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Kadner: Democrats dominate the Southland

Illinois Speaker House Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) is shown this August file photo.

Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) is shown in this August file photo.

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Updated: December 9, 2012 7:34PM



Mike Madigan’s Democratic machine dominates the south suburbs of Cook County.

Republicans once rode roughshod over this turf, from Orland Park to Olympia Fields.

But with the exception of state Rep. Renee Kosel (R-37th), whose predominantly Will County district includes small slivers of Cook County, there are no GOP state legislators left in the Southland.

Nor are there any Republican congressmen.

“Madigan’s ability to draw district maps beneficial to his party is unparalleled,” Will County Republican Party Chairman Ed Ronkowski said.

He was referring to the new legislative maps crafted by Illinois House Speaker and state Democratic Party chairman Madigan after the 2010 census.

“He has computer programs that are able to chart the districts, from neighborhoods to blocks all the way down to households, that give Democrats a huge advantage,” Ronkowski said.

As a result of Tuesday’s election, Democrats will hold veto-proof majorities in both the Senate and House next year.

“Funding is a huge issue” in campaigns, said Blue Island Mayor Don Peloquin, who ran one of the best Republican campaigns in the suburbs against veteran U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1st).

Peloquin actually defeated Rush in the south suburbs of Cook County, getting 53 percent of the vote (44,466) to Rush’s 47 percent (39,354).

Peloquin’s margin of victory in the suburban Will County portion of the district was even wider, with 72 percent of the vote (29,363) to Rush’s 28 percent (11,268).

But the district’s Chicago vote demonstrates why Peloquin never had a chance of winning the race, with Rush drawing 96.6 percent of the ballots cast (178,241) to Peloquin’s 3.4 percent (6,329).

If Peloquin had won every single vote in the suburbs, he couldn’t have beaten Rush’s output in Chicago alone.

“How does anyone get 97 percent of the vote?” Peloquin said in bewilderment. “I got 3 percent. How does that happen? I never heard of anything like that.”

Peloquin raised $100,000 in his bid for Congress with no help from the state or Cook County Republican parties.

“I put together a great campaign, had a lot of volunteers in the field, a real grass-roots organization, but without the funding (from the state party) and with the district gerrymandered, it just wasn’t enough,” he said.

In state legislative races, Democratic candidates routinely dominated their Republican opponents in the Southland.

I hate numbers, but you have to see the statistics to understand just how Madigan weighted the vote in favor of his candidates.

In the 35th House District, Democrat Fran Hurley (a 19th Ward secretary) defeated her Republican opponent, Ricardo Fernandez, in the suburban portion of the district (which included Orland Park) by a relatively narrow 2,000 votes.

But the district includes Chicago’s 19th, 21st and 34th wards, where Hurley piled up 19,183 votes to Fernandez’s 3,759.

In the 18th Senate District, which includes that 35th House District and even more suburban territory, Democrat Bill Cunningham received 34,592 votes in the suburbs to Republican Barbara Bellar’s 27,418. In the 17th, 18th, 19th, 21st and 34th wards of Chicago, Cunningham picked up 80 percent of the vote and crushed Bellar 23,216 to 5,577.

At least there were contests in those state legislative races.

Republicans were unable to field candidates against state Reps. Anthony DeLuca (D-Chicago Heights), Robert Rita (D-Blue Island), Al Riley (D-Olympia Fields), Will Davis (D-Homewood) and Thaddeus Jones (D-Calumet City).

Republicans often blame the news media for their problems attracting voters, but in Illinois no one has taken a bigger beating in the news media than Madigan and Democratic Party leaders.

This is a state in which the Democratic governor has been sent to prison for public corruption, that is facing billions of dollars in debt and recently passed the largest income tax hike in Illinois history.

All of that has been in the news all of the time for the past year.

Will County’s Ronkowski said there’s simply something wrong with voters in Cook County.

“They just elected a state representative (Derrick Smith) who was under indictment and expelled by the state Legislature and voted Jesse Jackson Jr. back into office although he’s likely to be indicted,” Ronkowski said.

Democrats are “taxing all of the businesses out of Illinois, and the people are following those businesses to Indiana and Iowa.

“So I don’t know what those voters are thinking in Cook County, but I do believe someday they’ll turn to the Republican Party to solve the problems of this state.”

Ronkowski did say the Republican Party needs to do a better job of attracting candidates “the public likes” who are “intelligent” and “hard working.”

He cited Edgar Montalvo, who was the Republican candidate in the 19th Senate District as an example.

Montalvo, 51, is a successful businessman, was an Eagle Scout, served in Iraq twice and lives in Tinley Park.

But he lost his campaign to Democrat Michael Hastings, with the south suburban portion of the district casting 42,918 votes for Hastings (75.5 percent) to 13,908 (24.4 percent) for Montalvo.

Ronkowski attributed the defeat in part to Madigan’s forces challenging Montalvo’s election petitions, forcing the Republican to spend a lot of his campaign money on attorneys.

I believe a two-party system is important in a democracy. And I think a lot of Southland voters yearn for an alternative to traditional Democrats.

But the Republicans need to recruit more moderate candidates to broaden their appeal to voters in the Southland.

Campaign funding is a problem, but grass-roots efforts have been known to overcome well-financed campaigns.

For now, the Democrats have a monopoly on elected office in the south suburbs of Cook County.

I don’t see that changing for a long, long time.



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