By PAUL M. GREEN
The party primaries: Rumblings of revolt among the bedrock?
Both major parties in Illinois are in trouble. The March 1990 Illinois primary elections reveal intraparty rivalries that are more intense and dramatic than usual. For the Republicans the differences are philosophical, for the Democrats, racial. Come the November general election, each party faces the possibility of internal revolt among its bedrock supporters, ranging from apathy (staying home on election day) to switchover (voting for selected opposition candidates). Unlike recent Illinois campaigns, statewide candidates may exert more effort to energize traditional party partisans than to win over independents and lukewarm supporters of their opponents.
Republican conservatives in Illinois are frustrated. Their last statewide champion was former U.S. Sen. Everett M. Dirksen, who died in 1969. In the 1980s under the moderate GOP leadership of four-term Gov. James R. Thompson, Illinois conservatives have been forced to play "at least he's better than" politics. They supported him against totally objectionable Democratic alternatives, but under Thompson their philosophy, agenda and membership have stayed on the political back burner.
To understand the impact of the 1990 primary on Illinois Democrats, the great naval historian A.T. Mahan provides an apt parallel. "Melee warfare" is the term he used when describing how 17th century warships broke a traditional unified line of attack and engaged the enemy individually without any command control or cohesion. "Melee politics" is what some Illinois Democrats are practicing; some Democrats in Chicago are already more concerned with 1991 mayoral elections than the November elections for statewide and Cook County offices. The preliminary mayoral maneuvering and the ongoing rift between black party-oriented Democrats and black movement community leaders threaten the party's base vote among blacks in Chicago, which is needed by statewide and Cook County Demcratic candidates to win in November.
African Americans are on the Democratic ticket in November running for the three most important elected legal positions in the state: Roland W. Burris for attorney general, Cecil Partee for Cook County state's attorney and Charles E. Freeman for Illinois Supreme Court justice. That fact has had almost no impact on the raging debate. Defeated Cook County board president candidate R. Euguene Pincham has accused his victorious opponent, Richard Phelan, of waging a racist campaign and has refused to endorse him. Other black leaders have filled the airwaves (especially African-American oriented radio stations) with charges that the local Democratic party is disrespectful of their community and that the party has not rewarded their loyalty. Though not up for the Democratic nomination until February 1991, the chief target of this rhetoric is Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. New state party chairman Gary LaPaille will have his hands full dealing with militant and outspoken movement blacks who come from the streets and not the party and have almost no political experience and little interest in forging
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The statewide March primaries show that the geopolitical makeup of each party remains somewhat stable, with each party's traditional regional stronghold continuing to dominate its candidate selection process (see table 1). When compared to the 1986 primary totals, however, there is some movement in each party's voter turnout by region. Only one-third of the state's six million registered voters participated in the 1990 primaries (57 percent of those voting called for a Democratic ballot).
For Democrats, Chicagoans continue to make up over 50 percent of their primary turnout. Suburban Cook County's percentage of statewide Democratic turnout, however, jumped dramatically from 1986 (up 7 percent), which reduced percentages of the statewide vote in both Chicago (from 54 percent to 51 percent) and downstate (from 30 percent to 25 percent). The candidacy of suburban-based Phelan (a resident of New Trier Township) obviously boosted Demcratic suburban turnout, but ongoing demographic shifts (blacks moving to the suburbs from the city) and greater efforts by Democrats to organize suggest that suburban Democrats will continue to grow as a force in Cook County and statewide Democratic politics.
In the Cook County suburbs, Thornton and Proviso townships (with their significant black populations) were top vote producers. The big news for Democrats was the coming of age of Worth (16,452) and Niles (15,173) townships which now can produce, for certain candidates, primary majorities equal to those in any city ward.
Chicago is still the Democratic powerhouse. Of Chicago's registered voters, 43 percent voted in the March primaries, with 95 percent asking for a Democratic ballot. House Speaker Michael J. Madigan's 13th Ward led the turnout parade (22,304). The other wards in the top 10 include five ethnic wards (northwest and southwest side wards 19, 23, 41, 45, 36), three southside black middle-class wards (6, 8, 21) and the racially mixed southwest side 18th Ward.
