Opinion: Four Compelling Narratives From Election 2012 - NBC Chicago
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Opinion: Four Compelling Narratives From Election 2012



    It's been a looooong election season, hasn't it? 

    During this marathon of a campaign you may have gotten lost as to what's going on in the Illinois races affecting Chicago and its suburbs. Here's a handy round up of how the four most interesting races have developed. 

    JESSE JACKSON JR. DISAPPEARS: In Chicago, one of the wonderful things about getting a job through family and/or political connections is that you don’t have to do the job. It’s said that this is the only city where a sewer worker can show up for work in white pants. Jesse Jackson Jr., who might be a sewer worker if his name were Jesse Johnson Jr., hasn’t shown up for work at all in five months. His staff says he’s being treated for bi-polar disorder. His enemies say he’s depressed because a series of scandals -- beginning with an alleged attempt to buy Barack Obama’s Senate seat, and continuing through revelations of an affair with a blonde waitress -- stalled a political career he once hoped would take him to the mayor’s office or the Senate. Last seen smoking cigars on his porch by two reporters from the Daily, he is now hiding out from life at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. He’s expected to win at least 60 percent of the vote against hapless Republican Brian Woodworth and hapless independent Marcus Lewis, neither of whom have any political connections.

    BILL FOSTER VS. JUDY BIGGERT: Bill Foster has been riding political waves since 2008, when he twice defeated unelectable Republican Jim Oberweis in elections for former House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s seat. Foster lost the seat to Randy Hultgren in the Republican wave of 2010. Then the friendly Democrats in Springfield drew a new district for Foster. There was only one obstacle to his return to Congress: the new district contains Judy Biggert, a middle-of-the-road country club Republican first elected in 1998, when it was unthinkable that a Democrat could win in the suburbs. When they served together in Congress, Foster and Biggert were the wealthiest members of the Illinois delegation, and they’ve spent the campaign attacking each other for being greedy -- Foster because he allegedly profited from the Wall Street collapse, Biggert because she voted for congressional pay raises. These two deserve each other. Not sure the voters of the 11th District do.

    JOE WALSH VS. TAMMY DUCKWORTH: Dick Durbin, Rahm Emanuel, Rod Blagojevich and Barack Obama have done EVERYTHING to get Tammy Duckworth into Congress. After she lost her congressional race to Peter Roskam in 2006, Duckworth was appointed head of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, then Obama named her Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Gave her a prime-time speech at the DNC. The legislature even drew the district specifically to elect her. But she’s not a dynamic candidate. Her speaking skills are no match for Walsh’s (he has theatrical training). She’s running as the “responsible” (read, non-controversial) candidate. Her strategy is to wait for Walsh to step on his tongue (which he does almost every day), then run an ad or issue a press release attacking him. So the campaign is all about Walsh. He’s given Duckworth plenty of material, from declaring she’s not a “true hero” because she boasts about her military service to stating that abortion should not be allowed to save the life of a mother because modern medicine prevents women from ever dying in childbirth. Duckworth will win by at least 10 points, and Walsh will give the most memorable concession speech since Richard Nixon lost the California governor’s race in 1962.

    BOB DOLD VS. BRAD SCHNEIDER: The last Democrat to represent the North Shore in Congress was Abner Mikva, who moved there after being redistricted out of his South Side seat, and was elected to three terms, before President Jimmy Carter appointed him a federal judge. Mikva was succeeded by Republican John Porter, who passed the seat on to his aide, Mark Kirk, who passed the seat on to Bob Dold, a former congressional staffer who also owns a pesticide business. The 10th District voted for Al Gore, John Kerry and Barack Obama for president, but it won’t elect a Democrat to Congress. Dan Seals tried three times, losing twice to Kirk, then finally giving up after losing to Dold, 51%-49%. Dold’s Kenilworth home was drawn out of the district in this year’s re-map, but he’s running for re-election anyway, and will move north if he wins. His opponent is businessman Brad Schneider. Here’s Nadig Newspapers’ Russ Stewart’s prediction: “Had the Democrats nominated a more charismatic candidate, or a Jewish woman, Dold would be toast, but $3 million makes him competitive. In a turnout of 275,000, Schneider wins by 138,000-137,000.” I agree with the first two points, and will point out that if the Democrats had nominated Julie Hamos in 2010, she’d now be cruising to re-election. But Dold’s identification with Kirk and his moderate Republican politics -- the two appeared together in a video this week -- will help him eke this out.


    This month, Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland’s Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President will be available on Kindle for $9.99. Tracing Obama’s career in Chicago from his arrival as a community organizer to his election to the U.S. Senate, Young Mr. Obama tells the story of how a callow, presumptuous young man became a master politician, and of why only Chicago could have produced our first black president.