I voted yesterday. I have moved since the 2004 general and decided that I'd take advantage of the grace period (that ended today) to register to vote at my new address. After registering, they gave me a ballot (a large, two-sided optical scan) which I filled out and turned back in. I'm curious to find out how many people took advantage of the grace period this first time out -- and I'll bet far more will in November.
I had been a little bit torn over the Cook County Presidential election ever since SEIU endorsed the incumbent John Stroger. Some of the Stroger-supporting legislators also made a case that without Stroger's leadership, the new County (Stroger) hospital would never have been built, and that the capital investment had really paid off for poorer people. Yes, the county might have been an ossified mess, but was I somehow not sufficiently valuing the contributions that Stroger had made on health care over the last decade?
Nothing assured me more than Dr. Quentin Young's endorsement of Forrest Claypool. Dr. Young has been a fierce, relentless advocate for universal health insurance in Chicago for decades. He spent decades at County Hospital and he loves the institution. If *he* believes that a Claypool Administration would deliver more health services to the people of Cook County, then I believe it too.
That's the huge disconnect (that actually got to me for a while) on the Claypool message. Somehow, the common sense view that cutting wateful middle managers and modernizing county operations leads to more and better services, especially for poor people, doesn't intuitively resonate. It feels like wasting money on patronage bureaucrats means more health care for poor people. Most of the Stroger supports back Stroger because they believe that Claypool will cut services for people -- or they have equated 'lots of county jobs' with 'lots of health care for poor people.'
I'm proud to have voted for Forrest, and when I did so, I thought of Mike Quigley, who took one for the team and withdrew from the race in order to give the reformers one shot at the presidential race.
I'm predicting a Claypool victory. I sense a shift over to Claypool among people who are paying attention, and I also sense a lack of enthusiasm for Stroger. I think there's a strong sense of duty and loyalty to John Stroger among his supporters, but very little passion for the man or the campaign. It's a little bit like Bob Dole running for president in 1996 -- his loyal followers are limply raising the flag for an old battle-scarred veteran, not because they really want to, but because they feel they must.
I do think that this one will be close, so if you live in Cook County, you really ought to vote for Claypool.
The rest of my ballot was like this:
I voted for Tom Dart. He'll be a great sheriff.
I voted for Terry O'Brien, Debra Shore and Patricia Horton for the Water Reclamation District. O'Brien has been a very solid President of the District, Debra Shore will be a fantastic addition as a strong conservationist (check out her website at www.debrashore.org) and Patricia Horton got my third vote because Senator Rickey Hendon has been pushing for her so hard and the rest of my ticket was all white. (I would have liked to have cumulative voting rights so I could have cast all three of my votes for one candidates if I wanted to. And did you know that at one time the Water Reclamation District used cumulative voting rights when it was known as the Chicago Sanitary District? Check this out if you don't believe me).
In the state treasurer's race, I voted for Mangieri over Giannoulias. I buy the Speaker's argument that we really ought to have one Downstater on the statewide ticket, and while Giannoulias might be a touch sharper than Mangieri, Mangieri is an elected official and that matters. There's something a little wierd about running for statewide office without serving as an elected or appointed official -- or even a staffer. However, this one felt a little empty, because I think Christine Rodogno is going to be a very strong candidate for the Republicans (and probably the only GOP who wins this coming November).
And for Governor? Well, I was in a quandry. It was the last race I voted for. I looked at Blagojevich's name, and looked at Eisendrath's name, and just didn't know what to do. I know that Eisendrath is not a serious alternative, and I know that I want Blagojevich to get re-elected in November. I thought about AllKids and FamilyCare and KidCare and a ton of great Democratic-sponsored bills that Blagojevich signed. And so I planned to vote for him.
And then I remembered the No New Taxes pledge -- a ridiculous pledge made in the middle of a totally uncompetitive primary election that essentially guarantees that we won't raise the 3% state income tax and that locks us into regressive sales and property taxes as well as poor kids in poor school districts not getting a fair shot at life. I wondered whether I'd somehow weaken Blagojevich by voting for Eisendrath. No way. So, with an angry little mark of my pen, I voted for Eisendrath.
Ultimately, that's the fuel of the Eisendrath vote: Democrats who are mad at Blagojevich and want to formally express their disapproval before working to help his re-election campaign in November. Maybe a higher Eisendrath vote will help signal to the Blagojevich team that they can find a way to raise the state income tax but not raise taxes "on the hard-working people of Illinois" by significantly raising the personal exemption while raising the overall income tax rate to 5%, so that most people actually pay less, but the people who are making a lot of money pay more (since they can most afford to do so). I hope so.
Now, why am I disclosing who I voted for and opening myself up to some backlash? (And I'm having second thoughts about laying it all out there right now, as a lobbyist and political hack/operative...) I believe that the Democratic Party (and democracy) works best with honest conversation about policy and politics. It bothers me when people won't tell me who they vote for or which political party they support, because "that's private" or "you're not supposed to talk about politics." Democracy is public. And if I'm going to press people to share who they vote for in order to try to create a more civic culture (and try to convince people to vote for better candidates), I've got to walk the walk myself. I mean, I think government should be ever-more transparent, so as a citizen, I should try to be as transparent as possible. (I'm trying to talk myself into keeping this post on the internet...)
Who are you planning to vote for and why?