While John Daley was recently leading the county board through bitter budget negotiations, one of his most impassioned enemies was officially launching a revolution to seize control of the 11th Ward. Of course, even Carl Segvich would admit that these plans are--well, let's just say they might take a little while to come to fruition. As followers of Chicago politics know, the 11th Ward, centered in Bridgeport, is the home base of the Daley clan, and by extension the Chicago Democratic machine. And John Daley, in addition to being the finance chairman of the county board, is the ward's longtime Democratic committeeman--the official title for what amounts to "ward boss."
Carl Segvich's attitude toward John Daley and his older brother the mayor can only be classified as loathing, if not obsession, and over the last few years he's run a series of suicide campaigns against them and their allies. In 2003 Segvich lost an unwinnable race against 11th Ward alderman James Balcer, who shares an office with John Daley; in 2004 he fell 40 votes short in a challenge against the ward's silent and inactive GOP committeeman, George Preski (whose wife is an aide for the Chicago Board of Elections); in 2006, Segvich took on John Daley for county commissioner and, as expected, got crushed; and last year he lost another bout with Balcer.
But last month he again ran against Preski for Republican committeeman--and won, 358 to 219. (In contrast, John Daley, running unopposed for Democratic committeeman, received 8,680 votes.) Segvich, a salesman when he's not raging against the machine or the moral turpitude of our society, officially assumed the post just over a week ago. On Friday I reached him on the phone for a chat.
So how’d you win this time?
By appealing to the people who are really sick and tired of the betrayal of the public trust. I’ve been working on it for four years now, so name recognition helped. I really knocked on a lot of doors in four years. And this election, in December and January especially, I was out there in the ice and snow, and people invited me into their homes.
People didn’t slam the door on a conservative Republican in Bridgeport?
The 11th Ward is one of the biggest political paradoxes in the country—it’s obviously Democratic, but people there are conservative. They are against affirmative action. They are by and large Catholics against abortion. They are for putting in the pornographic filters in the libraries.
What people outside the ward don’t understand is this: the Daleys are not liked in the 11th Ward. They may be feared, but they’re not liked. People there are still Democratic because they’re intimidated by the Daley mafia. They’re afraid if they revolt they won’t get their garbage picked up. But I think this is the beginning of a political conversion. The Daley name is getting really old and haggard. People here are becoming more bold, more outspoken. I’ve only been in office ten days, and I have six or seven precinct captains, and one of them was a longtime precinct captain for John Daley. I plan on filling all 50 precincts with captains.
There weren’t Republican captains in every precinct before?
Absolutely not. It was a house of cards—just a shell.
So what exactly have you gotten yourself into with this job?
I’ve gotten myself into a great opportunity to expose corruption. I’ve gotten myself into a great opportunity to just give a hell of a political competition to John and Rich Daley. I’m now responsible for promoting conservative candidates up and down the ballot, from dogcatcher to state senator to president. I have to give people the support to say it loud and proud: we are against Daley.
You’ve said one of your primary responsibilities is to recruit Republican election judges.
I have to recruit them, help them fill out the paperwork, deliver it to board of elections, and make sure they’re appointed. I have to make sure John Daley isn’t at the Chicago board of elections blocking my appointments.
It’s also very important I do a good job at raising money. I plan on opening up a physical office, which is very uncommon for a Republican [in the city]. I think maybe two or three [Republican committeemen] have offices. Most work at their kitchen table.
And one more thing—I will be filling [Republican] vacancies on the ballot. We need to have competition again. People are walking into these offices.
It doesn’t seem like the party is in very good shape.
There are still a lot of liberal Democrats who are [passing] as Republican political officers, so the state of the Republican Party in Chicago is still weak. However, I would say we have new life with [newly elected] Cook County chairman Lee Roupas. I think he’s smart and he’s experienced enough--even though he's just 25--to be able to lead the Cook County Republicans to be an honest organization, to be honest public servants of integrity, and to really get citizens to take Republican ballots and mean it.
Have you heard anything from the 11th Ward Democratic organization since you won?
Not a word.
Do you think you’ll be able to take out the Daleys any time soon?
Well, I’ll say this: I don’t think that Mayor Daley will be mayor longer than March 1, 2011. Either he will lose that election or he’ll be indicted and leave office before that.