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Shape-changers

Friday, Jun 29, 2007

* My Sun-Times column this week takes a look back and a look forward…

Hegewisch is a long way from Schaumburg, geographically and otherwise, but the two areas merged together in my mind this week.

The column goes on to explain Schaumburg state Rep. Paul Froehlich’s party switch, which we don’t need to repeat here.

The last state representative to switch parties was Sam Panayotovich in 1988, when the Cook County Republican Party thought it could become a major player. Republicans wanted to lock in “Reagan Democrat” voters by recruiting candidates who could appeal to them and by attempting to woo Democratic officeholders to their side.

There was a time when it looked as if the Republicans might actually succeed, and might even win a huge prize: the Illinois House. The chamber was closely divided between the two parties and Madigan was facing a revolt by his more conservative city and suburban Democrats, white ethnics who felt shut out by Madigan’s often imperious rule. Panayotovich, a Serbian-American Democrat from Chicago’s Hegewisch neighborhood, decided to take the plunge. Panayotovich announced that he was switching to the GOP, and the word was that other white ethnics would soon follow.

Madigan understood that if Panayotovich won re-election as a Republican, others would surely jump ship and he would lose the speaker’s gavel. So Madigan immediately made it clear that Panayotovich would pay a steep price, and he followed through with an expensive, brutal campaign.

Before Panayotovich’s press conference was even over, Madigan’s chief of staff ordered everything removed from Panayotovich’s office and unceremoniously dumped in the hallway. It was all downhill from there.

The fall campaign against Democrat Clem Balanoff, personally recruited by Mayor Harold Washington, was “hurtful, bitter and unfair,” Panayotovich recalls. His wife was singled out for attack, he was accused of spending more time at the popular Springfield tavern he owned instead of in the Illinois House, and on and on. To be sure, Panayotovich gave as good as he got, and eventually both sides ended up spending more money than had ever been expended on an Illinois House race. Panayotovich lost, and the way he was stomped into the ground may partly explain the lack of party jumpers since then.

And now the look forward…

Panayotovich said this week that Froehlich should prepare for the same treatment. Even though Froehlich’s party switch has little impact on the makeup of the House and no other Republicans are suspected of plotting similar jumps, Panayotovich is probably right.

“That’s our seat,” a top House Republican said this week. “We’ll do whatever it takes to get it back,” said another. The only question is whether the Republicans, hobbled by years in the minority, will have the resources to put up a fight. If they do, and if history is any guide, expect a nasty contest next year.

* Eric Krol looks at both Froehlich and Sen. Kirk Dillard, who cut a TV ad for Barack Obama. This is his conclusion about Froehlich’s future…

Froehlich is a bit of a man without a place to call home right now. And he’s got less than $20,000 in his campaign fund to fall back on. A well-funded Republican could cause him big problems. […]

This time, however, Froehlich’s desire to control his fate and stay in power could end up costing him exactly that.

If Speaker Madigan steps up, as he is expected to, it won’t matter how much money is in Froehlich’s bank account. But, yes, Froehlich is certainly in for a rough road.

And Dillard…

Dillard also is up for re-election next year in the 24th Senate District. The district remains reliably Republican, so it’s not the general election Dillard need worry about. It’s catching a primary challenge from a Republican irked that Kirk is offering so much public love for Obama. Dillard possibly just bought himself a headache along with that spotlight he sought.

Sometimes politicians can outthink themselves.

Dillard’s campaign account had almost $200,000 on hand earlier this year and he ought to be able to raise more. Also, Obama did well in DuPage County and likely remains popular, even with Republicans.

That being said, I’m all for bipartisan comity in the General Assembly. But it ought to stay there. If Dillard does draw a primary opponent because of this move, he’ll certainly deserve it. But he’ll almost surely survive it.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


8 Comments
  1. - paddyrollingstone - Friday, Jun 29, 07 @ 11:03 am:

    Great column as usual Rich. I remember when Panayotavich switched. I seem to remember that the GOP was thinking it might become a force with Jim Dvorak (I think he was running the party then) and Eddie Vdrolyak running things. It made for some interesting times but obviously didn’t last long. One thing I always questioned was that although Vrdolyak was obviously smart, I thought his move to the GOP was incredibly dumb.

    On whether, Dillard will pay a price for his “defection,” I tend to doubt it. The tilt of Illinois for almost 20 years has been toward the Dems (the obvious exception being 1994) and I don’t see it going back the other way, with the demographic trends strongly going the D’s way. I don’t think Illinois will ever become like Massachusetts (where the D/R split in the state house is 141-19 and the senate is 34-5), but its headed in that general direction. So, I think Dillard will be alright, especially if Obama gets himself elected President or VP. What do you think?


