Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Sweet column: Duckworth faces struggle to unite Dems in 6th cd after Cegelis strong showing. Where is Howard Dean on this?


Democratic House nominee Tammy Duckworth, facing a big contest with state Sen. Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton) has to deal with uniting Dems as well as seeking cross-over voters in the suburban district.

Duckworth faces struggle to unify Dems

March 23, 2006


'Way to go, Christine," Democratic 6th District House candidate Tammy Duckworth said Tuesday night as she saluted chief rival Christine Cegelis in her victory speech.

But wounded Iraq war veteran Duckworth needs to do more than lavish words of praise on Cegelis if she wants to unify the suburban Democrats she will need to beat state Sen. Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton).

"A lot of people feel really, really, really betrayed," said Justin Major, an attorney who lives in Wheaton and who had been volunteering on the Cegelis campaign.

"There are a lot of real hard feelings," said Marilyn Katz, the Chicago public affairs consultant who has been organizing against the Iraq war since it started three years ago.

Duckworth's win in Tuesday's primary showed that with powerful sponsors, a compelling personal story, mainly fawning media coverage and a lot of money, a political unknown can be dropped into a Democratic primary House race in a district where she does not live and three months later wind up the nominee.

For these last months, I've been writing about how the 6th District primary was a test of the net-roots (Internet and grass-roots supporters) vs. the Democratic establishment.

The Democratic establishment won. With Duckworth the nominee, the fight to fill a rare open seat -- to replace retiring Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) -- may well become one of the top 10 in the country.

I give the telegenic Duckworth credit for pulling it off, especially as she is still recovering from the wounds that cost her both legs when her helicopter was shot down in Iraq. She delivered for her main patrons, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), the chief of the House political operation, and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

"I'm happy to have two Democratic senators," Major said when we talked Wednesday. "But I am not particularly happy with my two Democratic senators."

Let's look inside the numbers that make up Duckworth's victory.

Last week, staffers for Duckworth, Cegelis and Lindy Scott, the third contender, estimated that Democratic turnout would be between 25,000 and 36,000. Tuesday's primary yielded 31,996 Democratic votes, of which Duckworth won 43.8 percent (14,019) and Cegelis took 40.4 percent (12,939), with 15.7 percent or 5,036 for Scott.

The tepid turnout suggests that Duckworth's plurality win did not engage new Democratic voters.

The intrafamily Democratic feud merely divided the party faithful. And while a strategy of Emanuel is to nationalize House races on a wave of anti-war sentiment, Duckworth's numbers did not show much of a turnout surge among the Democratic base.

Again, a win is a win. But I never quite got why the brain trust behind Duckworth's campaign-in-a-can could not figure out a way to advance her candidacy without alienating the Cegelis backers.

Let's look at how some of the same political operatives behind Cegelis handled a similar situation with one of their pals, Cook County Board member Forrest Claypool, in his bid to be Cook County Board president. Earlier in the campaign, Claypool's backers pressured his chief rival, Cook County Board member Mike Quigley, to drop out. Quigley was treated with respect as he was pushed aside and given a position inside the Claypool campaign.

Cegelis, the 2004 nominee, never got her props from Emanuel and company, which only infuriated her base. Privately, a few of Duckworth's advisers agreed that Cegelis should have been handled better. The more than $600,000 Duckworth raised just to beat her could have been better used against Roskam.

I asked Duckworth spokesman Billy Weinberg what their strategy is for engaging estranged Democrats like Major. "By reminding them how high the stakes are," he said. "And how it is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to compete and win in November. And to point out the stark differences."

Here's what needs to happen, and it's more than having all of the Democrats show up at Saturday's DuPage Dems post-primary breakfast in Oakbrook Terrace.

*Cegelis, even if she turns it down, needs to be asked to be part of the Duckworth operation.

*Emanuel, whose presence in the race touched a raw nerve among Cegelis supporters, needs to reach out to them. Durbin and Obama also ought to be mending fences.

*And there is one person who really could help. That's Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. It was his people-powered, grass-roots, Internet-based, anti-war 2004 presidential campaign that gave birth to the movement that yielded Cegelis 40.4 percent of the vote.

GOP chief to rally support

End note: On Friday, Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman is in Chicago to rally support for the Illinois ticket. He will huddle with GOP governor nominee Judy Baar Topinka and travel to north suburban Kildeer to appear at a press conference with 8th District nominee David McSweeney. Emanuel's counterpart, Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y), who heads the GOP House political committee, will attend.

Copyright © The Sun-Times Company
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


letter to the editor
First, thank you for including Lynn Sweet's column in your newspaper. I read it regularly.

My comments relate to her article of March 21, entitled "House races targeted by GOP chief".

