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Analysis: Why Larry Dominick won 3rd term
By Ray Hanania
(Dominick’s spokesman and media consultant)
There was an overwhelming and intentional push by the news media to disparage Larry Dominick, former 43-year Cicero policeman and town worker who won re-election on Feb. 26 to a third term as the Town’s President.
Cicero has always been the target of the media’s biased rage, usually by either ethically challenged reporters (many with personal ties to Cicero’s critics) or by journalists who have no time to do basic research of facts anymore.
Yet despite the doom and gloom predicted by the news media, and the often outrageous charges from Dominick’s two opponents that were often bull-horned by the biased news media, Dominick won re-election with in a massive 2 to 1 landslide.
Here’s how I believe Dominick won and his opponents, Juan Ochoa and Joe Pontarelli, lost.
The number one reason is that Larry Dominick had a clear message that showcased his accomplishments.
In contrast, Dominick’s opponents embraced a message of anger, hatred and vengeance pushed by the former Town President Betty Loren-Maltese, the former convicted felon who was sent to prison in January 2003 and served 7 years for stealing $12 million in taxpayer money in the early 1990s.
The critics focused on Dominick’s personal life, citing false reports in the Chicago Sun-Times and other media. Their message was a personal attack on Dominick rather than an explanation of what they would bring to Cicero
Critics also turned to racism and falsely accused Dominick of being anti-Mexican and anti-Hispanic because he is White and the Town is 80 percent Hispanic.
The vast majority of the 9,665 votes cast were from Hispanics. That means Dominick won the Hispanic vote, along with the small White ethnic vote in Cicero. During his 8 years in office, Cicero has hired Hispanics at a 75 percent job rate, higher than anyone before. It was a fact ignored by the mainstream news media and the equally biased Hispanic media that continued to chant that voters should elect a leader based on race, rather than performance.
Dominick, however, offered a stronger, clearer and more positive message that connected with voters of all races, White, Hispanic, Black and others.
In fact, Dominick, whose step-mother of 25 years is African American, launched Cicero’s first ever public commemoration of the birthday honoring the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., something no one would ever have thought could be done in Cicero. And, it is an event that the news media has never bothered to cover, either.
While publishing one negative and false story after another, the news media ignored covering the positive events and activities, events that the residents of Cicero could see but that the media ignored. That helped undermine the media’s campaign against Dominick, too.
Dominick’s message was built on a cornerstone of having waged a successful war against Street Gang related crimes since his first election in 2005. In 2004, before he was elected, Cicero had 14 street gang related murders. In the past 27 months, Cicero has had only two street gang related killings.
Dominick repeated that one street gang related killing was “one too much,” but residents could see a dramatic decline in Street Gang related activity.
Additionally, Dominick’s message built upon the message of safety, noting that safety in a community brings many benefits including: attracting 24 new businesses to relocate into Cicero; expanding public festivals and programs for families during summer months gang free; expanding town programs for seniors, families, youth and a new program to hire the disabled without increasing taxes or fees; building more parks and recreations like the Bobby Hull Community Ice Rink; building new capital projects such as the new Town Hall, new streets and lighting technology for residents, and unveiling the improved METRA Train station; and, eliminating the massive debt that Loren-Maltese and her handpicked successor, Ramiro Gonzalez, left on the town totaling more than $190 million.
Residents could easily see more new businesses coming to Cicero. Why would they come to Cicero is the Town had the problems being falsely claimed by the biased news media or Dominick’s critics.
The critic’s charges made no sense to residents and voters.
New businesses included Cloverhill Bakery, Sonic, Fuller, Wirtz Beverage Illinois and the groundbreaking for the new Walmart. These are just a few of the new businesses that in the long term not only bring more tax revenues to off-set increases on residents but also produce jobs.
Ochoa was beset with many problems. He was the former head of the controversy-plagued McPier Authority, appointed to that post by disgraced former Governor Rod Blagojevich.
Ochoa had lived in Chicago but when the time came to move to the suburbs, he had a chance to choose Cicero years ago. Instead, he chose Berwyn, playing into the racist fears that the media perpetuates falsely that somehow Berwyn is a better community than Cicero. It is not.
Only when he decided to run for office did Ochoa allegedly rent an apartment in Cicero.
Ochoa also did not have a natural Cicero voter base. Despite being Mexican American, Ochoa lost the Mexican American vote in Cicero overwhelmingly. He lost it because he openly allied himself with U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who is Puerto Rican and has failed to fully represent Mexican Americans in his congressional district during his 20 year failed reign as congressman.
