Sunday, August 28, 2005

Fritchey: Monday Night Political Football- Ds, Rs and Apologies

This Monday night’s City of Chicago edition of “Public Affairs,” features 9th year State Rep. John Fritchey [D-Chicago], who has given some thought to running state-wide or for Mayor of Chicago at some point in time, but not, apparently, against the current occupant of the office. The show airs throughout the City of Chicago [in the regular “Public Affairs,” City of Chicago time slot] Monday night at 8:30 pm on CANTV, Cable Ch. 21.
[See here] for more about the topics covered in tonight’s show, John Fritchey’s background and a partial transcript of the show.
You can learn more about John Fritchey, his positions on issues and his district at his [web site] and you can read some very current thoughts of his and others at Rep. Fritchey’s recently started and quite informative [blog].
Another partial transcript of tomorrow night’s show is included, below.
Jeff Berkowitz: Berkowitz is my name, and politics is our game and we will be doing politics this evening …[Our guest] has been a state representative; this is his ninth year. There’s a lot of buzz about Representative John Fritchey, as to whether he’ll be running for other offices, or running for re-election in 2006. So, we might as well just get that off the table, right now. John, are you running for another office?


Rep. John Fritchey: We still haven’t made up our minds. When I say “we,” it’s been something I’ve been discussing with my family-- with my supporters, trying to find out what’s been going on. We’re taking a look at a number of different opportunities. I’ve always said that I would be interested in running for an office if there was an office where I felt I could accomplish something. One race that we looked at was the State Treasurer’s race and, really, within the past few days, I think I’ve made the determination for non-substantive reasons not to pursue that office in this cycle. Specifically, right now, I’m fortunate, I consider myself fortunate, to represent as constituents, the [Illinois] Governor, the Attorney General, the Comptroller, and I have both the Lt. Governor and Secretary of State a stone’s throw away from my district. I don’t believe it’s in the best interests of our party, at this juncture in time, to put forth another candidate in the general election from the same geographic area. I think that the party would benefit-- I think the State would benefit from some geographic diversity on the ticket. [John stated on a prior "Publc Affairs," show that he would consider a run for Mayor of the City of Chicago in 2007, if Mayor Daley does not seek re-election at that time. [See here]. There have also been rumors that Rep. Fritchey is also looking at a run for Attorney General in 2010 if the current occupant of that office, Lisa Madigan, runs for Governor at that time. [See here] for more about Rep. Fritchey’s decision not to run for Treasurer.


Berkowitz: All right. The names that are being thrown out; there’s not a lot of geographic diversity out there in terms of those names. Jim Laski, who, of course is currently the City Clerk, so that’s not much geographic diversity there. City of Chicago Clerk, [that is]. Jack Lavin, who’s director of-- what is it? DCCA [Department of Commerce and Community Affairs]…?

Rep. John Fritchey: DCEO [Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, fka Department of Commerce and Community Affairs].
Rep. John Fritchey: And, Jack [Lavin] is also another one of my constituents.

Berkowitz: Okay. So, there’s not [more geographic diversity for the Democrat statewide slate with those two], but [State Sen. Jeff] Schoenberg [D-Evanston] would be a little bit more, since he’s from the [Northshore] suburbs.

Rep. John Fritchey: Umhmm.

Berkowitz: In fact, [he is not] far from us, where we tape in Skokie. [Indeed, Sen. Schoenberg’s 9th District includes, among other areas, all or portions of Skokie, Wilmette, Evanston, Kenilworth, Winnetka, Glenview and Northbrook] …

Rep. John Fritchey: …[State Sen.] Jeff [Schoenberg] established himself, distinguished himself very nicely… I had the privilege to serve with him in the House. He was an independent and studious voice there. I think he’s done the same in the Senate.


Berkowitz: He [Schoenberg] was kind of pushed out of the race [for Treasurer], last time, when Speaker Mike Madigan was setting things up… what was the deal-- [that led to then State Rep. Tom Dart [D-Chicago] running for State Treasurer]? … Tom Dart was pushed out of the AG’s race [and given the Treasurer’s spot by Speaker Mike Madigan], so that [his daughter] Lisa Madigan [D-Chicago] would be thought to have a clearer field [to run for Attorney General in the Democratic Primary, although eventually she faced a challenge in the primary from John Schmidt] right?

