Quick Hits – A step by step guide on how to lose an election – Part 2

We now move on to part two of our step-by-step outline of why Illinois 14th Congressional Democratic nominee, Lauren Underwood, will lose in November.

Hultgren Underwood

3. Believe that endorsements matter

They don’t! And that’s especially true when those endorsements come from other politicians or political/social groups. In fact, getting the general election nod from an elected official, a labor union, or an activist group is far more likely to do harm than good.

Meanwhile, newspaper endorsements matter only in as far as they motivate your team, demoralize your opponent(s), and they kinda look good on a mailer. But as local papers rapidly fade and consistently mangle the process, those endorsements mean less and less.

Despite this stark reality, 90 percent of candidates spend more time securing this senseless support than knocking on voters’ doors. In light of the vagaries of voter support, perhaps it’s the instant gratification fix this kind of overt acknowledgement provides.

Think about it! Underwood recently boasted she’s backed by:

  • Planned Parenthood
  • Move On
  • Sierra Club
  • The Collective
  • The Resurgent Left
  • NOW
  • Dick Durbin
  • Kamala Harris
  • Elizabeth Warren

While those endorsements might be an interesting primary factor, does anyone really believe those groups/elected officials would ever back incumbent Republican Randy Hultgren? So, what’s the point? In a general election, district voters are all that matter.


4. Start believing the choir

Sadly, it’s as natural as breathing.

Running a Congressional campaign is the kind of slog that wears you down by degrees every single day. To make matters worse, you have to have to develop a skin thick enough to deflect the slings and arrows of your opponent(s) and their supporters.

Then the candidate hosts a rally or fundraiser where every last attendee extolls their vast virtue and hangs on your every word. And that, my friends, becomes more addictive than getting endorsements.

The more campaign weary they become, the more candidates seek refuge in the choir which, when you’re in the minority district party, is a huge mistake. Candidates certainly need to stick to their basic plan, like flying a plane, a campaign is constant series of fine to medium adjustments. But making those shifts is far more difficult when candidates consistently court a chorus who convince them they can do no wrong.

Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham put it best when he said, “Always run scared!” That doesn’t mean reacting to every setback with shrieking and howling. It’s something more along the lines of former Cy Young award winner Steve Stone stating that, “Any man with a bat in his hands is dangerous.”

It means taking nothing for granted.

Yet, if you respond to Underwood’s silly social media declarations in the most mildly critical way, her choir descends upon you like flies, and her team does nothing to stop them.

Yes! Her sweeping primary victory was a surprise. But in retrospect, when you add up her six opponents, most of whom I saw speak, none of them were capable of running a successful city council campaign, much less a Congressional effort.

As I like to say in my impending book, “Never mistake a tailwind for talent!”


5. Alienate swing voters

Underwood’s charisma might just be enough to mitigate every factor we’ve discussed, but with a phantom blue wave, this is the mistake she can’t overcome. And it goes back to our need to appeal to leaning Republicans to win point.

If you’re not going to court swing voters, then minimally make every effort not to antagonize them. Let’s take another look at some of the endorsements Underwood so boldly broadcasts:

Planned Parenthood 

Do I have to tell you they’re one of the most hotly debated groups in these partisan times?


Almost as divisive as Planned Parenthood. They even make this liberal cringe. George W. Bush was Hitler?


Leaning Republicans are not generally fans of labor unions.

The Collective

I am all for putting more black folks in office, but most white folks in the 14th are not.

The Resurgent Left 

Do I really need to add anything here?

Dick Durbin

He’s so unpopular in Illinois that Jim Oberweis came with 10 points of beating him.

Elizabeth Warren

I love her, but leaning Republicans do not!

The irony is, while these folks won’t get Underwood a single vote she wouldn’t already get, they will cost her votes among the group she needs the most. I’m no fan of Hultgren, but when I look at that list I start thinking Libertarian.

