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.