Rep. John Fritchey: Well-

Berkowitz: Wasn’t that the general story?

Rep. John Fritchey: [smiling] I wasn’t privy to any of those conversations.

Berkowitz: I’d have to talk to Speaker Mike?

Rep. John Fritchey: I know, at the end of the day, Tom Dart [D-Chicago] was our candidate [for Treasurer] and he was a good candidate [but he was the only Democrat to lose statewide in Illinois in 2002].

Berkowitz: Okay.

Rep. John Fritchey: Jeff [Schoenberg, D-Evanston]-- I think would be a tremendous candidate for statewide office.

Berkowitz: So, Jeff might figure it’s his turn, now-

Rep. John Fritchey: That could be.

Berkowitz: We’ll see. Do you think that Speaker Mike [Madigan] might remember that “I owe you” and go in and support him [Schoenberg]?

Rep. John Fritchey: Yeah. I would hope that the Speaker in his role as chairman of the [Democrat] state party, as well, would want to put together the best over-all ticket that we can. I know he has, obviously-- I won’t say conflicting interests-- but he has interests in both advancing the party as well as protecting the House majority-

Berkowitz: Okay.

Rep. John Fritchey: And he will try to design a ticket that will achieve both of those goals.


Berkowitz: [State] Senator [James] Clayborne [D-East St Louis], downstate, would he be more of the geographic diversity and also racial diversity [for the Democrats to run as Treasurer]?

Rep. John Fritchey: I think Jim Clayborne [D-East St Louis] is a great guy. He adds a great voice to the party… to have him, being from downstate, being an African American, and being a leader on a number of issues-
Berkowitz: You’re endorsing Clayborne, right here today, for state Treasurer?

Rep. John Fritchey: Well, I’m going to wait to see who’s in and who’s out. What’s interesting though is that we haven’t had anybody say that they are in yet. [Treasurer] Judy Baar Topinka is being speculated to run for governor. And, I think that she will be an interesting candidate if she does that.

Berkowitz: That’ll open it up more; Democrats will be more willing to run for an open seat if Judy [Baar Topinka] runs for governor.

Rep. John Fritchey: I think so. I think Judy has proven herself to be tough to beat in the Treasurer’s race. And, as an open seat, I think it would be a good opportunity for the Democrats to pick up the one seat that we don’t have. But I think that it’s important to have a candidate there than can articulate ideals and not just say vote for me because I’m a Democrat.


Berkowitz: As an outsider, an outsider to the Republican Party, you know, if Judy’s in [running for Governor], there are currently three or four candidates in already, Senator Bill Brady, Senator Steve Rauschenburger, Jim Oberweis, Ron Gidwitz, three or four others may come in, Joe Birkett, ah, let me see, Ray, Congressman Ray LaHood [who subsequent to the taping of this show, announced he would not run for Governor]… past State Senator Pat O’Malley might get in as well. Have I left anybody out? We should be up to date. Looking at that field, of course, Jim Edgar is being mentioned as well, but assuming for the moment Edgar doesn’t get in, what do you think the chances are of Judy Baar Topinka winning the Republican primary?

Rep. John Fritchey: Well it really depends what happens in the primary. Republicans have a history of-- I don’t want to say the tail wagging the dog by any means, but they have a vocal conservative base that needs to be assuaged in primaries. But, it becomes difficult when those primary candidates have to go so far to the right that they can’t come back and moderate themselves in the general election. You know, Illinois, while one of the few remaining blue states, is not inherently a liberal or progressive state. The majority of people in this state, I think, find themselves somewhere in the middle and they can identify with candidates who can be there as well. Blagojevich has done a decent job of doing that; Judy [Baar Topinka] has done a great job of doing that. When you look at the Republican ticket, I think Judy can do that. Steve Rauschenberger, a very intelligent guy—[there is] a question of whether or not he can connect with the people. Ron Gidwitz— I think it is a name recognition issue. Bill Brady, good guy, and again, I don't know if he can get known outside of his geographic base. So, I think it'll be interesting to see--

Jeff Berkowitz: What about Jim Oberweis? He's got a lot of name recognition…. he's run twice before [statewide, for the Republican U. S. Senate nomination]. Oberweis Dairy, Oberweis Securities. He's got name recognition.

