Yard signs appear to link unaligned candidates

February 2, 2010 2:14:27 PM PST
If you've lived in this city long enough, you've no doubt witnessed a few political dirty tricks leading up to Election Day. And this year is no different. ABC 7's Ben Bradley reports the latest chapter: Yard signs suggesting political alliances that don't exist. If you're running as a reformer on Chicago's North Side, it's not the best campaign strategy to have your name linked to Todd Stroger's. But that's just what's happening in the race to fill a county board seat long held by one of Stroger's biggest critics.

"It's old school politics at its worst," said State Rep. John Fritchey, (D) Cook County commissioner candidate.

Signs have been sprouting in Chicago's Lincoln Park and Bucktown neighborhoods that appear to show John Fritchey and Todd Stroger are politically married, teammates intent on trumpeting their alliance. The reality is John Fritchey supports Stroger's opponent, Toni Preckwinkle. Todd Stroger's name is politically toxic in this district.

"Suffice to say that they didn't associate me with Todd in an effort to help me," said Fritchey.

Fritchey says his opponent, former Alderman Ted Matlak, is behind the bogus signs, which don't contain a legally mandated line stating who paid for them. Matlak denies it and declined to be interviewed for this story.

"When you look at the size of the signs, side by side, what they were printed on, they were obviously done at the same print house, at the same time. There's little question in my mind what happened here," said Fritchey.

"It's a standard loser's dirty trick," said Don Rose, political consultant.

Rose says, in a city that's seen candidates use Irish names to win votes and a man named Jesse Jackson slated to run against the Jesse Jackson, Junior, the sign shenanigans are small potatoes.

"If this race were going to be close, which it is not, it would make a difference at the edges, because it would make people wonder what's going on," said Rose.

"I have a lot of faith that the voters are smarter than that, and hopefully by the end of tonight I'll be proven right," said Fritchey.

Fritchey is distributing flyers that say Ted Matlak is the "real" supporter of Todd Stroger, citing campaign finance records that show Matlak donated to Stroger in 2005.

A spokesman for the Cook County Board president says Stroger is not aligned with anyone in this particular race.