The article mentions that three Democratic U.S. House nominees do not live in the districts for which they are running. All of them live near their districts. One is only 1,000 feet outside of the district and as the article mentions lived in the district for many years until the districts's boundaries were changed in 2000. The second is an Iraq war veteran that lives in a house that has been modified to accommodate the injuries she received in Iraq. I've heard the third candidate plans to move into his district.

The article quotes National Republican Congressional Committee press secretary Jonathan Collegio as saying the Democrats are playing musical chairs. This is from the same Republican Party that slated a candidate (Keyes) for the U.S. Senate two years ago who lived (lives?) in Maryland!! Perhaps the Republicans enjoy playing musical states? Can you spell hypocrisy? I have no idea where this candidate lives now. I perceive a significance difference and I believe the voters of Illinois will also.

Ray Berry

No offense intended toward Tammy Duckworth who, I'm sure, is an honorable and brave soul but....a staff supervisor for Rotary International represents her experience to lead?
I understand she is well-educated but so are a lot of other hopefuls.
I guess it helps to have some heavyweights in your corner. For some reason, her candidacy leaves me feeling a bit queasy. Hope I'm wrong.


Your analogy of the Claypool vs. Quigley situation to Duckworth and Cegelis is spot on. The difference would seem to be that Forrest Claypool has some class (as well as political sense) whereas Durbin and Emanuel appear to have none (I give Obama a pass on this because he came on the Duckworth bandwagon too late to be part of an effort to convince Christine to join forces).

As for Howard Dean, he's a bigger man than I, so he may end up doing as you suggest. A lot of Dean supporters, however, saw this whole operation as the Washington Democrats sticking their fingers in Dean's eye (again), since it was his former troops who were working for Cegelis and had been since 2004. The fact that they did not make an approach to get Christine on board suggests they were more interested in spiting the grassroots than in trying to bring them into the fold. How they repair a breach they themselves created, I don't know.

If I lived in IL-6, I would vote for Duckworth, but I wouldn't do more from her. Based on the nature of their primary campaign, I'm not even sure they really want grassroots involvement anyway. Organizations like the DFA (Democracy for America) group I belong to, which would have been heavily invested in the IL-6 general election race, will now look for others we can involve ourselves in instead -- with candidates who really want and appreciate our help.

I really appreciate the fact that you tried to suggest to the Democratic Leadership about mending fences with us Progressive Dems in Illinois but I have to tell you the wound is too wide and it is hemorraghing America to death!!!!! The Cegelis/Duckworth campaign is just the symptom of a SERIOUS parting of the ways between the Populace and the Democrats!!!!!! How many times do they think we will be stabbed in the back before we just stop voting???? Cegelis was a candidate from the grass roots, a campaign that was fed and nourished by the wider Kucincih for President campaign. We all know how disrespectful the Democratic Leadership was to the very loyal and dedicated Kucinich campaign!!! So after the DNC in 2004, we, Progressives all held our noses and voted for Kerry for the sake of the Nation, even though we hated him and what did Kerry do, stabbed us in the back, that is what he did!!!!!!! Kerry either sold out America for money or was threatened to drop the fight for our Democracy on Nov 3rd, 2004, I know it for a fact!!!!!!! We had presented to Kerry massive evidence of fraud in OHIO and other states!!!!! Ohio, Nevada, Iowa and New Mexico were all flipped from Kerry to Bush electronically!!!!! Kerry knew it and wouldn't even raise 1 finger or not even give $1 of the millions of dollars that were supposedly committed to fighting for our Democracy! A huge grassroots organization, mostly Progressive Democrats flared up after Nov 2nd, 2004, to fight against Bush's illegal dictaorship, we begged Kerry to stay in the fight, we had vigils, we raised money for recounts in New Mexico and Ohio and New Hampshire, we gathered massive volumes of evidence of the election fraud!!!! Did Kerry fight for us, NO, instead he ran with his tail inbetween his legs and would not even show his face on Jan 6th, 2005 when we actually mounted a Challege in Congress, even without his bloody media!!!!!!! Then on Jan 6th, 2005, in response to all of our tireless work to try to save our Democracy, what do we get from the Democrats, besides Boxer, Conyers, Tubbs-Jones and 29 other Democratic Patriots, LIP-SERVICE!!!!!!! And NOW in Illinois, these same grassroots patriots that have fought so hard to try to save America from the Fascist take over that has occured in Washington, put up their own candidate, with their own money, for the second time and the Democratic Leadership decides that they really know better than us what is good for our own community, they find a 'STAY THE COURSE' DISABLED DEMOCRAT who isn't even a resident to fight our own home grown, completely adored, real ANTI-WAR Christine!!! They flood buckets of money into the campaign so that it isn't even a fair one and NOW Ithe Dems want us to jump in and save the day by agreeing to Unity!!!!!! GAG ME WITH A SPOON!!!! I have personally decided NOT TO VOTE EVER AGAIN and the Democrats including Obama and Durbin can just go to the 6th themselves and try to find a Progressive Democrat who even cares what they say anymore!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Unity to save America my ASS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Dr. Lora Chamberlain

Duckworth was just another typical STAB-IN-THE BACK by the Dem hierarchy!


