Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


My Take on Five

By Shawn Healy
Rahm Emanuel's decision to serve as Chief of Staff for President Obama led to an opening for congressman in the 5th Congressional District in Illinois. Covering the North and Northwest sides of Chicago, the vacancy has set in motion a competitive and swollen field of candidates, with party primaries scheduled for next Tuesday, March 3rd. The winners will go on to a general election runoff on Tuesday, April 7.

Given that the district devotes about two-thirds of its votes in presidential elections to Democratic candidates, the bulk of the attention has been centered on candidates in a single party. It was the 5th District that repeatedly sent the powerful chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Dan Rostenkowski, to Congress until he was sent to prison in a federal corruption scandal. A Republican, Michael Flanagan, won the aftermath 15 years ago, but Rod Blagojevich soon replaced him. Emanuel took Blagojevich's place when the since impeached and removed governor first ran for the office.

The Democratic field is twelve strong, but four of them stand most prominently in an election where turnout is expected to be light. State Rep. Sara Feigengholtz is the best funded candidate, and this matters in an abbreviated contest of this nature, but her ties to Blagojevich may sink her ship.

State Rep. John Fritchey has been a persistent Blagojevich critic in the oast couple of years and boasts the support of powerful local unions and politicians, including the disgraced former governor's father-in-law, Ald. Dick Mell. His role in the recent impeachment proceedings, where he railroaded Republican questioning of Roland Burris, has come under increasing scrutiny in light of last week's revelations.

Ald. Patrick O'Connor is Mayor Daley's unofficial floor leader in a "rubber stamp" city council, and is unabashedly pro-establishment at a time where change lingers in the air. He is searching for an opening in a race where Hizzoner has refused to pick a horse.

Commissioner Mike Quigley is a member of the Cook County Board and a self-titled reformer. He gained the support of the editorial board of Chicago's two major newspapers (Tribune and Sun-Times), and may have his finger on the pulse of the times.

On the Republican side, the field is composed of six lesser-known candidates, including businessman Tom Hanson who ran against Emanuel last fall and styles himself as a "liberal" member of the party, and lawyer Greg Bedell who gained the endorsement of the Tribune (the Sun-Times failed to endorse a Republican candidate).

Five members of the Green Party also seek the office in a primary of their own.


Blogger ron said...

Dear Shawn, I really enjoyed reading your critique concerning the upcoming election. I have followed this campaign and I've been very excited that there were so many candidates. I hoped that this was proof that the political excitement which took place during the presidential campaign was going to continue.I also completely enjoyed you analysis of each candidate. Then I read in your article that the turn out was expected to be light and I was very disappointed. I want to be the first to suggest that when you have finished your PHD studies that you begin to pursue a career in politics. This is a time in American History in which we must be very careful in choosing the best political candidates we can send to Washington. Of course Ender Locke will certainly be willing to volunteer as part of your campaign. Goodnight and Goodluck. Ender Locke

7:30 PM  

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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

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