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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Primary Day

Well, when I went to Richards High to vote this morning, my friend the Democratic judge told me I was about the 10th person to vote. He said about 50 percent of the eligible voters turned out in the 04 general election (that's comparable to national, right??), but as usual with a primary they expect a low turnout today. Polls close in less than half an hour.

I've decided somewhat against my better judgment to go ahead and tell you all about my experiences with Esther Golar's run to get elected to her currently appointed seat as state representative in Illinois' 6th District. Esther has been active on the Neighborhood Housing Services board, which is how I know her. When our previous state rep. Patricia Bailey, was found not to be living in the district, she was forced out and Esther was appointed to replace her. That happened since the new year, I believe. So now Esther is running for the seat.

In a boring primary, her race has been pretty live. Originally there were seven candidates, but at least three dropped out. The only ones I've heard much about besides Esther are Darryl Smith and Sam Bunville. The buzz I heard (if I recall right, so this is rumor) is that Smith is allied with Englewood activist Hal Baskin, who has run for alderman unsuccessfully a couple of times. Rumor also has it that he has ties to some less than savory groups in the hood but I think everybody slings those allegations around at election time and I don't know the truth or falsity of it at all.

Esther is the only candidate I'm aware of who has personally made an appearance in our part of the neighborhood. This is something I'm pretty concerned about because I feel like our part of the world is neglected by most of the aldermen who have pieces of it, since their main bases are to the east in Englewood, Woodlawn, etc. Esther, who doesn't speak Spanish, put in time at two Spanish-language Masses this month to be introduced to congregations where we have no idea how many voters there are. (That's true in the black churches, too, but for different reasons.) Anyway, it was clear to me from the git-go that she was my candidate in this race.

So I've been doing some volunteer work for her in my spare time--mostly stuffing and addressing envelopes. I was in the office the weekend before last during an interesting strategy session with the get-out-the-vote guy from Alderman Shirley Coleman's office. He explained that he's interested in making sure there's as high a turnout as possible in this election, even though aldermen aren't in the race this year, because high turnout means a challenger would need more signatures to get on the ballot the next time she has to run. He apparently delivered over 44,000 votes for Bailey in the previous election and was confident he could pull off the same level of support for Esther.

"Let's see how much they charge us," said one of Esther's advisors after he left. I have no idea what the price tag was for that. Esther had some backing from other pols--from being around the office I know state Senator Rickey Hendon sent some cash her way from his war chest--and a friend who checked the campaign finance database informs me she had the big bucks in this race, which didn't surprise me. For once I'm not fighting the machine.

In fact, I'll be at the campaign office tonight to watch the returns. My buddy the Dem judge, who put in more time for Esther than I did, may not be there, though. He's been up since 3 a.m. and there were some snafus getting the new balloting system to work, so he's not sure how long he'll have to stay after the polls close. Gotta say I'm not too fond of the new ballots--no privacy since they are so big and the judge watches you scan it into the machine. I just hope it read properly.

Now that I live in a ward with low turnout, I wonder how closely the alderman's office looks at the returns. Will they be able to tell a north lakefront independent moved into the ward and didn't follow the alderman's sample ballot? Probably. I wonder if that will exacerbate the trouble with getting the streetlights, garbage,, etc. It's like living in a time warp down here. But at least I don't think anybody was voting often...

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