Thursday, July 15, 2004

Updated July 15, 2004, revised at 2:20 pm

No days left for Big Mama, aka Judy Baar Topinka, the State Treasurer and State GOP Chairman (See July 13, 3:20 pm blog entry, below) to announce the Republican Senate Candidate to oppose Democrat Barack Obama.

Remember, she had said, about three weeks ago, that July 15 was the day and Gary Skoien, Cook County GOP chairman corrected me on my television show (Public Affairs- taped on June 26), when I said July 19-- he said, no- it is July 15.

Misrepresentations by the State GOP Chairman? Or, does she have a rabbit in her accordion. Inconsistencies by Judy and the Tribune?

Rick Pearson and John Chase of the Chicago Tribune, in yesterday's North Shore Metro section, page 1 article, quote Big Mama as saying that despite Coach Ditka's rejection of a potential candidacy, "we have many other candidates that could be star players," to replace [Jack]Ryan on the Nov. 2 ballot. "We are on track to make a decision in the very near future."

As to the identity of the "could be star players," well, apparently, those are "sealed records." Maybe the Tribune could go to Court to get them unsealed. Or,perhaps, they could ask Judy as to what she means by a "could be star player"? Or, who those folks are? I mean, doesn't the public have a right to know? If Chase and Pearson asked those questions, they didn't tell us the answers. I mean, doesn't Judy stand for transparency? Doesn't the Tribune? I don't think Judy could seriously be suggesting that Oberweis, Borling, Kathuria and Barthwell are "could be star players." Or, could she? Did Chase and Pearson ask her that?

Judy tells us that she doesn't think all candidates who apply to be appointed by the GOP Central Committee should be disclosed, but she apparently agrees with the Tribune that all child custody records of candidates for office should be unsealed. I mean if, as GOP Chairman, Judy defended Jack Ryan, the once but apparently not future GOP Senate Candidate, in his battles with the Tribune, it was not what you would call a stout defense by Judy. Are the Tribune and Judy being consistent? Do they care? Who is sucking all of the oxygen out of the room?

Rich Miller reports in today's Capitolfax, "A top Republican source said last night that the party [sic] could put forth a "surprise" candidate today. Stay tuned." Perhaps Rich picked this up at last night's Illinois House GOP bash at Navy Pier. Maybe I was too busy asking House Minority Leader Tom Cross questions at his press conference or interviewing "Conquering Hero," Rod McCulloch, but I didn't hear any surprise candidates there.

Also, I saw Jack Ryan senior adviser and Illinois Leader President Dan Proft at the Cross for Ditka function, but he and MuCulloch were not chatting. But, I didn't see Chairman Topinka there. Perhaps I was not looking in the right direction. Or, maybe I didn't see her because I was looking to the Right?

Anyway, more about the Cross Connection bash and the GOP search for a senate candidate, below:

Topinka's options, as of Thursday morning:

1. Go with one of the previously mentioned embarrassing candidates, most likely this is Jim Oberweis. (See July 13, 3:20 pm blog entry, below). Oberweis’ immigration and drug importation positions drive W nuts, and changing them, as some Republican leaders at the Cross Illinois House Republican Organization Navy Pier party on Wednesday night suggested to me Oberweis could do, would be clumsy and inartful. Also, a significant Hispanic Republican leader told me at the same event that he would work hard to elect Obama if Oberweis were the R senate candidate. And, that was probably the mildest statement he made to me. I don’t think anyone is giving serious consideration to Borling, Kathuria, Barthwell or anyone else on Judy’s purported list of eight candidates, contrary to what the ABC local news reported Wednesday night at 10:00 pm. Jack withdraws and Judy blames it all on Jack and Oberweis. 20 % likelihood.

2. Go with the new embarrassing candidate, a mysterious 4 million dollar candidate from the St. Louis suburbs being mentioned on the street, Jack withdraws and Judy blames it all on Jack. 1 % likelihood, this was probably put out there just to mislead me and make me look bad.

3. Beg Jim Thompson to bail her out, Jack withdraws and Judy blames it all on Jack and Jim, if he loses. 9 % likelihood

4. Of course, unless Ditka has a sudden change of heart, Judy can no longer get Ditka to say yes, Get Senator Allen to say Yes to Ditka, Jack withdraws and when the whole country laughs at the outcome of this choice, Judy blames it all on Jack. 0 % likelihood.

But, earlier on Wednesday, Ditka jumping in apparently looked somewhat likely to Scott Fornek and Barack, always the gentleman, was treating the Ditka candidacy graciously on a 12:45 pm telephone press conference call designed to tout Barack as the Democratic Party National Convention keynote speaker (July 27, no network TV coverage?)

Scott Fornek [Chicago Sun-Times]: Senator, you still have no opponent on the Republican side, although Ditka seems to be leaning closer to it, although he hasn’t said yes. What do you think this [keynote] speech is going to do in terms of really just firming you up as the-- just the—overwhelming frontrunner here in Illinois.

Barack Obama: Well, I think if coach Ditka gets in, I wouldn’t call myself an overwhelming favorite. I think you would be talking about somebody with 100 % name recognition and somebody with a significant following all through-out the state, so I think it would be a fun and exciting battle…

5. Ask Kjellander, Jim and the Speaker to join her in telling Jack Ryan that perhaps they all were too hasty and they would like to have him back and work together. In short, beg Jack’s forgiveness, so Big Mama, aka State GOP Chairman Judy Baar Topinka, doesn’t get bashed any more by the Senatorial Campaign Committee. The buzz is putting it at 0% that Jack will reverse his withdrawal. However, that is without the begging. If there is real begging, I would leave it at 20 %. Of course, if this ends badly, Judy blames it all on Jack.

6. Big Mama gets Hastert and George Allen in a room , and she proceeds to play their heads like an accordion and drums, banging them together until they agree to guarantee raising 3 million dollars for Steve Rauschenberger, instead of the $300,000 they offered Steve last week. Steve sets up a strong fund raising committee, led by Andy McKenna, Jr. and Jim Oberweis. 25 %. Of course, if this ends badly, Judy blames it all on Jack.

7. Judy goes to State Sen. Kirk Dillard- it is said that he has a propensity to make deals, including deals with Ds. I don’t know him, but some GOPers, including a former strong Jack Ryan backer, State Rep. Paul Froehlich, think Dillard would be fine. Cong. Biggert is now being mentioned. I don’t think so. Seems to be lacking in charisma, energy and ability to debate Barack. Why would she give up a safe seat to lose easily to Barack? Cook County Commissioner Gorman- after not quite a year as Cook County Commissioner, she is ready for the U. S. Senate? Not unless her name is Gorman Ditka. State Rep. Tom Cross? Articulate, energetic and bright. Knows how to throw a party [Wednesday’s Illinois House GOP Cross Connection evening event at Navy Pier was so good in terms of food, drink and setting, I thought it was a Democratic function] and Cross knows how to handle a press conference. The guy seems always extremely organized and has a ton of staff. Socially moderate views on abortion, etc. would not sit well with base and leaving the House leadership would leave a big hole. And, he might need that 3 million dollar commitment that neither Senator Allen nor Speaker Hastert would [or could] make to Rauschenberger. As would Dillard need that commitment. Jack withdraws and Judy blames it all on Jack, if either Dillard or Cross steps up and loses.

Summary, Dillard or Cross, 25 %.

8. Tick Tock, Tick Tock, no more days.

But, wait. Possibly, Judy has another week, or so, to decide. She just granted herself a continuance.

Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of “Public Affairs,” can be reached at