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Proviso Probe

Thursday, April 12, 2007

POL, how Welch's state rep campaign influenced the Proviso First Party campaign [7th REP, D209]

Yesterday I had an epiphany about the Proviso First school board campaign. With the exception of the campaign message it's the same campaign—tactically—that Welch ran a year ago for school board.

  • The campaign is using District 209 employees to place yardsigns.
  • Danielle-Ashley is designing the mailings.
  • In fact, the attack mailing against Theresa Kelly has the same lay-out as the attack mailing against Karen Yarbrough.
  • The supporting cast members are still the same: Brian Cross and Emily Robinson.
  • The campaign is withholding financial disclosures undisclosures until after deadline of newspapers so it won't be revealed until after the election.

The message of the school board campaign is different from the state rep campaign. I didn't think the message of the Welch state representative campaign was done well, but it was a positive message.

Welch ran as the guy who succeeded in building the magnet school that people had talked about for years. He also took some standard liberal positions combined with “get tough on crime” positions. And he made an attempt to attack Yarbrough for voting “present” on some legislation.

Without rehashing the entire state representative campaign all pieces of Welch's message fell flat. He neither prepared the audience for the attack on the “present” votes nor followed up on the attack. His standard liberal positions didn't contrast with Yarbrough. His “get tough on crime” stuff was privately ridiculed because Welch has a significant number of friends, relatives and political allies who have had their encounters with law enforcement and other authorities for the same offenses Welch claimed to be getting tough about.

And then there was the magnet school. I believe Chris Welch was and is proud of pushing the creation of PMSA. Welch succeeded where Mike Manzo, an earlier school board president, failed.

However, what Welch saw as “breaking a few eggs to make an omellette” much of the community saw as graft, kickbacks, elitism and trampling democratic processes. When Welch tied himself to the magnet school he was hurting his campaign more than helping. PMSA hasn't built a positive reputation yet. Welch didn't seem to understand that schools establish themselves by their academic reputations, not the buildings and physical infrastructure. And this failure to understand what a good school is shows in how Welch governs Proviso Township High Schools as president of the board of education.

State Representative Karen Yarbrough did the usual things to campaign for Democratic votes, but her most effective tool in the campaign was going negative on Welch. This type of campaigning grew out of Yarbrough's history of campaigning against Eugene Moore and his proxies. (Moore is an ally of Welch's.) But going negative against Welch was inevitable.

A whole bunch of people hated Welch. Welch practiced an extreme version of scorched earth politics at the local level. He sued his critics—like me—for defamation and he was associated with firing a significant number of people at District 88 (Bellwood and Stone Park elementary schools) and Proviso Township High Schools. Welch was a pioneer in using bad-faith defamation suits and an extreme practioner of the most vindictive “to the victor go the spoils” politics.

The people who gravitated to Yarbrough to help her in the state rep campaign hated Welch. And as far as they were concerned the more suffering and humiliation Yarbrough and her campaign inflicted on Welch the better.

Since Welch's defeat—which was pretty humiliating given that he spent well over $100,000—Welch hasn't changed how he governs. If Welch grew as a person from the loss he probably would have tried to make amends with his political adversaries and been less confrontational. But other than avoiding the bad-faith defamation lawsuits, Welch hasn't changed how he behaves.

I suspect that the lesson Welch learned from getting wupped was that negative campaigning works. And he learned that people don't like corruption.

So the Proviso First Party is campaigning against low test scores, patronage, deficit spending, junkets, etc. This goes beyond ironic. Welch is trying to get at least one person from his slate elected by making them appear to be campaigning against a corrupt and inept status quo. In reality Welch's political organization is supporting the Provios First Party for one purpose: so Welch can maintain his board majority.

The message of the Proviso First Party goes beyond simple dishonesty to outright prevarication. Welch is hoping that media outlets focused on village races will give the mendacity of the Proviso First Party mailings a pass.

I wouldn't call it genius, but it's about the best Welch can do given the cards he has to play. I doubt it will succed in getting any of his candidates elected, but it is causing anti-Welch voters to consider supporting Welch's candidates. Seriously, I met a Forest Park woman who is active in local politics and she was duped by the Proviso First Party mailing.

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  • I agree with your assesment, but you forgot to mention the Influence by Gene Moore and as well as Ben Mazzulla's influence,along with Jesse Martinez and Joe Burdi, who have assisted Welch's canididates with walkers and money, and have been attending all his political meetings with Welch at the PMSA!

    By Anonymous Moore,Mazzulla,Martinez and Burdi working with Welch, at 8:12 PM, April 12, 2007  

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