There’s a good reason Mike Madigan consistently keeps Illinois Democrats in positions of power. He’s smart, he’s politically astute, and despite enjoying the longest undisputed reign of any political boss I can remember, he takes absolutely nothing for granted.
This clearly proves that if you’re one of those rare folks who can actually manage to win elections while sublimating your political ego, the electoral world will be your oyster.
But it’s far easier said than done! Once they start breathing that rarified Springfield air, even normally mild mannered folks suddenly start believing they’re invincible. Dan Walker, Ricky Hendon, Mel Reynolds, George Ryan, Keith Farnham, Dan Rostenkowski, Jesse Jackson, Jr., Rod Blagojevich and so many others have all fallen prey to the kind of egotistical meanderings that make term limits appear utterly unnecessary.
And I think we’re about to see another incumbent join that hoist-by-their-own-petard hall of fame – 44th District State Rep Fred Crespo. Though he should certainly take solace in the fact the he’s likely going to lose an election instead of being arrested.
To properly set the stage, you have to understand that the Illinois Democratic Central Committee generally runs incumbent general assemblyman campaigns. And they do it because Chairman Madigan’s basic theory is, “We’ll take care of the details, you get out there and walk.” And Democratic legislators typically take him up on that offer to varying degrees.
But not our Fred! Letting his ego get the best of him, Crespo told the Central Committee to stay out of out of it and proceeded to tab Hanover Township Board Member Steve Caramelli as his campaign chair. It would take far too much time to cover Mr. Caramelli’s fascinating history here, but, suffice it to say, our illustrious State Trooper, who thinks he’s the second coming of Karl Rove, managed to convince Crespo to put his political fate into his not-so-capable hands.
Taking a page from the Eric Cantor playbook, Caramelli immediately proceeded to launch a series of scathing attacks on Republican opponent Ramiro Juarez. Of course, anyone who’s ever passed poly sci 101 already knows, if you’re running against an unknown opponent with no cash, the last thing you want to do is mention his name at every possible turn.
Fast forward to the second week of October and, Madigan, who leaves nothing to chance, had the DCC commission two separate polls. C’mon! He certainly doesn’t want the malleable Crespo to lose that House Appropriations Committee chair.
And whaddaya know! Both of ‘em found the Crespo – Juarez race to be a dead heat! Utterly beside himself, the Speaker made a campaign offer our State Rep couldn’t refuse by sending three separate senior advisers to set things straight.
But before they could put their collective fingers in the campaign dyke, one more purportedly Crespo mailer hit the 44th District voters and it was a doozy. Let’s just say, Hispanic voters were not amused.
The front (above) depicts the smiling head of Ramiro Juarez firmly planted on the thinner body of a white man who’s mowing his lawn. I hope I don’t have to explain that stereotypical sentiment. On the flipside, we have the same landscaping effort while specifically referring to Jaurez as “…just the son of another illegal immigrant.”
It then goes on to extol Crespo’s “virtue.”
Oddly enough, the required “paid for” notation cites “People for Fred Crespo” which is a non-existent political committee. So when the shit hit the fan over this blatant bigotry, Crespo denied any involvement via robo-call, called on Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to investigate, and blamed the Juarez campaign for sending it out themselves.
But there are a couple of problems with that premise.
First, with all due respect to the candidate, the Juarez campaign ain’t smart enough and they don’t have the time, money or technical skills to pull it off. And second, I had a 44th District friend check all the mailers and, sure enough, each campaign addresses the voter consistently, but differently.
One uses “The Family of John Doe” while the other simply goes with “John Doe.” The flyer in question uses the Crespo camp’s methodology.
With all due respect to my good friend and Kane County Deputy Republican Chairman Allen Skillicorn’s hypothesis, Michael Madigan is not nearly stupid enough to send something that inflammatory out, but Steve Caramelli is.
Madigan understands Hispanic voters generally don’t make it to the polls unless you give them a really good reason to do so. So he’d simply let sleeping dogs lie. Ah! But Caramelli, unnerved by a looming defeat that would eliminate his power base, might just throw caution into the wind.
Granted I’m speculating somewhat here, but it’s the only scenario that makes any sense. The remaining question is, did Crespo know about the mailer before it was sent out?
But it really doesn’t matter because, instead of going with the kind of sure thing that Madigan’s campaign brain trust almost always provides, like so many fallen politicians before him, Fred Crespo let his ego get the best of him and decided to go it alone.
And now he might just lose to an unknown, underfunded, Republican Hispanic political upstart which only goes to show you, as long as political ego is involved, who the heck needs term limits?