Thursday, November 11, 2004

Updated November 11, 2004 at 12:50 pm
Chairman Judy Baar Topinka, a wonderful State GOP Chairman? Rich Miller seems to say so. Is he right? Did she handle the Jack Ryan situation well? Did the State Party get enough bang for its Judy bucks on November 2, 2004? Does the ghost of George Ryan live on? Can Judy win the GOP Gubernatorial nomination? What does Ray LaHood have to say about that? Those are some of the questions. “Public Affairs,” has the answers.
Six million dollars and credit for a combined total of one seat. Now that is what I call an expensive Chair. The Lady must wear pearls when she plays her accordion.
Cong. Ray LaHood:...I think it is difficult for a Pro-Choice Republican to win a Primary [in Illinois].
Illinois State GOP Chairman Topinka is apparently gearing up for a 2006 gubernatorial campaign [time to belly up?] with some friendly press starting to give her an assist by doing soft pieces on what a wonderful job she has done during the last two years for the State GOP, and corresponding hatchet jobs on one of her potential competitors for Governor, State Senator Steve Rauschenberger. See, e.g., Rich Miller’s Sunday Daily Southtown column—

If the state GOP is in shambles and disrespected by most, who could blame State GOP Chairman Judy Baar Topinka, her supporters argue. All the GOP has to do, they argue, is bring back the old bulls, the likes of Jim Edgar, Jim Thompson, George Ryan- well, maybe George would be pushing [or is it collecting] the envelope, and all will be OK. Of Course, George was Judy’s mentor, was he not? But, presumably that is all in the past. Or, is it?

If the U. S. Senate race was a train wreck for Republicans, who could blame Judy, her media supporters argue. Surely, she did not like Jack Ryan from the beginning [what with his social conservative positions]. So, who could blame Jack Ryan on Chairman Topinka. Surely, Judy did not push Jack Ryan out of the Senate race, they say. Why would she do a thing like that, they whisper to the press? And, even if she did, Jack’s campaign was made a mess by the disclosure of the sealed records, and there was the “ick,” factor that Jack had become tagged with, as Judy would put it.

So, clearly in Judy’s mind, Jack Ryan had to go. And, go he did on June 25, 2004, with Judy and her amigo, Bob Kjellander, RNC guy from Illinois, and buddy of Karl Rove, answering questions from the press, with Judy trying to maneuver the questions to the more docile or Judy-friendly members of the press. Judy assured those present that Team Topinka, working with the SCC, would have an open process that would produce a replacement U. S. Senate Candidate in three weeks. Six weeks later, Judy and her SCC had themselves a candidate: Alan Keyes, a four time loser, who was about to become a five time loser.

Judy’s supporters argue that Alan Keyes was not her candidate and she had nothing to do with the State Central Committee’s (“SCC”) decision to bring in Keyes. Yes, they concede—as GOP Chairman, she of course chaired the meetings- but she had no vote. And, as everyone knows, Judy and social conservatives [and maybe even economic conservatives] are not “simpatico.” So, of course, the conservatives controlled the SCC deliberations, not Judy. Or, so Judy’s supporters argue.

Yes, as State GOP chairman and with friends among the rich and the famous, her supporters concede that Judy could have and perhaps should have been able to recruit a respectable candidate who could advance the cause of the State GOP. But more importantly, as I wrote last July,

“Now, of course, Jack Ryan and his campaign made significant mistakes in how they handled the whole set of issues relating to sealed records, disclosure, etc…. Yes, I concede that this might have been a case where the problems, especially in light of the candidate’s lacking the stomach for a fight, were not survivable. But, we will never know. Because the Illinois GOP Triad of Topinka, Kjellander and Edgar- which is what the press means by the state GOP leadership-- turned on Jack when he slipped and the rest, Dillard, et al followed suit, like lemmings over the cliff.

Put aside whether the Triad did this for self preservation, philosophy or other reasons. The really stupid thing, on the Triad’s part, was to discard Jack before they had any reason to believe that they had a better candidate on the bench to replace Jack- even compared to Jack’s sex clubs, misleading statements, etc..

Now, maybe Topinka will pull a great candidate out of her hat—perhaps Jim Thompson, with perhaps the wealth to self-fund, the state-wide name recognition still there perhaps, the ability to overcome ideological and other differences with the Republican Party base, etc. Who knows, she might do it. But, right now, it is not looking so good for the Republicans in Illinois. And, yes, Rich Miller, Jack Ryan gets a good chunk of the blame. But, plenty more of the blame goes to Chairman Topinka to share in, with her support staff of Kjellander and Edgar. After all the Triad is supposed to consist of political professionals. These are supposed to be people who you would think would know that you don’t send your starter to the bench without looking to make sure the bullpen isn’t empty. Think again.” See the archives entry to this blog, dated July 23, 2004, 1:30 pm, by going to the archives icon, to your right.