State Rep. John Fritchey (D-Chicago): He’s got name recognition. I think that the commercials that he did in the helicopter hovering over [Soldier Field]-- I think those are still going to come back to haunt him.

Berkowitz: The immigration stuff?

Rep. John Fritchey: Everybody makes some poor decisions; I think that was a poor decision. I think what will be telling in that primary is—is it one of cannibalism, with the Republican candidates simply turning on each other or-- will somebody try to rise above the fray and articulate a message that the public can identify with.


Jeff Berkowitz: Say at the end of the day in the Republican primary… the only people left will be Jim Oberweis, State Senator Steve Rauschenberger and state treasurer Judy Baar Topinka. You think Judy wins that?

Rep. John Fritchey: I think I-

Berkowitz: You know the Republican base, quite conservative. Judy's pretty liberal on a number of issues.

Rep. John Fritchey: Ironically, it may turn on whether or not there's a primary on the Democratic side. If there's not-if there's no real contested race-

Berkowitz: She'll get Democratic--

Rep. John Fritchey: I think you will have a lot of moderate to progressive Democrats that would cross over and pull a ballot to vote for Topinka-- wanting a Topinka/Blagojevich match-up.

Berkowitz: Would they then-- which way would they go then, once they had a Topinka/Blagojevich match-up? Would the same people-would they be doing it simply to sort of cover their bets so that if Blagojevich didn't win, they have somebody they may feel more comfortable with, namely Judy Baar Topinka-- or would they be people who would actually support her in the general [election]?

Rep. John Fritchey: I think the majority of those Democrats are ones that would come back into the fold.

Berkowitz: They would?

Rep. John Fritchey: In the general election. You know, it's not an unheard of voter pattern of people to try to, as you say, cover their bets, as far as who the candidates would be in the field. And, I think Judy has a track record that people are comfortable with.

Berkowitz: Yeah. Well, let's see. There hasn't been that much, now it may have been that there's usually enough interest in the Democratic primary where people don't crossover. People thought there'd be more of that when Corinne Wood ran-

Rep. John Fritchey: Correct.


Berkowitz: There wasn't much then. Now, there was a sharply contested Democratic gubernatorial primary then [in 2002], so that makes sense, but I'm not sure how much she [Judy Baar] can count on that [cross-over vote, as there might be a contested Democrat race for Treasurer], and Rauschenberger has done- I think the question with Rauschenberger is-- can he get the money and the financial support. He's gotten the editorial board support from, you know, the vast majority [of media] across the state. The media have supported him editorially, but he was unable-he raises money fairly well, but he doesn't have a lot of wealth on his own…He couldn't compete with somebody like [former US Senate candidate] Jack Ryan…who had his own wealth last time [the 2004 Senate Primary].

Rep. John Fritchey: I think it's unfortunate that that becomes a litmus test. I don't know that it serves the public well-- if we narrow ourselves down to candidates who can self-fund their [own] race…Steve is probably one of the most-if not the most-intelligent people in that field.

Berkowitz: You know him pretty well, even though you’re across the aisle.

Rep. John Fritchey: I, we're, I'm across the rotunda as well as across the aisle from him.

Berkowitz: You respect him.

Rep. John Fritchey: I respect him a lot. I respect his ability to do analytics on the budget-

Berkowitz: You'd be comfortable with him as a Governor of the state of Illinois-

Rep. John Fritchey: That may be-- that may be another statement. I have a lot of respect for his abilities-

Berkowitz: Because of your partisan interests, right?

Rep. John Fritchey: It’s not even a partisan issue. I think we have some substantive differences of opinion.
State Rep. John Fritchey, recorded on August 14, 2005 and as is airing on the City of Chicago edition of Public Affairs Monday night, August 29 at 8:30 pm on CANTV, Cable Ch. 21.
Transcript drafts prepared by Amy Allen, who also does research for “Public Affairs,” and has her own political blog [See here].
Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of Public Affairs and an Executive Recruiter doing Legal Search, can be reached at