Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Or you could just run? The pros and cons, especially the cons, of slating

Democratic Party judicial slating is a pretty commercial transaction, especially when you consider what is being bought and what is being sold.

Oh, I know, even the newest newbies have heard all about that, right? For a contribution---an assessment---of somewhere around $40,000 the candidate gets his or her name on two mailers, along with a postage-stamped sized photo, or the opportunity to be posed in a very exclusive group shot. Seems like an awful lot for a very little, doesn't it? But, wait! There's more... or, perhaps, less: For that same $40,000 the candidate gets the right to be invited to every politician's fundraiser, and the obligation to kick in a generous donation to each one. Sounds super, doesn't it?

But you know what, kids? It was ever thus, even in the far off days of Richard J. Daley:

Once slated for office, the candidate is expected to carry his own load as part of the ticket. The central committee does very little except to arrange appearances for him at the various ward and township organizations during the campaign. He is expected to raise his own campaign funds, establish his own campaign office, do his own advertising, and reach those segments of the electorate to whom he supposedly has the greatest appeal on behalf of the ticket. In fact, a candidate for a major office, rather than getting campaign funds from the county central committee, is expected to make a major contribution to the county central committee for the privilege of being slated for office by the party. He is also expected to buy tickets for every ward and township organization dinner dance, picnic, and golf day.

Milton L. Rakove, Don't Make No Waves, Don't Back No Losers, p. 98 (Indiana University Press, 1975).

Here's the thing though: It isn't just about the money. The Democratic Party of Cook County would have no trouble recruiting judicial candidates willing to pay a great deal more than $40,000. If the Party opened it up to auction, there would be candidates lined up down LaSalle Street outside the Party's offices. If they were asked to, the wannabes would climb the stairs to the Party's offices on their knees, like pilgrims at the end of a Spanish mountain trail, brandishing blank checks instead of rosaries.

At least this would happen once.

Whether it would happen again would depend on whether the high bidders won.

Slating by the Democratic Party of Cook County is valuable because so many of the slated candidates win. Not all do, of course, but enough do. So the Party slating process is not just about money, or ideology, or qualifications, or ethnic balance, or special interests. All of these factor in, certainly, but the bottom line is winning.

The Democratic Party's challenge grows greater with each election cycle. There is no one Boss in Cook County and there hasn't been one for decades. Certain individuals have, in recent cycles, exercised outsize influence on the slating process. President Preckwinkle arguably still does. Senate President Harmon's influence has presumably grown substantially in recent years. But other stars have faded. Mr. Burke is no longer on the Central Committee. While he still is 13th Ward Committeeman, Mr. Madigan's influence has waned. There is no Machine as such; there is at most a coalition of competing interests. The 80 ward and township committeepersons hail from different communities and backgrounds, with different priorities. In ordinary circumstances, though some of the 80 are ideological soulmates, the group as a whole would have difficulty agreeing on the time of day or day of the week. And yet, this diverse group will, some time this summer, on paper at least, unanimously endorse a slate of judicial candidates and a number of alternates.

It never exactly works out that way. Check the archives here and you will find: Some judicial candidates have been SLATED and some were merely slated. Those of us on the outside may not have found out which was which until Election Day or shortly before as palm cards revealed who had broken ranks. But that is the challenge for the slatemakers: To keep enough of the 80 committeepeople together behind a slate, and to keep enough of those slated in the Winner's Circle, so that the Party can say they, collectively, carried the day... and thereby ensure that there will be a new crop of willing wannabes ready to pay in the next election cycle.

But here's the secret: Within all the limitations under which it must function, the Democratic Party is trying to pick winners, just as you would do scanning the card on an afternoon at Arlington. The analogy is imperfect, as all analogies are. For one thing, the Party bets on the slated candidate with the candidate's own money. And the Party does more for the candidate than an ordinary $2 bettor does for a winning horse -- although still less than the jockey.

Party slating does not automatically make you a winner, but it does mean the Party thinks you have the makings of a winner. And it is willing to back you... with your own money.

