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Political battle in Cicero

Updated: February 10, 2013 5:52PM



The last time Burt Odelson and Mike Kasper squared off, Rahm Emanuel was on the witness stand and a titanic battle was under way. Odelson was doing his best to toss Emanuel off the 2011 Chicago mayoral ballot while Kasper was working hard to make sure he stayed on.

Everything from the location of Emanuel’s wife’s wedding dress to whether he failed to buy a city sticker were brought up to prove — or disprove — that the former White House chief of staff met the city’s residency requirement to run.

With Olympic fortitude, Emanuel went for hours without blowing a gasket or spewing an expletive.

And won.

Now Odelson and Kasper meet again, bringing their considerable talents as veteran election lawyers to another epic ballot battle. This one will be staged in Cicero, that constantly colorful bastion of thuggery, invidious insider deals and shameless political patronage.

The fight this time is between incumbent town president Larry Dominick and challenger Juan Ochoa.

Seriously, if you can make the trip to Cicero on Friday afternoon, go early and grab a good seat. This will be political theater at its finest. Including — spoiler alert — a plot twist involving the all-powerful Speaker of the Illinois House Mike Madigan.

Ah, but I get ahead of myself.

Larry Dominick, a 64-year-old mountain of a man elected in 2005, promised to reform and transform his beleaguered blue-collar town.

But all Dominick’s done for the last seven years is replace one set of bloodsucking political parasites with another. While his mostly Hispanic, economically struggling citizens, pay the freight.

Now comes the election of Feb. 26 and with it, two challengers. One, Joseph Pontarelli, a retired member of the Dominick administration.

And Juan Ochoa, the candidate who is giving Dominick’s people fits.

Ochoa, 42, used to run the McCormick Place Exposition Authority (McPier). Appointed by Rod Blagojevich, he ran afoul of Mike Madigan, who hated both of them. Madigan hated that Ochoa was running McPier without giving proper consideration to some of the speaker’s moneyed developer pals. It was, in short, a blood feud.

And it continues now in Cicero.

Mike Kasper, Dominick’s election lawyer, is viewed as a Madigan guy. Though he told me on Tuesday, “I have not talked to the speaker about this,” it’s pretty safe to assume that Kasper knows what the speaker wants. And it’s not Juan Ochoa who is represented by Odelson.

Why would Madigan, a Democrat, prefer a Republican as dismal as Dominick instead? Golly, I don’t know. Could it be that Madigan’s 27-year-old son, Andrew, works for the division of Mesirow Financial that happens to hold the contract providing insurance to the town of Cicero?

Is it Cicero that Madigan cares deeply about?

Juan Ochoa may not be a beacon of reform — I’m not saying he is — but if you’re going to root to toss someone off this ballot, root for Dominick to get the boot.



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