Monday, August 19, 2013

Slating and the monolith myth

The Cook County Democratic Party slates by committee. The State Office Selection, County-Wide, Supreme and Appellate Court, and Circuit Court Selection Committees all make their recommendations to the Cook County Democratic Central Committee. The County-Wide and both judicial committees met Thursday; the State Office Committee met first thing Friday morning. At 11:00 a.m. the Central Committee convened to hear the committee reports.

The Committeemen rose to say the Pledge of Allegiance. There was an announcement of an upcoming cocktail party fundraiser. The Treasurer's report was heard and approved with no fuss at all.

Then it was time for the candidate committee reports. The County-Wide Committee reported first. With only incumbents seeking slating at the top of the countywide ticket (there were decisions to be made only for slating of the three Metropolitan Water Reclamation District seats open this year), the process seemed almost cut and dried.

All of this was open to the press. But even counting this blogger, there were only a handful of reporters present by this point: I can confirm the presence of only Mark Brown of the Sun-Times, Mary Ann Ahearn of Channel 5, and a reporter from WBEZ. The Tribune's Rick Pearson and ABC7's Charles Thomas had been there earlier, when Bill Daley wasn't showing up to seek the Party's blessing for his gubernatorial bid. Bill Daley not showing up was considered news. Judicial races don't seem as important to most news outlets.

But then it was time for the Appellate and Supreme Court Committee to make its report. The Committee recommended the slating of Judge Freddrenna M. Lyle, Chicago lawyer David W. Ellis, and Justice John Simon for the three available seats on the First District Appellate Court. Party Chairman Joseph Berrios asked for a motion to approve the report and Maine Township Committeeman Laura Murphy rose to move that the committee report be rejected. Chairman Berrios called on attorney Tom Jaconetty to explain why Murphy's motion was out of order (the Chairman ruling ultimately that a motion to accept the report had already been made). In the course of sorting things out, Mr. Berrios inquired whether Murphy was opposed to some or all of the committee report.

The few reporters stirred: Dissension is interesting; it might even qualify as news. I don't know why. There is some lingering belief that the Democratic Party is a monolithic entity that thinks and speaks as one. Perhaps it was that way, once upon a time, when Bill Daley's father was the County Chairman. I only know for certain about the recent past, the last few election cycles. In the recent past, not every ward and township organization supports the county ticket from top to bottom. Search the archives here: There are always cracks and fissures in the "monolith" -- and not just on the Lakefront either. Some of the larger, "regular" organizations also sometimes "dump" one or more judicial candidates. Not always, just sometimes. But some endorsements, it seems, are better than others.

Still, the monolith myth is well established. And it would have been interesting to hear what sorts of objections were raised to the judicial ticket and by whom. But then someone realized there were prying ears in the room, and the Central Committee went into executive session. The reporters -- even the blogger -- were ushered out.

We'll never know all the details, but we will have a pretty good idea, in time, who dissented and which candidates benefited -- or suffered -- from the absence of consensus.

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