Friday, August 21, 2009



Mike Sneed, famed gossip columnist/political reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times who has long had a habit of regularly scooping most of her colleagues on the local political beat, reports this (i.e., Friday 8/21) morning that Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart was approached by what she describes as a “top top Dem” to “seriously consider running for the U.S. Senate seat once occupied by President Obama.” Ms. Sneed further says that she confirmed the report with the “top Dem” who “has heavy influence” in Cook County and the Obama administration, two traits that seem to go hand in hand of late.

Tom Dart would be a strong candidate for the Senate. With Chris Kennedy dropping out of the race after a long imitation of Hamlet the Dane, the Democratic field is left to State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Urban League honcho Cheryle Jackson. Both are weak candidates. Giannoulias is very young, has little record of accomplishment, other than being born after his father and having played basketball with President Obama and professionally in Greece, and has a background in the (family) banking business, not a good perch from which to seek high political office in the wake of a financial crisis that had its origins, at least in the public’s mind, in the greed of the banks. Cheryle Jackson has a record of accomplishment that makes Alexi Giannoulias look like Dwight Eisenhower and is tainted by her close association with former Governor Rod Blagojevich, for whom she was chief of staff. As a partial result of the malodorousness of these two candidates, Republican Congressman Mark Kirk in ahead in the early polling in the Senate race. In a heavily Democratic state, this is earthshaking, so the Dems need someone other than Giannoulias or Jackson to bear their standard. Given Dart’s experience in the legislature and his recent (some might say shameless) headline grabbing in connection with his suspension of certain apartment foreclosures, the Burr Oak cemetery hornet’s nest, and his attacks against Craigslist’s more lascivious listings, he would be a more serious, or at least a more viable, candidate than the current reincarnations of Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum the Dems with whom the Dems are currently stuck.

Anyone who follows our fair city’s, or our fair state’s, politics, though, sees an immediate problem with Sheriff Dart’s candidacy. Mr. Dart is of Irish-American origin. Many of us have little problem with the Irish, though perhaps not the aforementioned Irish, ruling the world, but more objective observers do, including God, who gave the world whiskey in order to prevent such an eventuality. Already, state government is run by people named Quinn, Madigan, Hynes, Madigan (again), and Cullerton. Will the electorate want a guy named Dart to join his Celtic cronies in statewide office, especially when City of Chicago and County of Cook government and politics is dominated by people with names like Daley, Daley, Houlihan, Burke, Burke, Joyce, Madigan, O’Shea, etc., etc.?

Even more to the point, Mr. Dart is not only of Irish-American origin, he is South-Side Irish. Of the aforementioned Irish officeholders, only Illinois Senate President John Cullerton has his origins on the north side. While Comptroller Hynes, Attorney General Madigan, and County Assessor Houlihan may currently live on the north side (And they may not, but I am quite sure they do.), they all have their origins on the south side. Will the electorate, especially the downstate and collar county electorate, want another south side Irishman in even higher office?

Most to the point, especially for the political insiders who can nip Sheriff Dart’s senatorial aspirations in the bud, Mr. Dart not only is South Side Irish, he is South Side Irish from the 19th ward. As readers of my now classic 8/6/09 piece, “I DON’T KNOW WHO GAVE THE ORDER; I DIDN’T ASK, BECAUSE IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH BUSINESS!”, know, the 19th ward seems to be taking over everything, has spread far beyond its more traditional behind the scenes perch, and looks set to accumulate more power. As it stands now, State Comptroller Dan Hynes, a 19th warder, has declared his candidacy for governor. If reports are (or scuttlebutt is) true, State Senator Kevin Joyce, another 19th warder, is thinking of challenging Congressman Dan Lipinski in the 2010 primary for the 3rd Congressional seat. If Cook County Sheriff Dart does run for the Senate, yet another 19th warder will be running for the U.S. Senate. All three of these gentlemen not only, like yours truly, hail from the 19th ward, they still live there. Such a concentration of power in a ward that already boasts behind the scenes power brokers like Jerry Joyce and the Sheahan brothers (Again, see my now classic 8/6/09 piece, “I DON’T KNOW WHO GAVE THE ORDER; I DIDN’T ASK, BECAUSE IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH BUSINESS!”) would be altogether intolerable to party bigwigs from other wards, even, one supposes, such south side Irish suzerains as Mike Madigan and John Daley.

Something has to give; one of the young 19th ward trio of Kevin Joyce, Dan Hynes, or Tom Dart has to temporarily give up his aspirations for higher office and stay where he is for awhile. While I’m not in the business of making political traditions, at present it looks like it makes the most sense for both Messrs. Joyce and Hynes to step aside and defer to their more senior colleague Mr. Dart. His candidacy makes more sense and ruffles far fewer feathers than that of either Mister Joyce (if such a candidacy is more than a rumor) or Mr. Hynes.

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