Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ready to Go

We’ve spent much of this month getting ready for next month -- the final push toward primary day on February 2. The mailings are at the printer’s and the plans are laid to get out the vote.

Look for another article about me in The Chicago Reader next week as Ben Javorsky discusses Election Board politics in Chicago.

In the meantime, please take a minute to visit We can always use a few more dollars for postage, handouts, lawn signs, etc. Your financial help is needed now.

Don’t put it off, please donate now. Thanks. Joe

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Best Birthday Greeting

Last week Suzanne Elder, a very savvy marketing professional with significant campaign experience sent me a birthday greeting on Facebook and lamented my loss in my objection against my opponent’s petition. I replied:

“Although there were times when the idea of getting Mell off the ballot put a big grin on my face, I think it best to defeat her in the voting booth in Feb rather than face her as an Independent candidate next Nov. The unpaid media that the challenge earned me was worth every penny paid to Rich Means (my attorney). Now we need to move ahead. I am desperate for some good political savvy and experienced volunteers. My 15 friends who are working for me are green at it. Any ideas where I can get a campaign manager? I actually have money to pay him or her.”

She replied, “Let's make a time to chat. I may be able to help you for a short period. I can put together some analytics and a canvassing and field plan for you.”

We met on Sunday, after a weekend in which IVI-IPO voted to provisionally endorse me. The meeting went very well and it was obvious that her expertise would help move my campaign up a very big notch. She left me with homework and promised to return with a plan.

On Thursday she did so and it showed that in spite of the naysayers I could win. Later that day, I got a phone call from a significant and well-read Chicago journalist who is writing a full-length article about my race against the Chicago Machine. He thinks it will see the light of print just after the new year, proving that my race is being closely watched.

Yes, I am optimistic and I assure you that I know optimism ought always to be tempered with reality. I also know that my biggest problem is overcoming self-fulfilling prophecy. I had hoped, for instance, to get an endorsement from SEIU. After all, I have strong union credentials and have even participated in several union activities with them. Instead they chose to sit out my contest, endorsing no one.

That’s the rule of political thinking. If you can’t endorse the one you think will win, then certainly don’t endorse someone you think will lose, even if he or she is totally on your side. The lack of endorsement, of course, then helps fulfill the prophecy of defeat.

I had talked to Suzanne about helping me last summer and for a variety of reasons nothing came of it. So we had to mog through the summer on our own (us being me and my volunteers). Persevere we did and no one knocked me off the ballot. The few who really backed me, kept backing me to the hilt, affording me my first two endorsements, in spite of terrific odds to the contrary.

I write all this because each week it becomes more obvious that the original glimmer of hope for my victory shines a bit brighter.

As I write this blog, there are 53 days until the election. We’re on the ballot; we’ve got some money in the bank; Suzanne has put together a dynamite package that will lead to victory; and the folks who laughed at me when I asked them to sign my petition are beginning to think that indeed I just might have the last laugh.

But it’s too early to start laughing, even if a big smile is appropriate. I need volunteers to do the work on the street and money ($15,000) to fund the plan.

OK blog-readers. OK Facebook friends. OK everyone else. Now’s the time to dig a little deeper and help me go for the 3,750 votes I need to win. Repost the link to my blog on your Facebook page. Email your friends to visit my website at Tweet my URL to your followers. Put a check in the mail or go to to add your donation.

If you live in Chicagoland, I need you to commit to working for me between now and the election.

Time is moving toward the big day -- Feb 2. I need the cash now for two very important reasons: First, there are printers to pay so the direct mail part of the campaign can be mailed on time. That part needs to be done now. Secondly, Dec 31 marks the end of another reporting period. When my D2 (that’s what they’re called in Illinois) shows your support, it will be one more nail in the coffin of self-fulfilling prophecy. The naysayers will have to say “Gosh, that guy is doing it. Maybe, just maybe, he might win.”

Every likes to back a winner. It’s up to you and me to show them that I am (and will be) the winner.

Act now and the District 40 machine will tremble and fall on Feb 2. Then you and I will have plenty of reason to laugh the last laugh.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

My View of the Endorsement Process

As the male State Rep Candidate that was mentioned above, I have found the endorsement process both fascinating and helpful. I am one of those grass-root politicians who is brand new to being a politician, unless you count three campaigns where I didn’t even make a blip on the charts in Indiana more than 25 years ago.

In this, my almost-virgin campaign, I have been part of four endorsement processes: Northside Democracy for America, IVI-IPO, the PACs and Unions, and the Regular Democrats. It has been an advanced lesson in Chicago politics, one that more voters ought to experience.

The most clamorous process is NDFA, where progressive, ethical, and fiscally-responsible candidates are asked to present themselves. OK, it is exclusionary since you have to have those qualities AND be a Democrat. It also differs from IVI-IPO and the PAC/Union process because it is without questionnaire. That leaves the decision to be based on the literature the candidate presents, the reporting done by Steve, who does a write-up after talking with the candidate, and the candidate’s actual presentation. There is then a month’s wait to vote. The free-form works well and offers a real challenge because the questions are often very pointed and the rivalry between supporters is both friendly and serious.