Republican turnout was heaviest downstate, but collar county and Cook County suburban Republican strength was greater in 1990 than in 1986. Those increases pushed down the down-state percentage of the statewide GOP vote by 7 points. (In part, the downstate decrease was due to the 1986 surge to support downstater Judy Koehler in the hotly contested U.S. Senate primary battle with Chicagoan George Ranney.)
The GOP continued to get only a trickle of votes in Chicago. Of note in Chicago is the southeast side 10th Ward, home of former Democrats Sam Panayotovich and Ed Vrdolyak, which harvested 3,272 votes, or 11 percent of the total citywide GOP vote.
In the traditional Republican stronghold of Cook County suburbs, the northwestern townships led the way as usual in turnout. Spurred by heated contests for state representative and township committeeman, Maine Township (16,107) was the clear frontrunner. Its votes combined with neighboring Schaumburg and Wheeling townships produced nearly one-fourth of the total GOP suburban turnout.
The story in the collars was again DuPage County. This massive GOP vote-yielding county contributed 101,845 votes, 47 percent of the GOP collar county total and 13 percent of the GOP statewide turnout.
Downstate, Sangamon County (30,447) has become an old-fashioned Chicago-style river ward of Illinois Republican primary politics. It had the fourth highest GOP statewide turnout (behind Cook, DuPage and Lake), producing a prodigious victory margin for Edgar (12,003) and demonstrating clearly that longtime GOP control of the Executive Mansion and the secretary of state's office generates big numbers among state
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employees for endorsed party candidates.
On the surface the GOP gubernatorial contest in March looked like a political "laugher": Jim Edgar v. two no-names — Steven Baer and Robert Marshall. Edgar, a popular and personable secretary of state since 1981, is a former state representative from Charleston. He has longstanding alliances with GOP leaders throughout the state and is a champion fundraiser with access to campaign dollars beyond the dreams of his primary foes. Edgar had it all going for him entering this primary. However, Edgar had geared his campaign not to his little-known primary opponents but to his November Democratic foe, Illinois Atty. Gen. Neil F. Hartigan, whose nomination was uncontested. At the time the strategy seemed logical and historically correct.
Edgar's game plan was simple: If it worked for Thompson, he would make it work for him. What had worked for Gov. Thompson was to campaign as a moderate Republican but to govern as a conservative Democrat. As long as Republican conservatives accepted this style of politics and governance, Thompson was free to court big labor, push tax increases for worthwhile services and pursue voters often aligned with the opposition party.
Edgar's positions on abortion and taxes would play well in November. He was pro-choice on abortion and in favor of maintaining the temporary income tax increase passed in June 1989. As Thompson had done previously to his opponents, Edgar's strategy on both issues was to force Hartigan to be on the defensive. It would also make the Democratic candidate spend a good deal of campaign time trying to win back or keep Democratic voters in his camp.
The strategy was spoiled by Baer, a 30-year-old conservative political organizer with no elective office experience. He said no to Edgar's game plan. After searching unsuccessfully (if not diligently) for a primary challenger to Edgar, Baer assumed the role himself. Baer promised to lower taxes and outlaw abortion. He put out a videocassette challenging Illinois Republicans to compare Edgar's position on key issues with the party's national platform and, in a very subtle manner, searched out the Christian fundamentalist anti-abortion voters in the collar counties and downstate Illinois.
It was the latter tactic that Baer hoped would bring him an upset victory — or at least political respectability. His clever campaign brochure featured a warm letter of endorsement from his attractive wife who among other things called her husband "a loving father to our children . . . [who possesses] a wonderful Christian sense of duty to his fellow man." Baer believed this blatant appeal to the so-called "Pat Robertson voters" and tangentially to a growing number of conservative Catholics inside the GOP could give him 300,000 votes and a chance to win a low-turnout Republican primary. The primary vote totals proved that Edgar was too popular and strong among statewide Republicans for Baer's underfinanced and often abrasive campaign style to overcome. In key regions of the state, however, Baer showed surprising strength against the highly organized and efficient Edgar campaign effort (see table 2). The big question is: Where will Baer's vote go in November?
