From books to booths to boards: The re-election of Carolyn Newberry Schwartz

? Longtime friends and book club members organized, canvassed voters and dropped literature to re-elect the D97 board vice president.

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Some book clubs are serious, others more social. But doubtless the most political one in Oak Park just helped resoundingly re-elect Carolyn Newberry Schwartz to the District 97 Board of Education.

Ten couples?#34;including fellow Dist. 97 board member Dan Burke and his wife?#34;have been friends for years. The book club has met almost 20 years. Some members' friendships go back to kindergarten.

Of the 130 people working on her campaign, all but two members of the campaign inner circle?#34;"kitchen cabinet," as Newberry Schwartz calls them?#34;belong to the book club. Many are or were journalists.

Campaign manager Dan Lesser has volunteered on campaigns since high school, having grown up in Evanston.

"He thinks through every issue on every side," Newberry Schwartz said.

For Lesser, the challenge is clear: get the word out to as many people as possible, targeting probable voters where you can. The Newberry Schwartz campaign pooled resources with those of Peter Barber and Kathy Tortorice because "no campaign has enough resources to cover" the 450 blocks in Oak Park "in a good way," Lesser said.

But he admits that getting the word out isn't the end of it, and the structure created for Newberry Schwartz isn't transferable to other candidates or future elections. Tortorice was not elected. It's not a machine.

"We don't have machine-type voters in Oak Park," Lesser said.

Newberry Schwartz had 125 individual donors, something unheard of in a local campaign, Lesser said. The campaign raised $11,000, mostly in $50 and $100 installments. Newberry Schwartz and her husband gave $600. She said they came in under budget and would donate the remainder to a school-related charity.

What is it about Newberry Schwartz that garners so much enthusiasm?

"Nobody is ever going to outwork her," Lesser said. He also called her a "straight shooter," and said she's able to "size up different interests around an issue."



Below is a selected list of books read by the book group that made up the lion's share of Carolyn Newberry Schwartz's "kitchen cabinet" of campaign advisors. The group has been meeting for about 20 years.

The club once was serious, just check out some of the books it tackled. "It's now more of an excuse for people to get together" every other month, Dan Lesser said. Newberry Schwartz and  Lesser admitted to not having time to read the latest selection, King of the World by David Remnick, a Muhammad Ali biography. The group will attend a Golden Gloves women's boxing tournament on April 22 in conjunction with reading the book.

? Moby Dick?#34;Herman Melville
? Middle March?#34;George Eliot
? The Moviegoer?#34;Walker Percy
? Crossing to Safety?#34;Wallace Stegner
? The Sound and the Fury?#34;William Faulkner
? Call it Sleep?#34;Henry Roth
? Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
? The Progress of Love?#34;Alice Munro
? Crime and Punishment?#34;Fyodor Dostoyevsky
? The Shipping News?#34;E. Annie Proulx
? The Optimist's Daughter?#34;Eudora Welty
? The Tipping Point: How Small Things Can Make a Big Difference?#34;Malcolm Gladwell
? Baltasar and Blimunda?#34;Jose Saramago
? The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors and the Collision of Two Cultures ?#34;Anne Fadiman
?#34;Drew Carter

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