For me, just listening has been a learning experience since it gives one the opportunity to hear real answers to the concerns of specific voters. Likewise it gives a chance to hear the fluff, when the candidate delivers it.

IVI-IPO, on the other hand, is long on the questionnaire. Unfortunately they are also very slow in making the completed ones available, so much so that my opponent’s answers were only available on the website at 10 pm the night before (when mine was up there too). The difficulty here is understandable since volunteers have too much to do. My questionnaire had sat with them for a long time. I heard that my opponent’s had only been received the night before, in spite of stern warnings that if you missed the deadline (she had) there was no forgiveness.

Since there were only three voters from my district (myself, my partner, and another resident/activist) the chair appointed a few others to vote as well, a process that could be fraught with the smell of machine politics, but since I won the vote, I won’t complain.

I liked the short intro and short after-word, since I enjoy answering questions. For my part, I found the questions really well thought and a bit challenging, which I think is important. Unlike at NDFA I wasn’t allowed to hear my opponent. That speechifying was followed by discussion without the presence of the candidates and I hear it was lively and interesting, though it turns out one-sided since the non-binding vote was 5 to 1. I am now awaiting the certification by the State Board, since less than 15 votes were cast. The nearly two-week wait is way too long, but again you are relying on the “kindness of volunteers” to paraphrase Blanche DuBois.

I had always wondered how the IVI-IPO endorsements were made and to finally find out was a good thing. It is unfortunate, though, that it doesn’t include hundreds more voters, such being the sad state of (non) participatory democracy in America today.

The third group, PACs and Unions, to which I might add Editors, seems mostly to be about paper. It is also a process that begins too late in the primary election cycle to make much difference, as they say they are waiting for the petitions to be certified. Really, then why were the candidates for governor and other high-ranking officials endorsed so much sooner? It’s also obvious that PAC and Union money is saved for the perceived-to-be winners. Disclosure here: that became clear when I read the book “Reforming State Legislative Elections” by William M. Salka.

I know, I know. It’s called betting on a sure thing. I see that merely as a great way to preserve’s one’s ability to influence AND to preserve the status quo. That, I think, is the big difference, as NDFA and IVI-IPO seem to care less about the status quo and more about good government or at least their brand of it. And yes, I am prejudiced here, since even the unions that would seem to have been naturals to endorse me decided (so far at least) to endorse no one.

And then there are the regular Democrats. Twice I tried to meet my Ward 39 committeeman and twice I was unable to get an appointment. The third time I went and sat in the reception area of his office for two-and-a-half hours, having been told my name was on the list and he would see me. Closing time for the office is posted for 9 pm. At 8:30, when my turn came, I was told that Mr. Committeeman was leaving and couldn’t see me. The party looks out for its own, especially when its own are in-laws, children, cousins, or big contributors.

Now I will give up my rant if someone tells me that the Committeeman has no responsibility to see that his/her Ward elects the best candidate as determined by open debate among competing and competent candidates. Never mind, I’ll win the really old-fashioned way, by knocking on doors and gaining support of the voters one hand-shake at a time.

As my friend Chuck me told at the very beginning of this run “You cannot fail.” This education has been priceless and even if I don’t win, has prepared me well for the next time when I just might run against the Committeeman.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Board Hearing

The Election Board ruled against my objection to placing Deb Mell on the ballot. That's no surprise as that is how the hearing officer ruled as well. We are still deciding whether to take the question to the Circuit Court as we have ten days to consider our next move.

In the meantime, I do wonder the following:

Shall the state election law be amended to require

1. That a candidate to the General Assembly be an active registered voter?


2. That the signers of petitions for candidates to the General Assembly need NOT be active registered voters?


3. None of the above, as members of the General Assembly ought to be exempt from the requirements that they impose on petition signers.

I'd like to know so that when I am sworn in as a Representative in the General Assembly I will know whether or not to offer an amendment to the State's election law.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Machine Politics

A casual observer of my campaign could easily come to the conclusion that I oppose machine politics. My rants against “The Machine” are hardly hidden and much of my platform is based on either the introduction of laws that will weaken the status quo, i.e., term limits, or that are opposed by the status quo, i.e., a graduated income tax.

Closer to the truth is that I admire machines and wish that I had an organization as efficient and well-staffed as do the Daleys, the Madigans, and the Mells.

Few of the friends who volunteered had experience in collecting signatures on my petitions. I have no fund-raisers on my staff. As a grass-roots candidate of the progressive and reform-minded type, I have no endorsements from elected politicians. The PACs with whom I have spoke only want to back a shoo-in, not a newcomer.

The value of the machine is easily seen. My opponent, Deb Mell et al., handed in more than 2,000 signatures, 75 of which she collected herself. For our part, we handed in 1,600, 900 of which I collected and another 300 were collected by my friend Guy. Mell had many hands making the work light, while we few had to hustle and worry our way to our goal.
Machine-based efficiency is enviable; organization is essential; manpower necessary. Those statements are given realities.

The other reality is that over time machines wear down. They become sloppy as their “gears” become worn by use. Cracks appear as the stress of time fractures their structures and their innate rigidity becomes unresponsive to the changes that inevitably occur in their environment.

