Monday, November 28, 2005

Anatomy of a Decision

(Long post warning - I'm not saying that it is or isn't worth the read, just that I felt like I needed to write down some of my thoughts. So don't blame me if you read it and feel that it was a waste of your time.)

Astute readers will note that way back on August 14th, in announcing at that time that I wasn't interested in running for Treasurer, I made the following statement:
I won't get into who I think will run, but I think that we would be remiss not to field a strong candidate for what is a very winnable race. That is to say, don't just throw somebody from downstate on the ticket to say that we have balance, but support a qualified candidate who can articulate the issues and strengthen the overall party.
I meant it then and I mean it now. But I can honestly say that I didn't realize what my comments a few weeks ago would put in motion. When Judy Barr Topinka indicated that she was going to make the race for Governor, I said in part, the following:
It's just that I think that in a blue state, with an open statewide seat up for grabs, the race is now begging for somebody with legislative experience and a broader perspective of state issues than one would get in (Mangieri's) present position...As such, the Dems best bet is to put the most qualified candidate forward regardless of geographic or other considerations. And that means that there are now a lot of people that are going to give this race a fresh look.
At the time, my comments were candidly made from the mindset of observer, not participant. I wasn't trying to throw the door open for myself, rather it just seemed obvious to me that at least one or two seasoned Democrats would make a move to take the open seat. In fact, I even placed calls to a couple of current and past Democratic office holders encouraging them to seek the office. But oddly enough, nobody really had the interest.

Then the phone calls started and I found myself again considering whether or not this was something that I wanted to do. And while it would have been easier just to ignore the fact that the race was viable (to say the least), that would have simply been a way to avoid making a decision.

The technical analysis of the race was actually the easiest part of the decision. Based upon the commitments which were graciously extended to me by key individuals from around the City and County, I am confident that Chicago and Cook County would prove to be a very significant asset in my campaign. As important, however, have been the numerous calls that I have received from downstate Democrats, including some Downstate Chairmen with whom I had never previously spoken, indicating their support as well.

A review of the field really didn't sway me one way or the other. About a week ago, I met with Alexi Giannoulias, a 29 year old alum of my high school who has stated his intentions to run. Alexi reminds me of myself at that age, although much more focused and with a lot more money :) I think that he is intelligent, sincere, and that he and I would find ourselves to have much in common on the issues.

Slated candidate, Paul Mangieri came by for a visit a couple of days later. Paul exudes the confidence that a slated candidate should carry, and strikes me as a good and decent man. In any event, out of deference and my commitment to both men, I am not going to discuss the content of our meetings other than to say that I thought that they were both positive and that I like both of these guys.

On the Republican side, I just don't see anybody out there that can make a real go of this race. Without going after anybody personally, let me just say that the Dems should be ashamed of themselves if we don't pick up this seat.

I then needed to take a fresh look at the substantive nature of the office. A review of the work of past Treasurers convinced me that the job is much more than that of a glorified banker. The Treasurer has a unique ability to implement and direct policy through the monetary leverage that is the state depository amount. A meeting with Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn and a review of his tenure as State Treasurer shows the ability, through link deposit programs and the like, to work on issues ranging from agricultural incentives to veterans' programs to affordable housing.

I also took into consideration that I was making a decision that, one way or another, would forever change my path of public service. As such, properly or not, the question that I focused on wasn't whether I wanted to run for Treasurer, but in light of how I have seen things fall into place, whether I want to be Treasurer. I have always said that I would never seek an office solely for the sake of doing it. But it is also quite possible that there will never be a better chance to seek the honor and privilege of being a statewide constitutional officer and of doing the service that I could do in such an office.

After numerous discussions with friends, both political and non-political, and with my immediate family, a couple of questions kept resurfacing - One, was I leaning toward running because of a sincere desire to become the State Treasurer or simply because I believed that the campaign would be a successful one? Two, is this the capacity in which I feel that I can best be of service? And most importantly, is this the direction that I want to take with my family at this juncture?

It would be disingenuous to say that my thoughts haven't been back and forth numerous times. But I am now reassured that I have actually meant it all these years when I said that I would not run just for the sake of it.

I believe that there are issues and causes that I still want to work on, and I do not believe that the office of Treasurer is the best place for me to do that. For that reason, I will not be a candidate for the office in 2006. Rather, I will seek re-election to represent the 11th District in the Illinois House.

Often times, people shy away from a race that seems like an uphill battle. Let me assure you that that is an easier decision to make than this one has been. I appreciate to no end the calls of friendship and offers of support that have poured in, and the patience of my friends and colleagues as I worked to come to a decision.

I have no idea what, if anything my political future holds. Heck, I'd be lying if I said that I am positive that I am making the right decision. But I am going to look forward to the future and continuing to work, not just on substantive issues, but on making our party and the process the best that they can be. And I will continue to put those interests before my own.