Edgar swept all 50 wards in Chicago and all 30 Cook County suburban townships. In the city only the 26th Ward gave him less than 50 percent, and the 10th Ward gave him his highest ward vote percentage (87 percent) and 14 percent of his total citywide primary vote. In the suburbs, Edgar won overall by more than a 2-to-l margin.
Baer showed his most significant strength in the collar counties and downstate. Although he lost all five collar counties, Baer received over 40 percent of the vote in Kane and McHenry counties. Downstate he carried four counties — Effingham, Iroquois, Jasper and Tazewell — and received more than 40 percent of the vote in 17 others. These 21 downstate counties were scattered generally throughout the state except in deep southern Illinois, where Edgar ran like a whirlwind. Edgar's best downstate county, however, was the state capital's Sangamon County.
For Democrats, the statewide primary contests were for the two little publicized offices of treasurer and comptroller, which in recent years have been the private preserve for Illinois Democrats. With Democratic incumbents seeking
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Still, Breslin had a good shot at winning the primary. (Such diverse Chicago ward leaders as Speaker Madigan in the 13th, John Daley in the 11th and Eugene Sawyer in the 6th did deliver for Breslin.) With her home downstate turf yet to be counted, Breslin was down by only 20,000 votes. She was unable to put big vote numbers on the board, however, except for her home base of LaSalle County and a few other central Illinois counties. Quinn, with a political lifetime of publicity, voter frustration over taxes and excellent name recognition, had enough
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ammunition to hold back any downstate surge for Breslin. He carried almost twice as many of downstate's 96 counties as Breslin and lost downstate by a mere 435 votes.
In the four-way primary race for comptroller, Netsch's victory was convincing and easy. In Chicago both ethnic and lake-front wards gave her over 70 percent of their vote. In the Cook County suburbs she walloped her foes, especially in the northern townships (Bowman's home area of Evanston was the only exception and Netsch's only township loss.). In the collars only Collins' strong support in his home, Will County, kept Netsch from a massive victory. Downstate she ran respectably everywhere but did extremely well in counties with major state universities. She will be tough, if not impossible, to beat in November.
None of the other nominations were contested in the party primaries, and the campaign is on for November. That line-up pits Netsch against Republican Suter for comptroller; Suter was formerly public aid director for Thompson. For treasurer, Quinn faces Republican Greg Baise; Baise was a campaign director and secretary of transportation for Thompson.
At the top of the ticket is the U.S. Senate seat: Martin, GOP congresswoman from the Rockford area, v. incumbent Paul Simon, Democrat from Makanda. For governor, of course, it is Republican Edgar v. Democrat Hartigan. For secretary of state, it is Republican George H. Ryan, the incumbent lieutenant governor, v. Democrat Cosentino, the incumbent treasurer. For attorney general, it's Republican Jim Ryan, state's attorney for DuPage County, v. Democrat Burris, the incumbent comptroller.
Republicans need to find a method or a gimmick to relabel the Democrats the "tax and spend party." It would rally their dispirited conservative wing back into the battle and paint over the fact that their gubernatorial candidate and their current governor advocate the continuation of the temporary state income tax hike.
Democrats need unity, not "melee politics" in Cook County. A unified and energized Cook County Democratic party can generate enough vote power to give statewide and Cook County Democratic candidates victories in November. New Democratic state chairman LaPaille and new Cook County party chairman Tom Lyons will be hard-pressed to find a satisfactory unity formula when some Chicago Democrats are only looking forward to the 1991 mayoral and aldermanic races.
Paul M. Green is director of the Institute for Public Policy and Administration, Governors State University.
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