Tom Smithburg's Major Opposition Research Failure (42nd Ward)

-By Warner Todd Huston

William J. Kelly (left) and Tom Smithburg (right)

Tom Smithburg is a young 23-year-old Republican who is trying to break into GOP politics by running for committeeman in Chicago’s 42nd Ward. This young man not long out of college has racked up some impressive endorsements. State Senators, local officials, and the Illinois GOP Party Chairman have all announced their endorsement of him for this entry-level office. But it seems he just revealed how inexperienced he is with a major failure at opposition research.

Smithburg has made a big deal about the voting record of opponent William J. Kelly. Smithburg’s team found a voting record of “a” Bill Kelly that shows that he voted Democrat multiple times over the last 20 years. Were it true this would severely damage Kelly’s claim to be Mr. Republican, one of his mainstay claims.

According to Smithburg, Kelly pulled a Democrat ballot “including” in 2000, in 2004, and in 2010. (See records from Smithburg HERE) And Smithburg has also sent out some campaign mailers alleging that Kelly has “voted at least 5 times as a Democrat.” (See .pdf of flier HERE)

Of course, Kelly has been a sort of political gadfly for quite a while in the city. In 1994 he ran against former domestic terrorist group member Bobby Rush, a Democrat that holds a Congressional seat from Chicago. He lost. Most recently he ran for Illinois Comptroller and surprised everyone by coming in second. Still, he lost. But Kelly has used his several runs for office as a platform for his activism, too, so not all was lost as far as he was concerned.

Kelly is now running for 42nd Ward Committeeman, an office currently held by Eloise Gerson. To say not many GOP power players are happy with Gershon is putting it lightly. Word is, getting rid of Gershon is the reason Smithburg was put up to run for the position in the first place. Kelly is a fly in the ointment of that insider plan, to be sure.

As to Kelly’s voting record, though, Smithburg’s oppo research seems to have fallen flat. In fact, not just flat but simply wrong. Kelly held a press conference over the weekend and unveiled his actual voting record. These documents show that Kelly did, indeed, vote Democrat. Once. It was 1995 when he pulled a Democrat ballot in order to cast a protest vote against his old nemesis, Bobby Rush.

Pretty sloppy on Smithburg’s part, really. Let’s hope, if this truly was just bad research and not a purposeful smear job, that this part of Smithburg’s campaign is dropped at the least. If nothing else he’s handed Kelly an issue on a silver platter. Now Kelly has the opportunity to claim that Smithburg is “lying” about his voting record… and he’s done just that, too.

Politics ain’t bean bag, after all.

… and someday I’ll figure out what the heck IS bean bag.

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