Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Dan McLaughlin wins Orland Park elections, for himself and everyone else

Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin once again easily slid into re-election Tuesday to begin a record 5th term. McLaughlin served as a trustee for 8 years and 16 as mayor. But it was McLaughlin's coattails that are the story in this victory.

McLaughlin's challenger Gerald Maher, with little money, tried and did better than he did 8 years ago, garnering a higher percentage of votes. And while his candidacy insured that voters would get to hear the issues addressed, his message was swamped by mud-slinging. Not from McLaughlin, but from some of McLaughlin's circle of allies.

Clearly, the winner in this election was McLaughlin, although he ran the way any professional candidate would run, not taking anything for granted. I thought the race could have been friendlier, with less animosity. But while there were some contentious moments in the village elections, they didn't even come close to the namecalling and mud that dominated the Orland Township election fight.

The unofficial totals (all of the numbers here are unofficial) for Orland Park Village President (Mayor), with 58 or 60 precinct reporting:

OPF - Daniel J. McLaughlin 5287 64.02%
CCO - Gerald F. Maher 2971 35.98%

In the race for village Clerk:

OPF - David P. Maher 5327 66.50%
CCO - Patrice E. Pykett 2684 33.50%

In the race for 3 trustee seats:

OPF - James V. Dodge 4995 21.53%
OPF - Kathleen M. Fenton 4870 20.99%
OPF - Brad S. O'Halloran 4814 20.75%

CCO - Kenneth M. Wzorek 2847 12.27%
CCO - Marian M. Klemme 2880 12.42%
CCO - Kenneth M. Houston 2791 12.03%

In the election, some 8,258 votes were cast above for Mayor. In 2005, uncontested, McLaughlin received 9,248. In the 2001 election, McLaughlin won 6,775 votes to Maher's 2,704 votes. McLaughlin received more than 71 percent of the vote in the 2001 election battle, and slipped slightly with only 64 percent in this election.

Orland Township election results showed only real upset:

With 84 of 88 precincts reporting, Paul O'Grady swept into office on McLaughlin's coattails, easily defeating incumbent Robert Maher. McLaughlin made a last minute pitch and his pitches have resonance with voters who have supported his leadership for the past 16 years.

OTF - Paul A. O'Grady 7028 65.04%
OTP - Robert J. Maher 3778 34.96%

Maher, who was hammered by O'Grady's constant attack brochures and literature, didn't come close to spending the money that O'Grady was able to raise from his Democratic supporters, union and 19th Ward supporters. Although O'Grady denied he had any ties to the 19th Ward -- something that really irked me about a candidate -- he had many 19th Ward workers including 19th Ward office holder Sheriff Tom Dart pitching for him in Orland Township.

But O'Grady didn't win it on the issues. He won it because McLaughlin gave him his public blessing and McLaughlin's blessing is the crown in Orland Park, without a doubt. he also had the hard backing of the Democratic Machine and lots of money, as seen by his assault of direct mail literature.

O'Grady also won because the Democrats came out strong behind him, while the Republicans seem to be losing some of the former grip on the township. That's an assessment that needs closer examination. Orland Township Republican Committeeman Liz Gorman tried to be more focused on what is best for Orland Park instead of simply following a hard ideological line. Gorman is focused on the bigger challenge facing voters, the rising taxation in Cook County. A member of the Cook County Board, Gorman strongly supported the Fight the Taxation Forum that Radio Chicagoland sponsored Monday March 30. And McLaughlin also came out. (So did Orland Trustees Pat Gira and Ed Schussler, indicating they, too, oppose the higher taxation choking suburban Cook County residents.)

Former Republican Committeeman Jim Dodge did what he always does, pushed himself hard in his bid for Orland Park trustee; it showed with him leading the pack of three incumbent trustees behind McLaughlin.

Voter turnout was pathetic for most of Cook County, but Orland Park voters maintained what they always do in elections, turning out better. Not strong. Better than the rest of the county. But that turnout is in part a result of the contested races, and contests and criticism may not be liked by the candidates or the incumbents, but it is what is best for the voters.

Total Registration and Turnout in Cook County was 299,178. That is about 19 percent of the 1,463,070 registered voters. Yikes!

The shift, though, clearly seems to reflect a move in Orland Park from the once strong Republican base to a voter base driven by Democrats and their Chicago machine ties in the 19th Ward. There were several 19th Ward former precinct captains and captians (some who I know personally) and others who just shrugged they were there as a part of a push by the downtown unions, to help O'Grady ... at McLaughlin's bidding.

In other races:

District 135 race, with 51 of 52 precincts counted, the four winners are:

Ann M. Gentile 4374 19.15%
Tom Cunningham 3567 15.62%
Lynne Donegan 3408 14.92%
Mary A. Bragg 3369 14.75%

The closest challenger is James W. Leib 3243 with more than 126 votes behind Bragg, making it difficult to win.

In District 230 schools, for sure 3 of the 4 winners are:

Laura Murphy 8201 16.66%
Frank J. Grabowski 7095 14.42%
Michael E. Hastings 6391 12.99%

Michael Hastings, whose resume impressed many voters, is the son of controversial Orland Hills Mayor Kyle Hastings. Baker was leading Peterson by 39 votes.

Carol Baker 6170 12.54%
Kathleen J. Murphy-Peterson 6131 12.46%

But, the site shows only 139 of 145 precincts were counted, which means the final results in that 4th place seat could easily change.

In the Moraine Valley Community College Race, the apparent winners for the two seats are:

Patrick D. Kennedy 28407 39.41%
Mark D. Weber 25234 35.01%

Robert M. Stokas received only 18,441 votes. Weber was a young appointee to the MVCC board who ran with the support of a lot of voters who believe the board needs more younger representation and fresh ideas.

In the race for Orland Fire Protection District, the result was unquestionably decisive for the one available seat.

James P. Hickey 3958 49.57%

Cynthia Nelson Katsenes 1539 19.28%
Robert K. Brennan 1119 14.02%
Christopher Ciciora 959 12.01%
John Jacobsma 409 5.12%

Ciciora was a young student who ran his first election and did a great job, although he fell short of what he needed to win. And Katsenes, a former board member battling OFPD President Patrick Maher, the son Orland Village Clerk Dave Maher, came in second.

On the issue of breaking from Cook County and fighting increased taxation:

The battle for secession from Cook County inched forward, the only real race worth fighting. Voters in Orland Township responded with a resounding rejection of the county sales tax increase. Voting NO by a whopping 9905 votes or 91.18% of the ballots. Not that Stroger is going to listen to anyone, and now that the Democrats have pretty much locked up Orland Township, the voice of the voters when it comes to Stroger, will be muted.

-- Ray Hanania

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