Today was the final day for filing to run in the March 2012 primary and one of the offices up for grabs is the 6th ward committeeman's race. Many were expecting a rematch of the 6th ward Aldermandic race between Freddrenna Lyle and Roderick Sawyer. Roderick Sawyer won the Aldermandic seat. The Illinois Supreme Court cancelled the rematch when they appointed Lyle,an associate judge, to Cook County Circuit Court. But we will have a rematch between Roderick Sawyer and third place finisher Richard Wooten.
While we have the same names this is a totally different race with totally different issues. So what is a committeeman? The position is essentially that of an unpaid political advocate. A committeeman is elected to a leadership position for a partisan political jurisdiction. In Cook County, each of the fifty Wards and thirty Townships elect a Committeeman to represent the people of both (or all) major political parties. Each Committeeman is a voting member of their chosen Cook County Party Organization." They are in charge of activities such as "voter registration within the Ward, hosting community forums, providing election materials, and facilitating the smooth operation of primaries and elections." They also recruit Election Judges, Precinct Captains and Area Coordinators.
Ward Committeeman can be a very powerful position. Sometimes they control the ward, and other times they are controlled by the alderman. In some instances, the alderman is also the committeeman. A handful of long time committeeman have the power to anoint (or destroy) the person that will be alderman in that Ward.
Either way, the role carries with it both the glory of being an insider and the clout that comes with being so close to an alderman. In the past , if a committeeman bowed to his patron, he had the privilege of doling out jobs, favors, and services around the ward, and occasionally he was able to put his people in other political positions outside of the ward.
But we need to understand "close" is only important in horseshoes and not political races. A committeeman cannot vote on the city council floor, cannot call City of Chicago Department heads to request city services and cannot speak to the Mayor's intercircle.
So before individuals get bent out of shape and attempt to reopen bruises and wounds from the Aldermandic race understand who and what you are voting for in the upcoming primary. The 6th ward has many challenges that need our attention and to get bowed down in rhetoric and negative campaigning just is a giant step backwards. Rehashing the aldermandic election and current city services issues is counterproductive. The issue is who will be able to do this job better.
So I hope both campaigns will limit the negative campaigning and unnecessary rhetoric. Also, we need to look at the Republican race as there are more candidates running than there ever been in the 6th ward.