When I ran for McHenry County Treasurer in the 1966 Republican Party Primary Election, I knocked on doors of Republican Precinct Committeemen.
I think it was Ted Stern (who owned Stern’s Woods and a basket shop where the Crystal Lake City Hall parking lot is now located and which had a steady flow of customers, few of whom walked out with a basket) who told that 23-year old to wait a while.
Of course, I had quite my job at the U.S. Bureau of the Budget, so that wasn’t an option.
Another Precinct Committee told me I would be eaten alive by the County Board.
When I knocked on the door of Ross Kitchen on Marengo’s west side, he said he’d have to check.
Then he remembered.
He wasn’t working for Secretary of State Charles Carpenter anymore.
He wasn’t a patronage employee who had to find out whom his patron was supporting.
He was working for the Chrysler Plant in fire protection.
He no longer had to check to see whom he could support.
He ended up supporting me, as did his father, the Marengo Township Assessor.
I came within a handful of votes of carrying Marengo Township and won the county by 72 votes (277 vote spread in a three-candidate race).
So, my point is that patronage is pretty much dead.
That’s thanks to Chicago attorney Michael Shakman, who filed the landmark case when he lost his 1971 race for Constitutional Convention Delegate.
There were volunteers in the 1960’s.
I remember Boots Davis, a petite lady, to whom the retiring Republican County Party Chairman Chuck Miller (the Chuck Miller the McHenry road is named for) directed me when I knocked on his door on the way to the McHenry Country Club.
She was inspired by the 1964 Goldwater campaign.
She was a conservative, of course, but I remember one conversation in which we were discussing political corruption when I asked, “Is it more important that a politician be conservative or honest?”
“Honest,” she replied.
So, what’s the point to this discussion of patronage and volunteer Precinct Committeemen.
There are still Precinct Committeemen who hold office because they hold or seek a paying job.
Township and county governments come to mind.
But, most McHenry County Precinct Committeemen–both Republican and Democratic–are driven my ideology.
Getting (or keeping) a government job is not the reason they run for Precinct Committeeman.
Many are inspired by ideology, as Boots Davis was in 1996.
Some come from the Tea Party movement.
A woman I met at the 2011 Tea Party demonstration you see above became the first one elected a Precinct Committeeman.
“What else can I do?” she asked.
“Run for Republican Precinct Committeeman.” I replied.
She did and so can you.
Filing for Precinct Committeeman, both Republican and Democrat started Monday. It continues until November 30th.
It takes a minimum of ten signatures to get on the ballot, however, I recommend getting twice that number just to make sure there are ten “good,” that is, register voter, signers. Be sure to number the petitions are the bottom and put them in consecutive order.
Petitions may be found on the McHenry County Clerk’s web site here.
Before filing one’s petition, one needs to fill out a Statement of Candidacy, which can be found here.
One needs to sign both the petition and the Statement of Candidacy in front of a notary public. They can be found at local banks, real estate and lawyer’s offices
Staple all three sheets of paper together with the Statement of Candidacy on top. Do not use paper clips, because people have gotten kicked off the ballot for not having the petitions and statement securing attached to one another.
Then, take your petition packet to the County Clerk’s Office. (It could be mailed, but it has to arrive by Monday at 5 PM when the Clerk’s Office closes.)
As a Precinct Committeeman, you can have an impact on your community.
Most Committeeman distribute letters recommending their favorite candidates.
I do so every election. (There are four every two years, although in 2017, there may be a fourth if you live in a larger township where there is a primary election for township office.)
Precinct Committeemen also select party leaders. There is a County Convention for each party at which officers are elected.
At the Republican Convention last time, for the first time since at least 1958, a chairman, Sandra Salgado, was elected who was not part of what might be called the “Old Guard” or the “Establishment.”
Both the newcomers and the faction that controlled the County GOP since at least the 1950’s are assiduously recruiting people to run for Precinct Committeeman.
If you believe the seat of power resides in the Party organizations, as I do, I encourage you to run for this bottom of the pyramid office.