By Abdon M. Pallasch
CHICAGO--I'm about to step into the shower as the doorbell rings. I open the front door in my robe, barefoot, unshaven, my hair askew.
State Rep. Sarah Feigenholtz, one of 12 Democrats running to replace Rahm Emanuel in Tuesday's primary election, opens her eyes wide, covers them with her right hand and turns her head away as she begins laughing.
"It's OK, Sara, you can look. I've got my robe on," I tell her.
Welcome to the front line in the election, the working-class Jefferson Park neighborhood on Chicago's Northwest Side..
It's Saturday morning. Ald Patrick O'Connor is live on the Irish Hour on the radio. The mailbox and television are filling with increasingly nasty advertisements from the candidates.
Feigenholtz turns to her staffers, who are also laughing and one says, "You aren't the name on our list."
The Pallasch household has gotten at least five fliers from Feigenholtz in recent weeks, but all addressed to the woman of the house. Feigenholtz has surgically targetted women voters in her campaign. If she can just get all the women in the district to vote for her in a 12-candidate race with 10 male candidates, that's certain victory.
"You just missed her," I said. "But I show her all the stories."
"Don't show her that last one," Feigenholtz says sternly, apparently referring to a short item I wrote Thursday about how Feigenholtz used to date one of her main rivals, Cook County Commissioner Michael Quigley.
"I'll give her this," I say, taking her hand-out, "And I'll remind her you're the only one ringing our bell in this cold weather."
"This is a nice neighborhood," Feigenholtz says after asking the name of the local church. I don't tell her that her rival Frank Annunzio is a member of the St. Robert Bellarmine's parish.
Feigenholtz' base, like Quigley's, is in the Eastern, lakefront section of the district, not out here in the ethnic bungalow belt where the Democratic Ward organizations are pushing State Rep. John Fritchey hard.
But it seems no matter how many Fritchey signs the organization guys put up, the signs that outnumber all others here are those for Dr. Victor Forys, the Polish-born physician dismissed as a second-tier candidate by those who forget this district has the highest percentage of Polish-born and Polish-American voters in the country.
But there are also as many women in the district as men, and Feigenholtz is counting on her message of expertise in health care issues to resonate with them. She has raised more money than any other candidate and the Service Employees International Union has put up $275,000 to help Feigenholtz saturate the airwaves and prove that SEIU can beat the AFL-CIO, which put its money on Fritchey.
She declines an offer to come in for coffee and moves on to the neighbors' doorbell.
The phone rings. It's SEIU plugging Feigenholtz. It rings again. Feigenholtz' campaign.