On an related note, and maybe a topic for anoter day, this exercise has clarified for me that the future of the Democratic Party in our state rests in the ability and commitment to put forth ideals before individuals. There are people from one end of the state to the other prepared to step up for a candidate, regardless of location or background, whom they believe can give them a vision for leadership. The Party must strive to put those candidates forward.


At November 28, 2005 at 11:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I guess I'm happy that you made a decision John, but this sucks. We needed a proven candidate on the ballot. Oh well. I really hope that you find an office that motivates you in the future. Good luck.

And thanks for the insight, it is actually interesting to read it from this type of perspective.

At November 28, 2005 at 11:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I admire you greatly and because I do I am somewhat disappointed in your timidity. I hope you will consider higher office in the future even if it means risking a loss. I know that raising money for higher offices is difficult, but someone with your talent and commitment to reform needs to get out there and give it a try. You owe it to the people of Illinois.

At November 28, 2005 at 11:46 AM, Anonymous bored now said...

first of all, congratulations on making a methodical, carefully-considered decision! that's often the hardest part of running for office.

anyone who works the backend of politics knows that there are too few candidates who render themselves to such a thorough review. often an open seat is just too tempting! it speaks well of you that you did not jump at this opportunity just because it was there.

personally, i'm glad that you have thought through your political career and know where you want to go. i think both you and your constituents will be rewarded by that. i *know* your family will be happier because of it...

finally, to anon 11:36, i think it is wholly inappropriate to paint john's decision as timid. political consultants like to say that politicians only have three offices in them, so it is important to be very deliberate about which ones you run for, with respect to one's final objective. running for the treasurer's office would have severely limited john's future options, and it is good that he recognized that.

At November 28, 2005 at 11:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mangieri probably would have beaten you anyway.

At November 28, 2005 at 11:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tell me more about this Greek kid. I haven't heard of him before.

At November 28, 2005 at 12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

there was a story on him in the suntmes this weekend:

At November 28, 2005 at 12:55 PM, Blogger Bill said...

Congratulations on your decision. I knew that in the end your family would be the deciding factor in your decision. I am sure that your future in politics will be very bright and that you will be successful in whatever endeavors that you undertake. We really do need you in the GA.

At November 28, 2005 at 2:14 PM, Blogger Yellow Dog Democrat said...

John -

Glad you thought things through. I think you're right.

Now, what about Schoenberg, Jack Lavin, and some of the other names floating around? Who's in, out, and still mulling it over?

At November 28, 2005 at 2:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rep., you have come a long way since you've been in office, on a lot of fronts. And while I really wanted you to run, I'm sure that the right opportunity will come along at the right time. And a lot of us will be there ready to help. Illinois needs elected officials just like you. Keep up the good work.

At November 28, 2005 at 5:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I met this Greek kid today and he was unimpressive. Also, Mell was toting him around promoting him, remember the last clown Mell promoted us.

At November 28, 2005 at 6:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike Boland is our best chance to win the General. I know, I have seen him everywhere in the state.
I hope he runs

At November 28, 2005 at 8:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boland probably couldn't carry his own district, let alone the state. That's why the Speaker had to come in and help him cut a truce.

At November 28, 2005 at 9:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 19th ward controls too much. It is about time that other people shared in the power.

At November 28, 2005 at 9:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What the hell does that have to do with this thread?

At November 28, 2005 at 9:41 PM, Blogger Hon. John Fritchey said...

I just want to thank people for the kind words. This was a tough decision with no clear right answer.

Part of the difficulty in reaching a decision may have stemmed from the fact that although I am (only)41, I have now been in the legislature for about a quarter of my life, and accordingly, it is easy to feel a pressure to do something else in public service. But I am glad that I still have the mindset to do what I think is right and not just what is most opportunistic.

I believe that I made the right choice (or at least the one that feels right) and now just want to enjoy the holidays and focus on the upcoming session and the March primary.

I know that I can be a lightning rod at times for people but I really believe in the process and think that it is an honor to do this job. I will continue to try my best to do it well.

Thanks again everybody.

At November 28, 2005 at 10:34 PM, Anonymous Jessica K. said...

Rep. Fritchey,

There is a strong rumor that certain aldermen are passing that you're supporting Giannoulias. I am very proud of you because he is very intelligent and the most highly qualified candidate. You are showing a lot of character by helping him out and not the "slated" candidate, who is a yo-yo!

I know Obama is supporting him for a reason. The reason is that he will win people over with his financial smarts and kind ways.

Kudos to you for caring about the people of Illinois and not the machine!

At November 28, 2005 at 11:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it true that you're supporting Alexi Giannoulias? or are you not supporting anyone? I agree with Jessica K. that he is the most qualified candidate and have heard nothing but great things about him...

At November 29, 2005 at 9:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your a good man Rep. Fritchey!

At November 30, 2005 at 6:20 PM, Blogger Lawmakers said...

Thanks for blogging John Fritchey!



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