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Proviso Probe

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Dear Rep. Danny Davis, please run for Lieutenant Governor

Dear Congressman Danny Davis,

Happy 68th birthday! I apologize that I'm not going to be able to attend your party, I have a scheduling conflict.

I'm sorry, but the only gift I have is to give you my two cents. Instead of running for either President of the Cook County Board or for re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives, you should run for Lieutenant Governor.

Your first reaction is probably that the idea of running for Lt. Gov. doesn't make sense. Conventional wisdom in politics holds that being in Congress is better than Lt. Gov. Bob Kustra seriously considered resigning as Lt. Gov. to be a radio talk show host, right?

I challenge you to put aside the attitudes of other people and think back to why you got involved in politics. The late Paul Wellstone said that politics is about improving people's lives. I aspire that my activism will make a difference, and despite any differences I have with you, I believe you began in politics for all the right reasons. You wanted to leverage the power of politics to uplift the people.

I'm going to call it like I see it. I apologize if I snub your ego. I think you've gotten frustrated with Congress. You feel like there's not much difference you can make there. You feel like you aren't getting the respect you deserve.

You got to Congress at an awkward time. The old warhorses of the Black Caucus were established. A bunch of new members were elected as a result of the remap based on the 1990 census. They were all senior to you. And the younger Black Caucus members, elected since you arrive in Congress in 1997, have more energy and ambition. If Cardiss Collins would have retired ten years earlier you'd be much more in the leadership of the Black Caucus and in Congress.

Why Lt. Gov?

I'm impressed with your interest and focus on ex-offender reentry. You've been the leader in Congress on the issue. And the system does have a number of barriers to getting employment that aren't officially part of sentencing and punishment.

The ex-offender bill you passed in Congress probably is about as far as Congress is willing to go at this point.

But you've raised valid points about the various professional licenses that are arbitrarily denied to ex-felons. However, licensing is a state issue.

Picture yourself devoting your time to getting all those laws repealed or modified.

I once asked someone knowledgeable about politics what job he'd like in politics. He said Vice President of the United States because you can do what you like and aren't really responsible for any problems. Lt. Gov. is the same way. If it's useful to be in Springfield, go to Springfield and do what needs to be done. Otherwise you can work out of a Chicago office.

I'd also like you to apply sustained pressure to Attorney General Lisa Madigan on the issue of Taser stun guns. Are cops using them gratuitously? Are police disproportionately using stun guns on African-Americans and Latinos? Poor people? Are some police departments using stun guns much more aggressively than other police departments?

The issues facing Cook County suck. They're big. They're intractable. The President supervises a vast number of people. And s/he interacts with lots and lots of people, including a whole bunch of elected officials. Some of those people are petty, self-absorbed assholes who you won't be able to fire. It's a demanding job.

In 2006, you told the Democratic Committeemen of Cook County you wanted the job because you didn't want to travel to DC every week. Congressman Davis, being President of the Cook County Board isn't like holding a seat on the Board of Review. It's not a job for a person looking to be home for dinner every day.

You're 68 years old. You'll be 69 ½ when you assume office as President. Most of your first term will be after your 70th birthday. Do you want to be fighting with the State's Attorney over budget issues? Dealing with Cook County jail? Managing the county's legislative interests in Springfield and DC? It's a huge job. Will you have the energy to do it right?

Back to Lt. Gov.... If you run for Lt. Gov. it will be a move that will be remembered, because you let go of the more prestigious job so that you could accomplish something that will make a difference in people's lives.

I don't want to be snotty or disrespectful, but your career in Congress has been lackluster. (I mostly attribute this to 1997 being a horrible time to start and that you would have done better if you were younger when you were first elected.) You haven't made any huge gaffes, but you haven't passed any big bills either.

Run for Lt. Gov. Use it as a platform to advance issues and pass legislation that removes barriers to ex-offenders re-entering society. The work on ex-offenders is where you've made your mark. If you cap your career with major legislation at the state level, you will be remembered as someone who made a difference in people's lives. Running for Lt. Gov. will show that you had the self-confidence to resist conventional wisdom, run for the lower prestige office because that's where you could accomplish something important.


Carl Nyberg

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  • Carl,

    I wholeheartedly support this proposition for all the reasons you enlisted. I absolutely love Danny Davis. He cares about people and is passionate about politics. I wil never forget his early support for then-state senator Barack Obama in his run for the U.S. Senate.

    John Presta

    By Blogger Reading on Walden BookStore, at 6:39 PM, September 09, 2009  

  • Re: Madison on Tasers

    France's Attorney General has withdrawn municipal police permits to use Tasers throughout the country, without comment or prejudice. The Superintendent of Police in Queensland Australia has issued a review on Taser use after a 39 year old man died after being shocked 28 times in an incident in June.

    By Blogger IAmACamera, at 11:13 AM, September 10, 2009  

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