Ben Joravsky did it in the Reader, so I’ll do it in Ward Room: tell you how I voted in this fall’s Big Four elections, and why.
U.S. Senator: Mark Kirk
Kirk will be a more independent voice in the Republican Party than Giannoulias will be among Democrats. Even though he has become more conservative since announcing his campaign for Senate, Kirk is still far less conservative than the average GOPer. Kirk and the Tea Party movement hold each other in contempt. In a freshman class that may include several Tea Partiers, it’s important to have at least one non-crazy Republican.
Also, divided government is good for the country. Bill Clinton became a much better president after the Republicans took over Congress. We had budget surpluses in the 1990s because Clinton wouldn’t let the Republicans cut taxes, and the Republicans wouldn’t let Clinton spend money. George W. Bush had majorities in both houses of Congress during most of his disastrous presidency. There was no one to stop him from invading Iraq. More than any other senator, Giannoulias would be a rubber stamp for Obama, a man he looks up to as a big brother figure. Kirk will try to check Obama, which will make him a more successful president.
It would take a psychologist to explain why Kirk exaggerated his military record, but at least he served his country in uniform, even if he didn’t serve it as valorously as he wants us to believe.
Governor: Pat Quinn
Quinn became governor at one of the most difficult moments in Illinois’s history. Rod Blagojevich had just been impeached for allegedly trying to sell President Obama’s Senate seat, and the nation had begun its worst economic slump since the Great Depression. The last two years have been hard. Tens of thousands of Illinoisans have lost their jobs and their homes. The state can’t pay its bills. There may be a man or woman who could do a better job than Quinn, but he’s the man who got stuck with the job.
Quinn possesses none of the vanity that got Blagojevich into trouble, and he’s managed to cut $3 billion from the state’s budget. Brady, on the other hand, doesn’t have a plan for repairing the state’s finances. Or if he has one, he’s not telling anyone, which is the same as not having a plan. A fluke nominee who won because he was the only Downstater, Brady would be the most conservative governor in modern Illinois history -- he opposes gay marriage, gun control and the minimum wage, and thinks it’s OK to teach creationism in schools. Illinois has stayed out of the Culture Wars -- it’s the best thing about this state’s politics -- but throughout his career in Springfield, Brady has shown more interest in quixotic social crusades than financial issues. That’s not the kind of governor we need, now or ever.
Cook County Assessor: Joe Berrios
Berrios actually wants to be Cook County Assessor. He wants it so badly he has spent 22 years preparing himself as a member of the Cook County Board of Tax Appeals. Maybe I’m cynical, but it’s hard to remain a virgin in politics that long. The Better Government Association and Chicago magazine reported that Berrios accepted campaign contributions from lawyers who did business with the board, but politicians take money from lobbyists all the time. And the BGA was unable to pin anything illegal on Berrios.
I voted for Forrest Claypool when he ran for Cook County Board President in 2006, because I thought John Stroger was petrifying into a political boss. But I am mystified by his dilettantish campaign for assessor. Earlier this year, Claypool suddenly decided that the fate of honest government in Illinois depended on keeping Berrios out of the assessor’s office. Claypool’s allies in the news media and the Lakefront Liberal establishment have gone along, even questioning Toni Preckwinkle’s progressive credentials because she supports Berrios, a fellow Democratic nominee. It’s a conspiracy of goo-goos, with no backing from the minority community -- not a healthy coalition for winning countywide office.
I just don’t believe that Claypool is as virtuous as he claims, or that Berrios is as corrupt.
Cook County Board President: Toni Preckwinkle
I loved voting for Toni Preckwinkle. She’s my favorite Chicago politician: witty, well-read, independent -- and tough. The woman is a pistol. Preckwinkle was one of only five aldermen who knew the parking meter deal was rotten.
“Smartest vote I ever made,” Preckwinkle said afterward.
Even as other black officeholders try to pretend they were always allies of Barack Obama, Preckwinkle has been unafraid to complain that as a state senator, he acted like a social climbing ingrate, ignoring her 4th Ward to lavish money on another alderman who was closer to Mayor Daley. Preckwinkle and Obama have broken the code for winning elections as progressives: they’re both nerdy black people who combine an ethnic base with a white liberal following. Preckwinkle has a strong understanding of health care, one of the county’s most important services. As a mother, she wants to make the county hospitals a first choice for deliveries.
The only thing wrong with Preckwinkle is that she’s not running for mayor.