By Jim Bowman
Danny Davis faced a challenger in the March primary -- River Forester Dan Roche, 38, husband, father of two, nine years in counter-terrorism with the CIA, currently heading anti-terrorism worldwide for CME (was Chicago Mercantile Exchange), smart, photogenic, fourth-generation Oak Parker by birth, a Fenwick High alum.
Chi Mag writer Carol Felsenthal thought he "seemed to have a pretty good campaign going" over three months -- until Jan. 10, when he called to tell her he was dropping out as a candidate, his nominating petititions unrelentingly challenged by a Davis worker until it became clear to Roche and his lawyers that he was running out of money.
"The process was becoming too costly," he told Felsenthal. "They [even] challenged my wife's signature." The idea, he had told supporters, "was to waste our time and money [at] hearing after hearing at the Board of Elections, requiring full preparation of election lawyers and paid staff." He couldn't afford it. Danny Davis won. He had more money and a winning strategy. Not a ballot was counted.
Felsenthal had not seen it coming:
Roche had some savvy people working for him, and more interns than he could use. He was raising some money ($50-75,000 in two months, he says, and the same in "commitments"), and he claims that he was accumulating endorsements from "suburban officials" and Chicago alderman, but he won't name names.
Roche [thinks] Davis saw him as a real threat, as "a viable alternative. I have a history of public service, fourth generation in the area, business experience, enthusiasm and energy and the potential to raise real money."
I asked Roche if he'd run again in the 7th—he absolutely rules out moving his family to another district. He called the result of his short campaign "disheartening," but said "I would be remiss if I didn't consider running again."
His war on terror time:
He comes back often to his 9-year service, much of it "in harm's way," abroad, in the CIA. He joined right after 9/11, working in "counterterrorism analysis and operations. I know government service [he said] and it's not the commuter flight between Reagan and O'Hare.
Right now I'm just a citizen, which seems a pretty good thing," Roche says. "I've been in some lousy, lousy places overseas."
He could be back in a year or so. He'd be "remiss," he said. We could hear more from him.
Consider this first-time tactic by Davis, who I think has a feeling 'way down deep that he could not stand up to a credible opponent. His Malcolm X College performance on Aug. 22, 2009 -- "Danny Davis: Damn the cost, full speed ahead" -- is a case in point:
To an audience salted with "public option" signs, he had only to mention "public option" and people stood and applauded. The preacher who opened the meeting put public option into his prayer, just before naming Jesus, presumably as one who would endorse it.
Davis himself pulled out the stops with: "No matter the cost, quality health care should be provided for every citizen." Not non-citizen, notice: that's for the Puerto Rican Chicago congressman to say; it's everyone to his own constituency.
"Every time I hear the cost is too much," Davis continued, in full cry, "I am reminded of [black liberationist] Frederick Douglass" and what he said about abolition of slavery. "There's always a reason" not to do what's right, Davis quoted, adding his own "as the insurance companies won't like it, the medical supplies companies won't like it."
Douglass said opponents of abolition, "deprecate agitation" and (employing one of several metaphors) "want the ocean without the roar of its mighty waters." But "one thing is for sure," Davis said, again quoting Douglass, "you won't get all you pay for, but you will pay for everything you get," apparently referring to the current struggle over health care reform but collaterally and unintentionally endorsing town-hall protests coast to coast opposing it.
"No price is too high for quality health care," Davis said again, apparently absolving himself of fiscal responsibility as to mounting deficits and inflation and rising tax rates.
In Chicago, the 7th District includes all or part of the community areas of Austin,Chinatown (Armour Square), Douglas, East Garfield Park, Englewood,Fuller Square, Bronzeville (Grand Boulevard), Humboldt Park, Kenwood,Loop, Near North Side, Near South Side, Near West Side, North Lawndale,Oakland, Washington Park, West Englewood, West Garfield Park and West Town.
Quite a swath. Out of River Forest by way of Oak Park came a credible challenger, whom Davis dispatched with ease. Next time or next challenger, things might be different.