Bloodline succession is overt political cheating

It must be something in the water in Chicago. It seems the chief qualification for public office, or a public job, is bloodline. I’m not big on bloodlines. I have a dog that is a mixed shepherd and Rottweiler. I can’t trace his bloodline, and

It must be something in the water in Chicago. It seems the chief qualification for public office, or a public job, is bloodline.

I’m not big on bloodlines. I have a dog that is a mixed shepherd and Rottweiler. I can’t trace his bloodline, and it doesn’t detract from his household dog duties (lay around the house and scare the cable guy).

Bloodlines, however, seem to be what makes Chicago run. But, I’d argue, it is reliance on those bloodlines that makes Chicago crawl.

Take the specific case of Emil Jones III. Little Emil, 30, son of Emil Jones Jr., president of the Illinois Senate, is now the Democratic nominee (read: shoo-in) for the 14th District senate seat being vacated by his father.

President Jones announced that he will retire at the end of the year. He’ll have three more years left on his term, and he wants his son to sit in his seat. That announcement of his intention to make the seat a hand-me-down was enough to sway the Democratic committeemen in that senate district, so Little Emil is now on the ballot.

Little Emil may be a fine person. I’m told that he is at least competent in his job with the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. I’m told that he is an obedient son. Emil Jr. says that his son has been sitting at his feet, gathering wisdom from him, for 30 years.

None of that qualifies him to be a state senator.

Actually, the only qualifications are to be 21 years old, a U.S. citizen, and reside in the district you’re going to serve for at least 2 years. Little Emil meets those basic qualifications.

But the citizens of the 14th Senate District deserve more than just, “Well, he’s Emil’s boy, so he is all right.” They should have a say in who represents them in the state Senate.

Now, before Emil Jr. or Little Emil point out that everyone does it and that my criticism of them makes me an “Uncle Tom,” let me say that I agree. Unfortunately, everyone does it.

Chicago political history is replete with family successors. Sometimes all you have to do is have the right surname, and it is tantamount to winning the election.

I don’t know how many Daley’s we have in public office and how many generations are getting paid by the public–either through public salaries or public sector contracts. Let’s just say it is a sizeable number. Richard M. did not succeed Richard J. (there were a few mayors in between, including one female and two Blacks), but no one doubts that Richie Daley ran more on his name than his qualifications.

There seem to be enough Stroger relatives on Cook County’s payroll to field both sides of a softball game (and fill some of the stands). Todd Stroger basically succeeded his father, John, but no one is comparing the two.

But none of that compares to l’affair de Emil. Rather than trust the voters to elect the best possible candidate, Emil Jones Jr., decided that he would announce that he wanted his son to succeed him and then influenced the committeemen so that they, too, wanted his son to succeed him. So what that Little Emil has no legislative experience and no political experience? At this point, he also has no opposition.

I’m not saying that Little Emil will be a bad state senator. From what I’ve seen of the Senate, Mensa members need not apply. He could probably be competent. He might even turn out to be passable (again, it is all relative considering this legislative body).

But is he the best for the job? Would the district be better served if there were real competition for the post rather than have Little Emil inherit it?

Bloodlines should not be important in politics, and the residents of the 14th District are being cheated out of their vote and their right to representation because Emil Jones Jr., decided he wanted to keep that senate seat within the bloodline. If he wants to give his son a gift, I suggest a new watch, or a fine suit, or even a car. He should not be able to give him the gift of a state senate seat. It is not his, it is ours.

Lou Ransom is executive editor of the Chicago Defender. He can be reached via email at lransom@chicagodefender.com.

Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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