Eaton: Southland may be slipping away from GOP
By Fran Eaton March 20, 2012 8:40PM
Updated: April 22, 2012 8:15AM
The day after this year’s Illinois primary election will be a tough one. This has been the most brutal and nastiest one I’ve observed since first taking note of party primaries almost 20 years ago. What you’ve seen on the national news among Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and the other GOP presidential candidates that have dropped out merely scratches the surface.
Santorum claims Romney’s nearly $4 million in television and radio commercials were filled with lies and distortions. Santorum, who had only $300,000 to spend in Illinois, was unable to fight with enough ammunition. He took to a ground game, drawing thousands at several stops downstate. Paul and Gingrich made few appearances in the state, reflecting their much worse numbers in the polls.
Unfortunately, voter turnout was very low, even though the election involved having a major voice in determining the Republican presidential candidate. The race remains open, with Romney not able to consistently garner more than 30 percent of support from state to state.
The GOP presidential contenders visited statewide, but none stopped by in south Cook County or Will County. That emphasizes that where Republicans were once very strong southwest of Chicago, they have dwindled to nearly a third of the north suburb numbers.
In light of that, the emboldened Democrats control most of the Southland and will until real reform is achieved. The people of the Southland deserve a choice when they go to the polling booth, and that is the responsibility of the Republican Party.
If you went to the polls Tuesday — and it’s a one in four chance you did because turnout has become that low during primary elections — you may have been surprised at how few options you had if you asked for a Republican ballot.
You had a choice for president. Also for your congressman, but you may not have recognized those names because, while you and I weren’t paying much attention, the U.S. House districts dramatically changed because of redistricting — and with the Democrats running the state, the changes were no help for Republicans.
As an example of the gerrymandering, the 1st Congressional District now runs from Lake Michigan southwest through Chicago and out to Elwood in Will County. That’s Bobby Rush’s district, extended way southwest to make up for lost population in Chicago but still solidly Democratic.
But the new boundaries persuaded three Republicans to compete for the party’s nomination — Frederick Collins, an employee of the Cook County Sheriff’s Department; Jimmy Tillman, son of controversial former Chicago alderman Dorothy Tillman; and Blue Island Mayor Don Peloquin.
Farther down the ballot were candidates for Cook County state’s attorney, recorder of deeds, circuit court clerk and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Board. Hmm. Only one GOP candidate for all those offices.
Get the picture? There were few choices if you voted Republican on Tuesday, until you got to the Cook County Board of Review. There you found two Republicans running for the little-known board that hears property assessment challenges. They were incumbent board member Dan Patlak and Sean Morrison, of Palos Park.
Morrison waged an all-out intra-party attack on Patlak, who was elected to the board of review just two years ago. But Morrison had some vulnerability, admitting he “invested” $600,000 in a reality TV show pilot, featuring women wrestlers living together in a house, that was canned during production. Morrison denied accusations from some of those women that he didn’t give them their promised pay.
With more than 1,000 employees at his Alsip security firm, Morrison still sought another job reviewing Cook County property assessments. Am I the only one that found that strange?
Orland Township GOP committeewoman Liz Gorman, who’s also a Cook County commissioner, defended Morrison. Her organization was the only one to show a $1,500 cash donation to Morrison, cash that was added to the $100,000 he loaned himself during the campaign’s last days.
Cook County Republican chairman Sig Vaznelis, who’s also the Lemont Township committeeman, also saw nothing strange about Morrison’s interest in the post. He also didn’t have a problem with the nasty divisive ads that Morrison ran, implying that Morrison could freeze property taxes and reform the tax assessment process despite both needing legislative approval.
Wednesday starts the second leg of this 2012 election marathon. Let’s hope the southwest Cook County GOP is able to pull itself together to give the Democrats some competition before the Nov. 6 election. If not, settle in because we’re in for a long downhill slide.
Fran Eaton is a Southland resident who co-founded and edits the conservative political blog, illinoisreview.com