn’t learn until the day before Election Day that the challenger was definitely off the ballot and that the unpopular incumbent truly was running unopposed for re-election.
RAILA: Back on the ballot, for now!

I mention that because it’s still six days away from Election Day, meaning there’s still time for electoral antics to occur with regards to the election being held for Cook County Assessor.

THAT’S THE ONE where incumbent Joe Berrios, most definitely an old-school politico of the Cook County mold, is trying to retain his post. But we don’t know exactly who he faces for opposition in Tuesday’s primary election.

Two people filed nominating petitions to get on the Democratic ballot to challenge him, and the one who has managed to get himself some airtime and political advertising is Fritz Kaegi – who’s been portraying himself as an honest guy businessman who wants to undo the ways of the political hack Berrios.

If it were a one-on-one political campaign, he might very well get enough voter support from all the people who are determined to view Berrios as venal in order to win the primary; which amounts to winning the election, since the Cook County Republican slate of candidates is weak and not likely to put up much of a challenge come the Nov. 6 general election.

But then, there’s Andrea Raila. She’s a tax appeal consultant. She has her own firm. She’s billing herself as one of the few women seeking a significant government post.
BERRIOS: Does Raila boost his chances of victory?

WHICH MEANS FOR those people who think Kaegi is too much of a political amateur to hold a countywide office but don’t want to vote for Berrios, there’s an alternative choice.

Yet Raila has been fighting for the right to even have her name on the ballot. Kaegi supporters say her nominating petitions were flawed and she didn’t qualify to even be a selection. Last month, she was removed from the ballot by a Cook County judge, who admitted ballots already had been printed with her name on them.

Which resulted in the situation I, and other Early Voting Center users, faced last week – I was handed a slip of paper before picking a touch-screen to vote with; informing me that if I voted for Andrea, I’d be spoiling my ballot.

It wouldn’t count.
KAEGI: A nobody after March 21, or a victor?

THAT IS, UNTIL Wednesday. When an Illinois appellate court overruled the circuit court. She’s back on the ballot, and anybody who cast votes for her instead of Berrios or Kaegi will now know that their votes will count, after all.

That is, unless another layer of courts manages to issue a ruling overturning the appeals court. This could get rushed through to the Supreme Court of Illinois. We may not know until Election Day whether Raila is a legitimate option for the post of Cook County assessor.

A post that usually doesn’t get much attention, but got actor Dan Ackroyd to recall his Elwood Blues character and take pot-shots at Berrios (while also endorsing Chris Kennedy for governor) in an Internet-only campaign ad. Now, it’s the focus of political chaos.

For what it’s worth, Raila has had to focus so much of her attention and money to a legal fight just to get her name on the ballot, it’s not likely she could actually win the primary.

SOME ARE CONVINCED she is a political front, of sorts, to steal votes away from a Kaegi campaign – thereby bolstering the chances that Berrios wins re-election.

Could she have been a credible candidate – the first Democratic woman to run for the post since the office was created in 1932 (that’s her self-important claim)? Perhaps. She might have been worth considering for a vote, since I’m not impressed with the Kaegi credentials. A political amateur, is what I fear.

Which means I was in line with many other Democratic Party establishment-types who wound up casting my ballot for Berrios. More of the same.

It would have been intriguing to consider a candidate like Raila; who turns to the late pundit Studs Terkel in saying, “You should be prime minister of taxes.”


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