Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Change is coming to the 5th Congressional District in IL, but it’s gradual

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Originally published on on Wed, 03/04/2009 – 10:18am

The election of Barack Obama was supposed to prove that people wanted to be more involved in elections and turnout would improve. In the 5th Congressional District in Illinois, there needs to be a mulligan.

About 1 in 6 registered voters grabbed a ballot despite the most wide-open race for a Congressional seat in the area in 50 years. We had 12 Democrats, 6 Republicans, and 5 Greens on the ballot yesterday in the primary to replace Rahm Emanuel in Congress.

Cook County Board member Mike Quigley took the Democratic Party primary with 22% of those who voted in that party primary.

With 99% of the vote, Republican Rosanna Pulido has a 135-vote lead, and has been declared the winner. Matthew Reichel has a slim 11-vote lead over Deb Gordils for the Green Party. The three winners battle in the general election on April 7, and that winner will be sworn in shortly after (and may still get to Congress before Al Franken).

Quigley was seen as the most likely agent for change among the major candidates; he has been one of the standouts on the county board fighting against layers of waste. Of the major three candidates, all with some name recognition going into the race, Quigley ran the least divisive campaign.

State Rep. John Fritchey ran a TV ad portraying Quigley and State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz as children in a theme that had little to do with why we should vote for him, and more to do with not voting against someone else. Fritchey did finish second.

Feigenholtz was seen as having a strong chance (Nate Silver had previously had her as the favorite to win before shifting to Quigley) in a 3-person race, given that she was the only well-known female and spent the most money. But voters may have turned off by a perception of going too strongly after the female vote, and also her anti-Quigley attacks backfired. Feigenholtz finished third.

Going into the campaign, there were a number of people on the Democratic Party ballot who had never been in politics. And there was hope in many circles that one or two would rise up and significantly threaten one of the better-known challengers.

Lawyer Tom Geoghegan and economist Charlie Maxwell certainly thought they could be that candidate. Both got rather strong name recognition during the campaign, they finished seventh and sixth, respectively. Dr. Victor Forys, who was little known in the eastern half of the district (Lakefront liberals) but was better known in the ethnic neighborhoods in the west, finished fourth, ahead of Pat O’Connor, a Chicago alderman who is also Mayor Richard M. Daley’s floor leader.

If there was something to learn about this first significant post-Obama election, having 23 candidates for a special election probably prohibited us from learning too much. The district has several nuances distinct from the rest — city and suburban, ethnic and Caucasian, working-class and middle class. While the three candidates with the most name recognition finished in the top three, there were glimmers of hope from the citizenry at large to be involved. And there were several quality candidates, so even if your second choice won, the end scenario might not be too bad.

But in Mike Quigley, we have someone who is not in the tradition of Rahm Emanuel and Rod Blagojevich (the last two to represent the district), and that’s a start. And thanks to the previous success of the Green Party, we have three choices in the general election. Turnout could have been stronger and the campaigns could have been more positive — but for the 5th Congressional District, this was progress in democracy.

Vote totals for the three primaries


Written by democracysoup

March 4, 2009 at 10:18 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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