As if this week hasn’t been exciting enough, political junkies here in Chicago have the added bonus of watching the domino effect of Obama’s victory. I took a first scan of potential Obama replacements in February, and still like Luis Gutierrez. Political secession in Illinois is usually kept in the family, and given the fact that Malia is a bit young, and Michelle already has a good gig awaiting her, we’re all a bit stumped about what to do here. The fact that Illinois is a defact one-party state makes the selection that much more interesting. Reps. Jesse Jackson, Jr., Gutierrez, Danny Davis and Jan Schakowsky, and state officials Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan, Comptroller Dan Hynes, Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, Veterans Affaris director Tammy Duckworth, Secretary of State Jesse White and outgoing Senate majority leader (and Obama mentor) Emil Jones, and longtime Obama friend and woman about town Valerie Jarrett are the names bandied about most often. WLS TV in Chicago is reporting today that Jarrett is Obama’s candidate; others have told me that they expect her to be an important White House advisor. (In that same report, Bill Daley comes closer to announcing his candidacy for governor.) Davis, White, and the ethics-challenged Jones would all be emeritus appointments– of that group, White would seem the likeliest candidate to serve the final two years of Obama’s term quietly. Of the other group, I’m keeping an eye on Duckworth. (The Huffington Post is tracking the chatter.)
The other hot topic among Windy City political gossips concerns a replacement for Rahm Emanuel as representative of Illinois’ Fifth Congressional District. The Tribune ran down its list of candidates on Friday: “Cook County Board Commissioners Mike Quigley and Forrest Claypool; Alds. Thomas Allen (38th), Gene Schulter (47th), Patrick O’Connor (40th) and Manny Flores (1st); state Reps. John Fritchey and Deborah Mell, the governor’s sister-in-law and daughter of the 33rd Ward alderman.” We rarely have an open election in these parts, and the junkie in me would love a wide open race. Mell is the frontrunner, if for no other than reason that that her anointment by the powers that be (also known as Democratic Party Committeemen) would fit in with Illinois Democratic Party dynastic tradition– her father Richard has been an Alderman and Committeeman since Walter Payton was a rookie. (Steve Rhodes sums up Mell’s “puppetmaster” history, leaving out his role in persuading Gene Sawyer to replace Harold Washington in 1987.) I live about a dozen blocks northeast of the Fifth’s boundaries, as an outsider I’d be happy to see Quigley or Claypool in Congress. The most intriguing candidate, however, is Manny Flores, of whom I’ve been hearing good things since I returned to Chicago four years ago. In a city where City Council members are known more for ethical lapses, comedic one-liners, and voting in lockstep with the Mayor , Flores is an articulate exception, respected for his economic development and public transit work.