is a nebulous, totally subjective concept.
nations deem it inadvisable to get involved in
international wars or disputes, they proclaim
their neutrality. When politicians deem it
inadvisable to choose sides in a political
contest, so as not to create enemies, they
proclaim their neutrality.
this year, in a stunning development on the
Northwest Side, Alderman Bill Banks (36th), his
ward's Democratic committeeman, has deemed it
inadvisable to endorse and support a fellow
Democrat -- and a fellow Democratic committeeman
-- state Representative Ralph Capparelli (D-15),
in the contentious 20th Illinois House District
contest against another incumbent, Republican Mike
McAuliffe (R-20). Banks has proclaimed his
neutrality. And the salient questions are: Why is
Democrat Banks not backing Democrat Capparelli?
And why is Banks not inclined to work against
what?" proclaims Capparelli, referring to
Banks' decision. "It is a Democratic area,
and I'll win it with or without his support."
Capparelli adds that he's been endorsed by state
Senator Jim DeLeo, who is a close Banks ally and a
power in both Springfield and in the 36th Ward.
McAuliffe fervently disagrees. "Without his
support of Capparelli, I will run much better in
the ward, which means I will win districtwide,"
calls to Banks, the powerful chairman of the City
Council Zoning Committee, to ask him to explain
his decision elicited no response. A source close
to Banks, however, acknowledged that he met with
Capparelli in early September and that he then
advised Capparelli that he would be neutral in the
race. "That means we're taking no
position," said the source, adding that the
36th Ward Democratic Organization "will not
be working for Ralph or against Ralph." And
that means, in the 36 precincts in the 36th Ward
which are in the 20th District, Banks' precinct
captains will be neither soliciting votes for
Capparelli prior to Nov. 2, nor handing out palm
cards containing Capparelli's name to voters on
this tip the scales to McAuliffe?
candidates will spend more than $300,000 in their
campaigns, and both are well known. With the
election just weeks away, the candidates are
running on a remarkably level playing field, which
means that either could win.
20th District runs from Wrightwood in Chicago on
the south to Greenleaf in Niles on the north, east
of Nagle and west of Canfield, but south of
Lawrence to Belmont, it runs west to River Road.
It was designed to elect a Democrat, but it
elected a Republican in 2002. It contains a total
of 119 precincts, of which 89 are in Chicago and
30 are in the suburbs. Of the city precincts, 51
are in the 41st Ward (where both Capparelli and
McAuliffe are their party's committeeman), 36 are
in the 36th Ward and two are in the 38th Ward. Of
the suburban precincts, 24 are in Norwood Park
Township (Norridge and Harwood Heights), one is in
Niles and five are in Park Ridge (south of Devon).
the McAuliffe-Capparelli campaign evolves, certain
realities have emerged:
both candidates' names are readily identifiable,
giving neither an edge. Both names have been on
the ballot for more than 30 years, and both
incumbents are well liked and ideologically in
tune with their conservative constituency. Both
candidates are generally opposed to tax hikes,
abortion rights and gay rights. No hint of scandal
has attached to either.
age 79, is the dean of the Illinois House and the
deputy House majority leader, having served since
1971. McAuliffe, age 40, is the son of the late
Roger McAuliffe, who served in the House from 1973
to 1996; McAuliffe was elected to his father's
vacancy in 1996. The legislators had separate
Northwest Side districts prior to the 2001 remap,
but they wound up living in the sdame district for
the 2002 election.
voters do not yet understand why they have to
choose between the two well liked incumbents.
"They're confused," admitted Capparelli.
'When I tell them that it's a choice between him
and me, those who backed me (in the past) are
still with me," said McAuliffe. In 2001,
after the remap, Capparelli chose to run for
re-election in the adjacent 15th Illinois House
District, which contained part of his old 13th
District, so as to allow his buddy, incumbent
Democrat Bob Bugielski, to move into and run in
the 20th District. McAuliffe, however, also
decided to run in that district, and he outworked
his foe and won by 2,583 votes, getting 53.7
percent of the total.
is a Republican, and when voters know that, they
will back me," Capparelli said Counters
McAuliffe: "Party (identification) is not an
issue. It comes down to whether they want me or
both contenders are well funded, and they will
bombard the district with direct mail. "I
will spend whatever it takes," said McAuliffe,
who is being subsidized by the House Republican
leadership in Springfield and who expects them to
allocate at least $250,000 to his campaign, which
will pay for at least 10 direct-mail pieces.
