On Chicago's North Side, a political brawl is in brewing between two high-profile lesbian human rights activists for the Illinois state House seat once held by ex-State Rep. Harry Osterman, a clash which has drawn in Chicago's newly minted mayor and the state's powerful House Speaker.
Democratic State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, who was appointed to the post in May by Democratic ward committeemen following Osterman's election as 48th Ward Alderman, boosted her election chances against Paula Basta with an all-star fund-raiser last week chaired by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Speaker Michael J. Madigan (D-Chicago). Emanuel appeared at the event.
Alarm bells had rung earlier in the summer among local political observers that Cassidy's campaign was lagging in money and momentum behind Basta, a former board president of Equality Illinois, the state's leading gay rights group.
The official backing by both Emanuel and Madigan, as well as a strong fund-raising effort during the summer and early fall, have largely extinguished worries emanating from Cassidy's camp.
In the three-month reporting period between July and September, Cassidy hauled in $75,265. Basta raised $6,486.
Cassidy's key donors included the lakefront's top political guns. U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL-5) dropped $5,000 into her war chest; 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney gave $2,500; and Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) chipped in $1,000.
Equality Illinois -- which Basta once chaired -- endorsed Cassidy and donated $1,000.
During the summer and early fall, Cassidy spent $25,155.48 and ended the period with $50,209.52 on hand. Basta spent $21,398.76 and had $78,627.24 remaining. The bulk of Basta's money -- $75,000 -- has come from a single donor, Nancy Schmidt.
With a ramped-up fund-raising effort, the incumbent's cash pile will likely surpass Basta's as she struggles to raise money from a broader pool of political donors who now are stampeding toward Cassidy.
"We have over 300 donors and hundreds of volunteers who make this campaign what it really is," said Cassidy.
A long-time human rights activist and a mother of three with her partner Kelly Quinn, Cassidy, who is the second openly lesbian lawmaker in Springfield along with State Rep. Deb Mell (D-Chicago), has also piled-up a bulging list of endorsement from long-time, gay and lesbian political leaders and key human rights groups.
"As we struggle to keep our neighborhoods vibrant and growing, two of the biggest issues families face, education and public safety, are at the forefront of everyone's thoughts," said Cassidy backer State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago). "Kelly brings an important perspective to the state legislature as a mom and a former public safety professional."
In addition to Harris, Cassidy's gay and lesbian backers included: Mell, 46th Ward Alderman James Cappleman, 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney, Water District Commissioner Deb Shore, Michael Bauer, Roger Simon, Richard Thale, Dalila Fridi, Rick Garcia, Vernita Gray, Pat Ewert, Art Johnston, Jackie Kaplan-Perkins, Marcia Lipetz, Lynda Crawford, Jacob Meister, Mary Morten, Willa Taylor Brandon Neese, David Wick, Janna Lombardo, Jeremy Gottschalk, Laura Ricketts, Jim Bennett, Jon Erickson, David Egeland, Grant Kauffman, Tressa Feher, Jonathan Pizer, Brad Lippitz, Earl Perlow, Fred Eychaner, Michael Forti, Robert Kohl, Clark Pellet, Cara Meiselman, Debra Ashen, Stephanie Miller, David Munar, Phil Palmer, John Peller, Renee Ruffing, Coco Soodek, Mary Trew, Kate Wellborn, The Civil Rights Agenda, and Equality Illinois.
And behind them are the backstops -- the mayor and the Speaker.
Cassidy has reversed a summer slump.
The primary is March 12, 2012.
Follow David Ormsby on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DavidOrmsby