“But Jeff! Are you really saying that Lauren Underwood should sell her soul to get elected?” No! But when your wife asks if those pants make your butt look big, do you really think it’s a good idea to slap a “wide load” sign on her behind?

Just like music requires the silence between the notes, true political campaigning is the art of knowing when not to speak and when not to act. We’re I Ms. Underwood, I would’ve kept all of those recommendations to myself.

On the other hand, if I’m Randy Hultgren, I’ll broadcast those endorsements even more that Ms. Underwood might! Once again, Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth was dead on when she warned Democrats not to give in to their left-most element last Sunday.


Adding up everything we discussed, and I clearly see Underwood making a concession speech on November 6th.

Could she win? Of course! I was wrong about Trump’s campaign. But this kind of thing is much more quantifiable at the local level. Perhaps a blue wave will materialize. Maybe Hispanics will finally vote. And Trump is always capable of doing something really stupid before the election

But counting on electoral magic is almost always the quickest way to defeat. And even if that magic materializes like it did for Bill Foster, Underwood will serve all of one term.

Quick Hits – A step by step guide on how to lose an election

But before we get started, this sudden trend of some of y’all being funnier than me has got to come to a screeching halt! One reader hilariously referred to me as “Dr. Phil” in an email, while commentor Jim took me to task for going over-the-top in yesterday’s west-side Geneva power outage piece.

In my defense, Geneva interrupted a wind-blowing-straight-out-to-centerfield Cubs game which, as another friend stipulated, should be a capital offense!

Jim also referred to me as “Debbie Downer,” which clearly isn’t the case. And to prove that very point, I’m going to tackle 14th District Congressional District Democratic nominee, Lauren Underwood’s, inexplicably errant campaign in purely logical terms.

Take that Jim!


Lauren Underwood

So, without further ado, let’s examine the specific steps any collar county Democratic challenger might employ to lose a race:

1. Ignore district demographics.

Though it’s not nearly as gerrymandered as some, the 14th was clearly mapped as a Republican stronghold. Sure! Eleventh District Congressman Bill Foster briefly held that seat, but that was because the electorate actually caught on to former Speaker Denny Hastert pulling a fast one and Foster has an exceptional statistical acumen.

But that victory was short-lived. When Foster ran for re-election in 2010, he was crushed by incumbent Randy Hultgren due to an incompetent staff and far too liberal messaging.

To wit, the 14th lines up like this:

  • 86 percent Caucasian
  • 12 percent Hispanic
  • 3.5 percent black
  • 50.2 percent male
  • 39 average age
  • 57 average mid-term voter age
  • 60 percent Republican

Did you note that first stat? The 14th is about as white as an urban Illinois district can get. So, in order for any Democratic candidate to prevail – and especially a black female candidate – they have to reasonably appeal to older white men. And to do that, the candidate has to come across as a moderate or blue dog Democrat.

For a classic example of how that strategy works, look no further than Illinois 23rd District State Senator Tom Cullerton, who consistently wins in ridiculously red DuPage County. But as savvy as Tom is, his margins of victory have been incredibly slim:

  • 2016 – 1,200 votes – 1.4 percent
  • 2012 – 1,900 votes – 2.4 percent

And Tom defines the term “community involvement.” Meanwhile, Underwood’s message is even more progressive than Foster’s was.


2.  Preach to the choir 

Considering how often I’ve repeated this axiom, the fact that virtually none of those collar county Democrats understand it utterly baffles me. I suppose it’s something along the line of Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman’s favorite question, “Do you want me to tell you want you want to hear or do you want me to tell you the truth?”

The “blue wave” may be dead, but sure as I’m sitting here, Democrats are going to vote for Democrats come November. That doesn’t mean Underwood’s team should completely ignore them, but since counting on the electorate doing something they’ve never done before is the shortest road to defeat, 85 percent of her effort should be focused on leaning Republican mid-term voters.