Ditto, says Capparelli, who has almost $1 million
in his campaign account. "I am funding my own
campaign," said Capparelli, who expects to
spend about $300,000 and to have 10 direct-mail
both candidates have significant endorsements.
Both say they were endorsed by the Chicago Fire
Fighters Union, and Capparelli claims the
endorsement of the Federation of Police while
McAuliffe touts backing by the AFL-CIO and the
Associated Firefighters of Illinois. "I
backed them (the labor position) on 100 percent of
roll-call votes over 30 years," Capparelli
said. "He backed them only 52 percent of the
time over 7 years.
am the pro-labor candidate," insisted
Capparelli, who could not explain why the AFL-CIO
both contenders have prodigious numbers of lawn
signs. Both claim to have at least 2,000 signs
already posted, with another 1,000 to come and
with 2,000 posted on election day.
sixth, most critically, both contenders boast that
they will have hundreds of precinct workers. Both
are attempting to spur ancestral loyalty.
Capparelli, a fixture on the Northwest Side for a
half-century, is calling on his contemporaries and
past backers for help; but many are deceased or
have retired and moved away. McAuliffe is trying
to resurrect the precinct operation of his late
father. The reality is this: There is no state
patronage army at the beck and call of either
Brian Doherty (41st) is strongly backing his ally,
McAuliffe, and there is no evidence that Mayor
Rich Daley has involved himself in the race or
that he will endorse Capparelli.
who will win? Both candidates are credible and
popular. The key will be who can best sully and
discredit his foe. McAuliffe's first mailers were
positive, and Capparelli's were negative.
McAuliffe has now gone negative.
rips McAuliffe on five votes:
In 2000 Capparelli supported and McAuliffe (along
with most House Republicans) opposed a bill to cap
prescription drug prices; the bill was sponsored
by McHenry County Democrat Jack Franks, who used
it as a ploy to win-re-election. Capparelli
accused McAuliffe of "selling out"
seniors. In 2003 McAuliffe (along with Capparelli)
backed a plan for the state to buy drugs for
resale to seniors.
Capparelli supported and McAuliffe opposed a bill
for family leave, giving workers unpaid time off
to care for a newborn or a sick family member.
Capparelli supported and McAuliffe opposed a bill
to hold HMOs and insurance companies liable if
their denial of coverage leads to injury or death.
Capparelli opposed and McAuliffe supported the
Human Rights Act, which bars employment
discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Capparelli opposed and McAuliffe supported the SBC
wholesale pricing regulation bill. Capparelli
claims that it "raised rates," but, in
actuality, it simply mandated that SBC's phone and
cable savings be passed along to consumers.
thought we would have a positive campaign,"
McAuliffe said. But since he's been attacked,
McAuliffe has responded accordingly:
sent out a mailer blasting Capparelli for the fact
that "$1 million and two government pensions
is not enough." Capparelli has almost $1
million in his campaign account, he is receiving a
county pension, and he will receive a state
pension when he retires. He also sent out a mailer
ripping Capparelli for "taking care of number
one" and for spending his campaign cash for
traveling, a Cadillac lease, presents, and dinners
and parties for his friends.
prediction: In 2002 the inept Bugielski lost the
41st Ward by 4,079 votes, getting just 37.5
percent of the total, lost the suburbs by 981
votes (getting 42.7 percent), and won his 36th
Ward base by 2,490 votes (with 61.1 percent).
Capparelli will get at least 45 percent of the
vote in the 41st Ward and Norwood Park Township,
maybe more, but McAuliffe, with Banks' neutrality,
will win close to 45 percent of the 36th Ward
vote. Expect a McAuliffe triumph of about 300
votes, but don't discount a Capparelli surge and a
victory by a narrow margin.