Friday, April 20, 2007

Personal Asides: Lovie’s Leather Wins Terry’s Trivia…Mike Noonan and Paul Caprio to be on “Shootout”—and Maybe, Just Maybe, Brad Cole…Once Again: Calls for Popularly Elected State Central Committeemen.


Lovie’s Leather.

Lovie’s Leather, one of the more perceptive contributors to this website, wins Terry’s Trivia. The question: With the Democrats holding their 2008 convention in Denver, who was the only Democratic candidate Colorado supported for president since LBJ? Answer: Bill Clinton. Congratulations, Lovie!


Mike Noonan, the General George Patton of Democratic politics, the strategist and grassroots genius whom the Democrats turn to when the going is rough…assuredly the brightest young manager and warrior in his party…will be on “Political Shootout” with Paul Caprio, director, Family-PAC. Noonan pulled the victory for Bernie Stone out of the hat when many experts said that it was over for the old man. Naisy Dolar, the defeated opponent, recognized Noonan’s strategic pricelessness by attacking him last Sunday, a dumb thing to do. There is a possibility…just that…that another guest will be Brad Cole, newly reelected mayor of Carbondale (there, I’ve got the town right!) over Sheila Simon who, we are told by the Associated Press, didn’t want her prestigious family name to interfere with her winning on her own.

Well, it didn’t and she didn’t. There is a dearth of commentary on her loss in the left-leaning “mainstream media,” have you noticed? Can you imagine what it would have been like had she won? She’d be all over the front pages in Chicago as the logical choice to run for state AG when Lisa Madigan runs for governor. Channels 2, 5, 7 and 9 would be winging to Carbondale for interviews. But the fact that she lost…dashing so many liberal hopes…means that it just isn’t much of a news story, is it? Nary a peep out of Lynn Sweet, Carol Marin, Jennifer Hunter, Mark Brown…the usual suspects who could be expected to chortle if Simon had won…the start of a brilliant career etc.

Paul Caprio’s take on the elections will be revelatory. And if we’re lucky enough to get Brad Cole, the reelected Carbondale mayor, it’d be perfect. It’ll be a good show anyhow: WLS-AM (890) at 8 p.m. this Sunday.

Popularly Elected.

Now that we’ve just made up, I run the risk of once more alienating Doug Ibenthal…a shame because I was just on the cusp of calling him for lunch—but I must comment as an old Republican geezer on one of his sacred causes, the need to have popular elections of Republican State Central Committeemen. When I returned to Illinois from Minnesota, the State Central Committeemen were all popularly elected—and what a dynamic, responsive, alert, vigorous, intellectually acute team it was…headed by Victor Smith, the chairman, a Robinson, Ill. weekly newspaper editor and including such notables as State Senator Pete Granata from the West Side bloc who carried a holstered pistol with him—bulky under his $2,000 suit jacket—ready to defend his life from gang insurgents at all times. I attended all the meetings as a monitor for the National Committeeman, Bob Stuart and kept notes on all the sessions from 1964 to 1969…and even thereafter when I returned from Washington until Stuart resigned his post in 1973. So that was a pretty long time—1964 to 1973 during which time all the Committeemen were elected by, ahem, popular will of the electorate.

I had moved from a state where the state committee was far more effective and none were elected on the primary ballot—Minnesota where the SCC consisted of all the county chairmen (elected by caucuses consisting of precinct people, representatives of legislative leaders in state House and Senate, state representative district people, town and village people), all the congressional district chairmen (in turn elected by caucuses) and appointees from various constituencies: congressmen appointees, Senate appointees, gubernatorial or gubernatorial candidate’s appointees, and a representative of the state finance committee. The total was something like 250 and none were on the popular ballot.

When they met, several times a year in the Twin Cities, it was a de facto convention in fact and in theory: they had the power to elect whomever they wished as state chairman, chairwoman…and to reach across the state to pick whomever they chose not withstanding whether or not they were SCC members…elect national committee members, pass resolutions, censure or approve legislative and congressional policies. At that time, Minnesota also had precinct caucuses identical to Iowa caucuses—the presidential primary being scotched because the DFL was mad that its favorite son Hubert Humphrey who was running the Adlai Stevenson candidacy got licked by insurgents favoring Estes Kefauver.