  2. - Anonymous - Friday, Jun 29, 07 @ 11:27 am:

    Dillard has raised his appeal in a general election and with the editorial boards for his show of bi-partisanship, but he has angered the very people that turn out and vote in republican primaries in DuPage. If he gets a conservative challenger in the primary who can compete with him financially, in a year when every independant is pulling dem primary ballots to vote for Barack, he could be in trouble.


  3. - Wumpus - Friday, Jun 29, 07 @ 12:56 pm:

    Paul would not have switched w/o a payoff, er guaranty of fundage. They/Madigan were offering people (w/experience) $100,000 to run against Crespo. I would think Froehlich would demand/be offered close to that.


  4. - Jim - Friday, Jun 29, 07 @ 3:42 pm:

    My comments from yesterday’s post about Metra and Gary:

    Your comments are pathetic! No one actually wants to do any work and get quality people elected. You are all to busy blaming people. Just when I thought the hole could not get any deeper- pathetic “Cook County Republicans” make it worse.

    Your in fighting will do nothing. All anyone cares about is protecting their little bit of turf or more meaningless title. A badge they can wear at poltical events to feel special.

    I say let it burn!!! When all the “movers” in the party, (if thats what you can call them) finally drop off, then the real people can begin doing work. I am 26 years old and have more foresight than most of my parties leaders. In ten years most of the morons will be gone.

    The party is ripe for a new generation. I just want to say thanks to all the folks in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, for ruining the conservative movement in IL! I will not bow to any of you or make any apologies for my statements. YOU DO NOT MATTER!

    You have become like the Scottish Lords in the movie Braveheart! Content to sell out your own people for political favors. You have no principle and no vision.

    The infighting between Peraica and Gorman is pathetic. I have called for the cease fire on numerous occasions. Which one will be the bigger person and step up, or will both end up losing their positions over such dribble?

    Lazy best describes most of you. You complain and complain and critize those who spend thousands of hours and thousands of their own money on reforming Cook County. If I had to guess very few of you have participated in phone banks, door-to-door, registration drives or any of the other work that it takes to win an election. I am sure you all feel your TO GOOD for that.

    The only way you win is by engaging the voter. Go out and talk to your neighbor, email your friends, promote sound candidates and policies.

    Tom Swiss did the best job with what he had. How many of you would of worked for free (nay-put up 10K of your own money) to try and help the party.

    For those that critize Gorman—hold your horses. Lets give her a chance. It can’t get any worse?

    Recruiting quality candidates is everyones job. Put your money and name where your mouth is. It takes guts to run for office.

    In my opinion you have 3 choices. Do something, shut up or MOVE! I am doing something. Anyone that know me realizes the amount of time, money, and energy I devote to reforming Cook County and IL. There is hardly any decent leaders under 40 to look to! I blame the party for not supporting young conservatives. THE CHILDREN ARE OUR FUTURE. To bad the COOK GOP aborted a long time ago!


  5. - Time for Change - Friday, Jun 29, 07 @ 11:30 pm:

    The word is that Froehlichs sessor, the township assessor may be committeeman. The state party should look at him. He was going to run for State Senate until Millner told him no. He is a up and commer said Senator john Millner. But he being good friends with Froehlich can only help Schaumburg Township and the local elected officials.


  6. - Elephant's Memory - Monday, Jul 2, 07 @ 10:08 am:

    Jim: Committeemen usually always put up their own money for events. So, at least 80 people are working for free and putting up at least some of their own money.


  7. - Squideshi - Monday, Jul 2, 07 @ 1:11 pm:

    I despise the use of the word bipartisan. It implies that there are only two political parties and that it is somehow desirable to only try to work with those two political parties. Here is a new hierarchy that I propose, from least desirable to most:

    1. Partisan
    2. Bipartisan
    3. Multipartisan
    4. Nonpartisan


  8. Pingback DuPage County Spokesman Makes Up Obama Fallacy « Illinois Reason - Monday, Sep 29, 08 @ 11:58 pm:

    […] Why again is Mr. Curry being paid by the taxpayers of DuPage County (many of whom are Dems and many more of whom are likely to vote for Obama for President)? Sure, what he does on his own free time is up to him… but with such a bitter and sycophant partisan slant you’d think the taxpayer-funded DuPage County elections commission would steer clear of the spinster. […]


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