August 19, 2015

Illinois Dems Take On D.C. Party Bosses In Fractured Senate Primary

It’s D.C. vs. Illinois in the U.S. Senate race! In a bid to avoid yet another contentious primary, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) has been trying to engineer a competition-free path to the senate nomination for Rep. Tammy Duckworth in Illinois, despite the fact that former Chicago Urban League president Andrea Zopp is also running.

The problem? Turns out Democrats on the ground in Illinois want to actually pick their own candidate and aren’t taking kindly to the heavy-handed tactics of the party elite in Washington:

First, Democratic Party of Illinois chairman Michael Madigan declined to endorse in the Zopp vs. Duckworth race.

Then Zopp – who was appointed by Chicago Mayor and close Obama ally Rahm Emanuel to the Chicago Public School board – voiced her objections to the DSCC’s meddling in an interview with Chicago Magazine:

[Question] You have been publicly critical of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee because it came out and endorsed Tammy Duckworth without talking to you. Jesse Jackson, among others, has called that disrespectful. Hanging in the air, although not said in so many words, is that African Americans here might not bother to vote in the general election.

[Zopp] “As I’ve already openly said, we need to have an open primary. I think that’s the right thing to do. The DSCC has not endorsed a candidate in the Senate race here in the primary in 35 years. I think it was a mistake for them to do it.”

The latest blow to the DSCC’s maneuverings came from the influential Cook County Democratic Party, which was widely expected to endorse a candidate today but declined to do so, instead advocating for an open primary.

Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin announced he was considering a bid, with some harsh words for both Duckworth – who has clearly sided with the party bosses – and the DSCC:

Duckworth is the favorite to win the nomination, having already been backed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Boykin paints her as an ineffective lawmaker who happens to have the support of the party establishment.

“The big political bosses would like to have a coronation,” Boykin said. “They would like to (say), ‘hey, you know, we pretty much decided who the next Senator in Illinois is going to be.’”

Within hours, former NFL player and state senator Napoleon Harris also threw his hat into the ring.

Given the widespread rebukes by members of their own party in Illinois, it appears the DSCC’s strategy has backfired, to say the least.