Caucus Party in Skokie takes early peek at spring 2013 election
Caucus Party Board Member Shalom Klein and Caucus Party Chairman Jim McCarthy discuss next year's election and the party's outreach efforts. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
THE CAUCUS PARTY
Current seats: All village trustees, the mayor and the village clerk.
Party Age: More than 50 years old.
Members: Some 1,200, but it fluctuates.
Next election: April 2, 2013
More information: www.skokiecaucusparty.com
Updated: September 3, 2012 12:31PM
SKOKIE — The Skokie Caucus Party, which holds all seats on the Village Board, is set this week or next to send out a letter referencing next spring’s election.
Party representatives said the letter will ask those interested in being part of the process — including running for an open seat on the board — to step forward.
All seats are “open” since the mayor, village trustees and the village clerk run for election or re-election at the same time.
The Caucus Party has not announced yet whether all incumbents will run for re-election in April. But Mayor George Van Dusen said this week that he would announce his plans in August.
Also unknown is whether the party next spring will face opposition, which has been infrequent in recent years and, when it has existed, soundly defeated.
Representatives of the Caucus Party recently sat down with the Skokie Review to talk about the election and recent outreach efforts to the community.
Party Chair Jim McCarthy said the Caucus Party is still a month or two away from announcing its slate. Despite the party dominating the Village Board for years, he said, it has remained inclusive and diverse.
“What we’ve tried to do with the Caucus Party,” McCarthy said, “is to provide open, honest effective government. The best way we know how to do that, and the way we’ve been doing it recently, is through encouraging residents to get involved in a political party.”
McCarthy emphasized that the Caucus Party is a nonpartisan political organization.
“Everybody in Skokie wants to reduce crime. Everybody in Skokie wants there to be more services. So we try to bring together people,” he said.
Party representatives do not view Skokie as a one-party town.
“I look at it like we’re all Democrats, we’re all Republicans and I’d say we’re all for Skokie,” McCarthy said. “I think it’s a little different from a one-party town versus, let’s say, Chicago.”
Village Trustee and Caucus Party Vice Chair Michael Lorge believes that the Caucus Party has stayed close to its grass-roots origin, a factor in its continuing success for decades.
Not one-party town
“This isn’t a one-party town because anybody can put together any party they want and run,” he said. “The Caucus Party evolved as a party that pulled everyone together and we still do. People saw that the success of the village superseded any debate between Republican and Democrat. It’s always been what’s best for Skokie.”
Lorge also believes the continuing success of the party is based on performance.
“I think people recognize the record that we have,” he said.
When the party announces its slate this fall — whether it includes all incumbents or a mixture of incumbents and newcomers — it is likely to run on a few key tenets. The village has run a balanced budget, has not raised taxes since 1990 and has avoided laying off personnel despite a deep recession.
Party representatives also say they likely will campaign on economic development progress in the village and emphasize the new downtown Skokie el station that finally opened this year.
Lorge maintains that the mayor and Village Board have accomplished much in the last three or so years on which the party can emphasize.
Some residents’ concerns about crime in the village and a need for more open communication have surfaced from time to time, but whether those issues fuel an opposition party to step forward remains to be seen.
Either way, representatives say, the Caucus Party will campaign as it always does.
“Every four years, we have somewhat of a reflection or opportunity to look at how things have been going and what the priorities of Skokie have been,” said Shalom Klein, a member of the board of directors.
“We’re able to better plan ahead so it becomes sort of a community conversation. People come together and talk about what issues matter the most.”
The party’s forthcoming general letter is simply to inform its 1,200 or so members what to do if they want to get involved. The election process, however, doesn’t really rev up until September or October, representatives say.