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A head on the wall

Monday, Mar 3, 2014

* I’ve been telling subscribers about these developments for weeks

The future of pension politics in Chicago is playing out in an elongated statehouse district that runs from the Gold Coast to South Chicago, home to some of the richest and poorest folks in the city.

Here, first-term Rep. Christian Mitchell, a fast-rising, 27-year-old Democrat who voted for the statewide pension overhaul last year, is facing a tougher-than-expected primary challenge. Community organizer Jhatayn “Jay” Travis is backed to the hilt by the Chicago Teachers Union, which fears the Legislature will reduce its members’ retirement benefits so that the Emanuel administration won’t have to make a required $696 million pension contribution this year, more than triple last year’s payment.

Teachers unions at the city, state and national level are mobilizing scores of volunteers and have secured more than $300,000 to potentially spend on behalf of Ms. Travis’ campaign, even if winning appears to be a long shot. Meanwhile, on the Northwest Side, the union is mounting a less costly bid to unseat Rep. Maria “Toni” Berrios, daughter of Cook County Assessor and Cook County Democratic Party Chairman Joseph Berrios.

The effort signals a bold shift in strategy for the CTU, which for years has doled out donations in a mostly even-handed fashion. Now, the union is targeting Democratic incumbents perceived to be vulnerable in the March 18 primary. The union’s message: CTU support should not be taken for granted.

The idea is to put a big trophy head on the wall and (even if they don’t win) scare other Chicago legislators out of voting for Chicago pension reform.

The CTU’s independent expenditure PAC broke the seal on campaign contributions this past Friday. So now Mitchell can receive lots more contributions from Speaker Madigan’s operation.

And, by the way, Will Guzzardi has greatly ramped up his fundraising from unions to challenge Rep. Berrios. Guzzardi reported raising close to a hundred grand the other day, mostly from unions.

* Meanwhile, the Chicago Reader has been whacking away at Rep. Mitchell for weeks. The latest

Born and raised in Chicago—and a graduate of Kenwood High—Travis is a formidable candidate largely because of her years as executive director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization. Among other things, she negotiated a community benefits agreement with the city’s Olympics backers.

In this case, Travis and KOCO were early and impassioned fighters against school closings and for an elected school board.

On October 10, as Travis was gathering signatures for her nominating petitions, Mitchell officially signed on as cosponsor to the elected school board proposal.

So now it has three sponsors but remains lodged in the rules committee. At this rate, it may be a law by the next century.

The candidates have different explanations for why Mitchell changed his position on an elected school board.

Travis says—well, you can imagine what she says. “It was quite interesting when, on the week I circulated petitions, Representative Mitchell signed on as a sponsor,” she says. “I think he signed on because he wanted to be able to send out that flyer, even if it’s misleading.”

Not so, says Mitchell. He insists that Travis’s candidacy had nothing to do with his ongoing evolution on the school board. He says it’s just another coincidence that he’s signing on to the measure now that the heavy fighting with the mayor over the cuts and closings is over.

Mitchell says he was originally for a “hybrid board” with five mayoral appointees and four elected members. “What moved me toward a full elected school board is talking to constituents.”

* Not mentioned so far by the Reader is one of the wildest opposition research reports I’ve ever seen, which was leaked in January and alleges that Mitchell’s opponent was involved in a bizarre cult. Here are the documents…

* Executive Summary

* Full report

* The Travis campaign response at the time…

We are currently seeking legal council to address the libelous, scurrilous, erroneous, statements shared with me earlier. Jay Travis is not and has never been a member of a cult or a party to abuse of any kind. For the past twenty years, Jay Travis has been and remains a champion of her community.

We will make every effort to identify the source of this pathetic attempt to draw attention away from the real issues of this race; gutting pensions, closing schools, and being in lock step with those in direct opposition to the needs of the people of the 26th district. That is why Representative Mitchell wants to spread erroneous information about Kwanzaa organizations, because he knows he can not stand on his record.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


21 Comments
  1. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:15 am:

    “A head on the wall” indeed.

    How do you measure “power”?

    Sometimes its by who, or what you DEFEAT, versus what you win and THAT is a greater measuring stick and a bigger tactic to get what you want.


  2. - Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:20 am:

    CTU’s targeting of Mitchell begs a question. Why him? His voting record is no different from many, many other Democrats. Indeed, 47 House Dems voted for SB1. I think the answer is this: They think Mitchell is vulnerable because he took a leadership position on marriage equality.


  3. - Gern Blanston - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:23 am:

    “Currently seeking legal council” — Travis says she stands for education, but she can’t even spell.


  4. - 47th Ward - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:24 am:

    ===Why him?===

    He’s in his first term and almost all first-termers are vulnerable. It takes a long time and a lot of work before voters “know” their legislators.


  5. - A guy... - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:31 am:

    Make an extra bag of popcorn. This one will be worth watching. A fool and their money part quickly. The IEA, IFT, CTU are going “all in” in a lot of places all of the sudden. They’re too late in some places and too early in others. I think we’re seeing what it looks like when kids experience their first “Carnie” games. Weird stuff Maynard.


  6. - OneMan - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:32 am:

    Man that oppo stuff is strange….


  7. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:34 am:

    Um, so we’re to believe the Quakers were bankrolling an abusive cult? Seems a wee bit counter-intuitive.


