Jim Dodge announces for Orland Park Mayor
Can a perennial Republican candidate for public office like Jim Dodge win the office of Orland Park Mayor? His past elections outside of Orland Park suggest not, but his Republican base in Orland Park tells a different story. But that depends on what Republican Mayor Keith Pekau does. Pekau defeated longtime Democrat and Orland Mayor Dan McLaughlin by a huge landslide that was embarrassing for McLaughlin and the Democrats.
By Ray Hanania
Can Orland Park Trustee Jim Dodge win the office of Orland Park Mayor? Dodge told reporters this past week that he plans to run for Mayor of Orland Park against incumbent Mayor Keith Pekau in April 2021.
Pekau surprised the world when he easily defeated longtime Mayor Dan McLaughlin in April 2017. McLaughlin made a greed-grab, a political term for a popular public servant who at the end of his career decides to grab as much as he can before retiring. McLaughlin wanted a whopping pension from Orland Park and equally whopping pay hike. Instead, he got a whopping political beating from a newcomer who had no real prior experience in politics.
But while I like Mayor Pekau, I am not sure he can win re-election without changing his style of governing. He’s between a rock and a hard place in Orland Park, handicapped with the “Rauner factor,” a term that describes Governor Bruce Rauner’s failed four-year term as governor. Rauner could not achieve anything because he didn’t have the votes to do anything and he lacked the charisma, personality or the clever new ideas to inspire voters across party lines to pressure the controlling party, the Democrats, to support him.
Jim Dodge, a longtime Republican who many say has run for more offices than Anthony Martin Trigona, just got whooped in the statewide race for Illinois Treasurer. Democrat Michael Frerichs defeated Dodge by a huge margin statewide, 57 percent (2.5 million votes) to 39 percent (1.7 million votes).
The Orland Park Mayoral election isn’t until April 2021 — the elections this Spring in 2019 are for local trustee spots — but the real key is how did voters vote inside Orland Park, which remains a traditionally strong Republican bastion.
The recent re-election of Cook County Commissioner Sean Morrison over Democratic rival Abdelnasser Rashid shows that experience and understanding a district voting patterns can make a difference. Although Rashid had a lot of backing from bigtime Democrats like Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who pumped in $300,000 into his failed candidacy, Morrison won the election where it counts in the southern townships of the 17th County District. Morrison won whopping numbers in Orland Township, Lyons Township, Palos Township and more. Part of his strength, though, came from the bullies who were attacking Sharon Brannigan in Palos Township that Rashid associated himself with. Voters in Palos Township were reacting to the ugly disruptive bullying of the anti-Brannigan protestors who embarrassed themselves and undermined their claims of opposing “racism.” Voters clearly dislike ugly protestors more than even alleged racists who apologize for their misstatements.
But while Rashid failed to understand the fundamentals of voting, elections and what moves voters, Dodge is not like him. A close examination of the voting patterns in Orland Park shows that the village is heavily Republican despite the fact that Democrats swept Illinois and won nearly every major statewide race — most Democrats lost Orland Park by strong numbers.
Orland Park is a Reagan Democratic bastion, filled with former Chicago residents who fled the old Democratic Machine, and placed family values above politics to vote as conservative Democrats, rejecting the extremism and fanaticism of the far left Democrats like Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez who is the media darling who most benefited from the Democratic voter tsunami.
The key analysis is in the vote totals for Orland Township, which reflects Orland Park but includes small parts of non-Orland Park voting areas. Click here to view the Orland Township election results.
Rauner beat Pritzker in the statewide Democratic wave by several thousand votes, 50.4 percent (19,911 votes) to 44.5 percent (17,615 votes). Erika Harold did even better in challenging Kwame Raul for Illinois Attorney General winning 53 percent (20,895 votes) to 44.7 percent (17,613 votes) of the vote in Orland Park. Women voters are a big factor in Orland Park, and they helped Suzana Mendoza, a Democrat who swept the state, too, beat Republican Darlene Senger, who really didn’t do that much campaigning, for State Comptroller.
Dodge would split the conservative Democratic and Republican vote with Pekau, but the Democrats will also have a lot of people running. The rumors are that McLaughlin who is much like Hillary Clinton and in a perpetual daze and disbelief that he lost the election, is weighing running for election. And it’s no secret that Orland Township Supervisor Paul O’Grady, a huge Democrat, plans on running, too. O’Grady, McLaughlin and Pekau all have slates running in the spring village trustee elections and it will be a real mud-fight.
Clearly, Pekau needs to win at least a few seats to assert himself in the village, which has been run by the old failed McLaughlin political Democratic establishment who bully him at every meeting. Orland voters are tired of the ugly politics and the divisions on the village board. Caught in the crossfire is Village Manager Joe La Margo, who basically is the “mayoral power” under the screwed-up Orland Park system that really needs to change.
Either Orland Park has a full-time mayor or we have a full-time village manager. But thanks to McLaughlin and his board majority, the taxpayers of Orland Park are forced to have both and are paying huge salaries for both. It’s not Pekau’s fault, and it’s not a reflection of La Margo who is caught in the political crossfire.
The bottom line, a Republican probably has a better chance of winning, especially if there are two Democrats running for mayor. Pekau has been fighting hard to define his efforts to overcome the machine resistance on the Orland Park village board. That resistance is offensive. He has the edge over Dodge, whose biggest problem is that his ambitions are bigger than his election savvy. Dodge, who is a good person, has run for a lot of public offices and lost. Too many, actually. I guess there is the old Abraham Lincoln principle. Lincoln ran and lost many times before finally winning.
Can Dodge beat Pekau?
Pekau’s problem is he really thinks he “won” the election in April 2017. He didn’t win as much as Dan McLaughlin “lost” that election. Only a strong candidate admits their failings and weaknesses. We’ll see. But Pekau has the political edge. Dodge has the Republican experience. But O’Grady will have all the money and the backing of Democrats, which could hurt him if he comes across as being too much of a “Democratic” candidate in two years. The only thing that could tank O’Grady is if McLaughlin actually decides to run for re-election. And, despite his past problems, you can’t really count him out. Deep down, he has great talent and compassion for the village and did many great things that had he stuck with, instead of greed, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
Let’s see what happens with the trustee races this spring. Filing ends on Monday night.
If you don’t subscribe to Mayor Pekau’s email newsletter you should. Pekau did a better job of announcing Dodge’s candidacy for mayor than Dodge did. Subscribe to Mayor Pekau’s email newsletter by clicking here.
(Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and currently writes a syndicated opinion and political column. Visit his personal website at www.Hanania.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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