At a press conference today, a group of Chicago Democrats denounced gubernatorial challenger Dan Hynes' new attack ad on incumbent Pat Quinn. The spot features archival footage of former Chicago Mayor Harold Washington calling Quinn -- who served as his revenue director for eight months -- a "totally and completely undisciplined individual." Reps. Luis Gutierrez, Jan Schakowsky, Danny Davis, and Bobby Rush appeared at the media availability this morning, along with former Washington aide Jacky Grimshaw. [UPDATE: As an astute reader reminds us, it should be noted that Gutierrez, Schakowsky, and Davis have endorsed Quinn in the governor's race.] All of the speakers emphasized that Washington's comments about Quinn in 1987 have no bearing on his current fitness for governor and repeatedly pointed out that Dan's father, Tom Hynes, was a vehement opponent of the city's first African-American mayor.
Watch some excerpts from their remarks:
The press conference is just one of several steps the Quinn campaign is taking to counter the Hynes ad. They are strongly emphasizing the point -- made repeatedly by the speakers above -- that Tom Hynes left the Democratic party in 1987 to attempt to unseat Washington in the general election. During last night's debate at Southern Illinois University, Quinn described Washington as his "friend for life" and said that Dan Hynes and his father "tried to destroy" the mayor during that campaign. Quinn also said that he "was asked to resign" by Washington because he "couldn't get along with the chief of staff." Listen to both candidates discuss the ad:
To illustrate their point about the 1987 race, the Quinn campaign has been circulating Washington's attack ads on Tom Hynes. Watch one below:
For more history, check out this passage from a Reader piece on Tom Hynes written by Gary Rivlin at the time:
Even Hynes's campaign strategy distinctly smacks of Council Wars. Every action Washington takes is the height of irresponsibility. He sums up one of the black community's heroes as a man of "sleaze" -- not a way of winning the respect of the black community. He portrays the mayor as an incompetent, and talks in code about how the mayor is clearly not interested in working with all segments of the city. (Translation: the mayor didn't talk to me, therefore he's not interested in the white community. Certainly a far more effective rap than saying we had a good thing and Washington's blowing it.)
If he were really interested in healing, Hynes might point out that whites haven't gotten an unfair shake under Washington, might still criticize Washington for shortcomings but give him his due in the area of race relations. Washington didn't do to the white communities what their leaders had forever done to the black community. And while on the subject, Hynes could have thrown in a few words about the racism and unfairness of the Democratic Machine he was a part of for all those years. The Machine was repressive and undemocratic and wasteful but, more than anything else, grossly unfair to those not white and those not willing to play ball.
Of course Hynes couldn't be a healer even if he said that. His whole run is predicated on race. A lifelong Democrat steps outside the party for the first time in his career. What is it that changed, what prompted him to go, for the first time in his career, against a Democratic nominee for office?
WVON's Cliff Kelley told Greg Hinz that Hynes' ad is "ironic," because "[i]f it were up to Hynes and his father ... Harold never would have been mayor." Kelley went on to make the following point:
Mr. Kelley makes an interesting point: The last time Mr. Hynes ran for office other than comptroller, he ran for the U.S. Senate, against a fellow named Barack Obama.
Expect to hear more about that, too. And don't be at all shocked if the Hynes folks have a counterattack to the counterattack: film of Mr. Quinn saying lots of nice things about Rod Blagojevich.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Current's Adrian Uribarri talked to another former Washington aide, Alton Miller, who offered this version of events:
"It's almost, kind of a paternal disappointment," Miller says. "Harold Washington thought he had another team player ... and became alarmed when he noticed that Quinn was talking to the media without ... sufficient coordination from the mayor's standpoint."
So where does the dispute go from here? Keep an eye out for a Quinn response ad in the coming days. We also hear that the results of the Tribune's latest poll on the Democratic primary will be released very soon.
Full Disclosure: The SEIU Illinois State Council, which sponsors this website, has endorsed Pat Quinn in the Democratic primary for governor.