So there comes a time when it is necessary to reform and rebuild, to study the needs that the old machine cannot or will not meet and construct a new organization, yes a new political machine, that is responsive to will of its citizens. Though it is seen as such, that is not meant to be a challenge to a given political party or to a certain power base. It is an invitation to self-examination and reflection that will lead to innovation, renewal, and invigoration. It is taking the best of the old machine in order to build a better one, more suited to the present and better prepared for the future.

Such is the natural course of things. We all know it happens, since the older generation has no choice but to pass the torch of responsibility on to the next. It is not always done easily but its doing is inevitable. Let us transform by evolution rather than by revolution, as transform we will, whether we like it or not.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The week in review

It was week filled with media notice of yours truly. The political bloggers had a hay-day with my objection to Mell's petition.

Monday - first hearing before the Election Board re: my objection to Mell's petition, based on the fact that she was not registered to vote. It was continued until Tues, Nov 24.

Tuesday - meet with lllinois Federation of Teachers to present my credentials in search of their endorsement.

Wednesday - what no meetings?

Thursday - meet the candidate night at IVI-IPO. Got a phone call from WLS - talk radio and was on the air. Front page feature story of my campaign in the Chicago Reader.

Friday - my Columbia College intern has her "crew" film me for a school project.

Saturday and Sunday - great weather for campaigning so I went door-to-door introducing myself to Democrats who vote in primaries. Now that was a good experience. One voter had actually seen the Reader story and it convinced him to vote for me.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

This week

Yesterday's hearing at the Board of Election was quick and pro forma, with the result that Mell's lawyer has until Friday at 5 pm to submit his brief on the case and mine has to submit a response by Monday at 5 pm, to be followed by a hearing on Tuesday, Nov 24 at 1 pm.

This evening I meet with members of the Illinois Federation of Teachers to seek their endorsement and on Thursday evening I do the same with members of IVI-IPO. This is the heart of endorsement-seeking time. Doing well is essential to help me ovecome my lack of finances. The prognosis looks good. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The day after

For more than three months, I have been carrying the secret that Deb Mell wasn’t registered to vote. For an extrovert like myself that was a very difficult task. I did share it with a few close advisors, including my partner Patrick and my lawyer, Rich Means.

We knew that any day the facts could have changed but they didn’t.

For three months we worked to collect enough signatures to put us on the ballot, hoping that the 1,617 signatures (we needed 500) were enough insurance to ward off an objection.

So it’s no wonder that yesterday, the last day to file objections to my petitions, was one of pins and needles. Rich Means, wise man or is it “wise guy” that he is, didn’t file my objection against Mell until 4 pm and I didn’t know whether an objection had been filed against me until the election office closed at 5 pm. It made for a very long day.

Well, today it’s all history and for a wide variety of reasons, including both the hard work of my volunteers and the generosity of my campaign contributors, not only am I on the ballot but I have a good chance of being the only one in the February 2nd Democratic primary running for State Rep, Dist 40.

Time and time again, as I knocked on doors to ask voters to sign my petition, people laughed when I told them I was running against Deb Mell. To be fair, I have to say that they laughed and then signed. Patrick was supportive enough to remind me that “He who laughs last, laughs best.”

Mr. Means would remind me that it’s too early to laugh at all. It’s no trick to know that there’ll be more than one attack against my campaign in the coming months and after the primary no one knows what new opposition will come after me. It won’t be a done deal until the votes are counted in November 2010. Until then, though, I hope you don’t mind if I smile once or twice.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Today's Horoscope

OK... Here's what was in the Trib this morning. Yes, I am a Sagittarian. "Power falls into your lap. A group decides you're the right person to lead them. Remember to say 'Thank you.'"

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

NDFA Endorsement

Sometimes it seems like it's been a long time since I decided to run for State Rep. At other times it seems like yesterday. After the high activity level of the past few weeks, it all seems like a blur.

First was the rush to finish petitioning, then readying them for Springfield, followed by filing them -- official count 1,617. Then came the week of waiting to see who else filed and yes, on Monday , but one can't run a campaign on hope only...

Last night another wait ended when Northside Democracy for America endorsed my candidacy. Thank you NDFA!

Now there's another week's wait to see if anyone files any objections to my petitions. I do know that Speaker of the House Mike Madigan's office got a copy of them so there is suspense in the air. Happily, those 1,617 signatures are very clean and very vetted and will most likely survive any and all challenges. Paying to defend the challenges means that your support is more important than ever. Click here to contribute.

Thanks for your support.

Friday, October 23, 2009

This week's work

I'm happy to say that my platform is finally online... in an 8 page booklet. You can get a a copy of it here:

In the meantime it's been a busy week. A fundraiser, a meeting with an important union, gettting my petitions ready to file, updating the website.

We're ready to roll, that's for sure.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ethical Choices

I have been active in gathering signatures on my petition and therefore amiss at my blogging. As we near the end of the petitioning process it's time to turn my energies in other directions: fund-raising and platform development.

Last night I attended a small meeting where I was able to hear Patrick Collins' first hand assessment on Election and Ethical Reform in Illinois. At the end of the evening the candidates for office were invited to speak briefly.

I was amazed by what a reform candidate said, which I will paraphrase here.

