The latest "politics of personal destruction" story broke here late last week, prompting the Chicago Anti Bashing Network to picket Ald. Ted Matlak's 32nd Ward office near Damen and Webster on election eve.
Writing to 700 Ward GOP voters, Republican Committeeman John J. Curry endorsed Democratic incumbent Ald. Theodore Matlak and lambasted the leading challenger, former NOW Chicago president Lorna Brett for holding progressive views, especially on gays.
Brett has "agitated to promote a radical feminist agenda," Curry's Feb. 16 letter began. He claimed Brett and NOW support "radical laws to protect homosexual conduct, such as housing laws to require landlords to rent to practicing homosexual couples." Brett campaigned against Republicans and cooperated with Rev. Jesse Jackson, he said.
"Brett even openly denounced Glenn Poshard, the Democratic candidate for Governor, because he refused to endorse the most radical positions on abortion, gun ownership, and gay rights. Brett is anti business, pro tax, and pro radical gay rights," Curry proclaimed.
At a City Hall press conference Feb. 18, Brett denounced Curry's letter as an example of the "politics of hate." She urged Matlak to repudiate Curry, even as she fingered the incumbent for approving the letter. Curry reportedly told a Brett staffer that "Matlak paid for ... and helped to draft the letter."
Brett also called on Matlak mentor Mayor Richard Daley to "publicly repudiate the language and content of this letter ... [and to] unequivocally state his disapproval [of] Alderman Matlak's tactics." Daley spokesman John Camper said Monday "the mayor disagrees with the sentiments expressed in" Curry's letter and "had no part in that."
Matlak denied Brett's allegations, telling the Tribune "he first read the letter Thursday." He said "he appreciated Curry's support but opposed many of the views Curry espoused."
How did the gay positive mayor react to his appointee's less than absolute disavowal of Curry? "Obviously, the mayor supports Ted Matlak. ... He endorsed him and stands by that," Camper continued. "But it's not like the mayor totally controls him."
Curry told the Sun Times "Matlak was unaware of the content" of the letter and that "unidentified 'people in the neighborhood that support' Matlak paid" for the $300 mailing.
But the Sun Times also reported that Curry told gay journalist Louis Weisberg "the letter was paid for by a collaboration between me and the campaign of Ted Matlak. Ted was aware of it."
"Mr. Matlak did not have the courage to stand by his political attack," Brett said Thursday. "He is running a divisive campaign."
Matlak vehemently denied any foreknowledge of or responsibility for Curry's ad hominem attack. "I had not previously known of the letter," Matlak declared when contacted by Outlines Monday. "I strongly disavow its negative tone."
Did Matlak read Curry's letter before it was mailed? "No," he said. Did Matlak know beforehand Curry was going to write a letter supporting his candidacy? "Not really, no," Matlak said less certainly. Did Matlak's campaign or campaign supporters fund the mailing? "I didn't pay for it. I don't know who paid for it," he replied.
Asked whether he was previously acquainted with Curry, the alderman waffled. "He is a constituent," Matlak said finally. "I've served him [like everyone else]."
Matlak was at pains this week to present a more gay positive side of himself. He had ignored the Outlines candidates' survey, despite even a face to face reminder at a DePaul forum. Campaign p.r. head Kristi LeFleur assured Outlines the oversight was hers and that the alderman is "a supporter of women's rights [and] gay rights."
Matlak rejected Curry's homophobic views. "I disagree with that statement" he commented on each anti gay excerpt. He issued a statement Tuesday saying he rejects any type of discrimination based on "sexual preference," and saying he backs Daley's Domestic Partners Ordinance. He also said he spoke to gays on Monday about his campaign and the letter.