By Mark Wachtler
June 26, 2015. Schaumburg. (ONN) The 8th US Congressional District in Illinois is already notorious. First, the northwest suburban district sent Joe Walsh to Washington - a controversial defender of Wall Street posing as a Tea Party Republican. Then after a Chicago Machine gerrymander, voters sent Tammy Duckworth to Congress - a double-amputee veteran who couldn’t win an election and was instead handed a six-figure patronage position in the Washington bureaucracy. The race to replace Duckworth is shaping up to be as contemptuous as usual.
Raja Krishnamoorthi, Democratic candidate for US Congress in IL CD 8. Image courtesy of IndiaWest.com.
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If Illinois voters look closely, they may catch a glimpse of the strings attached to the puppets dancing for their attention in the campaign for US Congress and US Senate in 2016. If they look really close, voters may even get to see the puppet masters themselves.
Musical chairs for Mark Kirk’s US Senate seat
According to Michael Sneed and the Chicago Sun Times, the fix is in, and has been since US Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) announced she was challenging US Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) for his Senate seat next year. The Illinois Democratic Party has about 6 wings or branches - Chicago Machine, Washington-Wall Street elites, unions, grassroots progressives, conservative blue dogs, and leftist socialists. But the ‘elites’ and the ‘Machine’ have most of the power and occupy most of the elective offices.
With Democrat pollsters across the country listing Sen. Kirk as one of the most vulnerable Republican US Senators in 2016, both the Washington elites and the Chicago Machine have recruited candidates to face him. US Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a creation of Washington bureaucracy, was recruited by the elites to face Kirk. Seeing a prize ripe for the taking, the Daleys and the Chicago Machine quickly talked Chicago Urban League President Andrea Zopp into running against Duckworth for the Democratic nomination as well. As interesting as that race is, it’s also where our adventure to fill Duckworth’s 8th Congressional District seat begins.
IL CD 8 - Machine vs. Progressives
If the Daleys are involved, chances are so are the Cullertons. And that just happens to be the case in this instance. Not satisfied with setting their sights on defeating Tammy Duckworth, the Chicago Machine has also staked out a claim on her Congressional district. Rookie, first-term State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) has been recruited to run for Duckworth’s seat. But he already has challengers, including one reformer from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
Raja Krishnamoorthi may not hold an elected office at the moment. But he doesn’t really need one to be seen as a powerful Democrat in Illinois. He is an old friend of Barack Obama and was actually a member of the President’s original, first, losing campaign for US Congress. He was the issues director of Obama’s successful 2004 US Senate campaign, and an advisor in his 2008 campaign for President.
Krishnamoorthi served as Illinois Deputy Treasurer in the scandal-plagued Alexi Giannoulias Treasurer’s office. And he was appointed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan as Special Assistant Attorney General in the Public Integrity Unit. But while Raja has worked for some of the more scandalous Party leaders, the reason seems to be because Krishnamoorthi brings a reputation as a reformer and a corruption-buster.
A Harvard Law School graduate whose parents immigrated to the US from India, Raja Krishnamoorthi ran unsuccessfully against Tammy Duckworth in the 2012 Democratic Primary for the same 8th Congressional District seat. Duckworth won handily 66-34 percent. But that was against a wheelchair-bound female war hero. In the coming race in 2016, Raja Krishnamoorthi will face the next generation of the 145-year Cullerton dynasty in the form of Tom Cullerton. But Chicago voters showed they are sick and tired of the Machine, defeating 18 Machine-backed candidates out of 50 Chicago City Council races last year. Does the anti-Machine sentiment extend out to the northwest suburbs?
Cullerton vs. Krishnamoorthi
A poll taken in May and reported by the Huffington Post shows a dead heat in the 2016 race for the Democratic nomination to replace Tammy Duckworth. In the poll of likely Democratic Primary voters, Tom Cullerton captured 18.1%. Raja Krishnamoorthi received 17.2%, with 64.7% undecided. One group that isn’t undecided however is a Washington Super PAC.
A little known, but well-funded Super PAC called Vote Vets is already pledging its support, and part of its multi-million-dollar bankroll, to elect Tom Cullerton. It seems the somewhat shady group doesn’t even care who the other candidates are, or will be.
As detailed by Politico yesterday, ‘The group spent $7 million to $8 million in each of the last three election cycles, Soltz explained, and is gearing up for another big cycle. At his meeting with the four House members, he listed the House candidates he plans to support in 2016: former Marine Salud Carbajal in California, Army veteran Tom Cullerton in Illinois and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, an Army veteran who served in Iraq.’
While Tom Cullerton has Super PAC’s and the Chicago Democratic Machine in his corner, Raja Krishnamoorthi also has his early backers. US Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) - the House Chief Deputy Whip and a leader of the Progressive Caucus - released her endorsement saying, “Raja is the best choice to succeed Tammy Duckworth in Congress. I look forward to Raja joining me in the fight to make equal pay for equal work the law of the land. Raja knows that when women succeed, America succeeds. Raja will work hard in Washington for gender equality and economic security for working families.”
The 2016 Democratic Primary race for the 8th US Congressional District in Illinois is shaping up to be a slugfest. Raja Krishnamoorthi’s name is no longer unknown to the voters. And Tom Cullerton’s may be too well known. One thing to keep an eye on is voter sentiment between the Party elites and their Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton versus the independent progressives and Bernie Sanders. If Sanders creates a progressive tidal wave, it may be a big enough wave for Krishnamoorthi to ride to victory.
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