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Slating: Becoming chosen one doesn’t carry weight it once did

State Sen. Donne Trotter leaves after posting bond Cook County Criminal Courts Building Chicago Ill. Thursday December 6 2012. |

State Sen. Donne Trotter leaves after posting bond at the Cook County Criminal Courts Building in Chicago, Ill., on Thursday, December 6, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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COOK COUNTY DEMOCRATIC
SLATING

South Suburban College, 5800 State Street  South Holland,

10:30, Saturday Dec. 15

Candidates will have five minutes to make their pitch and committeemen will have 10 minutes to ask questions.

Committeemen will go into caucus. When they reach a 50 percent plus one consensus on a candidate, they will come out and vote for his or her individual.

Updated: January 10, 2013 6:39AM



On Saturday, more than half a dozen Democratic contenders for Jesse Jackson Jr.’s seat will make their best pitch to be slated as the Cook County Democratic Party’s chosen candidate.

The candidate to snag more than half the vote from a cadre of ward and township committeemen will be deemed the slated candidate.

The question then becomes: how much does slating matter?

“The best thing one can say is over the last 30 years, slating has become less and less and less important, except in some small jurisdictions and some of the places where you have very powerful ward organizations,” said Chicago political consultant Don Rose.

In the heyday of slating — the 1960s and 1970s — Rose said getting slated as the party’s candidate meant 80 percent of the election was over. It spoke to the strength of local ward and township bosses and to what was at stake for foot soldiers who didn’t play along — potentially hundreds of patronage jobs.

“In the old days, you had to give your all. The organization was important. The organization was powerful,” Rose said. “There was patronage at stake, so you damn well wanted to deliver. If you didn’t deliver it could cost you your job.”

That’s changed because of more stringent rules keeping politics out of many public jobs, Rose said.

There is one thing that slating does still do, however, Rose says.

It puts a candidate into the very top tier.

That’s something sorely needed as the field of candidates interested in running for the 2nd Congressional seat special election grows increasingly crowded.

There’s a short window for someone with no name recognition to build momentum and raise money. Combine that with lackluster voter turnout in special elections — there was just 18 percent turnout in the City of Chicago in the 2009 special election primary, won by U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley — and slating may look appealing.

“We have 15 on the list,” said Thornton Township Committeeman Frank Zuccarelli, who is heading the slating effort. “The list is made up of those who have talked to the media or talked to an individual [committeeman].”

State Sen. Donne Trotter had the edge in the slating — until he was arrested last week for allegedly attempting to bring a weapon on a plane. For now, Trotter remains in the race.

But the episode may very well put Saturday’s slating back up for grabs. 

Others who have announced their candidacy: Ald. Anthony Beale, former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, state Sen.-elect Napoleon Harris, state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, former state Rep. Robin Kelly and former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds.

“My guess is they’re not going to be able to get together and agree on a single candidate,” Rose said. “I think there’s too much competition and everyone has a favorite son or daughter in that race.”

If most of the group is unable to reach consensus, then it is possible no one will be slated.

Halvorson, who lost to Jackson in the Democratic primary earlier this year, said she would not even attempt to get party’s endorsement.

“They think: ‘if we slate somebody, then everybody else will disappear,’ ” Halvorson said. “That’s a shame, because this is the people’s seat. They have no power to get anybody else out.”

But Zuccarelli said everyone who is interested would be interviewed for the endorsement.

The candidate will need to target the loyal Democrats who come out for these kinds of elections.

Zuccarelli’s organization remains powerful and had publicly backed Trotter — that is, before his arrest. The benefit of a powerful organization in a special election, insiders say, is that it has already identified faithful, lifelong Democrats who will go to the polls no matter what.

Quigley, however, remains skeptical of the power of slating.

“I wasn’t endorsed by a single ward organization, a single union and I was outspent 10 to 1 and I won by a couple of thousand votes,” he said. Ultimately, no one was slated in the special election he won.

His secret to winning? He says he caught lightning in a bottle because of timing. He was known to his Cook County constituents as a reformer in a time right after Rod Blagojevich’s criminal charges were coming to a head.

“TV was a waste because it’s using a bazooka to hit very small target. Mail for us was more effective,” he said. “It’s just a little more of a chess game than a typical election.”

The actual filing doesn’t begin until Jan. 3, when candidates must present their petitions. Democrats must have 1,256 signatures, Republicans must have 288 signatures and new parties or independents would need 15,682.



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