Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Kevin McCarthy stepping down: who will take his place?
It really isn't much of a surprise. State Rep. Kevin McCarthy decided to resign from office rather than run for re-election.
McCarthy had it easy until last election. In 2006 and 2008, McCarthy ran unopposed in the 37th House District. Then in 2010, he faced a pretty obscure Tea Party candidate who seemed to upset everyone, Jeff Junkas. Junkas divided the Republican Party, and yet he came within 1,195 votes of beating the 14 year incumbent McCarthy (Junkas got 16,269 votes in the district while McCarthy's received only 17,444 votes). Junkas almost won Orland Township losing it to McCarthy by 117 votes.
That's not much of an insurance for a longtime Democrat.
So the amiable McCarthy decided better to leave on a high note rather than to risk getting booted out in the election. Especially since a real heavyweight decided to file in the 37th District against him, Renee Kosel. The Democratic remap pretty much sealed McCarthy's fate. Kosel, who had been in the old 81st District, now shifted over east a bit into McCarthy's cozy nest.
McCarthy has served in the district eight terms (16 years) representing communities that include parts of Orland Park, Tinley Park, Oak Forest and Frankfort Square.
The Democratic Primary election is March 20, 2012 and the General Election is November 6, 2012.
It's not an easy district to win, especially with the rising influence of Cook County Commissioner and Orland Township Committee-person Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman. Gorman almost singlehandedly gave the Democratic organization in Illinois a knock-out punch when she easily defeated Pat Maher, a member of the once powerful Hynes dynasty. Gorman is a close ally of Kosel.
The only really big bad news for Republicans in the Southwest and West suburbs is the anticipated loss of Congressman Judy Biggert who has been forced to file in the heavily Democratic 11th Congressional District. Former Congressman Bill "The Phantom" Foster is planning to run there and he'll be challenged by Jim Hickey, the now current president of the Orland Fire Protection District who is a Democrat with a lot of Republican balance among his support.
But McCarthy probably caused himself his own problems. He was not the easiest person to reach. I lived two houses away from his district office and only saw him once when he came to my house with literature in the last election. I don't think he expected that knock-out, drag-out battle from a nobody like Junkas.
Worse is that McCarthy is one of the few legislators without a web site. Yikes! And those political web sites that list him can't even get their information right and one (click here) posted the wrong photograph for him. It's bad enough that online information for voters on state and county elections are so screwed up as it is. It doesn't help when your legislator doesn't have a presence -- though he is a good person and we do wish him well.
The Democrats will probably push back the Republican gains in the U.S. House but they are set to face some tough battles in the state.
Democratic Committeemen will have to come together and find someone else to put on the ballot. It was kind of a cheap trick to deny voters the ability to slate their own since the filing deadline for candidates to seek the office passed in early December. (The congressional filing deadline was delayed until this week). So the Democratic candidate who will face-off with Kosel will be hand-picked by the Democratic Machine, not by support from voters. I know several Democrats wanted to run but in deference to McCarthy wouldn't challenge him. McCarthy passed out his petitions suggesting he planned to stay in, but that's just a cheap political trick often used by veteran politicians.
Can't say I blame them, though. Voters don't really care. Turnout is so low. Who's to complain?
So who should the Democrats slate? Not me. I ran there once in 1992 against Larry Wennlund when much of today's 37th District was the old 38th District which became the 81st District. Whatever! (That shell game called redistricting happens every 10 years and it's always a mess). Poor Larry, I drove him nuts though he managed to tip the vote against me with a last minute letter to voters that read, and I quote "Ray Hanania isn't just an Arab, he is Iraqi." That didn't help with our soldiers coming back from Iraq in Operation Desert Storm. And even though I served active duty in the military during the Vietnam War and Wennlund never did serve active duty anywhere, it was not an easy hurdle to overcome. Divisions among the American Arabs and Muslims were hard enough to handle -- they are worse today -- let alone facing the bigotry of the pre-Sept. 11, 2001 public anger out there.
Maybe the Democrats could run Pat Maher, if they can get his birthdate straightened out. He left a mess at the Orland Fire Protection District that the new board leadership is working hard to straighten out for taxpayers.
Maybe Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin might run. The rumors are rampant he is planning to step down as mayor. Who knows? Maybe Springfield appeals to his political interests? Although neighboring Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki ran for the legislature and decided that he preferred to spend more time on his Tinley constituents. (How many politicians would give up another public office to serve their constituents? Zabrocki was one of the few.) Today, under the new map, Tinley is represented by three members of the Illinois House. That's good because it means you have three legislatures fighting for your needs. And it's bad because it means you have to meet with three people instead of one to get something done. Zabrocki can handle it. He's a good guy, too.
Don't even worry trying to sort through all this. It won't matter anyway.
Just in case you want to figure this all out, here's the link to the current list of candidates who have filed for statewide offices (not including Congress). Click here.
-- Ray Hanania