Kristen McQueary is one of the very few columnist in this City who actually checks her ego at the door and brings in arm-loads of facts in her reports.
Like Sun Times reporters Mark Konkol, Natasha Korecki, Lisa Donovan and the great investigative bull-dog Tim Novak, Kristen McQueary presents what actually happens.
Today's column on the candidates forum to replace the irreplaceable Representative Kevin Joyce (D) of 35th House District is very good and wonderfully insightful. The only people who publicly proclaim that they have the inside dope on 19th Ward politics are the good folks who continue to chase ice cream trucks decades after it seems no long mete. Understanding that, Kristen McQueary presents "the situation," which is tighter than a New Jersey Ginzo's belly.
. . . A second batch of hopefuls stood nervously at a podium Wednesday night at Green Hills Public Library in Palos Hills during the second round of public interviews to replace Joyce, who recently withdrew his candidacy for the 35th House District seat.
They spoke to a committee of mayors, labor leaders and Democratic Party activists, including Chicago Ald. Ginger Rugai (19th) and Palos Hills Mayor Jerry Bennett, who will offer advice on which candidate is best suited to serve in the House.
But ultimately the decision rests with 19th Ward Democratic committeeman Matt O'Shea, who carries the heaviest weighted vote by law. Wearing a suit and tie and sitting in the farthest seat to the back of the room, O'Shea took notes and watched.
The list of would-be candidates includes: Chicago residents Bill Cunningham, Michael Cullen, John Presta, Thomas Condon, David Ladd, Connie Mixon, Richard Moran, Sheila Pacholski, John O'Brien, Thomas Carroll, Edward Smith, Maureen Kelly, John Fitzpatrick, Patrick O'Donnell, Randy Ashley and Kevin Butler and suburban residents Kent Oliven, Jerry Mulvihill, Ed Guzdziol, James Gierach, Addison Woodward, Ann Contorno and Robert Maloney. They are lawyers, accountants, small-business owners, a single mother, teachers and a recent college graduate.
I'm putting my chips on Cunningham, although several other strong candidates will make O'Shea's decision difficult, including Cullen, who has ties to House Speaker Michael Madigan, and Kelly, a Saint Xavier University official with political prowess.
Cunningham took an indefinite unpaid leave of absence from Gov. Pat Quinn's office last week, a signal of his confidence, although he said he would likely return to Quinn's staff if unsuccessful in winning the House seat.
"I talked it over with (Quinn) and his staff and we thought there was too much potential for conflicts of interest," he said of taking an unpaid leave. "During the course of this process, I am taking public positions on issues, and I didn't want to cause confusion over whether I was taking a position of my own or the governor's."
Cunningham started the job as Quinn's chief spokesman only days before Joyce announced his departure. He had previously expressed an interest in the seat if Joyce left. For a decade before that, Cunningham worked under Cook County Sheriff Michael Sheahan and was chief of staff to Sheriff Tom Dart.
He would take a dramatic pay cut as state representative, a job he said he would approach as a full-time post. He could earn as much as $75,000 in the House compared to six figures under Quinn.
As a newspaper columnist who consistently advocates transparency in government, kudos to the interview process and especially to the folks who had the guts to put their name in. It's not easy to toss yourself into the gauntlet.
"For too long, Illinois has lacked the integrity to face its financial problems," Mixon told the committee. "The day of reckoning has come for the state of Illinois. Citizens are tired of the same politicians playing the same game. I plan to bring integrity to Springfield."
Cullen, who spent the last seven legislative sessions in Springfield through his work on the Illinois Commerce Commission, said he would not face a "learning curve. I'll be able to deliver right away for the 35th District."
Presta - a Beverly area political activist, author and former bookstore owner - called on the committee to choose someone who is not "an insider."
But let's face facts. This is politics, and it's an insider's game. O'Shea will pick a 19th Ward resident who will deliver for the district - someone who will be friendly to labor, considerate in protecting jobs and helpful in raising money. He wants someone trusted and loyal. A known commodity. That limits the pool considerably.
The questions posed to candidates Tuesday and Wednesday night were interesting but mostly for show. Candidates stood at the podium, gave three-minute presentations and took four standard, softball questions from committee members, including: "If you are not selected by this committee, will you support the Democratic nominee in November?"
Cunningham, 42, a lifelong Beverly resident, breezed through the questions which, frankly, seemed catered to allow him to showcase his experience working with local officials and the Legislature.
Will he get the nod and face Republican Barbara Bellar, an attorney and physician, this fall? Stay tuned.
One detail is missing - the Pro Life-Anti-Abortion stand of the candidate who will get Kevin Joyce's endorsement. That is a condition the candidate who plays the Dick Durbin-I-Am-Personally Opposed-to Abortion Horse manure. Only a genuine Anti-Abortion Pro Life Democrat will get Kevin Joyce's endorsement. That conviction on abortion is the meal ticket.
Whoever, expects to replace the multi-Legislator of of the Year Kevin Joyce had better have the courage of that good man's convictions.
Great job Kevin! Good work Kristen McQueary!