The Democratic National Committee has launched a telephone "alert" to all 50 state party headquarters aimed at preventing more nominations of far-right candidates such as those who won in the Illinois primary election Tuesday.
DNC Chairman Paul G. Kirk Jr. took the step after candidates affiliated with ultraconservative activist Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. won the nominations for lieutenant governor and secretary of state in Illinois, ruining a "dream ticket" handpicked by former U.S. senator Adlai E. Stevenson III for his second race against Republican Gov. James R. Thompson.
"We told them to examine all primary election filings for all offices and to alert legitimate Democratic candidates and voters when they discover LaRouche supporters or other extremists on the ticket," said DNC press secretary Terry Michael.
DNC officials said they are calling all the state parties to give them position papers, historical information and clippings on LaRouche's organization. They said that Democratic candidates have reported activity by LaRouche supporters in states including New York, Michigan and Ohio and that they are urging Democrats in other states to be alert.
In California, Democratic officials scrambled yesterday to begin organizing a write-in campaign after learning that a follower of LaRouche was unopposed for the party's nomination for the congressional seat held by Republican Rep. Robert E. Badham. The district is a Republican stronghold that Democrats have not seriously challenged in the past.
The Illinois victories by Mark J. Fairchild and Janice Hart stunned the state party, and the reverberations from their unexpected coup continue to rattle party leaders across the country.
Fairchild and Hart held a news conference in Washington yesterday in which the lieutenant governor nominee referred to Stevenson as "my running mate," and Hart compared herself to Joan of Arc.
In Chicago, Stevenson moved from one television studio to another, reiterating his condemnation of the two as "neo-Nazis," and vowing to either force them from the ballot legally or found a new party to seek the governorship without them.
At the same time, Democratic officeholders in Illinois continued to blame each other, the news media and the electorate, while discussing possible moves in the state legislature to alter Illinois' election laws so that Stevenson might more easily form a third party.
Repeatedly, regional party leaders discounted the notion that the success of LaRouche's candidates signals a fundamental dissatisfaction with the Democrats here. They said factional party fighting, indifference and ignorance were the main culprits in what they accept as a remarkable electoral blunder.
Reflecting the turmoil was a statement by Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.), a longtime confidant of Stevenson's. He said he told the candidate: "I cannot vote for you if you're on a ticket with two neo-Nazis."
LaRouche's supporters said at the news conference that they have more than 800 candidates running in Democratic primaries around the country this year -- 14 for the U.S. Senate, seven for governor, 146 for the House of Representatives in 27 states and more than 600 for various state offices.
Warren Hamerman, chairman of the LaRouche multicandidate political action committee, the National Democratic Policy Committee, predicted that the group would recruit "thousands" more candidates because of the Illinois successes.
Fairchild, 28, and Hart, 31, echoed LaRouche's invitation to Stevenson to join their campaign to "save this nation and western civilization from the traitorous conspiracy" that they contend now leads the Democratic Party.
Hart said she was "a troublemaker and hell-raiser who intends to cause a lot more trouble in this election." She said that as secretary of state "I can license banks and revoke their licenses" and that she would conduct "a new Nuremburg Tribunal and I am going to put those drug pushers in jail," referring, she said, to "international bankers, including Continental Bank, who knowingly launder drug money."
"Basically, people were unaware of what was at stake," said State Sen. Pat Welch, a Democrat from Peru, in north central Illinois.
Welch said the Democratic-dominated General Assembly, which reconvenes April 1, could attempt to change state election law in an effort to help dislodge the LaRouche duo from the ballot, or improve Stevenson's chances to form a new party. Two other LaRouche-backed candidates, one unopposed, also won Democratic nominations for Congress.
Meanwhile, State Rep. Peg McConnell Breslin, of mid-state Ottawa, majority whip of the Illinois House of Representatives, blamed the outcome on party feuding fostered by Stevenson.
She said he first elbowed Illinois Attorney General Michael Hartigan out of the gubernatorial race, then angered many regulars by bypassing candidates they backed to choose State Sen. George Sangmeister as his lieutenant governor running mate, and Aurelia Pucinski, daughter of Chicago alderman and former representative Roman Pucinski, as candidate for secretary of state.
Sangmeister and Pucinski lost by as much as 2 to 1 in down-state districts. In Chicago, Breslin noted, sample ballots circulated by Mayor Harold Washington, as well as his archrival, Alderman Edward R. Vrdolyak, omitted any mention of the statewide candidates.
At the same time, important voter activist groups, such as the Independent Voters of Illinois and the Cook County Democratic Women, had declined to endorse either of the Stevenson choices, and also omitted their names from "palm cards" circulated to help voters distinguish the many primary cadidates.
Said State Sen. Welch: "There's plenty enough blame to go around."
Meanwhile, the Chicago mayor's goal of gaining control of the City Council in the special ward remap election seemed nearer today after a vote canvass in one ward showed his candidate leading.
The Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners' canvass showed a 25-vote margin for Luis Gutierrez in the disputed 26th Ward over Vrdolyak's candidate, Manuel Torres.
Washington needs to raise his council votes to 25 from a present 23. That would yield a 25-25 council deadlock with Vrdolyak, which Washington can overcome with his tiebreaker voting power.