By Jim Bowman
Next stop for Sen. Don Harmon in his 2013 series of pre-election town halls, was on July 23, when he partnered with a Madigan protege in Wood Dale . . .
. . . a middle-class town of not quite 14,000 at the northwestern edge of his district, in DuPage County, 14 miles from Oak Park. Here he partnered with Rep. Kathleen Willis, of nearby Addison, an Elmhurst College librarian recently elected for the 77th house district.
Willis came across as quietly competent, pleasant, comfortable. A married mother of four and local school board member, she appeared a wise choice by Michael Madigan seeking someone to face off against the veteran Republican house member, Angelo "Skip" Saviano, a one-time across-aisle ally for Madigan with whom he'd had a bitter falling-out.
Madigan had seen to his defeat in 2012, convincing the Republican Willis to switch parties and funding a campaign that left veteran politics reporter Rich Miller gasping for its effrontery, misrepresentation of opposition, and fight-to-finish maneuverings. In the middle stood Willis, by all indicators and appearance an unlikely contestant but victorious at the end with 53% of the vote.
"Willis steals 77th House [district] from Saviano," was the rambunctious Daily Herald headline for a story that reported that had been unavailable for interviews while campaigning entirely door-to-door. The story also noted that she had "pulled Republican ballots in five primary elections between 2002 and 2010." It didn't matter. The 77th had a Democrat, and Madigan had the 77th.
From Illinois Blues: How the Ruling Party Talks to Voters — available in paperback, epub and Amazon Kindle formats.
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