February 14, 2009
BY CAROL MARIN Sun-Times Columnist
Brace yourself, fatigued voters of Illinois, more elections are just around the corner.
Consolidated municipal primaries hit Chicago suburbs Feb. 24 in Cicero, Berwyn, Hanover, Thornton and Proviso townships.
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Sun-Times columnist Carol Marin
And in the 5th Congressional District, a special primary to fill Rahm Emanuel's seat is March 3.
In Cicero, it's a case of too few candidates in what approaches a totalitarian state.
In the 5th Congressional District, it's the opposite. Too many candidates, too little time.
But let's start with Cicero because it always delivers full measures of both comedy and tragedy to the often beleaguered citizens it's supposed to serve.
Its history, as everyone knows, includes Al Capone, who made Cicero his headquarters in the Roaring '20s. A succession of town presidents have, ever since, either done the mob's bidding (Henry Klosak, Betty Loren Maltese); ended up in federal prison (Betty again); loaded the payroll with friends and relatives (every one of them, especially the last two, Ramiro Gonzalez and Larry Dominick), and handed out eye-popping, six- and seven-figure contracts to questionable companies and consultants (all of them).
Larry Dominick, a mountain of a man, claimed four years ago that he understood the basic blue-collar values of the citizens he was elected to represent, having risen from garbage collector to police officer to president. He condemned the politics of the past and the millions of dollars paid to lawyer-consultants such as Edward Vrdolyak, who these days is headed to federal prison. And he especially condemned the nepotism of his predecessor who padded the Cicero payroll with relatives.
So what has Dominick done?
All of the above. And with the help of an acid-tongued public relations apparatchik, Dan Proft, whose small company, through no-bid contracts, picks up a hefty paycheck (more than $550,000) from Cicero and its school districts, and has a clear disdain for Freedom of Information Act requests from citizens or reporters.
And so it will surprise no one that when a handful of candidates sought to challenge Dominick, the town did what it's always done best: made life miserable for them.
Some withdrew, and the remaining two -- Morton College trustee Ed Ledvina and Police Officer Roberto Garcia -- were bounced from the ballot.
"The only one who can throw me off is the judge," Garcia said by phone. "Cicero's kangaroo electoral board voted to kick me off the ballot because of a town ordinance that says I have to resign my police job before filing for election."
It's a dubiously enforced, constitutionally questionable ordinance designed to create an obstacle course for political opponents.
Garcia is appealing in Circuit Court. Ledvina may as well. But theirs is an uphill climb in a town run by people who never reform.
As for the 5th Congressional District, there are almost as many candidates as voters likely to turn out in an off-year, special primary for just one federal office.
Fourteen Democrats, six Republicans and five Green Party candidates are on the ballot. But in this blue-collar district, it will be nothing short of a miracle if a Democrat doesn't win.
It has been a confounding race to cover for reporters and a hard one for voters to wrap their minds around. There is no shortage of intelligent, qualified people in this race, but there are also some less than committed players. Whoever makes it out of the primary will do so with a fraction of a small vote.
So, if you are struggling to decide? The editorial board of the Sun-Times (I'm not a member, by the way) spent many hours meeting with and debating the merits of these candidates and is endorsing Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley today.
But if you're still undecided, here's a great site that will help you do some homework, chicago elections.pbwiki.com/Illinois's-5th-Congressional-District-Special-Election-2009.
It's worth a close look.