As a college professor in poltical science I have both the expertise and time to run a potentially winning campaign. My campaign manager recently asked what I would do if Mike Madigan came to me and said you've got a viable campaign. If you back off on the reformer's zeal, I'll put $100,000 in your war chest. Now remember that's not a quote. It's a paraphrase.

The candidate then noted how tempting it was to take the money, acknowledging that using the money to win meant he could champion other causes, such as education, transportation, and taxation. He admitted that he didn't know what he would do.

Didn't know? What kind of "reformer" sells his platform for $100,000? It is as simple as that. Until we learn that the slippery slope is greased with $100,000 from Madigan office, we will never change the system. It will, instead, continue to change us.

We need to eschew politic$-a$-u$ual and embrace clearly articulated platforms, easily read solutions, and old-fashioned meet the voter campaigning.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday late afternoon

The weather hasn't been very cooperative this week. Just as it's time to collect signatures on my petitions, it rains.

Last night, though, proved otherwise and I had a great time meeting voters.

The best dialogue was with one gentleman:

Me: Would you please sign my petition?
He: Why should ?
Me: So there will be two people on the ballot.
He: So?
Me: Having a choice is better than none.
He: Who is your opponent?
Me: Deb Mell.
He: Why didn't you say that in the first place? Of course, I'll sign.

We're also having some good success contacting local unions in our search for their endorsement. More information on that later. For now it is a matter of making contact as they won't endorse until the ballot is announced by the Board of Elections.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Signature Update

Door by door, the numbers begin to add up as voters in my district sign my ballot-access petition. I can't speak for the volunteers who are making the trek down the blocks but for me it is an incredibly affirming journey. Some sign because they believe in "open ballot access;" others want to see a choice on the ballot; many are dissatisfied with the encumbent or the encumbent's family.

I also hear of the issues... mostly health insurance and ethical government. It is interesting that the voters who question me the most are the ones most willing to sign my petition. One jovial guy asked about gun control, then drugs, then vouchers... He liked my first two answers and then noted, "Two out of three ain't bad."

Friday, August 7, 2009

I can't believe it's been more than a month

OK, I'm sorry I've been absent for so long. Last post July 5? I thought I had only missed three weeks at most.

Between traveling on business, keeping all the work on my desk moving along, and (most recently) collecting signatures on my petitions, it has been one busy month.

The short of it all is that the campaign is going well, there's a cadre of canvassers willing to collect signatures, and there's an actual group of volunteers who are doing necessary and helpful work to make my campaign succeed.

Tomorrow we'll be hitting the sidewalks to knock on doors for signatures. We had our first completed petitions notarized this morning. And campaign contributions are coming in as well. In spite of this afternoon's rain, it feels like a sunny day.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

July 4 Weekend

It's been a busy weekend spent doing all kinds of campaign work.

Let's see.

On Friday I assembled canvassing packages to get ready to collect signatures on my petitions: instructions, maps, registered voter lists, literature, voter registration cards, and petitions to follow as soon as they are printed. Friday night I walked a precinct for what seemed to be miles.

Saturday morning we were at the Independence Park July 4 Parade, passing out literature, meeting voters, and finding supporters. Saturday afternoon I met with a former p0litico in the district just to hear about his experiences. Got a good earful about the dos and don'ts of campaigning. He was generally helpful and friendly but not willing to be public in acknowledging me. That evening we put labels on envelopes for a fund-raising mailing.

Sunday I canvassed another precinct. Knocked on 70 doors. Little by little I'm getting around. Let me know if you want to help.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Roll Call

The 17th District Police Force held an outdoor roll call this evening. Yours truy attended.
The neighboor has been bothered with gang disturbances and outdoor roll calls demonstrate the police's determination to maintain good order. About 20 neighbors showed up for the half-hour event.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Pride Report

I arrived at the parking lot behind Ann Sather's earlier than most and spent the pre-march time meeting marchers who were there to support their favorite candidate. I marched with the Mike Quigley contingent. It was the perfect opportunity to network with like-minded Democrats and Independents, garnishing yet more names of those interested in my campaign. I may have even found a few more supporters.

The march was under a beautiful, albeit hot, summer sky. Though my feet complained by the time we had walked to Lincoln Park, my soul was soaring with the positive vibes of "Yes, I can."

Friday, June 26, 2009

A very hot and summery June 26

There are times when I just have to get away from the monitor and keyboard. This morning was one of them. The weeds among the onions in my garden only added to my frustration and workload so I donned shorts and pulled them up with a sigh of relaxaton and a commitment to stay centered and focused.

The passing of more than a week since my last blog entry gives emphasis to how busy this whirlwind called campaigning can be, especially in light of the fact that there isn't yet any experienced staff with lots of free time to help me on my way to getting out the vote.

Of course the days spent at the Victory Fund training (Thursday to Sunday) were part of the hold-up in posting. I had no Internet connection and little time to write in any case. It was packed full of information and worth every minute of my time.

So what did I learn? Get a staff so I can do the job a candidate needs to do: knock on doors to meet registered voters in my district and raise money. How many voters? There are 14,500 registered voters in the district and I'll need half of those voting in the primary, plus one, in order to win, if indeed it's a two-way race. How much money? Well $250,000 would be nice.

