Friday, November 13, 2009

Cook County Commissioner Joan Murphy on the Hot Seat?

The Chicago Federation of Labor released their local endorsements yesterday. But it was more interesting in what they didn't do rather than what they did.

They withheld endorsement in the Cook County Board President's race, a seeming slap in the face to Board President Todd Stroger. But they also postponed endorsements in the County County Commissioner's races.

From their press release:

The CFL postponed making any endorsements for Cook County Board of Commissioners until after an important budget vote tentatively scheduled for next Monday. The vote would be whether to repeal a portion of the county sales tax creating a budget deficit that would harm county services and the frontline workers who provide them.

It would be premature for the Chicago Federation of Labor to endorse candidates for the county board with this measure looming overhead,” said CFL President Dennis Gannon. “The county budget is about vital services and the frontline workers who provide them to residents. We cannot endorse individuals who plan to balance the budget by slashing services and laying off men and women for political gain during an election year.”
While the CFL's press release mentions one issue it expects to be considered in Monday's budget meeting ("a vote to ban regulated video gaming in unincorporated Cook County") most people are interested in whether the Board will take up the half-a-cent repeal of Todd Stroger's sales tax increase.

The Illinois General Assembly passed -- and the Governor signed -- a measure rolling back the number of votes needed to override Todd Stroger's veto of the half-cent repeal of the sales tax increase (there are 12 Democrats and 5 Republicans on the Cook County Board). Monday's meeting is a special board meeting "to vote on rolling back the county’s controversial sales tax by a half-penny." Suburban Democrats -- specifically Joan Murphy -- are now on the hot seat.

Joan Murphy has been the very definition of a flip-flopper on the Cook County Board. First she proposed a two cents sales tax increase, then she voted for Todd Stroger's one cent sales tax increase before she voted to repeal half the increase.

But the CFL has thrown a wrench into her political calculation. The Chicago Fed made it clear to county commission challengers that they would be supporting the incumbents who supported the sales tax increase. Preserving jobs is the CFL's number one priority, and area labor unions are smart enough to realize that it is their workers -- and not those hired through the patronage system -- that are on the chopping block if county revenues fall.

Which leaves Murphy in a political quandary. Murphy represents the 6th Cook County Commission District in the South Suburbs, which borders both Will County (with a sales tax rate of 7.00%) and Indiana (with a sales tax rate of 6.0%). Like those who live in Deborah Sims' district, residents in Murphy's district have a daily choice between shopping in Cook County with its highest in the nation sales tax or taking a short drive to shop. Both Sims and Murphy deny that it effects businesses in their districts, but one assumes they know better.

The political heat from constituents about the sales tax burden was why Murphy switched from supporting Todd Stroger's tax increase to voting for a partial repeal. But Murphy also desperately needs the Chicago Fed's support.

Murphy couldn't afford to alienate voters, having one of the weakest bases of support in the Southland. She reported only $25,419.66 COH at the end of the last disclosure period and faces a formidible opponent from attorney John Fairman who has garnered support from village mayors throughout the gerrymandered district.

The CFL has been talking about being a force in the 2010 Cook County Commission races like it was in the 2007 aldermanic races. In 2007, the CFL endorsed candidates and sent full-time staff into several wards. The CFL and member unions gave endorsed candidates between $10,000 and $50,000 and had volunteers on the streets over the last two to four weeks before election day. On election day, it sent as many as 60 volunteers who worked all day to help elect favored candidates.

This is help that Joan Murphy desperately needs. Hence the dilemma. She voted for repeal because of the differentiation between tax rates in her district and Will County and Indiana stores. But the Chicago Fed is making Monday's vote a factor in its endorsement process. And the CFL's endorsement clearly has to be a consideration in Murphy's vote(s) on Monday. She really can't afford for the Chicago Fed to make a "No Endorsement" in her race, as they did in the Board President's race. She needs their help to win re-election. I doubt the CFL minds that it will be influencing at least one commissioner's vote on Monday.

Nick Kaleba, spokesperson for the Chicago Fed, described the delay in endorsing county commission candidates this way:

We look at the commissioners' complete records, including where they stand on balancing the budget on the backs of frontline workers and at the expense of vital county services. Monday's vote does not necessarily guarantee an endorsement or non-endorsement from the CFL. But with the vote just around the corner, it was necessary to hold off endorsing candidates until we have a more complete picture of their records.
The only other commissioner that faces a similar dilemma is appointee Edwin Reyes, who replaced Roberto Maldonado, who was appointed as 26th Ward alderman this summer. Reyes faces Xavier Nogueras (who was Maldonado's choice to replace him on the board) in what is likely to be a hard-fought primary.

The full set of endorsements by the Chicago Federation of Labor, as announced yesterday, are:

Cook County Board President
No Endorsement

Cook County Commissioner
Endorsements on hold

Cook County Clerk: David D. Orr (D)
Cook County Treasurer: Maria Pappas (D)
Cook County Sheriff: Thomas J. Dart (D)

Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner
Michael A. Alvarez (D)
Mariyana T. Spyropolous (D)
Barbara McGowan (D)

Board of Review 1st District: Brendan F. Houlihan (D)

Cook County Assessor: Joseph Berrios (D)

1st Appellate – McNulty Vacancy: Jim Ryan
1st Appellate – O’Malley Vacancy: Thomas L. Hogan
1st Appellate – South Vacancy: Mary Katherine Rochford
Cook Circuit – Berland Vacancy: William H. Hooks
Cook Circuit – Bronstein Vacancy: Terry MacCarthy
Cook Circuit – Dolan Vacancy: Linda J. Pauel
Cook Circuit – Hayes Vacancy: Raymond W. Mitchell
Cook Circuit – Kelley Vacancy: John Patrick Callahan, Jr.
Cook Circuit – O’Malley Vacancy: Thomas V. Lyons
Cook Circuit – Riley Vacancy: James Michael Bailey

Cook Circuit – 1st Subcircuit – Coleman Vacancy: Thaddeus L. Wilson
Cook Circuit – 1st Subcircuit – Steele Vacancy: Michelle Hugghis Flagg
Cook Circuit – 1st Subcircuit – A Vacancy: No Endorsement
Cook Circuit – 3rd Subcircuit – Carmody, Jr. Vacancy: Allen F. Murphy
Cook Circuit – 3rd Subcircuit – Darcy Vacancy: Edward Harmening
Cook Circuit – 3rd Subcircuit – A Vacancy: Daniel Malone
Cook Circuit – 9th Subcircuit – Otaka Vacancy: Abbey Fishman Romanek
Cook Circuit – 9th Subcircuit – A Vacancy: Michael Ian Bender
Cook Circuit – 11th Subcircuit – Riley Vacancy: Steven J. Fruth
Cook Circuit – 14th Subcircuit – A Vacancy: Daniel James Pierce
Cook Circuit – 15th Subcircuit – Lipinski Vacancy: Linzey D. Jones
Cook Circuit – 15th Subcircuit – Panichi Vacancy: George F. Scully
Cook Circuit – 15th Subcircuit – Phelan Vacancy: John C. Griffin


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