By Dan Haley
One of the best things about a contested election in a small town is the campaign "names list." Who, among those you sit in church with, jaw with on the soccer sidelines, knew their uncle, dated their sister, saw quoted in the Journal, is backing whom?
The early line is out in River Forest where John Rigas, the sitting village president, is taking early retirement and two current members of the fairly collegial village board are facing off to replace him. That both Cathy Adduci and Michael Gibbs ran alongside Rigas four years ago made his support a topic of interest.
Well, the matter was settled last week when Gibbs and his slate of trustee candidates — Pride in River Forest is the name of their party — sent us a press release about their "well-attended campaign party." The slate attached the list of locals who had signed on to the campaign's steering committee. Where? Where? OK, there, it is. John Rigas is helping to steer Gibbs.
I sent an email to President Rigas asking if his campaign role effectively represents his endorsement of Gibbs. It was, he said, an endorsement of not just Gibbs but of the entire slate of newcomers to elected office.
"I am supporting the 'Pride in River Forest' team. I think all of the candidates in this group bring unique qualities and experiences to the board.
"With regard to the presidential race, I was put in an awkward position as both Mike and Cathy supported me and were a part of our team that ran together. I wish they both would remain on the board. However, they have elected to run against each other. I am supporting Mike because I believe his lifelong experience of living in Oak Park and River Forest gives him an advantage in understanding the community and its history. It is no secret that Mike is a close friend."
Rigas citing Gibbs' lifelong roots in the sister villages as an election advantage didn't sit well with everybody. One commenter at OakPark.com admitted she is an interloper, having lived in town for only 15 years, but she noted that by Rigas' logic any slate should simply choose the village's oldest living resident as their candidate.
Now I don't claim to know all the alliances, friendships and blood connections within River Forest's tight circles. But other notable names on Gibbs' 44-member steering committee were the Ruggieros, the Shakers and Dan Watts.
Cathy Adduci was not far behind in issuing her "Citizens for Cathy" list of supporters, but before she got to the roll call, she noted that "River Forest residents are smart, independent thinkers who value experience and qualifications when it comes to leading the village board." Might just have been a couple of veiled references in that sentence.
So who's backing Adduci seven weeks out from the April 9 election? Her early list topped 60 people and notable to me were fellow trustee Susan Conti, two OPRF High School board members in John Phelan and Amy McCormack, former village trustee Russ Nummer and the Lucchesis, Ron and Carlotta.
We've posted the full lists on our new Local Elections blog at OakPark.com. Maybe you're more skilled at the local version of Kremlinology and, if so, drop me a note.
In the meantime the campaign is underway.