Visit my website to volunteer or contribute.

That brought me to Monday when my first job was to recruit more volunteers and to hire a campaign manager. I've been able to interview several in the past few days but none have yet asked for the job, nor have I had enough information to offer it to any of them. Let's just call it a work in progress.

I also met with Richard K. Means, my election lawyer, on Monday. He's a sharp-witted expert and will obviously be a strong ally.

On Tuesday I caught up on some of the work that had been piled on my desk while I was away. Wednesday was my day to work in the union office (I do that once a week) and afterwards I interviewed an experienced campaign manager. I'm waiting to hear back from him now to schedule a second interview.

Thursday morning I earned some money as a genealogist. I do, after all, have to get some income to survive the summer financially. Then I rushed home and dressed in my best campaign clothes to have my official campaign picture taken.

That brings me to the garden this morning and more reaching out to voters to boost my campaign into higher gear. Tonight will be a bit warm for canvassing but I'll still be out there knocking on doors. Wish me luck.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thursday before I head to O'Hare

When I registered my political action committee in April, doing so gave me access to the list of registered voters in my district – all 41,000 of them. Of that, some 14,500 are registered Democrats who have a track record of voting in primary elections. In Chicago, after all, winning the Democratic primary is the way to win the general election.

At the same time I began searching for a campaign manager (someone I have yet to find by the way). I networked from friendly adviser to friendly adviser and by doing so gained lots of information. One bit of advice was to contact the State Democratic Party for access to a web-based program called Vote Builder.

Commissioned by the National Democratic Party it is an online program that integrates voter registration and demographic information by the candidate’s district, allowing one to search for specific types of voters and to both plan and track voter contacts. It is extremely useful for planning, as an example, the best way to walk through a precinct, record who has been contacted, note their support or lack thereof, etc. It prints out all kinds of to do lists, mailing labels, and phone lists so that one can make effective use of one’s volunteers.

Perhaps you can see why I have spent more than six weeks trying to get access to this tool. As the story goes, the State Democratic party didn’t want to use it, so the state council of County Democratic organizations took the responsibility to distribute it. Unfortunately, Cook County Democrats aren’t very active with the council (or so I am told).

I spent a month trying to track down the executive who collects the money ($500 in my case) to use it and gives out the password to access it. I finally had to contact the manufacturer who then forwarded my email to him. That response informed me that the Cook County chair was the man to contact. His office said that they (and later he) had no idea what I was talking about.

So I had to give them the phone number to contact in Springfield and the Springfield office had to send information on the program to Cook County.

One of the memorable parts of the David and Goliath story is that David had a sling shot. In my case, Vote Builder is a kind of sling shot. After all, rumor has it that my opponent’s (Deb Mell) father (Richard Mell) has 1,500 precinct workers at his disposal.

At present I have two. There are 63 precincts in my district with, as I noted, some 14,500 registered Democrats who regularly vote in the primary I have to win. Not only do I have to work harder but I have to work smarter. I’m sure the saga of Vote Builder will continue. At present it remains elusive and an illustration of how hard it is to change the status quo.

Of course, that won’t stop me from trying.

Wednesday night I met with members of the Villa Improvement League in another step in networking, introducing myself, and moving toward success. It was a beautiful night and the Villa folks had a good turnout. I gave a short introduction of myself. This is the kind of progress I like.

Now I'm off to the airport for my trip to Cleveland and 4 days of candidate training.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday after walking the picket line

Scores of concerned people marched today in solidarity with the striking hotel workers at the Congress Hotel. I was privileged to be able to walk with them, as did my fellow union officers Pete (Treasurer of the Part-time Faculty Association at Columbia College) and Arvis (President of the same).

Where were our Chicago aldermen? our Cook County Board members? our State Representatives and Senators? No where to be seen.

As my friend Arvis noted,"If this were the day before the election, they'd be here." Arvis is an experienced campaigner, having served on Harold Washington's campaign for mayor. He knows politics better than anyone else I know. Happily he's on my team.

The hotel workers have been on strike for six years. What they want is the management of the Congress to give them the same contract that every other unionized hotel worker in the city has. But the management of the Congress says no and the picket line now enters its seventh year! See for more information.

Earier in the day I sent out thank yous, made phone calls, and generally tried to contact more people about my campaign.

That's not an easy thing to do. The Democratic party has special software for its candidates (called Vote Builder) that helps them to orgaize precincts, voters, and staff. I am eligible to use it, but I sure can't get anyone to help me access it. I have a phone number to call but having left four messags has done no good. The state Demo chair has tried to be helpful to no avail and the Cook County Demo Org receptionist has no clue about it or the guy I'm trying to reach. Emails about Vote Builder go unanswered.

Ah the trials of being a progressive candidate who wants to reform the system. The system wants the status quo.

Little do they know how stubborn I can be!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Saturday afternoon

Well I can see that if you do this campaign-thing correctly, you are busy all the time.

Had a really good house party at Joan and Mike's last night. My first political speech was well received, garnered good cash, and most importantly I was able to recruit several precinct captains with experience.

This morning was spent doing book-keeping, sending thank you notes, updating addresses, and getting a better handle on the geography of our district.

