Gun-control not high on agenda
BY DAN MIHALOPOULOS December 15, 2012 11:00PM
Thornton Township Committeeman Frank Zuccarelli speaks before Democratic committeemen slate a candidate for the 2nd Congressional District election at South Suburban College in South Holland, Ill., on Saturday, December 15, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 17, 2013 6:53AM
Leave it to Beavers, once again, to blurt out what all the other politicians are thinking but will not say.
Free-speaking Cook County Commissioner William Beavers may lose his liberty, despite his optimism that he will be acquitted of pending federal corruption charges.
He no longer is even the 7th Ward’s Democratic committeeman, having left the post four years ago after a landslide loss to Ald. Sandi Jackson.
Jackson was the only absentee for a slate-making meeting of party bosses Saturday in South Holland, sending in a proxy vote — a practice the Washington, D.C.-based alderman surely would love to see adopted at the City Council, where she appears more rarely than any member.
It was Beavers who sat for hours among the crowd as Democratic leaders heard pleas for their endorsement from 16 hopefuls to replace Jackson’s reclusive husband, Jesse Jackson Jr., in Congress. And it was Beavers who invoked another TV show from the same era as “Leave it to Beaver” before state Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago) approached the podium to make his pitch before the party slate-making committee.
“Have gun, will travel,” Beavers said to Trotter, and both men had a laugh at the back of the meeting room.
Beavers’ joke made light of Trotter’s recent arrest for trying to bring a gun and ammo onto a flight at O’Hare Airport. The timing of the incident was bad for the Springfield veteran, coming as it did soon after he declared his intention to run in the special election to succeed Jackson.
Saturday’s slate-making session also seemed poorly timed for Trotter, with his alleged crime now against the backdrop of Friday’s massacre in Newtown, Conn.
Yet, the day after the second-deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, the would-be members of Congress did not address the issue of gun control in their public speeches any more deeply than Beavers did in his wisecrack about Trotter.
Ald. Carrie Austin (16th) mentioned the schoolhouse tragedy in her opening prayer. Some of the candidates made reference to parts of the district that are plagued by gun violence like few other places in the nation.
Through it all, though, the party leaders did not ask any of them for their positions on gun regulation.
Instead, they sought and received confirmation that virtually all the most prominent candidates to succeed Jackson are in favor of abortion rights and they learned that the only significant player in the race who opposes gay rights is Napoleon Harris, the retired pro football player and state senator-elect.
Austin also asked almost everybody how they would help her develop a big, old industrial site in her ward. Ald. Leslie Hairston sought positions on long-running dispute over the re-construction of the Promontory Point shoreline — limestone or concrete? — in her lakefront 5th Ward.
Later on, just as in the open session, nobody asked about gun control during the 90-minute, closed-door meeting where party leaders summoned some candidates for follow-up questioning, said Frank Zuccarelli, the Thornton Township committeeman.
A Trotter backer, Zuccarelli chaired Saturday’s futile effort to unite the party behind one candidate.
If the Democratic bosses had bothered to ask some questions about gun control, they might have found more reason to sort out a favorite.
State Sen. Toi Hutchinson of Olympia Fields voted with the National Rifle Association’s positions 92 percent of the time and has enjoyed the Illinois State Rifle Association’s endorsement. Rival Deborah Halvorson, a former congresswoman from Crete, also had NRA backing.
At the other end of the spectrum were Robin Kelly (a lifetime grade of F from the NRA for her votes while a state lawmaker) and the pistol-packing Trotter (only voted with the pro-gun lobby 33 percent of the time).
The top three trending topics on Twitter on Saturday were Newtown, #NRA and #GunLawsAreAJoke. But will the anger over the shootings and at the rise in gun violence in Chicago be sustained? Will it translate into Democratic voters who demand to know the gun-control positions of the candidates before the Feb. 26 primary?
They clearly can’t leave that job to Beavers or to the party bosses.