Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Rob Halpin would be the first to admit he marches to the beat of a different little drummer boy.
In fact, Rahm Emanuel’s belligerent tenant seems to want more than anything for us to understand at least that much about him.
Nobody had to put him up to his now-aborted campaign for mayor, Halpin insists. He was totally capable of coming up with the screwball idea all on his own, not that he would use the word screwball.
“Ed Burke wasn’t behind me. Karl Rove wasn’t behind me. No one was behind me,” Halpin said.
The best evidence that he was on his own, Halpin says, is in how his campaign ran aground amid allegations of wrongdoing by the mercenaries he hired to help gather nominating petitions. If he had “someone legitimate” behind him, he would be on the ballot now, instead of $25,000 poorer, he said.
I spent two pleasant hours talking with Halpin on Monday afternoon in the lobby bar at the Hotel Palomar — water for him and iced tea for me — and he almost had me convinced.
After all, as he explained, he comes by his eccentricities naturally — the son of a man who would go to church every Sunday and write a note on the offertory envelope telling the priest he wouldn’t give another dime until allowed to audit the books, while his mother would approach the priest after the homily to tell him what that day’s passage of scripture really meant.
Still, the problem here is that this whole business started when Halpin told another interviewer he got the idea to run from a pair of 19th Ward businessmen (one of them the Republican committeeman) who approached him out of the blue to tell him they thought he’d be a good mayor. He also claimed his running for mayor had nothing to do with Emanuel or with him being Emanuel’s tenant.
He now reconciles his earlier statement by saying he already was thinking about it before the businessmen approached him. He leaves no doubt it has plenty to do with Emanuel.
As the individual who at the very least helped accentuate, if not create, the question of Emanuel’s legal residency by refusing to move out of the former congressman’s home before the lease was up, Halpin will not be a disinterested party if a hearing officer for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners issues his ruling today as expected.
After the election board hearing into Emanuel’s eligibility concluded last week, Halpin sent me an e-mail taking me to task for a couple columns I wrote casting him in a negative light. While I am more than ready for Halpin to exit the stage, I offered to let him tell his side of the story.
Beyond wanting me to understand that he’s by nature a “lone wolf” accustomed in his business to going against the flow, the other thing Halpin wants us to consider is this:
“I’m not the only strange bird in the story.”
What about Emanuel, he wants to know. How do we explain a guy who aspired to be mayor but would rent out his house to somebody he didn’t know when he didn’t need the money? And then, when faced with the problem of getting that tenant to move, why would he never take the opportunity to meet with him face to face, knock on the door if necessary, and make his case?
“I cannot understand how both of us can be residents of the same property not ever having met to this day,” Halpin said.
No matter how it started, I’d say this is a grudge match for Halpin at this point.
Halpin explained the original analysis that caused him to feel “compelled” to run: the U.S. has lost 5 million manufacturing jobs in the last two decades; our government is bankrupt at all levels, and it makes no sense to keep electing the same people. On top of that, he said, he thought Emanuel’s polling numbers showed vulnerability.
“I thought someone new with no political baggage may be appreciated by Chicagoans.” he said, especially if it were a businessman. “To me it’s logical thinking. It’s the way I look at a real estate development opportunity. I look at statistics.”
I told him my own theory that the best political stooge is the stooge who doesn’t know he’s the stooge. You blow a few sweet nothings in his ear about what a great candidate he’d be, and he embraces the idea as if it was his own. Halpin didn’t see himself in that description.
“Why don’t you say this: we deserved each other,” Halpin said. “You can’t say it’s all me.”
Think “pa rum pum pum pum” with a rim shot.