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Kadner: Elections are about the voters

Congressional candidate RobKelly campaigns 211th street MetrStation. Tuesday February 26 2013 | Brian Jackson~Sun Times

Congressional candidate Robin Kelly campaigns at the 211th street Metra Station. Tuesday, February 26, 2013 | Brian Jackson~Sun Times

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Updated: March 28, 2013 6:45AM



Political candidates always think elections are about them.

They’re not. They’re about people like 86-year-old Louise Saunders, of Homewood, who came out to vote in the 2nd Congressional District primary election on a day when ice and snow made driving and walking treacherous.

Why?

“This just needed to be,” Mrs. Saunders said. “It is important because you have to choose the right person to represent you. It’s important because we have to stop all of this shooting and killing and stuff.”

Mrs. Saunders told me she lost her husband recently, and this was her first time out of the house since his passing.

As for former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and his predecessors who disgraced the office, Mrs. Saunders focuses on the future, not the past.

“They didn’t behave well,” she said. “But I’m hopeful the next person will be better.”

Also voting at Homewood Church, 183rd Street and Governors Highway, was William Webb. He trudged across the snow-covered parking lot leaning on a walker.

“I totally detest the way (New York City Mayor Michael) Bloomberg came in here telling people how to vote,” Webb said, referring to a political action committee that ran numerous TV commercials attacking former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson for her pro-gun positions.

Webb said he voted for Halvorson, but the gun issue wasn’t the dominant one for him.

“She graduated from Bloom High School, and so did I,” Webb said, chuckling.

Webb’s wife said, “He made me come out and vote, too.”

When I asked her why she felt it was important, the answer took me by surprise.

“Because I’m voting against (Illinois House Speaker) Michael Madigan. I want to toss all the Madigan people out of office,” Mrs. Webb said.

So who was the anti-Madigan person she supported in the congressional race?

“To tell you the truth, I don’t remember who I voted for,” she replied.

Darnelle Fielder, of Park Forest, stood on the street corner outside the polling place carrying a sign that urged a vote for Chicago Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) for Congress. Why was Fielder willing to stand in the sleet touting the candidacy of a Chicago alderman?

“They’re paying me $100,” she said. “I stand outside from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., and they pay me the money. I just did this for the money.”

Well, you can’t get more American, or more Chicago, than that.

Doug Baum took a more philosophical view.

“Really, this is a pretty important vote,” Baum said. “You pretty well know that the result of this primary election will produce the next congressperson from the district because the Democratic Party turnout is overwhelming. So the primary is the election.”

The key issue for him was gun control, and Baum said he voted for former state Rep. Robin Kelly, a former state representative from Matteson, who supports a ban on assault weapons and limits on the size of ammunition clips.

Venita Chew, of Homewood, supported Kelly as well, but guns weren’t the key issue for her.

“Bring some jobs to the district,” Chew said. “That should be the congressperson’s first priority. Education is important because without good schools you can’t have good, stable communities. Gun control is important, but it’s not the issue as far as I’m concerned.”

Michelle and Kurt Jackson also said they voted for Kelly, and while Mrs. Jackson said gun control was “absolutely” a key for her, Mr. Jackson took a broader approach.

“I would like to see that (south suburban) airport materialize,” he said. “We need economic growth in the south suburbs. We definitely need growth and change. We need someone to develop an economic development strategy for the region.”

Sandy Christofanelli said she came out to vote on a day when many in the 2nd District stayed home because “I am hoping to find someone to go to Congress and make a difference, not just talk.

“We need someone to go to Washington and do something,” she said, noting that Congress and the president seem unable to negotiate a solution to the sequestration bill. “I realize this congressman won’t be elected in time to do anything about that, but that’s just indicative of everything that’s going on in Washington.”

Christofanelli, who lives in Flossmoor, said she voted for Halvorson.

“I think she did a good job the last time she was in Congress, but she only had two years,” she said.

Did the disappointing performance of past congressmen in the district make her think twice about participating in the election?

“Absolutely not!” she replied. “I was very disappointed in him (Jackson) and had high hopes for him when he was new. But you have to keep trying. You can’t give up.”

Shane Hale said he “absolutely wants somebody who is actually going to serve us in Congress. We’ve had too many people representing themselves and not representing the people of the district.”

Hale, like several other voters I spoke with, said he was repulsed by the TV commercials put together by Bloomberg’s political action committee, attacking Halvorson.

“I voted for Halvorson in part because of that and in part because I think a lot of other politicians are anti-gun right now because it seems to be the popular thing to say. It’s not going to solve all the problems involving crime.”

Another man told me he voted for Kelly but found the Bloomberg commercials offensive.

“They used the worst possible picture of Halvorson to turn voters against her, and I just find that objectionable,” he said. “You don’t have to agree with Halvorson to understand she has a right to defend her position on guns.

“Have some respect for people who disagree with you and have more respect for voters.”

Many failed to vote on Tuesday because of the weather or the past failures of political figures.

But elections are always about the voters, even when they don’t come out to vote. Maybe especially when they don’t come out to vote.

Too many candidates think it’s all about them. That’s usually where the problems start.



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