Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Big Democratic guns turnout for Forys in 17th Democratic race

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It's not the highest profile political battle in the news media but it is the one with most twist, turns and political pedigree issues. People are lining up in the 17th Cook County Board District, a seat held by Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman who over the past few years has risen to become one of the county's most aggressive champions of taxpayer rights.

Gorman, a Republican, is being challenge by two Democrats who will duke it out in the February 2 Democratic Primary before facing the Gorman juggernaut. They are Pat Maher and Dr. Victor Forys. Maher and Gorman are local rivals from Orland Township. Gorman is the Orland Township Republican Committeewoman and Maher is the President of the Orland Fire Protection District (OFPD). He is also the son of Orland Village Clerk Dave Maher, who is a $75,000-a-year employee of the Cook County Court system, under Stroger's watchful political patronage (Administrative Assistant Level V for the county courts). Forys comes from the northern part of the 17th District.

Forys, who raised large sums of money in the congressional race to succeed Rahm Emanuel in the 5th District, lost to former Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley. But next week, Quigley will join Gov. Pat Quinn and County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, who has worked closely with Gorman to fight Todd Stroger's repressive 1 percent sales tax, will come out swinging to endorse Forys, not Maher, in the Democratic Primary. What happens after that primary is anyone's guess.


There are a lot of big issues in the 17th District. Gorman has been on the right side of most during her two terms in the office. She has distinguished herself as a persistent champion of taxpayer rights, winning three major battles for taxpayers.

The first was last year when Gorman was the only county commissioner to challenge a $190,000 county loan to controversial Regional Schools Superintendent Charles Flowers. Flowers budget has since come under scrutinyA report by the auditor general shows that Flowers has since mismanaged millions of dollars in funds. His office has an annual budget of about $1 million and is reportedly more than $1 million in debt. The audit shows that Flowers has borrowed money to pay for all kinds of expenses, without proper records, but he insisted he has repaid everything.

Gorman was the only voice to challenge Flowers' poor leadership. But this past June, the entire County board joined Gorman to repudiate Flowers and reject the loan and acknowledge Gorman's leadership.

Gorman also has been a key leader in the fight to repeal Stroger's repressive 1 percent sales tax that is chasing Cook County businesses into neighboring counties. Although Stroger prevailed when Deborah "The Hack" Sims flip-flopped supporting the repeal and then denying the repeal the 14 votes needed to override Stroger's anti-taxpayer veto, the fight has become a voter mantra that is expected to drum Todd Stroger out of office in February when he faces off with Congressman Danny K. Davis, Ald. Toni Preckwinkle and Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown among many others.

Normally, so many challengers benefit the incumbent, but a recent Chicago Tribune poll shows that Stroger has an approval rating of only 10 percent, lower than the 13 percent for impeached former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

But Gorman's determination to set the county right for taxpayers doesn't end with that high profile sales tax fight. This week, the county board approved an ethics ordinance hailed by the Arlington Heights Daily Herald that forces lobbyists (and candidates for public office who lobby) to disclose the jobs of their relatives on government payrolls to help shine light on insider sweetheart deals that are often the heart of the county's government practices.


Stroger's plight and the race for governor are impacting this race directly. Stroger is the son for former Cook County Board President John H. Stroger, who often received huge campaign donations from the nation's top bond counsel, Chapman & Cutler. It so happens that Tom Hynes, the patriarch of 19th Ward politics, is of counsel to the firm, one strong link between the 19th Ward and Stroger, and a reason for the Hynes' family to dislike Gorman, who also has some strong ties to the 19th Ward.

Tom Hynes is a close relative of Patrick Maher through his father, Dave. And, of course, Tom Hynes is the father of  Dan Hynes, the Illinois Comptroller who threw his hat in fast to challenge beleaguered Gov. Pat Quinn.

It's the 19th Ward Hynes honchos who have been working hard over the past several years to install Pat Maher at the OFPD and to take control of Orland Park, which is distinguishing itself as one of the southwest suburbs more monied and affluent communities. They back another Democrat, Paul O'Grady, who took over as Orland Township Supervisor. O'Grady relied heavily on his 19th Ward ties and had 19th ward precinct captains working the election polls this past Spring.

Quinn, Quigley and Suffredin will make their endorsement of Forys at a Forys fundraiser Sept. 29 at White Eagles in Chicago, 6839 N. Milwaukee Ave. Maher just had his own fundraiser at O'Callaghan's, at 29 West Hubbard Street in downtown Chicago, too. The keynote celebrity there was, of course, Tom Hynes. 

I reached out to Maher, who was surprised when I informed him is colleague on the OFPD James Hickey is circulating petitions to challenge State Rep. Kevin McCarthy in the 37th House District. McCarthy is a staunch ally of House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, who is backing Quinn. Hickey told me he'll discuss his candidacy with me when he gets all his signatures. (Maher says he's supporting McCarthy and he's not supporting Hickey, though many say they are very close.) 

When asked if  Tom Hynes was his "keynote speaker," Maher emailed me back, saying: "Tom Hynes was not my keynote speaker.  He did show up and it was greatly appreciated.  I don’t have all the details but I am quite sure that the guy Liz had go spy on my event (which we all saw) could concur that I had about 70 to 75 coming in and out, not counting staff. Not too bad for something I put together about two or three [weeks] ago downtown where I don’t live or work.  I did not collect the money so I really have no idea how much was collected plus some was mailed in which I did not see either."

(I asked Liz Gorman and she said she had no idea and didn't care.)

Gorman will toast her fundraiser this week Thursday (Sept. 17) at Sam McGuire's, which is in the 17th District. Maher has another fundraiser planned for Oct. 9 at Fox's in Orland Park. he's expected to have the backing of Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin, the Orland Township Democratic Committeeman.

Gorman is already leading the pack with donations. Maher's campaign disclosures include many contractors who do business with Orland Park and the OFPD, friends of his father and the mayor, no doubt. Forys has funds from his professional contacts and past election supporters. I'll have a detailed analysis of everyone's recent disclosures in an upcoming post.                                                      

In the meantime, the cross-dynamics of this battle reflect the complex lines that crisscross some of the biggest races in the news, for county board president and for Illinois governor, and intersect with some big family and Chicago political names.

-- Ray Hanania

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