After lunch I headed to a meeting of the Green Party, which wasn't held as their out-of-date website had advertised. I was hoping to find some willing co-combatants in our efforts for grass root politics. Oh well, maybe a better strategy ought to be considered anyway. What do you think?

Tonight we'll be going to another house party.

All that said, when are you going host a party for me or volunteer to captain a precinct?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday after a walk to the bank

Finally it's a sunny day. --- Boy, that feels good.

Yesterday afternoon was spent with Katie, an intern and my first staff member. She did clerical stuff, including typing addresses into a database and stuffing envelopes. Yes, most campaign activity is drudgery.

This morning I built an excel spreadsheet listing the wards, precincts, and number of Democratic voters in my district. Katie's next job is to research vote totals by precinct and candidate to help develop a strategy for getting more votes than my opponent.

The mailman rang the bell this morning because he was delivering a plant that my friend Craig sent from Iowa. He noted, as he handed me the mail, that "Someone must be running for office," since he saw two letters addressed to Friends For Joe Laiacona. That led to a short discussion about electioneering and my giving him my card with the sincere request to come back and talk to me during off-work hours. It seems he has significant campaign experience as a precinct organizer. Ha! There's a man who can help make sense of the numbers that Katie compiles for me.

On the flip side, the postman reminded me that my opponent's father is a millionaire who has 1,500 precinct workers in his aldermanic ward, many who are on the payroll of one or another of his companies. Did I note that his ward comprises nearly half of my district? No one, and I mean NO ONE, said this race would be easy.

Later I processed the letters which included checks, hence the walk to the bank. One of the donors sent $25 with the request to not send anything to him ever again. I guess he doesn't get a thank y0u, huh?

This afternoon Lynn and I are driving around the district to get a better sense of its geography and demographics.

Tonight Joan and Mike are hosting my first fund-raising house party. I'm really excited about that and can do little more than think about giving my first political speech.

I also opened a twitter account. You can follow me at @jlaiacona. At least I think that's what you type in.

Stay tuned and thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thursday morning with my cup of coffee

Wednesday was another busy and exciting day.

In the morning I met with four digital marketing specialists to discuss promoting my campaign. Can you spell blog? website? email? TWITTER? They suggested I needed a dedicated digital media specialist --- are you listening James?

They were also interested in being spotlighted on my blog. So with a drum roll please, a hearty thanks to Hugh, Amber, David, and Carey.

After working in the union office, I headed over to the Library with my spare two hours and borrowed a copy of "How to Win a Local Election." From there it was a walk up State Street to the Hard Rock Cafe for a meet and greet hosted by the Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

There I learned from an admittedly small sampling of people, that few in the Gay community know a whole lot about the encumbent in my district. I also found that no one recognized me or my pen name, until I reminded them. We do have such short memories. Sic transit gloria mundi. For those who forgot their Latin I, that translates to "So passes the glory of the world." Yes, even gravestones suffer the ravages of time.

On the other hand, the theme of political reform resonated deeply with those present. I think the reform issue is stronger than we think, though it's only a humble opinion. (See more below.)

When I got home, I was pleased to find a Facebook email suggesting the name of a campaign manager. I also smiled a bit yesterday while recollecting that recently three people actually commented that my campaign might be winnable.

As for humble opinions, I do feel the impulse of self-delusion in some of this. What people affirm to my face may not translate into votes. After all, my audience is generally self-selected into those who probably agree with me, like me, or are being polite. For my part, I am liable to read more into what I hear than is really there.

In any case, the challenge is to believe deeply and work harder. Now if the rain would pass and the sun shine we could get some door to door campaigning done.

"We?" Yes, we. I have the joy of welcoming an intern to my staff today. She's a poly sci student at Miami University in Ohio and is earning credit for working in community organizing.

Progress... It is so sweet.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tuesday again

The weather is gray, cool, and damp...

I am spending my morning rounding up bits and pieces of the long-overdue work that clutters my desk. I can't say that there is much of a bright spot in all this, until I go to my mail box and find three more donation checks.

I breathe a sigh of relief, process the donations by 1) entering them in my accounting system, 2) sending thank you emails, and 3) making a deposit at the bank down the street.

I also sent press releases to the columnists at the Sun Times and at the Chicago Tribune. My campaign won't be newsworthy until after all the candidates' filings are in, which is sometime in November. In the meantime, I can only hope and work to get some press as the various columnists write about the issues of the day.

I want to thank the 5 people who are reading this blog! It helps me to feel less alone, though the truth is that I have lots of backers.

June 9

My rather slow weekend is morphing into another busy week.

Energy levels and weather conspired to make me lay low on the weekend so I campaigned until I got rained out, addressed invites to house parties, and rested.

Last night (Monday) Patrick and I attended a meeting of the Progressive Democrats of America where I breifly introduced myself and my candidacy got a round of applause. The program included a panel discussion about the closing of various Chicago public schools.

On this week's agenda is to meet with a representative of the Fraternal Order of Police to find out what their legislative priorities might be. Certainly voters in my district are concerned about the rise in crime and gang activity.

I have a college intern coming to help on Thursday. Friday is my first house party fund-raiser, followed by another on Saturday.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday night

Just back from three hours of campaigning...

