January 13, 2010
CAROL MARIN firstname.lastname@example.org
An election going on? Don't be silly. A primary on Feb. 2?
You'd never know it if you just happened to be a Democrat on the hunt for a list of candidates and mistakenly thought your very own Democratic Party of Illinois was there to help you figure that out.
Last year (April 2009) I Googled the party's Web site only to find it hadn't been updated since 2006. And so its roster of candidates included Gov. Rod Blagojevich (who had been impeached and removed) and the address of his Ravenswood political office (which had been bugged by the FBI prior to Blagojevich's arrest and indictment).
Time flies, I guess, but honestly. Had it escaped the notice of the state party headed by House Speaker Michael Madigan that there had actually been elections since 2006? And that included the 2009 congressional special election for Rahm Emanuel's old seat, something a slew of Democrats sought before Mike Quigley finally won.
Yesterday, just for fun, I returned to the state party Web site to look around and see what might have changed.
It was a relief to find that Blagojevich's picture had been taken down. And the 2006 candidate roster was gone.
Then again, if you click on the "Candidates" tab today, you won't find any candidates at all. None. Instead, you'll find a statement: "This section is under development. Please check back again soon."
Soon? The polls close in 17 days.
While it is true that Web sites do not an election make, sometimes they reveal something about the moving force behind them. The same way a palm reader deciphers the lines of a person's hand.
And there is no stronger hand in the Democratic Party of Illinois than the one attached to the titanium arm of the sphinx-like Madigan.
Little wonder then that none of the politicos I called yesterday were eager to be quoted for this column.
But what they had to say was interesting nonetheless.
One very chipper young operative enthused that there were "many other sites" organized by state and local Democrats offering information and training for the election. The operative suggested that potential Democratic voters could go click on the "Illinois for Obama" site, for instance.
Now I don't know about you, but if I'm on the hunt for who the candidates are for, say, state Treasurer, an Obama site might not be the first place that would leap to mind.
Another politico, one with a little more experience and a lot more candor, put it this way: "Mike Madigan has no interest in electing candidates in Illinois if it isn't in the House he controls or for his daughter." That would be Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
Late Tuesday, Madigan spokesman Steve Brown argued that, given the ethics battle that took place in the General Assembly this last session, the real reason no candidates are listed is an attempt to remain neutral in all of these races. Sorry, not buying that.
I am not suggesting that, despite the fevered hopes of Illinois Republicans, that this off-year election will bring oxygen back into their airless GOP tent. But if you are a Republican in search of who is running for elective office, your state party is falling all over itself trying to help. The Illinois Republican Party, headed by Pat Brady, offers a long list of candidates, including six U.S. Senate hopefuls and seven gubernatorial challengers, plus quick ways to volunteer or make contributions electronically.
Madigan's site, in pathetic contrast, provides a P.O. box to send snail mail or a phone number for you to call.
Even DuPage County -- repeat, DuPage County, where a few years ago there weren't enough Democratic voters to fill a phone booth -- now has an informative, extensive Web site packed with election information. The Democratic Party of DuPage County puts the bigger, older, richer state party to shame.
Somebody should be embarrassed.
But he's not.