Sunday, November 22, 2009

The meaning of recent endorsements by Republican Township organizations for IL 10th Cong. District Candidate Robert Dold.

Links added and text revised at 10:30 am on Monday
Rich Miller (Capitolfax) makes some inferences that are not supported by the evidence when he writes:

It’s becoming obvious that several suburban township organizations have moved far to the Right - at least at the endorsement sessions. New Trier’s GOP organization endorsed Bob Dold over Rep. Elizabeth Coulson and other candidates in the 10th Congressional District. In the past, that would’ve probably been a lock for Coulson. Elk Grove Township also went with Dold, and nobody got enough support in Northfield Township for it to make an endorsement.
[emphasis supplied]

As to the New Trier Republican Organization (“NTRO”), it has not been far to the right in the past and it not far to the right now. It is and remains an establishment, center-right organization of precinct captains, and it’s long time committeeman, Tolbert Chisum, is right in sync with that.

Yes, Lolita Dedrickson, a moderate, easily won the 1998 NTRO endorsement over conservative Peter Fitzgerald for the U. S. Senate seat but that reflected a push by Peter that was too little, too late-- as he waited until the night before the endorsement vote to make his calls to the captains. In 2004, Jack Ryan, who was a NTRO precinct captain and an attractive, conservative U. S. Senate candidate who worked his local contacts hard, won the NTRO endorsement easily over the less conservative Andy McKenna, Jr. (from Northfield) and five others. There was no push to the right from 1998 to 2004 in the NTRO.

As Tip O’Neill said, all politics is ultimately local and that is especially true with the highly nuanced and localized endorsement process involving very personalized aspects of the candidates and historical, institutionalized aspects of the township organizations. Ideology has a role-- but often it is far from dominant.

Bob Dold won the NTRO 10th CD endorsement last week because he is a polished, reasonable center-right candidate who also happens to be a precinct captain very active in the NTRO. His father (Bob Dold, Sr.) is a long time captain in the NTRO and Bob’s mother is also quite active in the NTRO. Bob, Jr. lives, with his family, across the street from the NTRO HQ and Bob’s father built up a pest control company in the area that Bob Jr. now helps run.

Again, all politics is ultimately local and all of that local activity by the Dold families is a major factor, along with Bob Dold, Jr.’s talent and traits, in the explanation why he won the NTRO 10th CD endorsement. Bob Dold’s endorsement is no slap at competitors Coulson, Catigan or Green and has nothing to do with a conjectured shift to the right, with all due respect to Rich Miller. Sure, Beth Coulson's well known moderate social views were a factor, but no more so than they would have been five or ten years ago.

Dick Green, a 10th CD candidate from Winnetka, is a big financial supporter of NTRO and a Deputy Committeeman but not as active and not for as long a time in the NTRO as the Dolds.

Bill Cadigan, another 10th CD candidate from Winnetka, has historically been more involved in the Wheeling Republican Township Organization and got the most votes in that township’s endorsement session, but not enough for an endorsement. [See here].

State Rep. Coulson is respected and liked by most in the NTRO, even though her socially moderate views as a state legislator have probably been more moderate than most in the NTRO. The organization has endorsed her and worked to re-elect her in the 17th State House District for more than a decade, notwithstanding her cultural views.

However, Beth Coulson is not, like Bob Dold, part of the very long term rank and file of the NTRO. Beth’s base, if you will, is more in Northfield Township, where she received the most votes, but did not meet the two-thirds necessary for an endorsement. NTRO’s endorsement procedures, unlike Wheeling and Northfield, do not require a supra-majority.

So, in short, the fact that NTRO endorsed Dold for the 10th CD and no one got the endorsement in Northfield had more to do with the personal, not ideological, histories of the candidates and perhaps the nuances of what it takes for an endorsement than any shift to the right in those organizations. I am not familiar with the nuances of Elk Grove Village, but I imagine that endorsement also does not portend or reflect a shift to the right.

Moreover, Dold, Coulson, Catigan and Green sound quite similar on the issues, i.e., conservative, at the candidate forums. The forums I have attended have focused on domestic and foreign policy issues, with little attention paid to cultural issues. Based on their views expressed at forums, where there is little, if any, follow-up questions, those four Republican candidates, who are the major Republican candidates, come across as quite similar in terms of healthcare, spending, taxes, stimulus, Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, etc.

Bill Catigan, has appeared on “Public Affairs,” and from that appearance and elsewhere we know his cultural views are generally socially moderate, not unlike those of thirteen year State Rep. Coulson and those of Cong. Kirk and Cong. Porter, two Republicans who have held the 10th CD seat for the last thirty years [Attorney Cadigan is a former Cong. Porter staffer and campaign manager]. We don’t know as much about Bob Dold and Dick Green, including on the social issues as both have declined to appear on “Public Affairs,” and both have gone out of their way not to take clear positions on the social issues, apparently arguing that is not what the 10th CD Republican Primary is about. [State Rep. Coulson was scheduled to tape Public Affairs this afternoon, but advised us yesterday that she lost her voice and confirmed this morning that she would have to re-schedule].

In conclusion, if there is any kind of a shift to the right in the North Shore or Northwest Republican township organizations, you couldn’t tell if from the endorsement votes. And, if Politico thinks anything going on the IL 10th CD is at all related or similar to what went on NY 23, they surely have made no such case. Perhaps they should have someone write for them who knows something about the IL 10th CD. Could we suggest, in all modesty, this guy Berkowitz? See here and here.
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