I spent a couple of hours (who's counting?) passing out literature outside the Irving Park Blue Line station: "Excuse me, are you a registered voter?" I asked. When the answer was "Yes" I asked them to take a brochure. It is, after all, about name recognition and it's not as if Laiacona is a household word.

Two things of note did happen.

First, one guy took my lit, read it, and came back to say he would "Look for me" because he liked what he had read.

When I asked another young man if he were a registered voter, he replied "No, I'm Irish."

What one learns when one campaigns.

I was also reminded, by the folks who refused to even look me in the eye, much less take my lit, of how many times I have done the same thing...

Then I went house to house. It is such a small world. One of the doors I knocked on was the entrance to home of a fellow Columbia College part-timer.

PS Thanks to my good friend Josephine who came by at the right time to take this photo on my cell phone.

Catching up

I haven't been so busy in a long time.

On wednesday I had a long phone chat with a Democratic mayor who lives in the northwest suburbs. Once again he was helpful, even if his most serious bit of advice was to raise $50,000 now. He suggested I find two "angels" to donate $20,000 each to my campaign.

Well the lottery ticket I bought last week didn't do it... Any other ideas?

Thursday I spent meeting more people. The first was a third year law student who wants to volunteer to work for me. YES! He was very intelligent and left with a serious assignment to research issues, house bills, and my opponent's voting record.

Later I met another experienced candidate who once again said "Raise money." OK, I agree and I'm doing it, though I admit that I have lots of $25 contributions and no $25,000 ones. Hey, they don't call it a grass roots campaign for nothing.

After that I met with a friend who pledged $500 and to host a fund-raising house party. What more can I ask for? OK, another zero on that donation?

Then it was off to the Northside Democracy For America meeting. After which I took the bus home. A full day indeed.

On another note I was very pleased to see that my door-to-door campaigning actually brought in some money as well as registered voters in my district who are supporting me.

Patrick and I agree that the door-to-door method is the best. Now let's hope for more warm days and less rain.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The present state of government

These steps greeted me this morning as I went to our local post office to mail yet another pile of fund-raising letters.

I know that State Reps don't control the postal system, but here is an example of the refusal of our elected representatives at all levels of government to make good decisions.

Our current sad state of political affairs is the result of many factors, two of which are short-sighted budgeting and postponed decision-making. As I see it, too many elected officials base their decisions on the question "Will this get me re-elected?" rather than on the questions "What would my constituents have me do?" and "What is best for the greater and long-term good?"

I understand the predicament of economics as I face financial decisions every time I pay a bill. And yes, my home needs a new roof and I can't afford to buy it.

When it comes to the political world, there has been much too much short-sighted thinking, maintaining the status quo, and casting votes to get oneself re-elected rather than to serve the best interests of those one is representing. None of us can afford to run our homes or businesses the way the Illinois House of Representatives runs the state. It's time to tell the our elected officials to add fiscal responsibility and true representation to the list of what comes first.

Merely doing what it takes to get oneself re-elected ought to be last on the list, if on the list at all.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A glorious afternoon

The weather today was Chicago perfect and I spent much of the afternoon campaigning in the Villa Park neighborhood of my district. In all I rang 71 doorbells and found 37 people home. I introduced myself, gave them copies of my literature, and answered questions, if there were any. Some wanted to know who the encumbent was (Deb Mell) or if I was a Democrat (yes). Most just thanked me for coming by and wished me well.

A number of people asked me if had a petition to sign and I had to reply "No. I can't do that until after Aug. 1." I did find two supporters --- one who thought the Mell family was "in receipt of too many paychecks from the public coffers" and one who said "I'm just not happy with my legislator."

"Well, then," I replied, "you know why I'm running."


Yesterday the Illinois House of Representatives passed HJRCA0031, a bill that would allow the recall of the governor, by a vote of 109 for, 6 against, and 2 abstentions. Earlier in the week the Chicago Tribune wrote: “Remember last year when Democrats in the Illinois Senate robbed you of a chance to add a recall amendment to the state constitution? On Tuesday, 61 Democrats in the House did the same thing. Republicans tried to discharge a recall amendment from the Rules Committee, where Speaker Michael Madigan has buried it. They wanted to bring it to the House floor so every member could vote on the amendment, which would permit the recall of state executive officers and legislators. The vote to keep the amendment buried: 61-47.”

Here, once more, is an blatant example of legislatures exempting themselves from the laws they impose on others. As my mother would say, “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

Our constitution was designed with representative government in mind. Just as citizens are the first and last voice (or should be) in the election of government officials, that voice should be allowed to recall (aka UN-elect) those same officials when necessary.

Now I want to go on record that using the recall is a serious matter and ought not to be done lightly. Still it is the right of voters to dictate who governs them and to remove those who govern badly. Having to wait for the next election is often cure enough, but as we well know, there are times when the time is now and waiting only compounds the problem.

If the legislature agrees that such an action is applicable to the governor, why don’t they agree that it ought to apply to them as well?

There you have it: One more reason to elect me to the Illinois House of Representatives. One more way that I will vote differently than my worthy opponent Deb Mell.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The campaign trail

I spent the afternoon mostly walking from voter to voter, following the list of registered voters that I have. When I ran out of literature, I came home.

