02/21/2014 08:28 pm ET Updated Apr 23, 2014

Suit Seeks to Bolster Cullerton Bid for DuPage Dem Party Chief

Budding Democratic power in DuPage County is translating into budding interest and intrigue to control the county party's top job.

A couple weeks ago, two DuPage Democratic Precinct Committeemen filed a lawsuit to overturn the party's new bylaws governing the election of the county party chairman, a move that was done at the behest of first-term State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park), who wants the post for himself, sources say.

Plaintiffs Markus Pitchford of Lombard, a political operative who worked on Cullerton's 2012 senate campaign, and Mark Penicnak, President of the Northern Illinois University Democrats, filed the suit in DuPage County on February 3 against DuPage Democratic Chairman Bob Peickert.

Their suit argues that the party's new rule, adopted in November 2013, that requires a party chairman candidate to have served "two terms of the last three terms" as a precinct committeeman to be eligible for the top job is "in direct violation of state law."

Pitchford and Penicnak's suit says that Peickert won the party's approval of the rule in order to "frustrate the democratic process and to further a desperate attempt to hold on to the reins of power."

The "reins of power"?

This is the DuPage Democratic Party that we're talking about here. It's still a bit of a political booby prize.

Nevertheless, Cullerton, who is running for his first term as the York Township 55th precinct committeeman, wants it. As a freshman committeeman, he would be ineligible for the chairman's job under the current rule.

Of course, he must first win the precinct committeeman's contest. Bizarrely, there is a contest for it. Cullerton, who is a cousin of Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), submitted his petitions on the last day of filing, December 2, a week after Arthur Biladeau of Villa Park had filed.

In the meantime, Cullerton's bid is creating larger political headaches.

Insiders say that Peickert's allies have pleaded with State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), whose district extends into DuPage, to intervene with Tom Cullerton to urge him to back off from his chairman bid. But Harmon has abandoned Peickert, refusing to get involved.

Harmon's refusal to help the incumbent DuPage party chairman has further fueled frustrations with the senate pro tem on the part of some local mayors due to Harmon's general unwillingness to stick his neck out for anyone. They are even pondering an endorsement of Harmon's primary opponent to send a message, sources say.

The political grief over Cullerton's move also extends to Governor Pat Quinn.

Peickert is Quinn's guy.

Tom Cullerton is creating an impossible situation for Quinn.

Fighting the younger Cullerton's bid for the DuPage party job potentially risks undermining the governor's tenuous political relationship with the senior Cullerton. But failing to defend his DuPage ally sends an unsettling message to Quinn allies elsewhere and deprives the governor of a loyalist working on his behalf in November.

The fight for the Democratic chairman's job has transformed DuPage Democrats, says an insider.

"DuPage Democrats are now acting like DuPage Republicans - they're tearing at each other's throats," the source said.

Stay tuned.

David also edits, with the help of Capitol Fax's Rich Miller,
The Illinois Observer: The Insider, in which this article first appeared.