CHICAGO - The name Dick Mell may mean little to the rest of the state, but Alderman Dick Mell's 37 year political career in Chicago's 33th Ward has affected city, county, state and national politics via the now-infamous Chicago Way.
Mell, who is Rod Blagojevich's father-in-law and State Representative Deb Mell's father, announced last week he's retiring on July 24th. As he officially steps down, Mell will leave a notable wake in politics on Lake Michigan's southwestern shore. As Chicago political analyst Russ Stewart writes, "but for" Dick Mell, things in Chicago, Illinois and America may have been very different:
But for Dick Mell, his son-in-law Rod Blagojevich would not have been Illinois' first impeached governor. Mell dictated Blagojevich's election as a state representative in 1992, made the deals necessary to get him elected a congressman in 1996, and blithely -- and falsely -- promised Downstate county chairmen that they would get oodles of state patronage if they elected "The Kid" as governor in 2002. But for Blagojevich's Downstate vote, he would not have won the primary election, and but for Blagojevich's infamous 2008 "golden" comment about selling the U.S. Senate seat, the feds might never have investigated Jesse Jackson Jr.
But for Dick Mell, Pat Quinn would not be governor. Quinn was Blagojevich's lieutenant governor, and he moved up in January of 2009, after the impeachment. Quinn could never have won a primary for governor.
But for Dick Mell, Rahm Emanuel would not be mayor. Had Blagojevich sought re-election in the Northwest Side 5th District in 2002 and not run for governor, Emanuel would not have won the seat. He would not have become a money-raising congressional powerhouse, would not have been a crony of Barack Obama, would not have been the White House chief of staff, and would not have had the credibility to run for mayor in 2011.
But for Dick Mell, at least four state legislators -- John Brandt, Myron Kulas, Rich Bradley and Nancy Kaszak -- would not be consigned to the dustbin of history.
But for Dick Mell, chairman of the council Rules Committee, controlling the 2011 ward remap process, three sitting aldermen -- Bob Fioretti (2nd), Nick Sposato (36th) and Joann Thompson (16th) -- would not have had their wards cannibalized and face likely defeat in 2015.
But for Dick Mell, Deb Mell would not be Illinois' first legally married lesbian state representative.
Now, but for Dick Mell's resignation and Deb Mell's anticipated appointment as alderman, Jaime Andrade, Aaron Goldstein and Garrett FitzGerald would not have the opportunity to be appointed to -- or to run for -- Deb Mell's 40th Illinois House District seat. According to 33rd Ward sources, Mell, known as "Old Gringo" among Hispanics, has enough weighted votes as the 33rd Ward Democratic committeeman to dictate Deb Mell's replacement. He is under pressure to name a Hispanic to the post. That will be Andrade, a longtime Mell aide and City Council assistant sergeant at arms.
Mell's way was the Chicago Way. His stepping down raises the question how and if things in Chicago and Illinois will ever change.
More about Dick Mell and the Chicago Way can be found at Common Sense 10th's blog HERE.