So, as of July 23, 2004, the die was cast by Chairman Topinka’s ineptness. And, even then, Rich Miller of Capitolfax was out there supporting Judy and putting all the blame on Jack. Now, Rich Miller is back with a continued defense of Chairman Topinka. Could there be a pattern here?

Also, Dr. Andrea Barthwell, the other SCC finalist, was not Judy’s candidate, her supporters argue. So, even if Dr. Barthwell, who appears to have had a propensity to vote in Democrat primaries and to give contributions to Democrats, was put out there as bait to induce the conservatives to take the alternative- Alan Keyes-- you can’t blame Judy, they argue.

But who would bring such a liberal Republican as Barthwell to the table? Surely, Barthwell, a virtual newcomer, if that, to the Republican Party, then employed by the federal government in Washington, DC didn’t just see the Republican senate vacancy and say, “I think I will quit my job, re-locate and apply for that of Senate Candidate in Illinois,” unsolicited and with no apparent voting block of support on the SCC. Nope, I don’t think people do things like that.

So, who would have recruited Dr. Barthwell? Certainly not State Senator Syverson and the others in the block of conservatives on the SCC. The Topinka supporters don’t know, but not Judy- they say. But who would do that? Maybe Rich Miller knows, but he doesn't seem to be saying.

And Judy would never secretly want Keyes to come on the scene, with Judy hoping for a train wreck- so she could say, see- conservatives can’t win. Or, would she? She seems pretty content to say that now, with the assistance of her friends in the media.

Who was Judy’s candidate for the U. S. Senate, you ask? Six weeks into the search, and she had none. But, she gets a pass for that. Why? I don’t know. But Rich Miller never mentions that. Again, not her job as Chairman of the Party to help find a Senate Candidate, even after she seemed to do her best to create a vacancy?

Judy, Rich Miller tells us, poured $200,000 into Cong. Crane’s recent, ill-fated re-election race, and she opened an office in the 8th Cong. District, for Crane, says Rich Miller. [And, although I heard a lot about the Biggert, LaHood, Manzullo, Hastert and Kirk troops going out to assist Crane’s efforts, not a word about the Topinka troops- must have been a stealth campaign by Judy]. So Rich Miller tells us about all of the heavy duty support by Jude for Crane, even though Chairman Topinka said there wasn’t anything she could offer, in terms of assistance, to potential U. S. Senate candidates, when the party was beating the paths to find a Senate candidate after Jack Ryan had been tossed to the wolves. That does seem a tad inconsistent.

Oh yes, there is perhaps an explanation for the Chairman’s inconsistent statements and behavior. One of the potential U. S. Senate candidates in July was State Senator Steve Rauschenberger. I can understand one reason why Chairman Topinka couldn’t think of opening up offices for Raushenberger. But, Crane, oh- that is another matter. Crane, of course, was no threat to Chairman Topinka in her quest for Governor. And, a last minute stealth campaign effort to help conservative Crane might help Chairman Topinka argue, later on, she is a big tent Republican, after all.

I mean let’s face it, Chairman Topinka has not exactly been a big supporter of social conservative candidates in the past. Yes, I suppose she did support George, but one, that was business and two, it turns out George Ryan was not really much of a social conservative, flipping once he became Governor in 1998 on abortion, guns and gay rights, not to mention his flipping on the conservative positions on taxes, gambling, spending and capital punishment- just to name a few.

On the other hand, Judy helping Rauschenberger would be fine if he won a U. S. Senate race. He then would be out of the state and no competition for her. But, what if Chairman Topinka helped to strengthen Rauschenberger’s network across the state and he lost. Then, of Course, Rauschenberger would be an even stronger competitor to Judy. Not good.

Back to Rich Miller’s continued defense of Chairman Topinka. In addition to serving as the conduit for more than $2 million dollars to the Karmeier Illinois Supreme Court Campaign, Rich Miller credits Chairman Topinka with raising “well over 4 million dollars” this fall. That is a lot of quarters, even by John “Quarters,” Boyle’s standards. 6 million dollars passed through Judy’s fingers this fall, according to Miller. Well, Rich is a little vague as to when the 2 million dollars passed through to the Karmeier campaign, so maybe only 4 million dollars this fall, and 2 million dollars in the summer—but, still, that is a lot of quarters.

