What chance for GOP
The challenge to Republicans of Cook County: How to find credible candidates for the 1992 Cook County elections for circuit court clerk, recorder of deeds and state's attorney.
The November 6 election of Cook County officials shows the Republican party is largely helpless in county wide races, as long as Cook County Democrats run credible candidates. Even the potentially disruptive presence of the all-black Harold Washington Party on the ballot for county offices proved only a paper barrier that was unable to slow down the Democratic juggernaut.
The sole GOP triumph. Jack O'Malley's victory over Democrat incumbent Cecil Partee in the state's attorney race, had little to do with either Republican organization positive activity or Washington party negative efforts against the Democratic candidate. Cecil Partee defeated Cecil Partee. With his long record in Democratic politics, Partee seemed like many a prize fighter who suddenly appeared old in the ring, unable to fend off the punches at his record, himself and his loyalties.
In short, I agree with the views of my Illinois Issues' colleague. Nick Panagakis ("The Pulse," December 1990), that if the Washington party remains active in Cook County politics, the county's residents will have the choice of voting for one major party — the Democrats — or between two third parties — the Washington party and the GOP. Two factors dealing with the Republicans and an assumption about the Democrats drive this conclusion.
Factor one: In recent decades Republic cans have placed little value or dollar in building a Cook County GOP organization. Personality politics dominated by a statewide leader (usually the governor) has left local Republicans on their own with little money, purpose or a political talent pool from which to select attractive candidates. Only in the two law enforcement
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offices (sheriff and state's attorney) have the Republicans been successful or competitive.
Factor two: Changing demographics in suburban Cook County are shifting the odds in countywide elections away from Republicans. As more strong Democratic-leaning voters (especially African Americans) move from Chicago to the county townships, well-known Democratic candidates will have ever-increasing opportunities to beat unknown Republicans in suburban precincts.
Consider the evidence. For Cook County Board president and for sheriff. Democrats Richard Phelan and Michael Sheahan had comparable victories in November. Both received landslide margins in Chicago, both carried the suburbs, and both received well over a majority of the votes in their three-way races. The lack of the usually huge margins from black wards made no difference. Southwest side wards, especially the 13th (House Speaker Michael J. Madigan), the llth (Daley family) and the 23rd (William Lipinski) gave 10,000-plus vote margins to the Democrats. Sheahan's home southwest side 19th Ward came through for its favorite son with an astounding 15,098-vote margin. In both races their Republican opponents were unable to win a single city ward, while their Washington party foes won mainly southside middle-class black wards by relatively narrow margins. In the suburbs, Niles and Worth townships gave both Phelan and Sheahan significant landslide victory margins. They lost northwest suburban townships. Phelan also lost the south suburban home townships of his GOP opponent, Aldo DeAngelis.
Republican O'Malley in the state's attorney race (only for a two-year term this time) ran wild in the suburbs, racking up super landslide margins in big vote-producing townships and winning countywide with a majority of the vote cast. He carried 17 ethnic and lakefront wards in Chicago, and with help from the Washington candidate held Partee's Chicago margin to just over 100,000 votes.
Now to the assumption concerning the future of Cook County Democrats: That Chicago mayoral politics with all of its racial divisiveness will not consume the Democratic party and eventually destroy it.
Paul M. Green is director of the Institute for Public Policy and Administration, Governors State University.
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