I can tell you which form was vastly superior—the Minnesota version. That was the group that entreated Walter Judd to run for Congress against a failed GOP incumbent; the group that fought to a standstill over Ike and Taft; the group that provided the muscle behind election of two Republican mayors of Democratic St. Paul. There never was a machine in Minnesota’s GOP but it couldn’t gain traction with a SCC of that diversity. The SCC was widely representative but was so diverse ideologically …ranging from right to left and in-between…balanced… that it was not in the pocket of any single group…either the fat-cat financiers, or the Republican governor (I know because as an aide to the GOP governor I had to deal with them) or the congressional delegation (I know that, too, because as an aide to two congressmen I had to deal with them). But then next to a couple of youngsters in Illinois who feel otherwise, what do I know, right? That’s why the watchword in this state for many so-called “professionals” is: seldom right but never in doubt.

That State Central committee had great policy-making influence. With several congressmen opposed to the Eisenhower farm policy and in favor of high price supports—agreeing with Humphrey—they were smacked down by stinging resolutions from the State CC. The SCC had the power and right to endorse candidates—although the primary system existed and occasionally disagreed with the SCC’s endorsees. The party was governed very effectively—a microcosm of the party’s electorate. In fact, as I’ve stayed in touch with my adopted state, I think it can be said that Minnesota’s emergence from deep blue to on the verge of going red can be attributed in part to the large SCC membership which truly reflect the burgeoning influence of movements such as right-to-life, the gun people, anti-tax people, etc.

If these were the provisions of SB 600 I would be enthusiastically in favor. Just so, I am very tepid about it because having seen the old system fail, I am not sanguine that it can work again just because a particular conservative group with which I agree on some things is behind it. Moreover the charge that it is being held up by State Representative Tom Cross, a social liberal, is a canard as it is a Senate bill which has not even been passed out of the Senate committee thus it is impossible for the House to take it up. Moreover, those who want to change the makeup of the SCC can easily do so by running and supporting Republican precinct committeemen who would support different people to the SCC. I like Tom Cross with whom I can disagree civilly because he has developed a great farm team—Aaron Schock and others and succeeded in reelecting Brad Cole as mayor of Carbondale. I go to Springfield not un-occasionally and believe the House GOP is run far better under social liberal Cross than it was under his predecessor, social conservative Lee Daniels.

Now the fact that at age 78 I have had the experience of seeing and being active in the GOP of two states with widely different SCCs will, of course, cut no ice or have any effect at all on ideologues who are not interested in comparisons but determined to blast ahead on their way or the highway…among whom I count my friend Senator Chris Lauzen who used to send me letters with sad faces drawn and tears running because I was not sufficiently conservative i.e. disagree with him. Unlike any other Republican legislative leader with whom I have dealt going back to 1953, I have never yet…in twenty years of our association…been able to convince Chris of anything that he had not previously decided. But we are friends and I still want him to run for Congress. I am not sanguine enough to imagine I have convinced anyone in the hard pro-SB-600 category…for the simple reason that on this as with all other except the most incidental matters, they are constitutionally unable to compromise. They view all compromise as they do almost all change—as betrayal and renunciation of principle.

Now, I’ll sit back and wait for the rejoinders.


  1. SB 600 was passed unanimously out of the State Senate. The House would not call the bill for a vote. I heard that people had personally requested Barbara Flynn Currie to call the bill in the House. Allegedly, she was willing to, but deferred to Cross and Savaiano since it was a "party" bill not "public policy" bill. They oppose the bill.

  2. SB600 is sitting in the Senate Rules Committee, having never been assigned to committee.

    What should we say about Mr. Ibenthal and associates--wrong again?

  3. Tom,

    You don't think that Noonan bears any moral responsbility for helping someone like Bernie Stone stay in office? One other thing - I appreciate how clear and bright the text is that we we have to enter to get comments posted. It's sad that you have to do it at all, but on some sites the text is so dark that it makes me think I'm going blind.

  4. SB600 not only got out of committee, it passed in the Senate by a UNANIMOUS vote in 2005. It then hit the roadblock in the House put up by Cross, Saviano and their Combine pals. They don't even have the guts to allow it to be voted on by the full House. The Democrats said they wouldn't stand in the way, since it was an internal matter for Republicans.

    All Madigan needed was a call from Cross to get the bill to the floor. Cross decided to lie to Republicans instead. Hardly anything new for him.

  5. It is a party bill and a party matter regardless of one's stance on the issue of how the committee should be selected.

  6. SB600 passed unanimously in the State Senate during the 94th General Assembly. That was on April 14, 2005. It was then killed by Tom Cross and his team in the House that year. The Democrats would have called the bill if Cross had just asked. But Cross didn't lift a finger.

    We are now in the 95th General Assembly, and everything has to start all over.

    The point is that it's really disgraceful that we are "represented" by Republicans who are so dishonest they even lie about something as fundamental as a pro-democracy bill.