Sure did like your column, Lynn. You’re “right on target.��? Especially the part about Emanuel reaching out to the Cegelis supporters (which won’t be easy for him, I’m sure; there’s a reason I’ve heard him referred to as Rambo Rahm). He’s banking on “unity��? but it’s not likely unless he takes some major fence-mending steps, and even then it may be questionable in the short term (November). The reason I say that is that I read a quote somewhere from the York Township Dem Committeeman referring to his own betrayed feelings. If he’s saying that to the press, it’s likely “the tip of the iceberg.��?

Another thought:

I think the PDA’s (not Blackberrys!) need to keep going regardless of the November election, field candidates for local elections, delegates to the 2008 Democratic National Convention, etc. They need to not retreat because they felt betrayed, although the feelings are understandable. They are now a “presence.��? They need to utilize the gains they made. The first step is certainly acknowledgement by the head of the DCCC, if he’ll do it to their satifaction. But even if he doesn’t, they need to keep organizing; eventually the Party will come along.

so 2 things make me sooo mad about Democrats in my district:

1. they pretend like there's this big, active, grassroots democratic organization in the district, which there isn't. it basically has to be created, and you need an electable candidate to do that.

2. cegalis was not the messiah in 2004. if anything, that would go to brent christensen, who was hyde's first serious challenger in 2000. he was the first to actually get dems excited about the district, and cegalis based her campaign on the fact that he had some success (about 40% of the vote, which was more than anyone else had gotten). i remember being at the debate (which hyde phoned in from dc) and all the 6th congressional dems said this was the first time they'd ever seen democrats excited in the district.

just b/c cegalis got 44% of the vote, didn't mean she'd do better this time. people were getting sick of hyde, but now in '06 "we don't have hank hyde to kick around anymore" so to speak. nobody outside a few core supporters actually liked cegalis, they just didn't like hyde.

sorry for the rant, but obviously quotes like this make me very angry: "I'm not going to vote in the congressional 6th race. No way," said Amy Tauchman, a Glen Ellyn Democrat who was office manager and finance director for the Cegelis campaign. "A lot of the Dems are going to stay home."

i volunteered for brent in 2000, and there was almost nothing as far as any meaningful dem organization goes (and cegalis didn't do much to help build anyone but herself)...the sense of entitlement from these people is disgusting.

Duckworth vs. Cegelis

They want unity? Fine. Just tell Emanuel and Duckworth to break with Bush and take a real antiwar position. If they can't support 'Out now',' then at least take Murtaugh's stand. Otherwise, forget it. Emanuel's crass opportunism, his 'one dollar, one vote' idea of democracy, means I don't give a damn. I helped register 20,000 new voters in 2004, but I'm not voting for anyone who's going to continue this war. I do have somewhere to go. I'll be holding a picket sign against him at his polling place on election day. How's Hightower put it? 'In Texas, the middle of the road is for yellow stripes and dead armadillos.'

Carl Davidson, Chicago

"obviously quotes like this make me very angry: "I'm not going to vote in the congressional 6th race. No way," said Amy Tauchman, a Glen Ellyn Democrat who was office manager and finance director for the Cegelis campaign. "A lot of the Dems are going to stay home.""

Expecting someone so deeply involved in the Cegelis campaign to be anything other than hurt and very p.o.'d the day after the primary is probably asking a bit much.

"and cegalis didn't do much to help build anyone but herself"

That statement is just factually untrue -- you could just ask Joe Voseky (sic?) or any number of others.

You said you volunteered for Brent in 2000, but who did you volunteer for in 2004 or 2006? Anyone? If not, I wouldn't start complaining about the nature of the grassroots if I were you.

Andy is a liar.

If Cegelis "didn't do much to help build anyone but herself" then why did she have her volunteers spend hours stuffing bags with literature for other candidates when they went out canvassing -- candidates like State Senate nominee Dan Kotowski and new MWRD Commissioner Debra Shore, who won in part thanks to Christine's efforts? Wouldn't it have been better for Christine to send her canvassers out sooner instead of having them spend time adding lit for other Democrats to her own before they went out?!

Leave a comment

Get the Sweet widget

More widgets


Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Stay in touch

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on March 23, 2006 6:02 AM.

Blagojevich: Challenges Topinka to 10 debates. was the previous entry in this blog.

Duckworth: Sends out appeal to Cegelis, Scott voters. ``We must join together.'' is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.