Preaching to the choir

And the Dem’s Votebuilder database does a very good job of identifying Republican voters who, on occasion, will pull a Democratic primary ballot. But Underwood has been pulling out all of the progressive stops instead.

I’m betting, given the current liberal lunacy, her campaign staff is terrified of her not appearing to be progressive enough, and that’s a huge mistake. The always astute Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth just warned Democrats not to “go too far to the left.”

Even if Underwood ticks them off the liberal rabble a bit, they’re not going to pull the trigger for the likes of incumbent Randy Hultgren on their worst day – and they’re not going to stay home this round either.

When you have limited funds, limited time, limited volunteers and 340,000 voters to reach, you have to get the biggest bang for you campaign buck. If that means taking Democratic voters somewhat for granted, then that’s exactly what you have to do.

Were I Ms. Underwood’s campaign manager, all the door knocking, all the mailers, and any other direct voter contact effort would go directly to those leaning Republican voters, who’ve proved they’ll vote for a Democrat. And I’d craft the kind of a moderate message that would appeal to those swing voters, too!


Stay tuned, we will continue with part two of this series next time!

Geneva! Where electricity goes to die!

Don’t move to Geneva!

Not only are our property taxes utterly absurd, but you’d think that they could keep the power on through a simple two-minute thunderstorm, but they can’t. And this has been going on for the better part of a decade.

And thanks to Mayor Kevin Burns, who’s capacity to make bad decisions is unsurpassed, he signed on to Prairie State Energy so we’re paying exorbitant electrical rates to have our power go out on a regular basis.


It wouldn’t be nearly as bad if the power just went out. But no! It has go off and on three separate times, so it can destroy or shorten the life of as many of your electrical devices as possible.

Last year, just around the 4th, we had a power outage during a mild storm, and then five more failure in the next two cool weeks with no precipitating storm.

All I can say is, if you happen to be driving through Geneva, and there’s one scant cloud in the sky, please don’t look cross-eyed at the power lines. I’d like to watch the end of the Cubs game.

Quick Hits – Mike Noland just knocked on my door!

I’m gonna say it for the 437th time! The truth really is stranger than fiction!

So, I’m sitting at the dinner table this evening when the doorbell rings, and who’s standing at my front door? None other than disgraced former Elgin State Senator and current judicial candidate Mike Noland.


In general, as they engage in the door knocking process, most walk list armed candidates avoid my front door because, well, I’m me! But not Mike Noland! Apparently, he’s a glutton for punishment.

This is a man who shouldn’t be allowed to judge a sixth-grade science fair, much less get elected to a 16th Circuit judicial seat. To review the former senator’s stellar track record, he:

  • Got thrown out of a Carpentersville polling place by the police for being disruptive
  • Sued Springfield for back pay after making a big deal out of forgoing that pay
  • Got caught plagiarizing a JFK speech on the Senator floor
  • Got stopped for speeding while driving on a no-insurance citation
  • Got caught stealing his opponent’s yard signs red-handed on video – twice
  • Continues to have a series of affairs

Shocked at the prospect of seeing his shortness on my front porch, I exclaimed, “Don’t you know whose door this is?

Failing to respond, I explained that I’m the guy who’s in the process of getting him disbarred. And once I’m done with him, Judge John Dalton is next!

Sometimes I enjoy my rather strange life way too much!

Quick Hits – “Jarrod wants to be your friend”

Before we start, I want to be crystal clear that no one deserves to die in a workplace shooting. Short of self-defense, no act is heinous enough to provoke and excuse this kind of absurd violent outburst.

I also refuse to blame the victims. Most of them had nothing to do with the column that precipitated this tragedy, and even if they had, a bad journalistic decision shouldn’t cost you your life.

But as the story of five shooting deaths at the Annapolis Capital Gazette unfolds, I firmly believe their editors and that columnist share some culpability. Having read the 2011 column that set this sad scenario in motion, I can’t stop cringing.

