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Kadner: Southland needs a champion in D.C.

Illinois Speaker House Michael Madigan (D-Chicago)

Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan (D-Chicago)

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Updated: December 28, 2012 6:20AM



If suburban political leaders don’t get behind a candidate to fill Jesse Jackson’s former congressional seat, the Unholy Trinity of Chicago will.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, state Democratic Party leader Michael Madigan and Cook County Democratic Party chairman Joe Berrios know an opportunity when they see one.

As I pointed out in Sunday’s column, 75 percent of the voters who cast ballots Nov. 6 in the 2nd Congressional District contest live outside Chicago.

Voters in Suburban Cook County accounted for nearly 153,964 of the votes in that race; Chicago 76,506 ballots and Will and Kankakee counties another 66,000 votes combined.

With less than 20 percent of those voters casting Republican ballots, the next congressman from the 2nd District should be a suburban Democrat.

But all indications are that suburban political leaders are waiting to see who the Unholy Trinity anoints.

Thornton Township Democratic Committeeman Frank Zuccarelli, who has perhaps the largest political organization in the suburbs, has failed to make any public statement about the congressional race.

I was told by one source that south suburban mayors have been talking about the need to coalesce behind a single candidate, but couldn’t confirm that they’ve actually done anything.

“We’re all aware that the Chicago political leaders, Emanuel and Madigan, have likely been considering the options for months because we’ve all known that it was possible Jackson would resign,” one suburban mayor said.

“But I don’t know of any effort to bring the mayors in the suburbs together.”

On Monday, Gov. Pat Quinn tentatively set Feb. 26 as the date of the 2nd District primary election and March 19 for the special election.

But the governor said he’s hoping to get legislative approval to allow the special election to coincide with existing municipal elections on April 9. Cook County Clerk David Orr said he’s willing to join with his counterparts in Will and Kankakee counties in asking a judge to set the special election on that date, which would also include a primary election on Feb. 26.

Former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, of Crete, announced Sunday that she plans to run in the special election.

State Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields) on Monday indicated to me that she’s very close to making a decision to enter the race.

“This is a big, very big decision,” Hutchinson said. “I want to make sure I do everything I need to do before I make a decision.”

Asked what that entails, Hutchinson said she first had to consult her family, then local political and party leaders and finally the people she represents in the state Senate.

“The biggest thing is what the field (of candidates) looks like,” Hutchinson said, indicating she would not like to be involved in a multi-candidate race that could divide the district.

As for her family, Hutchinson said her three children, ages 16, 14 and 12, “are very enthusiastic.”

“They really want me to run,” she said. “They’re very excited about the idea.”

So it sounds like the family part of the decision is made.

“I guess so,” Hutchinson said.

Asked if she had any reservations about commuting between Illinois and Washington, D.C. if elected to Congress, Hutchinson said she did not.

“I already spend three hours each way traveling to Springfield,” Hutchinson said. “Going to Washington would just mean taking a plane instead of a car, and my family already knows what it’s like to experience that part of political life.”

Hutchinson said she’s talking to “party leaders” to gauge their level of support.

“But I’m very concerned about how my constituents would see this since I just ran for re-election to the state Senate promising to represent them,” Hutchinson said.

“I think it’s very, very important to have someone from this area representing us.

“I grew up in this area. I went to Rich Central High School. When I went away to college at the University of Illinois, I came back to the area, unlike many of my contemporaries who never returned, because I wanted to give something back to the community where I grew up.

“I have three children in the public schools. I know about the high property taxes, the unemployment rates, the economic development challenges and the need to have someone who can be a voice for the people of this community.”

I told Hutchinson she was sounding a lot like a candidate for Congress.

“I am very proud of the work I’ve done in the (state) Senate and the work I still want to get done,” Hutchinson said.

“I have not made up my mind. You asked who else I’m consulting. I’m praying. That’s who else I’m consulting.”

I expect Chicago’s Unholy Trinity to contend they will keep their grubby hands off this election and let voters of the 2nd Congressional District decide who can best represent them in Washington.

I won’t believe a word.

I have nothing against a true free-for-all among candidates seeking the office.

My fear is that Chicago will put its collective clout behind one candidate, while five or six other candidates divide the suburban vote.

Chicago political leaders have spent the past two decades driving the poor out of the city and into the south suburbs; they’ve undermined efforts to build a south suburban airport; they’ve refused to adequately fund public education, pumping up property tax bills and driving the migration of businesses and residents across the border to Indiana.

Suburban political leaders, out of fear or acting as lapdogs for those Chicago politicians, have failed to take a stand at critical times.

The next congressman for the 2nd District needs to be a voice for people who have none and improve the plight of communities in need of a champion.

This could indeed be a big, big election. Or it could just be another victory for Chicago’s political bosses.



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