And what exactly does the State GOP have to show for it. Well, the Republicans did win the Supreme Court seat. But, I haven’t seen Chairman Topinka’s name given a lot of credit for that, except for Rich, that is. The Chamber of Commerce and a lot of business groups that have been fighting hard for medical malpractice reform and worked hard to raise money for Karmeier seem to get the credit. But, according to Rich Miller, this is Advantage Judy? I don’t know what she did as a conduit. Grease the money? And as those who studied politics under the mentorship of George Ryan learned so well, money is the mother’s milk of Illinois politics. Follow the money, as they say.

Six million dollars raised, and the Republicans in Illinois got what? Well, the Republicans netted one seat in the State House and a seat in the State Senate and that would be it, I guess, unless you count Melissa Bean's 8th CD seat, as it is rumored Democrat Bean received some tacit support from Republican officials. So, I suppose Judy gets credit for half a seat in each chamber, sharing the glory, such as it is, with House minority leader Tom Cross and senate minority Leader Frank Watson. Six million dollars and credit for a combined total of one seat. A heck of a job, says Rich.

Of course, Chairman Topinka is apparently reluctant to appear in forums where she would be questioned about the substantive public policy positions of the State GOP or on her handling of the State GOP apparatus. She appeared on “Public Affairs,” twice a few years back in her capacity as Treasurer, but she has begged off, during the last two years, to appear in her role as GOP state Chairman. But so what, her supporters say. Like the little train that could, she says “I think I can win for Governor, I think I can win for Governor.” But, can she win in the Republican Primary, for Governor, as a Pro-Choice candidate on abortion—let alone her other “socially moderate,” views and issues. Let’s ask Cong. Ray LaHood:
Jeff Berkowitz: But, my point is- has that changed now? That is, right now, that base- that Pro-Life base is much stronger and it is not simply Pro-Life. I would call it a social conservative movement within the Republican Party [in Illinois].

Cong. Ray LaHood: Our party stands for- [stands] on the principle of being Pro-Life, Pro-Second Amendment, conservative on the social issues and conservative on the fiscal issues. Those are the issues that define our party and, frankly, I don’t disagree with those and I think it is difficult for a Pro-Choice Republican to win a Primary [in Illinois].

Berkowitz: Say that again.

LaHood: I think it is difficult.

Berkowitz: For a Pro-choice Republican to win.

LaHood: Yeah, Yeah.

Berkowitz: So, the point is- what does that do, as the party is rebuilding. Does that mean that Judy Baar Topinka is unlikely to be a gubernatorial candidate? Or is she—is she somebody who could not win in the Republican Primary for Governor?

LaHood: Well, she is the only statewide office, officer, Republican, that was left standing after the last election [2002].

Berkowitz: Right, but that was the Treasurer’s office. There weren’t many people [in that race] talking much about her views on abortion—

LaHood: I know that.

Berkowitz: Or on education, on spending, on taxes.

LaHood: I know that, yeah. Ah, the answer is-- she is very popular. Whether she could win a primary or not-- I think she is probably weighing that and will weigh that as she determines whether she is going to run for re-election for Treasurer or run for another office.
Cong. Ray LaHood [R- Peoria, 18th Dist.], recorded on Oct. 30, 2004 and as is airing on “Public Affairs,” this week in the suburbs and as will be airing through-out the City of Chicago on Monday, Nov. 15 at 8:30 pm on Cable Ch. 21 [CANTV]. See, below, for a detailed description of the Suburban airing schedule of “Public Affairs.”
The suburban edition of "Public Affairs," is regularly broadcast every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8:30 pm on Comcast Cable Channel 19 in Bannockburn, Deerfield, Ft. Sheridan, Glencoe, Highland Park, Highwood, Kenilworth, Lincolnshire, Riverwoods and Winnetka.

The suburban edition also is broadcast every Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. on Comcast Cable Channel 19 in Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove Village, Hoffman Estates, Lincolnwood, Morton Grove, Niles, Northfield, Palatine, Rolling Meadows and Wilmette and every Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. on Comcast Cable Channel 35 in Arlington Heights, Bartlett, Glenview, Golf, Des Plaines, Hanover Park, Mt. Prospect, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Prospect Heights, Schaumburg, Skokie, Streamwood and Wheeling.
The City edition of Public Affairs airs throughout the City of Chicago every Monday night at 8:30 on Cable Ch. 21 [CANTV].

The “Public Affairs,” show with Cong. Ray LaHood will air throughout the City of Chicago this coming Monday, Nov. 15, 2004 at 8:30 pm on Cable Ch. 21.
Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of “Public Affairs,” can be reached at