The Chicago Tea Party gathering on Wednesday night 12/1 at Blackie’s, in the South Loop, was worth the (quick) drive down Ike and two blocks over, at Clark & Polk. Adam Andrzejewski was the star attraction, speaking in a party room next to the main bar-restaurant which has the look and feel of a friendly neighborhood joint and not a downtown watering hole.
Andrzejewski ran for governor last time, lost in the Republican primary to Bill Brady, who lost last month. But as soon as Andrzejewski lost the primary, he set up a political action committee, reinstating his citizen watchdog group For the Good of Illinois, apparently mostly with his own money, and set about being a political operative of no mean achievement.
This night he named four state legislative districts he deemed winnable, in each of which Republicans lit fires, losing to the Democrat/Mike Madigan “fire wall” in only one. In the process, he and others trashed the Madigan reputation up and down the state, leaving Madigan, Illinois House speaker, “pissed.” But Republicans lost the governorship.
Asked what went wrong, he cited Brady’s running as a “trust me” candidate — in Illinois, where a politician should know better — and opponents’ inability to “light enough fires” so that the Madigan fire wall wouldn’t stop them.
One he did set was persuading Cedra Crenshaw to run in a south suburb for a state rep job long held by a Democrat wheelhorse. She, a black woman with Tea Party support, drew $1 million of Democrat money into the district — the sort of distraction and using up of money that puts a party on the defensive — and in the process even forced vice-p Biden to go on TV to distance himself (and Obama) from (rampant) allegations of Tea Party racism.
Crenshaw was at Daley Plaza last April 15 for a different kind of Tea Party event, a noisy outdoor rally featuring speakers spouting defiance of Mayordaley II (the point was made, don’t call it Daley Plaza but Civic Center Plaza) and led by a formidable self-described community organizer from Oak Lawn, Catherina Wojtowicz.
For the Blackie’s event, the leader, contact man, introducer of speakers, etc. was such a different type of operative as to wonder how the twain could meet — South Side rally-leader and South Loop m.c. This is Steve Stevlic, whose internet office is at www.teapartychicago.org, Twitter @landofdafree. He ran things quite nicely, using a handheld mike given to each speaker in turn, all easily heard in the longish party room with bar along one side . Q&A were crisply handled.
* He’s oldest of 7 kids, his father taught history 36 years, would grill them at dinner on principles of government. Has 3 of his own, 2,4,6 yrs old, asked oldest where she gets her rights, she said China: he knew then he had to spend more time with family. Did so, 2nd child to similar question gave good answer.
* Congressional winners in recent election ran boldly. Important point. (Later, asked why Bill Brady lost, said in effect he didn’t.) In process “we tarnished [Mike Madigan's] name, and now he controls the money, the map, and he’s mad. “Tough times are coming” for the state.
* The winners “ran on ideas.” They forced Dems to spend $6 million in four congressional races, winning 3 of them, “impossible races” which Repubs made competitive. These were “public policy campaigns,” the only kind to run, on issues such as TIF transparency, term limits (which neither party wants), a gerrymandering amendment.
* There’s no one else (but Tea Partiers) to save the state from insolvency, Illinois being “systemically corrupt,” as Communist Poland was when his friend Lech Walensa, who also faced an impossible situation, said when A. brought him to Chicago.
* Forensic audit of state books: Wld cost $60 million, save $3-5 billion. Entire legislature wanted audit of Medicaid, but that was of doctors and poor patients. This would be of politicians, office-holders. Tough sell.
Other speakers, warm-ups for Andrzejewski, three people, each excellent:
* John Garrido, CPD lieutenant (in uniform, on his lunch hour, he made clear), one of 8 candidates for 45th Ward alderman. Also a lawyer with office at Elston & Austin. “Fed up with machine politicians.” Asked about Rahm E’s promise of 250 new cops, said “drop in the bucket.” Down 2,000 now from needed 13,500. TIF money “basically a slush fund.” Would not keep Jody Weis on as commissioner. Hopes for “sweeping change” in city council. He’d be one of 50.
* Tonia Members, who introduced her husband as 17th Ward aldermanic candidate — “conservative, Republican [slight pause] and he’s black” — but not before urging listeners (all white that I could see, 50 or so men and women) to go door to door in black neighborhoods announcing themselves as Tea Party members, this even though there’s “straight hate” there for the Republican Party. At a rally, she said, one sign had Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin and above them “Hate” and another with Obama and “Hope”!
* Antoine Members, a corrections officer, wants “lateral transfers” in the CPD, whereby there is rotation of officers (Garrido favored this too), and otherwise emphasized schooling that raises literacy levels among black citizens. His ward is South Side, encompassing or touching Englewood, Chatham, Chicago Lawn. One of eight candidates, he also urged door to door work, where people would listen to them, he said. Got applause with reference to right to bear arms. Asked about drug legalization and why black leaders do not support it, said in effect the money is too good, and it goes to politicians and others. Ministers? They too “have a piece of the action.” Gangs? Fight them, they fight back; provide alternatives.
Stevlic closed things out. Pushed the “Adopt an Official” program, whereby people sign up to be in effect citizen lobbyists, in regular contact with an official. To them Stevlic would supply with issue information, etc. Big issues coming up: public pensions and public sector unions: a Pension Task Force has been formed, headed by the mayor of Burr Ridge. School boards another category of big spenders.
Next Blackie’s meeting Jan. 5. It was refreshing to hear people talk sense at such a meeting.