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133 6. The Fight for Speaker—and Beyond “Well, Clyde Is Clyde” If Clyde Choate were to have penned a memoir of his time in the legislature , there is little doubt that under the heading “Your Biggest Challenge ”wouldbe“TheFightforSpeakeroftheHouse.”Choate’sgoalinthe Illinois House of Representatives was to be the top dog. He didn’t plan to exceedtherecordofhismentorPaulPowellinnumberoftimesasSpeaker: three. But one time would be vindication for more than three decades of service, most of them in some top role in Democratic Party leadership. No doubt Choate had been thinking of a time when the speakership was within grasp. Regardless, others, including the press, had it on the political speculation agenda for years. It was a moot point as long as Republicans controlled the House of Representatives, and that party was in the driver’s seat for most of the years from 1961 until 1975.1 In the 1972 elections when Daniel Walker defeated Richard Ogilvie for governor , Democrats were just a single vote shy of controlling the House. That openedthedoorto thoughtsabouttheelectionof1974andwhether Democrats might take the House. Although Walker publicly expressed no interest in the choice of a Speaker, few believed that would be the case when the subject arose. He spoke philosophically about the importance of the executive, which he was, and he believed that politicians, scholars, and the press placed too much emphasis on how a governor’s program fared in the legislature.2 134 The Fight for Speaker—and Beyond Showingasmatteringofdisdain,heturnedmattersofthelegislatureover tohisdeputyVictorDeGrazia,whohiredayoungbutexperiencedDemocratic staff member to work the General Assembly for Walker. Ironically, Douglas Kane had worked on the campaign staff of Paul Simon in the 1972 primary against Walker. After that he served on staff for Democrats in the House, wherehebecameacloseadviserandloyalisttoChoate.His maneuvering among opposing Democratic forces appeared not to harm hispoliticalfuture.KaneservedintheIllinoisHousefrom1975to1983.3 In the year he worked for the Walker administration, Kane discovered that most Democrats and some Republicans in the General Assembly had no use for the new governor. This meant many of Walker’s proposals were dead on arrival and was a harbinger of nasty relationships between legislators and Walker during his four years in office. Choate ranked as one whom the governor did not trust. During the 1972 campaign, Walker cited Choate as an example of leaders who ran the legislature for their own personal benefit. He also criticized politicians who hadconnectionsto racetracks,althoughhedidnotspecifically mention Choate. However, on a campaign appearance in Carbondale withChoatepresent,Walkerignoredremarkspreparedforhimcriticizing racetrack stockholders. Instead, he warmly endorsed Choate as a kind of champion of the common folk.4 In most campaigns over the years personal criticisms made during a campaign for governor rarely hung in the air long after the election. With Walker, it was different, and presumably that reflected Choate’s attitude, too. The early stories—those appearing in newspapers prior to the 1972 election—aboutapotentialChoatecandidacyforSpeakercarefullyspoke highlyofhislegislativeworkwithoutbringingupanynegatives.Representative Gerald Shea, Daley’s manager in the House and assistant minority leader,said,“Hedidacapable,outstandingjobforthepartyinhisfouryears as whip under John Touhy. Part of his ability is being able to sit down and workoutcompromises.”5 SheathenmentionedChoate’sworkinshapinga roadbondissueduringtheOgilvieadministrationandhisworkasasponsor of bills to raise levels of workers’ compensation. An unidentified Chicago Democrat stated, “I would rather talk to Clyde Choate than I would tosome‘holierthanthou’character.WhatImeanisthathespeaksplainly and when he tells you something you can depend upon it.” Democrat representativeLelandRaysonofTinleyPark ,added,“StrangelyenoughIfind The Fight for Speaker—and Beyond 135 Clyde Choate quite amenable to work with. He’s a pragmatist. He won’t treatyoulikedust.Hemaybefullofgamesanddoubletalkorhemaylevel with you. You can depend upon him.”6 Republicans were less enthusiastic about working with Choate but offered no public backstabs. Even if unable to pry a criticism from legislative colleagues, commentators and reporters offered some on their own. These criticisms fell into two categories that partly overlapped. One was Choate’s longtime association with Paul Powell and the tactics Powell used to get his way. Powell had died in 1970 and no longer could enforce longstanding alliances and trade-offs. Officialswereslowtocondemnhim,butanylingeringbadmemoriescarried overtoChoate.AnsweringthoseinnuendoesandchargeslaterintheSpeaker contest,ChoateusedfamiliarwordsinclaimingPowellasaclosefriendwho had voted with him on many subjects of importance to downstate. The other matter hanging over Choate had a connection with Powell . After Powell’s death, disclosures of his racetrack stock holdings and payments for “public relations” painted a picture of inside deals, even if legal. Choate’s racetrack stock naturally created rumbles among those who disapproved. Persons who also benefited from Powell’s track connections kept quiet. Regarding his stock, Choate declared, “I think the courts have said that was all right as an investment. I never hid it...


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