On January 13, 2009, I was excited to go and see a real caucus in Aurora, Il. The Aurora Township Democrats were holding a caucus to determine who would be the party's nominees in the April 7th election. I had never been to a caucus. I had friends who had been to Iowa and so visions of people standing in corners and rowdy debates filled my head.
It was to bad that it was to be such a cluster-fuck. Many of the people organizing the caucus clearly had no idea what to do and were incompetent at organizing a very simple meeting, which allowed it to descend into chaos.
It was held at the local Plumbers and Pipe-fitters union hall. It was a decent sized crowd, with about 300 people in attendance. I sat with a group of volunteers I knew from the Laesch for Congress 2008 campaign. I was disappointed to find out that the caucus was not going to be organized the way Iowa presidential caucuses are. Instead it was going to be done on paper with rounds of voting after each set of candidates spoke. The candidates would speak, then people would go into another room where they would be given their voting sheets, they would cast their vote and return to the main room. It was a mess. People were getting confused, and questions were raised about the validity of the process.
The first position was the Aurora Township Supervisor. There were four candidates Annie Craig, Paul Greviskes, Christina Campos and Bonnie Lee Kunkel. They each gave a short speech before the floor was opened for debate. One measure was to have a run off vote for the position. It passed. Thus setting the stage for the ugly fiasco that was to occur.
I asked a question about the candidates support for labor and what they would do in the position to support unions. Only Greviskes had a decent answer. He had been a member of the United Auto Workers before becoming a lawyer and discussed some of the ways the Aurora Township Supervisor could support union workers.
I liked Greviskes' answer, but a number of my friends at the caucus had nothing but bad things to say about him. They said that he sued a Laesch supporter, that he prevented discussion in Township board meetings by shouting down other board members like Bonnie Kunkel.
I cast my vote for Greviskes though, unsure if it would even matter. It turns out it would.
I was talking with a number of the people at the meeting and missed the speeches of the Highway Commissioner candidates. I was able to talk to them while voting was taking place. Tim Beaird seemed like a nice union activist, but John Shoemaker seemed like he knew more about the position, and had investigated environmentally safe ways of patching up potholes. I went to cast my vote for Shoemaker, but was informed that the polls had closed and I wasn't allowed to cast it. Talk about a mess.
The caucus was preparing to conduct the second round of voting for the Township Supervisor position, when all hell broke loose. It was announced that the run-off would contain two candidates, Greviskes and Campos. All my friends told me that Greviskes was bad news, but they also told me that Campos was being controlled by other people.
However it turns out that another candidate, Annie Craig, was being excluded by a razor thin single vote. That alone would usually lead to some drama. There was a vote in question though. There was a person who voted for Campos whose voting record originally showed a split ticket, meaning they had voted both Democratic and Republican. The Township Democrats claimed that they isolated the vote for Campos by this voter in question, made a call to the Board of Elections to verify their status, and that the Board of Election told them that this person in question was actually a straight Democratic voter, before they included the vote in the tally for the first round of voting. Several people were skeptical of this, and felt that Craig was being excluded unfairly.
I found the whole process ridiculous and left without casting a ballot in the second round of voting. I heard that the meeting went until 1 am with threats of lawsuits and lots of bad blood. I wasn't really that impressed the Aurora Township Democrats. But then again, for someone as left as I am, it's hard to impress me.