Capital Gazette

The suspect in this mass shooting, whose last name will be withheld here, is clearly mentally ill. The Gazette column describes a man who relentlessly and horrifically stalked a former high school classmate, online and through email, for a year before she finally resorted to the courts to put a stop to it.

It was the kind of nightmare that no one who offers kindness to an acquaintance should ever have to endure.

The cautionary tale of Internet peril is a good one, and that story would have had the same impact without publishing the offender’s name. What baffles me is, what on God’s green Earth made those Gazette editors decide to out a mentally ill man who wasn’t a public figure on his best day.

Go ahead and put a line in a police blotter, but not this!

Thinking back to my phenomenal former editors like Greg Rivara, Rick Nagel, Mike Cetera, Paul Harth, and Dave Parro, none of them would’ve let that column get past the first draft. A story on Web stalking? Sure! Telling the story without the names? You bet! But calling out a private citizen, who clearly has major issues – by name and in detail – would’ve meant a stern lecture and starting from scratch.

And the editor who came up with that sarcastic, smarmy and needlessly nasty headline – “Jarrod wants to be your friend?” Aside from selling newspapers, what the hell was he or she thinking? What could they possibly hope to accomplish by taunting a mentally ill man?

Why do I suspect a Gazette editor and that columnist reached out to the subject only to be angered by his response, and they let that anger cloud their judgement?

The late, great Mike Royko always said his biggest regret was “peeling a grape with an axe.” As he wound down to three columns a week, Royko anguished over the times he excoriated a low-level city worker or bureaucrat who was simply following orders.

But as local newspapers slowly die, using a hatchet to go after grapes has become the norm.

When was the last time the Daily Herald, a Shaw newspaper, or the suburban Tribune papers broke a big news story? They haven’t for over a decade. When you add up very young reporters, a general lack of talent, editors desperate to save their jobs, and publishers awash in red ink, journalistic standards go right out the window.

Since they can no longer break the big stories, they’re going after easier and smaller targets.

When the Daily Herald blew their Gliniewicz coverage, they disproportionally took it out on a lowly Elgin animal control officer who, while certainly in the wrong, did not deserve nearly that amount of newsprint.

And the Shaw newspapers have become nothing more than one big police blotter.

I’m very fond of Shaw Media’s DeKalb Office General Manager, Eric Olson, but we are currently engaged in a long-running debate over papers running police reports. Eric says it’s an important part of informing the community and the most popular part of the paper, while I insist it’s nothing more than a conviction in the press.

And what paper ever prints that any of those folks were exonerated?

Shaw Media will run an update reflecting an acquittal if the subject calls and proves the charges were dropped. But that just reminds readers – who’ve already made up their minds – of the original story.

When your journalistic focus boils down to going after non-public people who aren’t used to that level of scrutiny – and especially mentally ill people who aren’t used to that level of scrutiny – bad things are bound to happen.

How many innocent defendants have lost their job just so Shaw Media and Paddock Publications can pander to readers’ prurient interest and get a few more Internet hits?

There’s a similar situation brewing in Kane County right now. A mentally ill individual is sending rambling, semi-threatening emails to myself, and a number of public and elected officials. Though those missives are troubling, and I would caution my involved friends to be more careful in the short term, outing this individual would make it so much worse.

And despite my liberal friends’ dire proclamations, this tragedy had nothing to do with Donald Trump, or Milos Yiannopoulos’ call to assassinate journalists (a desperate cry for attention), and everything to do with a truly terrifying editorial decision that spun completely out of control.

I’ll say it again. I can’t imagine what those editors were thinking. These are utterly pointless and unnecessary deaths.

Local newspapers and journalists must get back to, as former Kane County Chronicle Managing Editor Greg Rivara always insisted, “comforting the afflicted, and afflicting the comfortable.” Nobody deserves to die for it, but afflicting the afflicted is just plain wrong.