Kadner: Peloquin battles Rush for Congress
By Phil Kadner email@example.com October 23, 2012 8:44PM
Blue Island Mayor Don Peloquin is running for Congress against U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush.
Updated: November 25, 2012 11:39AM
Don Peloquin is shaking hands at train stations, speaking at “coffees” in private homes where only two or three people gather and stopping by bars “where the kids hang out to tell them why they should get involved in politics.”
Peloquin, the mayor of Blue Island, is running as the Republican candidate in the 1st Congressional District against longtime incumbent Democrat Bobby Rush.
Like many Republican candidates in the Southland, “I haven’t gotten any help from either (the state or national GOP) organization,” Peloquin said. “They didn’t even send me a ‘thank you’ note for winning the primary.”
A Republican has no chance in the 1st District, the party chiefs have determined, so they’re not going to waste time or money.
“But that’s all right,” Peloquin said. “I have a grass-roots organization, people campaigning for me, handing out literature, putting up yard signs, telling their neighbors to vote for me. I have the energy to campaign by going door-to-door and talking to anyone who is willing to listen.
“And that’s what democracy should really be all about. People getting involved in their government. Candidates talking to the people.”
That’s a common refrain from candidates who can’t raise the big cash, but Peloquin’s enthusiasm makes you think he believes his message.
Peloquin, who has been mayor for 28 years, said the new boundaries of the 1st District give him a fighter’s chance to pull off an upset.
“The district stretches about 50 miles from Bronzeville, Hyde Park, Englewood and Morgan Park in Chicago through Evergreen Park, Blue Island, Midlothian, Oak Forest, parts of Orland Park and Tinley Park down through New Lenox, Frankfort, Manhattan and Elwood,” Peloquin said.
“It runs from Cook County down through Will County. The district is 60 percent Democratic, based on primary voters, and 52 percent African-American. Fifty-two percent of the voters are in Chicago and 48 percent in the suburbs.
“But I think I have a chance because half of those who voted Democratic live in the suburbs, and I’ve served the people of the suburbs through my funeral homes and political career my entire life. People know me.”
Peloquin, 61, is a part-owner in Hickey Memorial Funeral Homes in Blue Island, Midlothian and New Lenox.
In addition to the more suburban tilt to the new district, Peloquin contends that independent voters have increased from 17 percent to 30 percent based on the number of registered voters who failed to take primary election ballots.
If elected, he contends he will not be the typical Republican congressman, although many of his positions seem to be in line with the GOP platform.
He’s opposed to abortion “except when the life of the mother is in danger.” He would continue the Bush-era income tax cuts, which many Democrats claim help the wealthy more than the middle class.
But Peloquin said he would also extend the 2 percent Social Security payroll tax cut, backed by the Obama administration, which many conservative congressmen have sought to eliminate.
He also supports a term limit of six years for congressmen, while laughingly acknowledging his nearly three-decade tenure as mayor.
“I think two-year terms were created for congressmen because the House is supposed to represent working people, and the idea was that you devote two years to public service and than go back to your work,” he said. “I think that concept is a good one. It’s supposed to be a part-time job, not your life’s work.”
Peloquin said that, if elected, his No. 1 priority would be to create jobs in the 1st District.
I probably shouldn’t have been surprised when the mayor then gushed about an idea to create a series of “vertical farms” in Chicago and the south suburbs.
He did after all advocate construction of a plasma arc gasification plant in Blue Island, a cutting-edge idea that probably attracted more critics than supporters.
As I understand the farm concept, and I confess I don’t understand it very well, abandoned factories would be turned into indoor farms where crops would be grown organically.
In addition, Peloquin said, the same factory or one nearby could be used to raise chickens and produce eggs, with the waste from the chickens used as fertilizer for the vegetables and the vegetables used to feed the chickens.
He cited Columbus, Ohio, as a location that is aggressively pursuing the technology and said 15,000 new jobs were created there.
Peloquin also believes that the Southland should be the transportation hub of the nation — using its mix of railroads, intermodal yards and interstate highways to attract jobs and development.
“I would downsize the south suburban airport and make it primarily a cargo airport,” he said.
And he also would obtain funding to complete the full Interstate 57/I-294 interchange “which is not scheduled to be completed for another five to 10 years.”
“Most of all I would be accessible,” Peloquin said. “I haven’t talked to anyone in Rush’s office for years.
“He doesn’t communicate with suburban mayors. One thing people know is that I’m always available.”
Critics of Peloquin who live in Blue Island have told me the mayor hasn’t done enough to promote economic development in his city.
“There are vacant storefronts in every suburb these days,” he said. “I’ve kept sales tax revenues up. And I turned a landfill into a municipal golf course, and when St. Francis Hospital was closing, I helped recruit the Metro South Medical Center to take its place and keep jobs in the city.
“But after 28 years, I think it’s time for some new ideas. That’s why I’m not running for re-election as mayor.”
Peloquin is a viable option for people who believe there’s a benefit to a two-party system of government.