I also spent more than half an hour talking with a former state representative who was helpful in giving me advice as to how to campaign, where to go, etc., and who offered to give me more help in the future. I'm not sure it's right to give his name without his permission, so let's just say it was encouraging to think that a retired politico was willing to talk to me.

For now I'll turn my mind to gardening for the rest of the day.

Saturday on the campaign trail

It's a busy day at campaign headquarters, which means that my dining room table is full of flyers and envelopes and labels. More fund-raising mailings are going out today.

The good news is that there are volunteers helping me to do all of this.

Well, in fact, they'll have to work at least some of the time today without me as I continue knocking on doors to meet my neighbors and tell them that I want to be their next State Representative.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday afternoon

Well times certainly waits for no one the campaign trail. Where did today go?

Had a long and exciting conversation with an experienced videographer who is interested in reform-minded politics and the idea of the common citizen going after entrenched nepotism.

Then I did errands so as to be able to send out my first press release and more fund-raising letters. Then it's back home to address and stuff envelopes.

Anyone interested in grass roots politics is welcome to come into the plot and help me do some hoeing.

Friday over my morning coffee

Last night at my Masonic Lodge meeting, a brother came up to me and asked if my campaign for State Rep was serious. Naturally I assured him it was. He replied "So you're going to become a politician?" I answered, "I am already one. What I want to become is an elected politician."

To do that, of course I need the help of my friends. One of the most important qualities of any campaign is credibility. Nobody likes to back a loser. As my friend's question implied, even he wanted to know that what I was doing was for real.

He had (I think) no reservations about my qualifications to serve. What he wanted was assurance that I was willing to do what it takes to win. Having affirmed that, he agreed that he would be sending a donation to my campaign.

For those who don't know me, there is one mark of credibility that will become public in mid-July. How much support do I have as measured by my fund-raising abilities. If my friends and family believe in me, then there is a clear sign that at least they see me as a credible candidate. Why mid-July?

June 30 is the end of the first semi-annual financial disclosure reporting period. For better or for worse, the hard cold numbers on that document are an indication of my credibility. When Heather Steans deposited $25,000.00 in her campaign fund, she stated to all the world that her campaign was for real and thus began her successful journey to becoming an Illinois State Senator.

I can't do that. So, as do most grass roots candidates, I have to rely on the support of my friends. As of today I have raised $3,507.47. At this rate, I'll be lucky to report donations of some $10,000.00 on my first disclosure. Not bad, but hardly credible. Anyone with political acumen will tell you that credibility comes somewhere around the $25,000.00 mark, as Ms. Steans knew so well.

Besides credibility, as if that weren't important enough, there is the reality of costs. A campaign manager will cost some $3,000 a month, an election attorney $250.00 an hour, one campaign mailing to the voters of my district about $12,000.00 -- and I'll need six to ten of them just to win the primary.

Mark my words, Deb Mell and her father are going to do everything they can to defeat me. Out-spending them isn't the only way to win, but having the money necessary to win is just as important as speaking well, campaigning diligently, aggressively meeting my constituents, and having a platform that meets the political desires of my voters. And all of that costs money.

There is no doubt that I will have to stretch, and stretch seriously to win this election. Will you "stretch" with me? If you can afford $5.00, please give ten. Make $25.00, fifty and $50.00 a hundred. Most importantly, do it now. Show everyone that you believe as I do, that Joe Laiacona is a credible candidate and has the will, the power, and the potential to win.

Go to right now to donate.



Paid for by Friends For Joe Laiacona. A copy of our report will be on file with the State Board of Elections and the Cook County Clerk, Chicago, IL. Contributions to Friends For Joe Laiacona are not deductible for federal or state income tax purposes.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thursday at noon

Busy day.

Went to the Board of Elections first thing this morning to get some answers about filling out financial forms and making sure my literature had all the necessary disclaimers.

Read the news out of Springfield. Boy, I sure would be a contrarian this week if I were there! I'd vote against the entrenched block and make admendments that would irritate them all.

Why do those who make laws for us think they can exempt themselves from the same laws? I'd love, for instance, to have an exemption from the speed limit when I drove to Springfield.

When I got home I spent time with my first press release, readied an email list of media and edited a fundraiser and recruitment letter to send to my neighboring and fellow part-time instructors at Columbia.

Oh, yeah, I also bought a lottery ticket to help fund my campaign. I bought it with a dollar I had found on the ground.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

As the sun sets

It's been a busy day doing the nitty-gritty of campaigning -- ordering envelopes for my next fund-raiser, entering the names collected over the weekend, catching up on accounting for donations.

I had another encouraging conversation with a gentleman with experience as a campaign manager -- more leads, more ideas, more work.

and once again, the reminder that I am starting off on the correct foot, have a good grasp of what it takes, and that I need to spend 40 hrs a week meeting my voters and 30o hrs a week fund-raising.

Right now though I think it's time for dinner.

Tuesday at home

It's been a busy morning catching up on chores after Memorial Day Weekend. Enrolled nine new volunteers this weekend and donations continued to roll in.
Welcome friends. Please visit the official campaign web site at for more campaign-related information.