  8. - Not Rich - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:37 am:

    It is all just an exercise by the CTU: spring training sort of, before Ms. Lewis runs for Mayor against Rahmbo


  9. - OneMan - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:40 am:

    == It is all just an exercise by the CTU: spring training sort of, before Ms. Lewis runs for Mayor against Rahmbo ==

    Oh man, now that would be epic…


  10. - Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:44 am:

    OneMan - what you said. I’d buy ringside seats to that.


  11. - A guy... - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:46 am:

    Just can’t wait to see what the army that responds to Karen Lewis’ bugle looks like.


  12. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:49 am:

    –Just can’t wait to see what the army that responds to Karen Lewis’ bugle looks like.–

    Teachers?

    Or are you trying to communicate something else?

    Maybe your head wouldn’t hurt if you weren’t spinning so much.


  13. - Rich Miller - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:50 am:

    ===we’re to believe the Quakers were bankrolling an abusive cult?===

    Unwittingly. They pulled out. Lawsuit was filed over her dismissal.


  14. - Eve - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:52 am:

    –The idea is to put a big trophy head on the wall and (even if they don’t win) scare other Chicago legislators out of voting for Chicago pension reform.–

    Maybe. Though if CTU, IFT, AFT, and their $250k+ in an IE committee created specifically to take out a particular legislator can’t win, it could have the opposite effect. Why not vote with the Mayor and legislative leadership for Chicago pension reform if even CTU’s best efforts don’t succeed? Maybe depends on how close the total vote is.


  15. - Rich Miller - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:53 am:

    === $250k+ in an IE committee created specifically to take out a particular legislator can’t win, it could have the opposite effect===

    Only for those who don’t care at all about getting that kind of cash spent against them, which is nobody.


  16. - john - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 12:09 pm:

    Roland - I don’t think the CTU made the decision based on the marriage vote. CTU was in favor of marriage, as was IEA and IFT. Besides, Jay Travis is in favor of marriage equality. I tend toward 47th ward’s theory.

    That being said, I think the Mitchell race is a sideshow. The race in the center ring is Berrios v. Guzzardi. All the public sector unions are in that race. And it seems to be shaping up as “progressives” and public sector unions against the Madigan and Berrios machines. A loss in this race for the machine sends waves through the House Democratic regulars….”you can’t always be protected.”


  17. - Smoggie - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 12:27 pm:

    I thought Oswego Willy would find the Christian Mitchell race amusing.

    He correctly notes that the GOP has a history of going after the ones not considered pure and in doing so, take resources away from battles against Democrats.

    So Oswego Willy, here’s a race where people on the left are doing the same. You would think they would have learned from the GOP experience.

    Another note on that race —

    I live in that district. They are both dropping mail nearly every day. They’ve reached the point where, based on mail room activity that I see, they aren’t doing much other than filling the recycling bin.

    That being said, Christian’s has gone over a broad range of issues.

    Not shocking given her backing, every single piece that I’ve seen by Travis attacks Mitchell on the pension vote.

    When all your support comes from one special interest that’s going to happen, but I don’t see it as making for a particularly effective campaign.

    One last note — Mitchell has run with the strong backing of Toni Preckwinkle and Will Burns. My understanding is that they are strongly behind him again. Interesting choice to take on those two. I have to give them credit for going big.


  18. - Cassidy - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 12:28 pm:

    The unions have gotten themselves all pumped up by sitting around a circle, talking only to each other, and getting themselves all worked up to show everyone that they can be tough.

    In the end after Rauner is Governor they will discover that the majority of voters have had it with them.


  19. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 12:52 pm:

    - Smoggie -,

    Being a Republican, why do I want to comment on Democrats tearing each other apart on Purity?

    I am amused.

    I just went beyond that as a Republican and looked at the “why” and commented, not to the reasons that led to this.

    I am more interested in Berrios seat. That is hand to hand combat; apartment building and houses and every vote counting up to the polls closing.

    Ground Game special when it is all said and done.

    Do voters lie to Berrios and get rides to bite against her, or do Guzzardi “pluses” fall short again? Will there be “discussions” by precinct workers leading to law enforcement engagement?

    Berrios - Guzzardi is more watchable as a GOPer than that other Purity race to show political muscle. Hope they tear each other up and it bleeds in the Dem narrative.


  20. - Ahoy! - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 12:58 pm:

    This seems like it could be a risky strategy for the unions, if they loose these races they show their own vulnerability and give legislators who are looking at pension reform more confidence. Of course if they win they scare people, if they loose, they show weakness.

    High risk, high reward?


  21. - Former Cult Member - Monday, Mar 10, 14 @ 5:13 pm:

    A number of us former members still live in the city, and those of your who think it’s too wild to believe, believe it. The cult is real, and still is in action. The Quakers didn’t know a thing, because they were seeing results and numbers, which is easy to do when you have an army of “volunteers” who have orders to follow a certain path. Travis is all the OR says and more. KOCO is a front for their activities and they are seeking more access and more “power” to further their agenda, and they don’t care who gets damaged in the process. Travis herself oversaw the punishment of a female member for reporting the sexual abuse she endured by male leadership, and she’ll lie through her teeth to make herself seem legit. This is coming from someone who was threatened by her and her cronies and who still is concerned about being seen in public denouncing her because of concerns of reprisals. You may delete this because it doesn’t fit the mold, but there is much more information available, if you are willing to look…


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


* What a long, strange weekend it was
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