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Dems should leave convention with ‘strong sense of unity’: Ald. Tunney

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) City Council meeting July 2011. “Democrats represent vast majority people thare this country. We have get

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) at a City Council meeting in July 2011. “Democrats represent the vast majority of people that are in this country. We have to get that message out,” at the Democratic National Convention this week in Charlotte, N.C., Tunney says. |

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Updated: October 4, 2012 6:11AM



D ese, dem and dose. Leave it to Chris Christie be the one to resurrect a hackneyed chestnut: Barack Obama the ward heeler.

As the GOP convention kicked off last week, the New Jersey governor lobbed that number at a meeting for the California delegation, Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times reported. The bombastic, rising Republican star has never met an insult he didn’t like.

“The president is nothing more than a Chicago ward politician,” he was quoted as saying. “We’ve had enough of Chicago ward politics in the Oval Office. We need a real leader back in the Oval Office and we all got to work to get Mitt Romney there.”

Governor, Obama was largely ignored by the Chicago Machine dinosaurs until he was well on his way to becoming a U.S. senator. That ploy didn’t work in 2008. It won’t fly with independent and swing voters in 2012.

I phoned someone who could be considered a contemporary ward heeler. Will Chicago be sending some deses and doses to the Dems’ national convention in Charlotte?

Tom Tunney wouldn’t bite. “I don’t know what a ward heeler is,” said the longtime 44th Ward alderman and committeeman from Lake View on the city’s North Side.

He is the city’s first openly gay alderman and proprietor of Ann Sather restaurant (yes, he built it). Potholes, community meetings, neighborhood services and licensing are “what gets me up every day.”

And keeps him awake at night.

So what’s on the agenda for Charlotte?

“We need a simple vision of what the Democratic Party needs to do for the future of America. The American people want to know what the next four years will be like and how it will be different,” said Tunney, a convention delegate.

“Democrats represent the vast majority of people that are in this country,” he argues. “We have to get that message out.”

One message that needs work is Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Small-business owners like Tunney are worried about the real costs, he said. “This health-care bill can be better explained.”

Ever the policy wonk, Tunney suggests a brief white paper that would clarify the Byzantine, 2,000-page plan: “I would like a clear statement about how health care and small business can work this out.”

The party should leave Charlotte “with a strong sense of unity, but not confidence,” he cautions. “There’s a lot of work to be done.”

Democrats must counter the Republican rap that Obama’s re-election could doom America and ward off buyers’ remorse.

The party is blessed and cursed by perils that could sour the base or sway the independents.

It’s a diverse party that naturally breeds contention. Dems must guard against contretemps over prickly social issues such as abortion rights, gay marriage and welfare reform — and watch out for Joe Biden foot-in-mouth disease.

And keep everyone happy.

Tunney, you’d better pack plenty of Ann Sather’s cinnamon rolls.



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