Will Third Candidate Be Stalking Horse?


As this is written, Park Ridge is looking at only its second contested mayoral election in more than two decades, with incumbent Mayor Howard “the Coward” Frimark and Ald. Dave Schmidt (1st Ward) already announced and campaigning.  But last week’s Park Ridge Journal reported some additional intrigue, as an unidentified woman showed up at City Hall to pick up not one but two nominating packets.

From our years of watching Park Ridge government and politics, we know that many things are not as they appear on the surface.  That’s why somebody anonymously picking up two candidate’s packets a scant couple of weeks before the filing deadline raises a number of questions, especially where there already are two mayoral candidates who have staked out positions which provide the voters with some pretty clear choices.

So we’re going to take a page out of the kinky political playbook of our neighboring community, Daley-ville, and rhetorically pose the most fundamental (albeit compound) political question to that mystery woman: “Who are you, and who sent you?”

That’s an important question because a third candidate entering into an already-contested mayoral race will inevitably take votes away from one candidate or the other – which is why the kinky political tactic is for an existing candidate, usually the incumbent, to welcome into the race a third candidate (known as a “stalking horse”) whose positions will align more closely with the opponent’s and thereby divide voters hostile to the incumbent into two minorities which will be easier for the incumbent to defeat, often with less than 50% of the vote.

The fact that the mystery woman took out two nominating packets, however, is unusual because it is unlikely that two candidates competing for the same office would send in one person to get their packets.  Instead, it suggests that each of the two packets was for a different race; i.e., one was for mayor and the other for city clerk. And that suggests the possibility of a return of the Homeowners Party, or perhaps a clone of it operating under a different name.

The Homeowners (or “HO,” for short) Party was founded in the 1970s and led for almost two decades by the late Park Ridge mayor and state senator Marty Butler.  Under his leadership, the Party actually stood for something [pdf]: preserving the residential character of our community, maintaining a level of excellence in our infrastructure and services, protecting our homes and businesses, the tight control of spending for maximum effectiveness at a reasonable cost, and accepting responsibility for the results of their stewardship.

But by the time of Butler’s death in 1998, the Homeowners Party had become unfocused, complacent and irrelevant – ignoring Butler’s founding principles and becoming more of a social club where who you knew was more important than what you knew and believed.  And with titular party leader, then-Mayor Ron Wietech, obsessing over all things O’Hare and ignoring most else, by the April 2003 election the voters had had enough.

They rejected five of the six Homeowners candidates involved in contested races: Anita Rifkind garnered only 32% of the vote in the 1st Ward; Brian Kidd, 14% in the 4th; incumbent Steve Huening, 28% in the 5th, Vince Fontana, 47% in the 6th; and Steve Henley, 17% in the 7th.  The only HO to win a contested race that year was incumbent Rich DiPietro (2nd Ward), whose margin of victory was a slim 21 votes out of a meager 575 cast.   

After that, the remnants of the Homeowners Party basically went underground and have not run a slate of candidates since.  But the Illinois State Board of Elections reports that the HO organization – known officially as the “Homeowners Campaign Committee” and overseen by Chairman (and former Park Ridge alderman and Dist. 207 board member) J. Roger Crawford and Treasurer John Heerman – still had almost $16,000 in its account as of its latest public filing [pdf].

In recent weeks rumors have been floating around that some of the HOs have been meeting and re-organizing, with the goal of fielding a mayoral candidate.  Illinois election law (as we understand it), however, requires that any party wishing to run a candidate in a local election must also field candidates for all other offices for the applicable governmental body appearing on that ballot.  So for the HOs to field a mayoral candidate, they would also have to field a candidate for City Clerk.  That could explain the two nominating packets. 

As a further sign of the oblique nature of local political alliances, back in 2003 the HOs picked Kidd over Frimark for 4th ward alderman despite Frimark’s having been a long-time HO who had even donated $450 worth of “Packers Game Tickets” back in 2001.  And in looking at the HOs’ financial reports for the last two campaigns in which they ran a slate of candidates – 2001 [pdf] and 2003 [pdf] – you’ll see names of HO contributors (e.g., Crawford, DiPietro, Huening, James Davlin, Dawn Disher, Owen Hayes and John Kerin) which also turned up in Frimark’s 2005 mayoral campaign finance reports [pdf].  That would indicate Frimark and the HOs have buried whatever hatchet may have been laying around since 2003.

So if another mayoral candidate does enter the race in the waning hours before the filing deadline, it might be worth asking him/her a variation of the question we addressed to the mystery woman who picked up those two candidate’s packets last week: “Who are you, and why are you running?”

Because we think the chances are pretty good that such a candidate very well may be a HO, either in full HO regalia or camouflaged to avoid any residual HO antipathy that may still be in the air.  And because we’re pretty sure that such a candidate, whether HO or faux, is far more likely to be a stalking horse for taking votes away from challenger Schmidt than to be the second coming of Marty Butler. 

3 comments so far

Not that it matters but I thought Frimark Insurance was on Busse HWY.

Funny my grandparents lived at a condo at 1301 Touhy.

Anyway how come Bulter decided to become a senator?

He would of been 67 at the time and while it probably really doesn’t matter it seems like a dramatic change and I would wouldn’t of expected most at that age would.


Frimark’s insurance headquarters is now located on Northwest Hwy. But I understand Frimark has a “satellite office” at 505 Butler Pl. too.

If a third candidate jumps into the race, you can be sure its a stalking horse for Frimark. The “what’s in it for us” types don’t want Schmidt at all.

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