Although Illinois politics has been overshadowed by the ongoing shenanigans with our Governor and his appointment of Roland Burris to Barack Obama's vacant US Senate seat, another interesting situation is presenting itself in the Prairie State.
Rahm Emanuel, now Obama's chief of staff, has created an open US House seat. Lots of people would like to win the Rahmanator's seat.
The election for Emanuel's seat would be special. It's an interesting district that's always been owned by the Chicago machine. A combination of "ethnic working class" and upwardly mobile yuppies who gentrified the southern part of the district, the seat was formerly held by Blagojevich.
Before Blago, Dan Rostenkowski, who was there forever and built his power base from there (until he was convicted of some obscure crime and went to jail in the House post office scandal), held it with an iron fist for 36 years. For more information on Rostenkowski, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Rostenkowski. Actually, that's not entirely correct. A "reformer" Republican lawyer named Mike Flanagan held the seat for one term before the machine slapped him down to make way for Blago.
Tom is attempting to wrest Rahm's seat from the machine. The reason you haven't heard too much about it is that Emanuel has said nothing about it and has yet to anoint anyone. It's unlikely that he would since the machine's leaders (Daley, etc.) would be the ones to pick his successor. Since the Dems have a huge majority in the House, the machine may not make much of an effort and put up some dopey ward heeler.
Both Emanuel and Obama are doing their damnest to try to distance themselves from the machine. I wish that I could say that they are unsullied by the muck that seems to coat every political surface here, but they aren't. Nevertheless, they want to disconnect from that operation -- at least in terms of the public perception.
One of the reasons Harry Reid and Dick Durbin had an epiphany about seating Roland Burris is that they got a call from either Obama or one of the Chicago bosses. Not only did it look bad that Burris was standing out in the rain looking like a lost lamb, the machine guys are now trying to absolve themselves of the monster they created in Blago.
Our erstwhile governor is probably going to be impeached within the next two weeks, although a bloc of machine Democrats actually voted against having a special election to replace Obama. They wanted to roast Blago on a spit first and keep the power to name the new senator. Blago, being the petulant little newt he is, usurped that power, knowing full well he had legal standing as the sitting governor.
Political life has never been dull here.
I'm already involved in Tom's campaign. I'm usually repulsed at the idea of engaging with candidates -- I know full well the compromises they have to make -- but Tom is extraordinary. So far, his slogan -- "It's Your Turn" -- has been my one humble contribution. Even with all of the multiple bailouts and Obama's impending stimulus plan, it's not clear to me what happened to the $700 billion Congress gave to the banks, automakers and AIG. With all of the Fed loans included, the total tab to "help" the financial services industry is $8.5 trillion. There are lot of questions that need to be asked. Tom will ask them.
Here's the letter I wrote to my friends asking for their support:
I hate spam and I hate asking people for money, but this time I have to make an exception.
My friend Thomas Geoghegan is running for Rahm Emanuel's seat in Congress. I've known Tom for nearly 30 years and he's not a politician. He's a labor lawyer, writer and activist who has deeply rooted principles.
I first met him as he was fighting to restore pensions for some steelworkers I knew on the South Side of Chicago who had lost everything when their mill closed in 1980. After many years, he got some money back from a stingy multinational corporation, but it wasn't easy. Few of his cases have been. Representing unemployed workers is about as popular as undertaking.
As a Harvard Law School grad, Tom could've made a fortune in any other legal specialty. Instead he stuck to labor law with his legendary partner Leon Despres (now 100). Along the way, he's fought for voter's rights, the medically uninsured and a whole list of things that don't make most folks' radar screens.
If you want to know more about Tom and the issues he cares about, read some of his extraordinary books such as "Which Side Are You On?" or "See You in Court." He's also profiled in my late friend Studs Terkel's book "Hope Dies Last."
I'm asking for your help because Tom is one of the few people I know who wants to enter politics to do the right thing. His issues are clear: economic and health security for everyone. So I'm hoping you can get him started. He's one of the few bright lights on the Illinois political scene these days and I'd like to see as many folks as possible give him a fighting chance since he'll be up against the Chicago machine to win this seat.
If you'd like to spread the word, please copy and paste this message below to family, friends and neighbors.
Once again, forgive the intrusion.
If interested in Tom's campaign, here's his letter and particulars about how to help:
Thank you very much for joining the campaign.
This is a historic period for America. We are in a financial meltdown and each day more people lose their jobs, their homes, health care, and pensions. In short, Americans are losing their economic security.
At the same time, Congress sends the banks $700 billion and the Federal Reserve pours in trillion more.
Tired of bailing out banks? We need Congress not just to save Social Security but raise it. We need single payer health care to relieve employers from health care costs and avoid debacles like GM. And we need to put caps on the interest rates that the banks we bail out are charging consumers.
This is what I will work for in Congress. But I need your help to get there.
First, please pass this email on to ten of your friends and tell them, "Now it's your turn." Help us get economic security for America by joining the campaign.
Second, please donate to the campaign. In less than a week we've raised over $50,000—and amazing sum—but we'll need ten times that to run a winning campaign.
Third, if you live near Chicago, please help us gather signatures to get us on the ballot – the deadline is January 11th.
We're off to a great start, and with your help we can win this!
Thanks for everything,
PS I'll be interviewed on the Rachel Maddow Show on Air America tonight, which airs between 5pm and 8pm CST. You can listen to it live online or on your local Air America affiliate.
How to Clean Up Illinois Politics
If you live in Illinois, you should be able to vote for the junior senator's seat. Better yet, you deserve a right to recall corrupt or incompetent election officials. A recall measure came up in the General Assembly that would do just that, but Senate Democrats killed it. These are the senators who opposed giving you the right to purge the state of corruption:
Here are the 21 Democrats who voted no or present (the effect was the same), denying you a choice on whether Illinois should have a recall amendment:
James Clayborne Jr.
Emil Jones Jr.
Four Democratic senators were recorded as not voting: Gary Forby, Mattie Hunter, Martin Sandoval and Louis Viverito. Source: Chicago Tribune, 1/5/09
Want to clean up Illinois politics? Demand to right to dump lousy politicians and separate the money from the power.