Anyone deeply engaged with the The Race to Replace Rahm in Illinois’ 5th District, the first Congressional election of the Obama era, was either among Sunday’s pre-Super Bowl SRO crowd at the candidates forum in Depaul University’s Student Center, or has already picked through more-timely summations of the event. (Check out Mike Fourcher’s summary, WBEZ’s audio stream, and Josh Kalvern’s live blog and audio excerpts at Progress Illinois.) For those of few who just can’t get enough of that rarest of commodities, an open contest for a Chicago Congressional seat, my observations follow:
Of the 11 candidates on stage, the most impressive were Jan Donatelli and Charlie Whelean, he of the underwater ad. (That was both my observation, and the consensus of the 12 or so other unaffiliated observers I informally afterward[see blog post].) Tom Geoghegan and John Fritchey had good afternoons, despite the former’s inability to speak directly into the mic, and the latter’s distracting Vrodolyak-esque tan.
Most surprising to me, however was the lack of energy and insight from state representative Sara Feigenholtz. I’m not suggesting that she needed to be aggressive—she is the frontrunner, afterall, at least according to a recent campaign email that sites her fundraising successes. However, on Sunday afternoon, her countenance was so casual that a friend passed me a note asking if she was asleep. I had entered the forum expecting to join Sara’s bandwagon, but, like others I talked to, I left unimpressed by her tendency to slip into equivocations and platitudes. (In response to a question about violence in the Middle East, she answered that “ the issues that are happening become more complex as Israel attempts to defend its sovereignty.” Huh?) The other favorite on the stage, County Supervisor Mike Quigley had some decent lines early on but seemed to tire as the afternoon went on.
There’s a case to be made that all of the above is moot. With few exceptions, each of the 11 candidates likes the stimulus package, immigrants, Israel , health care and gay people, and opposes corruption and pork in other Congressional districts. Wheelan stood out for opposing earmarks most directly. (He’s also winning the Google Adwords war, as Ramsin Canon points out today.) Navy veteran and former Delta pilot Donatelli had the best answers about Iraq and the privatization of Midway Airport. There was little else to distinguish the candidates on the issues.
The forum was sponsored by the DePaul University Democrats, IVI-IPO, Northside DFA, the 43rd Ward Democrats; the next big day in the campaign is Satruday, when the IVI-IPO meets to make an endorsement.
This Congressional race may be the first one unfolding on Twitter. You can follow the #IL05 tag, as well as several candidates, including Geoghegan, Feigenholtz, Fritchey and Quigley. Other Twitterers covering the race include Quigley campaign manager Thomas C. Bowen,
Feigenholtz supporter Hispanicity, local politico Mike Fourcher (@vouchey), ProgressIL and CapitolFax.