The district is 70 percent Mexican American and 12 percent Puerto Rican with the remainder White, Black and other. Gutierrez and Ochoa undermined themselves when they argued that Dominick should not be re-elected because the majority of Cicero residents are Mexican and Dominick is White.
That racist attack could easily then apply to Ochoa and Gutierrez. Using the same racist argument that they used against Dominick, why would Ochoa then back a Puerto Rican in an 80 percent Mexican American district?
The reason is that race was only a factor to Ochoa and Gutierrez, but not to he vast majority of Cicero voters.
Gutierrez was Ochoa’s single largest campaign donor, which explains the congressman’s heavy-handed influence on issues and loss-factors. Gutierrez has a history of exploiting divisions in the Mexican American community, usually with little success.
Last year, Gutierrez backed four Mexican American candidates against four other Mexican candidates and all four were defeated in the election, including Rudy Lozano Jr., who lost to Silvana Tabares in the State representative race.
Gutierrez’s role in Ochoa’s defeat is significant. It was Gutierrez who brought in the “leaders” of the Latin Kings to help work Ochoa’s campaign. These street gang leaders created an obvious contrast that Dominick was able to exploit.
All of the gang leaders working for Ochoa are listed in the latest copy of the Chicago Crime Commission Street Gang Book, 350 pages of photographs and pictures of people who often claim they are no longer in gangs but authorities continue to identify as leaders and activists in the street gang crime organization.
Mainstream media ignored this important factor, or always referred to it by saying it was an accusation that Ochoa denied.
The role Gutierrez and Ochoa gave to Latin King street gang leaders handed Dominick an opportunity to showcase his own record on fighting crime and spotlighted Dominick’s success against street gangs.
The Chicago Sun-Times led the Ochoa campaign with a series of stories that falsely and inaccurately report the facts:
There never was $120,000 for hotdogs, but rather $120,000 spent over an 8 year period to purchase food, refreshments and condiments that were provided to residents at public festivals free of charge.
Cicero’s population does not enjoy the same economic benefits that many of the Sun-Times editors enjoy. Many are poor families.
Dominick also gave away thousands of turkeys purchased from his campaign fund and gave them to Cicero families at Thanksgiving and at Christmas.
Dominick donated tens of thousands of clothing items over the years including coats, hats, gloves to the children of these needy families, something they appreciated and needed.
The Sun-Times, and Ochoa, attacked those charitable programs and public activities.
Two years ago as a direct result of Dominick’s programs, the Houby Day Parade saw a dramatic increase in the number of attendees who came out to the annual Czech parade. More than 25,000 people attended and enjoyed the Fall event that marched down Cermak Road through Cicero. Although it was a Czech Parade, more than 75 percent of the public turnout was Hispanic.
Instead of noting that important fact, the Sun-Times chose to instead write a front page story that Cicero had purchased “rubber chickens” to give away to the crowd.
Yes, Cicero did purchase 250 rubber chickens, which were handed out by the parade grand marshall, Rick Koz who plays “Son of Svengooli” on TV. Koz is from Berwyn and rubber chickens are his handout gimmick.
Juan Ochoa lost because he bought into the lies, the exaggerations and the hatred of Loren-Maltese, the Chicago Sun-Times and the politically inept agenda of Congressman Gutierrez.
What Ochoa failed to buy into, though, were the needs of Cicero’s residents.
From seniors, to youth, and families to ethnic groups, Larry Dominick got his message of success to all of them, and especially to the Hispanic Community which is no different than any other community when it comes to needs. They, too, like everyone else, want safety for their kids and families, an economic environment that can help stimulate jobs at a time when the nation is in economic turmoil, and opportunity.
When it came down to the media’s failure, what was most important to voters was not the media’s exaggerated claim of “hot dogs and turkeys.” Rather, what resonated with voters was their concern for “safety and services.”
The disgruntled anger and vicious slander from disgraced former president Betty Loren-Maltese only made voters look more skeptically at Ochoa. After all, a judge ordered Betty to repay Cicero taxpayers her portion of the $12 million she helped steal, something she has failed to do.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall Reporter (1976-1992) and president of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting. President Larry Dominick is one of his clients. Reach him at www.UrbanStrategiesGroup.com.)
This post has already been read 4767 times!
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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