In the course of operating this site, I have observed slated candidates who were deathly afraid to appear at an event at which non-slated candidates were featured. But go back and read Rakove again: Even in the far off days of Richard Daley the First, the slated candidate was expected to reach out beyond the Party's staged events to "reach those segments of the electorate to whom he supposedly has the greatest appeal on behalf of the ticket." I don't know for certain, but I am reasonably confident there would be no adverse consequence for the candidate asked to share a stage with non-slated judicial candidates, especially where the slated candidate said sufficiently nice things about those on stage but nevertheless asked those within hearing to support the entire ticket. Slated judicial candidates who would not branch out beyond Party-sponsored events have not always fared well.

I do not mean to minimize the import or effectiveness of Party slating in Cook County. If the opportunity presents itself, you should grab hold with both hands. Even if turns out that you were only slated, you will have the opportunity to make a name for yourself, and to be invited to every event, and overcome any defections among the ranks.

So how does one get slated? Well, if I knew that, I'd have done it myself, and long ago.

But, at this stage in the election cycle, I have observed that there are persons who come out of the woodwork holding themselves out as persons who can 'get' a person slated. For a fee, of course. And some of these people may actually have some influence. But these persons offering assistance are looking for winners, too. They want to be able to use their early involvement in your successful campaign as an inducement to recruit other wannabes in election cycles yet to come.

These persons may be able to put you in front of a number of committeemen; they may even come with you for the meetings. And, of course, you will be impressed at the warmth with which your new friend is received by the committeepersons in question. But this does not prove influence, however, only familiarity. And maybe you could have secured some or all of these meetings on your own.

At this point in the process, see who you can. Accept guidance from anyone you choose, or go it alone. You may even leave some of these meetings thinking that you have received some promise, or at least some hope, of support.

Just don't bet on it. Committeepersons are politicians. And politicians are persons who can tell you to go to Hell and make you look forward to the trip.

You, Mr. or Ms. Wannabe Candidate, need not debase yourself as a mere supplicant, hoping that the Party will magically turn you from an ugly ducking into a beautiful swan. Make no promises. Swear no oaths. You are shopping, not begging, and the Party is shopping, too.


Anonymous said...

So the woman who couldn't win her own ward when she ran for Mayor in 2019 is going to ask you to pay $50,000 for the privilege of being on a petition that you have to circulate yourself? Ok. On second thought, YES, "or you could just run!" Screw her.

Anonymous said...

Word is that Toni has a soft landing planned for Amy Campanelli. First she will be appointed to one of the countywide vacancies and then she will be slated by Toni. Don't forget your checkbook, Judge Amy.

Anonymous said...

Gonzales v. Madigan, Case No. 20-1874 (7th Cir. Mar. 8, 2021). Outcome: shills are fair game. See you soon, gals.

Anonymous said...

Or you could go to slating, become an alternate without paying the money, and then run against the person who you think is the runt of the litter. But if you do that, don’t circulate a petition that you have a clandestine candidate sign who, in turn, recruits another person to run in your race now that you have split the Irish gal vote. Yep, it was just that simple.

Anonymous said...

Preckwinkle lost in 2019. Austin couldn't even get on the ballot to remain a committee person and Beale barely made it on last time. Brookins got knocked off when he tried to run for judge . . . in a subcircuit! O'Connor, Moore and Arena were defeated by some SJW's. Burke is under indictment and Madigan couldn't even bring his 3rd Subcircuit candidate across the finish line in his own ward in 2020. The western and suburban "organizations" are non-existent. And Don Harmon only cares about, you guessed it, raising money for Don Harmon. There are far more stories, but there is a maximum character limit for comments. WTF people, the party is a bunch of clowns. Why would you possibly give them money?


I Might Be A Joker, But I'm No Clown.

Anonymous said...

Hey everybody, I think Jack is just going to run. He already has his campaign buttons ready from the last 2 go arounds.

Unknown said...

Dear Jack,

Just wanted to take a moment and thank you for your blog. Your devotion and genuine interest to this highly political area is much appreciated. I also wanted to thank you for your most recent series on the cost and benefits of running. Offering sage advice and words of wisdom to people who are making a significant career choice with a substantial financial commitment is quite commendable.

Have a great weekend and thanks again

Anonymous said...

Play the long game.

Eddie said...

When did Jim Gardiner, who defeated John Arena, become a SJW? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