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That's independent Democrat as in all of the local party bosses are supporting his opponent—state senator Antonio Munoz.
We're clustered around Mondragon's Blackberry, checking out the earliest returns. With 4 percent of the vote in, he's got 25 percent of the vote and Munoz has 75 percent.
Uh-oh. Could be a long night.
For what it's worth, if Mondragon had been running in my senatorial district, I'd have definitely voted for him. He's a young, smart, articulate lawyer and he really knows the issues.
Plus, he swears up and down he'd have voted against the Chicago Mercantile Exchange tax break, if he'd been in the state senate.
That's the one where legislators voted to give an income tax break worth untold hundreds of millions of dollars to one of the world's largest trading companies, thus forcing the state to jack up everyone else's taxes to compensate for the tax money they're not getting from one of the world's largest trading companies.
Most of the state's Democrats, including Senator Munoz, signed on to this insanity in the name of keeping jobs in Illinois.
Even though CME's made it clear that they're looking for new and innovative ways to cut their payroll by getting computers to do the work that people used to do.
Proving once again that you can generally count on Democrats to do something stupid that undermines their core principles.
Oh why, oh why wasn't I born a Republican?
Sorry about that tangent . . .
As the night wears on, Mondragon's volunteers wander in bearing more bad news from the precincts. Turnout's wretched—less than 20 percent. As the underdog—without any high-profile endorsements or campaign budget to speak off—he needs a big turnout if he has even the remotest of chances to unseat Munoz.
Alas . . .
Much low-turnout discussion ensues. There are several explanations. Apathy. Alienation. People are content with the system (well, it's a theory). No high-profile presidential or governor race at the top of the ticket. The weather.
Just to remind you—Election Day was sunny, warm, and lovely. Just like today.
Usually, weather's an explanation for low turnout when it's raining or cold. As in—I can't get wet 'cause I just washed my hair.
Now, it's the nice-day explanation. As in—I was gonna vote, but I got the car washed instead.
At about nine, it's official. Munoz won big.
We head over to a community center in Bridgeport, where Mondragon's supporters have gathered to drown their sorrows in soda pop, beer, and chimichangas.
A word on those chimichangas: Mondragon's mom made them and they're delicious. I mean—really good! In fact, I'll go so far as to say these are the best chimichangas I've ever had. I think it's the raisins she puts in them. I have one, and then another. And soon I've had—I don't know—maybe ten.
Into the hall walks Joe Trutin, who was making his own upstart run in the second legislative district against the incumbent, state rep Edward Acevedo.
Speaking of yes votes on the CME handout: thanks for nothing, state rep Acevedo.
Trutin's a local guy—born and raised in Bridgeport. Sits on the local school council at a neighborhood school, goes to CAPS meetings, sponsors and coaches a little league team, and runs a video store at 3307 S. Archer.
He was up against what's left of the Daley Democratic machine in Bridgeport, which had supported Acevedo.
He got clobbered.
For the record, as far as I know Mayor Daley had no official position on the CME income tax handout. Though he did try to give CME a $15 million TIF handout.
Ultimately, CME turned down the TIF handout, largely because it would have required them to stay in Chicago, and not make good on their threat to leave the state unless they got the aforementioned multimillion dollar tax break.
And ordinary Chicago voters need a special reason to get out and vote?
Trutin's really upset by the turnout."They didn't vote," he says. "People who told me they were going to vote didn't vote. My people. People who were going to vote for me."
As he points out—it's hard enough to beat the Daley machine. But you sure can't beat the Daley machine if the people who say they're going to vote for you don't show up to vote.
"Have a chimichanga," I tell him. "It'll make you feel better."
He's too fired up to eat. So I have—oh—about three more. Anything to ease the pain of politics in Chicago.
"They were playing dirty tricks," he says. "Going door-to-door to tell people I'd dropped out of the race."
"Had you dropped out of the race?" I ask.
Word of the wise to any voter. Don't believe one side if they tell you the other side's dropped out of the race.
A husky guy wearing a White Sox jersey walks in. "Joe," he says, "I did what I could for you."
"Thanks," says Joe.
"The other guys told me—'give us a call, if things don't work out with Joe.'"
Translation: You'll never beat us, so you might as well join us.
The next day I give Mondragon and Trutin a call—just to see how they’re handling things.
"No regrets," says Mondragon. "I'm disappointed 'cause it sucks to lose and because there's so much apathy. But I'm glad I did it. You can't just give it to them—you know, let them take it without a fight."
Word, as the kids used to say.
As for Trutin?
"I'm still upset over the low turnout—it's ridiculous."
So why don't you just throw in the towel and join the Daleys?
"That makes no sense. The whole point of me running is that I'm upset at the way things are. Just going over to other side isn't going to change the way things are. So why would I do that?"
Good point. Maybe you'll get them next time around.