Will Obama’s Windy City Vacuum be Filled by Nepotism?

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.


8 thoughts on “Will Obama’s Windy City Vacuum be Filled by Nepotism?

  1. Yes, Manny is an interesting choice, but he doesn’t even live in the District. But that didn’t stop Melissa Bean, Dan Seals, Tammy Duckworth, or Jill Morgenthaler. I think he would be great and should do it though. I just think he might get attacked about it. But he would still be 100% better than someone like Mell’s daughter who hasn’t even yet served a day as State Rep.

  2. it’s all speculation until the choice is made.
    knowing Obama, it will without a doubt be a selection of someone who will support the agenda for change and not be a magnet for political drama…

    i wouldn’t be surprised if the selection is none of the above…

  3. Do we judge a candidate soley on the location of his residence?
    Or, should we consider his myriad accomplishments?

    Take for instance Alderman Flores heartfelt-career long stand on immigration, or his involvement with the Cooper Lamp building that is a first “green” of its kind.

    Read about his participation in low income housing in Wicker Park,
    not miles from public transportation, but, directly across from the blue line, and 1 block from the Damen/North/ Milwaukee intersection.

    Consider if you would, that this is an independant and progressive thinking politician, and, someone that can not be labeled a carpet bagger by anyone as he grew up and was educated in what now is the 5th Congressional District.

  4. Manny did not grow up in the 5th District… he grew up in the suburbs. He wasn’t even living in the City when he first ran for Alderman, he had to take the 2 year residency requirement to court and have it overturned. I agree not living in the District should be grounds for automatic disqualification, but you probably would decry this if it was a machine politician.

  5. Mike Quigley running for congress is a horrible joke to play on the voters of the 5th district.

    As evidenced by his lack of actual accomplishments, Quigley has done nothing with his commissioner’s seat except get his name in the media.

    To paraphrase Quigley’s new campaign tagline: “Others talk change. Quigley delivers [press releases and white papers].”

    He is an ineffectual self-promoter whose proposals go nowhere. This has less to do with their merit and more to do with of ego and antagonistic-cum-double-dealing-operating-style.

    As former Sheriff Michael Sheahan once said, “the only thing Quigley is good at running is his mouth.”

    The last thing Chicago or Illinois needs is to send another egomaniac backbencher to Congress.

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