State Senate President Don Harmon would like to be the Democratic State Central Committeeman for the 7th Congressional District but he doesn’t want the party post badly enough to run against incumbent Cong. Danny Davis for it. Both Harmon (D-Oak Park), who is also the leader of the Democratic Party of Oak Park, and Davis, the long-time congressman for the 7th District and current state central committeeman, filed to run for state central committeeman on March 7 the first day of candidate filings for the June 28 primary. But on March 28 Harmon dropped out of the race.
“I wasn’t sure what the Congressman’s intentions were when I filed my petitions,” Harmon told Wednesday Journal explaining why he dropped out of the race. “It’s an interesting time in the state party’s history and I wanted to be sure that our district had a strong voice. I’m pleased that Congressman Davis is running for reelection and happy to support him.”
Harmon said he never intended to run against Davis for the party post.
“I didn’t know what the Congressman’s intentions were when I collected the signatures,” Harmon said. “Typically, candidates watch through the entire filing period including the challenge before figuring out who’s actually going to be on the ballot. I withdrew at one of the earlier opportunities to withdraw.”
This is the second time that Harmon has filed to run for state central committeeman only to drop out after Davis stayed in the race.
The state central committee runs the Democratic Party of Illinois. Every four years each congressional district in the state elects, during the primary election, a committeeman and a committeewoman. Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough is the 7th District state central committeewoman and is running without opposition for another term as committeewoman. Davis is also now unopposed for state central committeeman, but he has drawn three primary opponents in his bid for a 14th term in Congress.
Harmon has yet to make an endorsement in the 7th District congressional race.
“I’ve been really focused on what’s going on in Springfield until I get the Senate wrapped up for the session,” Harmon said.
State central committeeman and committeewoman are strictly party posts with no government responsibility. Until last year Mike Madigan, the now indicted former Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, was the chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party. Last year Madigan resigned as chairman of the state Democratic Party and was replaced by Congresswoman Robin Kelly (D-2nd District).
Madigan ran the state party with a tight grip using it mostly to help elect Democrats to the state House of Representatives to preserve and enhance his power as speaker. Now under Kelly the state party is trying to be a more active and wide-ranging force in Illinois politics.
“I think it’s more important than ever that Democrats be active in the state party,” Harmon said. “The state party is reinventing itself. I think it has the potential to do more than it has ever done, to be a resource for Democratic candidates from statewide office to the smallest local office in the least Democratic county in the state.”
Harmon said he is interested in someday succeeding Davis as the state central committeeman for the 7th District.
“I think it’s important that the constituents of the 7th Congressional District be represented by a strong voice in the state party,” Harmon said. “I think Congressman Davis has served that function but if he should ever choose not to not be a member, I’d be honored to have a chance to represent the constituents.”