Democracy, 48th-Ward style | Bleader

Democracy, 48th-Ward style

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On Saturday, folks in the 48th Ward got together to select themselves a new Democratic committeeman. Sounds simple enough. And in a way, it was.

Mike Volini, the old committeeman, was stepping down and before the meeting he made it clear that he wanted state senator Carol Ronen--his friend, ally, and Broadway Avenue officemate--to replace him. A second candidate, Sandra Verthein , a member of the Edgewater/Rogers Park division of Democracy for America, also decided to run.

More than 100 people attended the meeting, but only 49--the so-called "Committee of the Whole"--got to vote. To no one's surprise, the committee elected Ronen 47 to 2. Hey, it's not hard to win if you keep your opponents from voting.

The curious thing is that Congressman Jan Schakowsky got to vote, and she doesn't even live in the 48th Ward. She's an Evanston resident. (I called Schakowsky for comment, but she didn't call back.)

Ronen explained that Volini was actually encouraging democracy. Originally, the vote was going to be limited to the ward's executive committee, whose members include elected officials. But Volini decided to open the vote to the people, or at least the people on the Committee of the Whole. "The committee represents precinct workers, contributors, and people who have been active in 48th Ward Democratic politics," said Ronen. "If you want to vote, get involved. We welcome your support."

And why did Schakowsky get to vote even though she lives in Evanston? "Jan is on our 48th Ward executive committee because her congressional office is in the 48th Ward," said Ronen. "We claim her as our own."

Ronen's selection as committeeman continues a grand tradition of appointing politicians to fill vacancies in Edgewater, starting in the late 1980s, when Kathy Osterman was alderman and committeeman. In 1989 Osterman stepped down to take a post with the Daley administration. Mayor Daley filled her aldermanic vacancy by appointing Mary Ann Smith, who had been Osterman's chief aide. And the local party leaders filled the committeeman vacancy by appointing Mike Volini, son of Marion Volini, who was the alderman before Kathy Osterman took over.

To her credit, Carol Ronen won her first election in dramatic fashion, upsetting incubment state rep Al Ronan in 1992. Then after state senator Al Berman resigned, the local Democrats appointed Ronen to fill his seat, filling her old state rep position with Harry Osterman , son of Kathy Osterman. And when state rep Larry McKeon resigned, party locals filled his vacancy y appointing Greg Harris, who had been Smith's top aide. I hope you're taking notes--there will be a quiz.

Word has it that Harry Osterman will eventually be slated to replace Mary Ann Smith, whenever she retires. Let's hope Schakowsky won't be voting in that election too.

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