Thursday, June 09, 2005

Packing heat: Three Dems named for 10th CD Primary

The intensity of the competition for the opportunity to take on five year incumbent Cong. Mark Kirk [R- 10th CD, Highland Park] in 2006 is heating up. Zane Smith is the latest name to surface as a possible contender and he joins Clint Krislov and Senator Susan Garrett [D-Lake Forest, 29th Dist.], who have been widely discussed as potential Democratic candidates to take on Kirk.

The mood among Democrats in the 10th CD is very different from 2002 and 2004. While it would be misleading to say thatKirk, 46, is “vulnerable,” the North Shore Congressman is, in the minds of some Democrats in the know, “beatable.” They say that, with the right candidate, the right amount of money, the right message, the right organization [The 10th CD Dem. Organization, See, could provide the skeletal infrastructure for such a campaign, if it can keep itself from sliding too far to the left] and the right national climate, and timing of course, it can be done—or so they say.

Zane Smith, 48, a Loop trial lawyer and Vice-President of the Winnetka Park Board, told me this week he is giving some thought to jumping into the 10th CD Democratic Primary. Zane has his own law firm, focuses on medical malpractice matters and as a trial lawyer, is very at ease communicating his ideas and thoughts about public policy, and is scheduled to tape our television show, Public affairs, in July. Unlike some candidates who call me to say they might run—but say they won’t be ready to answer questions on the issues for a few months, not that I would mention any names-- Zane seems ready for prime time, right now. The only delay is our schedule, not his.

Clint Krislov, 56, also a trial lawyer-- but whose focus is more on what he calls “Public interest, class action” matters, aired on our television show during the last two weeks [See here and here] and he said he is giving the 10th CD Democratic primary some thought. Krislov, who lives in Wilmette, gave the 10th CD race some thought in 2003 [as well as U. S. Senate and AG in 1996 and 1998, respectively], but he tells me that his kids are now at an age where his being in Washington, DC a good part of the time would be less of a problem for his family responsibilities and thus he is perhaps more likely to pull the trigger this time. Take note, Republicans: Democrats can have “Family values,” too.

The buzz is that Clint, who also is no slouch when it comes to communicating orally, could self-fund, which of course would make DCCC Chairman and Cong. Rahm Emanuel [D- Chicago, 5th CD] ecstatic. And, Clint is an idea person who enjoys thinking about and discussing public policy issues. As another trial lawyer, Clint also will have no trouble communicating his thoughts.

However, and not to diminish either Zane or Clint, the 800 pound gorilla in the 10th CD Democratic primary-- if I can use that phrase about an attractive, slender, personable female candidate—would be State Senator Susan Garrett [D- Lake Forest, 29th Dist.], if she decides to make the leap. Garrett, a youngish 55, will air on our television show, “Public Affairs, next week in the suburbs and she has formed an exploratory committee, which meets this Sunday. The senator told me today that there are eight members on her committee, including her husband Scott [who she has known since she was 13. Garrett once told me he is a Republican and now says husband Scott is an “independent.”]

Senator Garrett said her exploratory committee would discuss issues such as “the [political] climate, money and the popularity of the incumbent Congressman in the 10th Congressional District.” She said the committee includes both people who have counseled her to run and people who have suggested she might not want to run. The Committee includes people with diverse political backgrounds, Garrett told me, and at least one “independent,” who has supported both Cong. Kirk and her in the past. Indeed, that person might even be a “Republican,” Susan said.

Garrett confirmed to me today that the buzz is accurate: she will decide by July 1, 2005, just in time for the July 4 parades and festivities; she wants to have an answer for all of those at the July 4 events who will ask—“are you running.” Garrett said it would not be fair to “others,” to delay the decision after July 1. I have predicted that Garrett will run and I still think you can take that to the Bank and collect interest on it, as Baretta used to say before he was jailed—and I guess is saying again after the acquittal.

Senator Garrett has won four contested elections in areas that were thought by many to be pretty Republican, including winning Republican Corinne Wood’s seat when Wood stepped down to run for [and win] the Lt. Gov. spot on the [George[ Ryan-Wood ticket in 1998. She also took away a Republican senate seat from eight year incumbent Kathy Parker in 2002.

Yes, the Parker seat had been re-districted in 2001-02 to be Democratic, but about 40% of the new district was from Parker’s old district and a smaller percentage knew Garrett as their prior representative. Garrett showed she could go for the jugular, with a smile, on some Parker ethics issues and did so both on the stomp and on TV, winning 56-44.

To get a sense of what Senator Garrett may have to offer in a race with Cong. Kirk, she said, on my show that was taped last Sunday, when comparing herself to Cong. Kirk “It’s one thing to be comparing each other at the same level as all those issues; It’s something else to be accessible and really learn from your constituents--instead of having this disconnect that we have in the 10th CD where we don’t know where he [Cong. Kirk] stands on issues until it’s safe. Or when, in fact, every other congressman or [congress]woman is having townhall meetings, we’re not witnessing anything like that in our congressional district, so we—where I would differ from him is a matter of style. I would be out there. I would be listening to people. I would be bringing forward things like this Hans Blix [issue, referring to our discussion of the search for WMD prior to the U. S. taking military action in Iraq]. It’s one thing to say you are for something after the fact; It’s something else to put pressure on the Bush administration to do certain things and to be very responsive about that.”

Garrett also said on the show, by way of asking and then answering her own question [which is a nice trick to do on my show]- “What is the point of running against [Cong.] Mark Kirk? The point is that in the 10th Cong. Dist. we don’t have a voice who comes out and listens to us, who says…by the way, here is one of the biggest topics going on in Washington, DC, that’s social security and so, we can raise our hand and say, Mark, where do you stand? We don’t get an answer…”

And then there was this from last Sunday’s taping on a topic which is very important for the 10th CD:

Jeff Berkowitz: What about the Israel thing? You just made your statement about Iraq, you wouldn’t have voted to support the military action [in Iraq in Fall, 2002]. A lot of the folks in the Jewish population who are strong on Israel tend to be strong on Iraq.

Senator Garrett: You can be strong on Israel and not support a war in Iraq without the absolutely essential information that you need to make that decision. I am very strong on Israel.

Well, perhaps. And, perhaps to reinforce that Garrett indicated to me that she is attending a JUF [Jewish United Fund] dinner tonight at the Hilton, with Meet the Press’ Tim Russert speaking. Perhaps Russert will have a few questions for Susan Garrett.

Should Senator Garrett decide to run, I think Zane Smith and Clint Krislov might back off. Although they didn’t say that to me, clearly they are waiting and watching to see what Garrett does. And, the buzz is that Chairperson Lauren Beth Gash and her search committee have had twenty, or so, expressions of interest from possible 10th CD candidates. So, there might be a contested Democratic Primary for the 10th CD nomination no matter what Garrett, Smith and Krislov do.

Finally, there are those who say former four term state representative Lauren Beth Gash, who came within two points of beating Mark Steven Kirk in 2000, would have won if she had had the benefit of a primary to test her, challenge her and warm her up, so to speak. A 2000 Democratic Primary in the 10th CD also would have energized the party faithful, a benefit Mark Kirk certainly had with his ten candidate primary. On the other hand, as possible Democratic 10th CD candidate Zane Smith said to me-- a primary can be a little like a good criminal trial: everybody loves it-- except for the defendant.
Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of Public Affairs and an Executive Recruiter doing Legal Search, can be reached at