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Friday, April 12

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Gery Chico

Gery Chico is a genuinely good guy and a staunch Democrat. Formerly the chief of schools -- a fact which has occasionally hurt his campaign -- as well as a top aide to Mayor Daley, Chico is very intelligent and well-informed about all aspects of policy. He has a charming, quick and ruthless wit (it was he who embarrassed Jack Ryan at the NAACP debates in October and may therefore be singly responsible for Ryan's refusal to bi-laterally debate anybody). He is also very well connected in the Cook County Democratic Machine. It doesn't hurt that he looks pretty snappy in those glasses.

Chico hoped to carve out a significant part of the traditional Cook County Democratic Party due to his ties to the Daley administration, win the Latino vote, and use his record with the schools to win enough support in the rest of the state. His hopes were more or less dashed when Maria Pappas entered the race and crushed anybody outside of Dan Hynes' hopes of winning a significant portion of Cook County. The most recent poll, conducted by CBS, shows him with a paltry 9 precent of the vote, significantly trailing Hynes, Hull, Obama, and Pappas, who came in at a dead heat of 19-20 percent each.

Chico's poor showing in that poll could be due to several factors, including his lack of name recognition outside of Chicago. More so, having once been the President of Chicago's public schools isn't exactly an endorsement for most voters: Chicago's schools were among the worst in the nation when he headed them; whether that was his fault or not is irrelevant. Under Chico's direction the schools did, in fact, improve, but not considerably. Chico has also been accused of politicking on the job while a partner at Altheimer & Gray, which (supposedly) lead to the near collapse of that firm. So when he comes out and says, "I headed CPS and Altheimer & Gray," his opponents have tended to point out, “Yeah, and they both failed miserably."

Outside of his history, though, Chico is in fact a strong candidate. He is the only Latino running and his energy, experience, and intelligence make him similar to Barack Obama, with the important difference that his name is more manageable, and his personality much more affable. Chico has issued some of the most comprehensive and well-thought out policy papers of anybody running. Unfortunately, his past is not so easy to erase and that makes him very susceptible not only in the primary but also in the general election—electability will be a very important issue on March 16th. By the way, that's when the primary is -- March 16th. Are you registered yet? Because you should go register. Now.

As stated above, Chico is a staunch Democrat. Even while debating his foes at the NAACP debates in October, Chico couldn't help but show his support for their ideas and policies while snipping at the very white, very male Republican group. He was one of the first of the Chicago-model Democrats, the so-called "City Manager Democrat." In other words, his policy ideas are all very pragmatic, socially liberal and fiscally conservative. He falls very much in line with the DNC line on many issues but skews more towards fiscally sound policies that rely on business community involvement rather than blanket government spending.

Just the Facts:

Born: Illinois.

Marital Status: Married

Ethnicity/Race: Latino

B.A., Political Science, University of Illinois 
J.D., Loyola-Chicago

1992-95, Chief of Staff for Richard M. Daley, Mayor
1995-99, President, Chicago Public Schools
2000-2002, Partner, Altheimer & Gray
2002-Present, Partner, Arnstein & Lehr

Official Website:

The Issues:

The Economy: Chico's biggest push for economic renewal is re-investment into infrastructure. He also wants a complete rollback of Bush's tax cuts.

Healthcare: Chico supports single-payer, universal healthcare.

Education: Chico is very active in education, obviously, and feels his record in CPS is a good one (indeed, scores did improve each year under his watch). He opposed school vouchers and feels No Child Left Behind has been a dismal failure. His plan for education is remarkably sophisticated and imaginative. I can't do it justice in this space; you really should go to his website and read the truncated version.

Foreign Policy/War on Terror: It is not clear how Chico felt about the invasion of Iraq, but his foreign policy stand is one that supports multi-lateralism and commitment to cooperation with the United Nations and other international regimes, such as the Kyoto Protocol. He has also issued a very in-depth policy paper on the PATRIOT Act and the conduct of Homeland Security in general. He really hates the PATRIOT Act, by the way.

Abortion: Chico is pro-choice.

Affirmative Action/Gay Marriage: Chico is a supporter of affirmative action, at least in principal. He has lobbied strongly for gay rights issues and supports protection for gay domestic partnerships.


Joyce Washington

Joyce Washington is a self-made woman and tireless activist for the improvement of healthcare. Her indefatigable work in that area convinced Rod Blagojevich to draft her into his gubernatorial campaign, which was key to helping get him elected. She also headed up his healthcare task force. She is also a very snappy dresser and impressive speaker. She closes all of her appearances with a great rhetorical device: "Send a _____ to Washington, send a _____ to Washington, send a _____ to Washington, send Washington to Washington!"

Unfortunately, her campaign has not picked up much steam and her war chest in limited. It would not be surprising if she dropped out of the race and backed one of the other candidates. Some have speculated, in fact, that the only reason she has hung in this long is to spite Barack Obama.

Originally from Tennessee, Washington earned her degree in nursing in Illinois and rose to the top of the healthcare industry from the very bottom, beginning as a candy-striper. She is a woman to be admired, but her nomination is a very iffy proposition. In the latest polls, she barely escaped the margin of error.


Nancy Skinner

Nancy Skinner is a rare breed -- a successful liberal radio personality. She is a real firebrand and a nationally respected thinker in Democratic circles. She's also something of a looker. In any case, Skinner's campaign, which should have been at least a spoiler given her media experience, has picked up absolutely no momentum. She performed well at the NAACP debates last October, but has not parlayed that into success among voters. Her campaign is sloppy and moving in spurts and starts. In the latest poll she was unable to crack the margin of error, thereby giving her virtually zero percent of the vote.

Skinner may be the most carefree liberal of the bunch, but not unflinchingly or unthinkingly, the way many middle-class, guilt-prone white people are liberal. Her policy position are well thought out and realistic. She is also quite energetic -- she organized a group to seek free-market solution to emissions/pollution issues, and successfully lobbied the White House to provide federal support for flood victims by unifying several government agencies and regulations. Her educational background is in business, specifically finance which makes her rare in Democratic circles (only Pappas, Blair Hull, and Skinner have strong backgrounds in business). This background has also given Skinner a good basis from which to formulate policy.

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Seth Zurer / January 28, 2004 10:21 AM

Thanks for the reports ... is this series of profiles going to finish with an endorsement?

And when are you going to tell the well-meaning interweb liberals of chicago what to make of this whole truck mess? Can it be that our beloved mayor and his city hall are involved in inappropriate distribution of city contracts and tacit endorsement of malingering by cronies? I am aghast.

Ramsin / January 28, 2004 10:50 AM

Yes, this series will in fact end with an endorsement.

And the article on Daley and the truck fiasco is in the works. Thanks for reading, Seth!

Alice / January 28, 2004 8:07 PM

Yay! I was wondering the same thing(s).

Joseph J. Finn / January 29, 2004 10:44 AM

Skinner may be the most carefree liberal of the bunch, but not unflinchingly or unthinkingly, the way many middle-class, guilt-prone white people are liberal.

Needless and pointless slam in an otherwise well writeen profile.

Pete / February 2, 2004 3:48 PM

Re the truck-leasing scandal, to paraphrase Captain Renault from "Casablanca": I'm shocked, shocked to find that politicial cronyism is going on in here!

jw / February 25, 2004 2:02 AM

Gery deserves more credit for cleaning up the schools and for having a fairly detailed education platform.


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