Reactions to the “Nasty Mailings” Commentary

(This week’s commentary is a bit unusual. It presents opinions that might be controversial within the Democratic Party. They do not represent any official position of the NTDO, our Committeeman or our membership. The opinions are solely my own — N.H.)

Last week, my NTD News commentary stirred up far more conversation than any other subject I’ve ever discussed. By now, it’s a good bet that everyone reading this has identified the political contest I obliquely referenced a week ago. It is the 17th District Illinois House race. And at this point it seems silly to continue using vague language.

When our State Rep. Laura Fine decided to run for Daniel Biss’ soon to be vacated 9th District Senate seat, the 17th House seat became open. The quality of the Democrats who quickly declared their candidacies for that office was very encouraging. It was one more sign that the Trump era is energizing an impressive new generation of future Democratic office holders.

These 17th District candidates– Mary Rita Luecke, Candance Chow, Peter Dagher,  Alexandra Eidenberg, and Jennifer Gong Gershowitz (who was endorsed by the NTDO’s membership at our Jan. 14 endorsement meeting) took on their roles as candidates with impressive energy.

Now, I know there is always some competitive slamming between office seekers in any closely fought political race. But from what I’ve learned of the personal lives and past activities of these candidates, all five are decent human beings who care about improving life for the people they hope to represent. Some were drawn into the pursuit of public service through their involvement with specific issues: education… women’s rights… gun violence. All admirable causes.

And here’s the thing, the NTDO has long encouraged smart caring people to step forward and run for offices at every level of government. Here in New Trier, we voters appreciate candidates who run on clearly stated positions with honest presentations. So, the appearance of sleazy, Machine-style mailings in support of one of the 17th’s candidates disturbed a lot of New Trier residents, including the NTD Executive Committee.

The March 7 commentary titled “Nasty Mailings” was my response. It generated some heated language between several of the candidates’ campaigns and their supporters. Some said, “the other guys ‘went negative’ first.” But that’s no justification for sleaze. Yes, giving voters negative information about an opponent, if it is factual, is part of the process. As they say, “politics ain’t beanbag.” But that doesn’t mean the accepted standard should now be mud-wrestling.

As part of this mess, it is no secret that Illinois’ Democratic Party Chairperson, Mike Madigan, has a strong hand in the funding of media for the candidates endorsed by the party. Also, his crew of media tacticians are the geniuses who choose the style of the campaign literature that is financed by the party’s PAC. These are the people directly behind the worst mailings.
A PAC-supported candidate should have no involvement in the creation of PAC funded advertising and mailings. So, it is quite possible that our endorsed candidate, Jennifer Gong Gershowitz, wasn’t aware of the content of the offensive mailings before they were launched. What is disappointing is that she didn’t disavow those mailings once they appeared. If Jennifer, a political campaign novice, had personally decided or had been advised to tell the PAC, “stop it now!” she would have impressed many voters. Ah well. C’est la vie.

But here’s the point I hope this week’s and last week’s commentary communicate. The issue that should concern us most is not about a campaign mistake made by a promising Democratic candidate. It’s about something much larger: The continued tolerance for the crude, truth-deficient communication that is the go-to tactic of “politicians without borders.” It’s the anything goes approach developed by guys with no scruples like the late Lee Atwater and the creepy Karl Rove. It’s the Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity disregard for facts. It’s the absence of information ethics championed by the disgraced Roger Ailes and his Fox News editors. And it’s the free-wheeling slanders of our crafty, if delusional, President Donald Trump. It’s a style of politics a lot of us (I think the vast majority) have grown to truly hate.

Apparently Mike Madigan’s creative team admires that messaging style. They not only inserted it in our local race but it’s showing up in a number of other Illinois campaigns supported by their PAC.

Overall, it has been heartening to see the dedicated campaigning of each of the 17th District’s candidates. Whatever the outcome of this political contest, I hold the hope that any intra-party rancor caused by the Madigan PAC mailings won’t discourage any of these engaged citizens from pursuing future public service. – I don’t think it will.

Full disclosure: Over the next few days I’ll be distributing door hangers with the full list of NTDO endorsed candidates, including Jennifer G.G. It’s not a problem for me. When it comes to almost every issue that I care about, I want Democrats elected.

So, if you haven’t yet voted, please don’t forget. And be sure to vote for the “down ticket” candidates too. Every race is important.

Nels Howard
NTDO member since 1973 

P.S.  One reason this NTD News was a bit late is because I stopped to watch the WTTW Q&A with J.B. Pritzker, Chris Kennedy and our endorsed candidate, Daniel Biss. — I thought he was great.



The NTDO wants to make it clear that any mailing that includes the NTDO in the list of fund sources under the “Paid for by Friends of JGG” heading is incorrect. The NTDO Executive Committee in response to the offensive PAC mailings supporting JGG, voted not to provide any of our organization’s funds for this effort. The inclusion of the NTDO’s name during printing was an error.


MWRD Commissioner Debra Shore has asked the NTD News to make a special effort to present the names of the the MWRD candidates that she hopes to have as partners on the board. They are all recommended by the NTDO leadership. Note: The Cam Davis write-in is extremely important because he must receive over 8000 write-ins to be elected. The voting machines allow you to type in his name. Remember it.

6 Year Term, Vote For 3
CANDIDATE NAME                                BALLOT #

Marcelino Garcia                                     61

X  Martin J. Durkan                                 64

2 Year Term(Unexpired Term), Vote For 1
CANDIDATE NAME                                BALLOT #

2 Year Term(Unexpired Term-Bradford Vacancy), Vote For 1

CANDIDATE NAME                               BALLOT #