Chicago - May. 14, 2021
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They Do Run Run

Lar Daly, meet Jim Oberweis.

Jim Oberweis, meet Lar Daly.

Totally preposterous meets vainglorious nincompoop. The identities virtually are interchangeable. As TV prosecutor Hamilton Burger used to tell Perry Mason: "Incompetent, irrelevant and immaterial."

They both spent 40 years in politics without ever achieving a moment of real usefulness.

Daly and Oberweis wave at each other across the cosmic divide of political time and space, each as goofy as the other. But as The Crystals sang, they "Da Doo Run Run."

They are both famous for failure, sort of inventors of a light bulb that never works.

As Illinois contributions to resilient political buffoonery, they are to public service what Carrot Top and Gallagher are to thoughtful humor. Their bars are set low, even if you are an aardvark.

Congratulations, Illinois.

You have provided comedic relief to the political gloom. As for Oberweis, the ice cream magnate of Aurora, don't let him stand close to a watermelon with a five-iron in his hand. He would Gallagherize the melon because he's just that sort of guy.

Though not widely publicized because Indiana has enough problems on its own, Lar Daly was born in Gary in 1912. In fact, he died this week in 1979. You would miss him only if your life is bereft of eccentricity and substance. But he was charming, sort of like Marty Feldman's "Igor" eyes that could look in different directions simultaneously as if he were an iguana.

His parents were Irish immigrants. Dad was a Gary cop who moved his two sons to Chicago's South Side after their mom died. Lar was 6. He hit the streets selling fresh vegetables from a cart. He was good at it.

Oberweis is doing his best Lar Daly imitation in the 14th Illinois congressional district election, though he is less charming than irritating. You thought that was settled? Wrong. He has been trying to overturn Democrat Lauren Underwood's re-election victory ever since before the votes were counted last November. She beat him by 5,400 votes. He's not taking the voters' "no" for an answer.

If the entire infrastructure of democracy tells Oberweis to go sit in the corner, it will make the seventh time in seven national elective office elections he has lost. (He did win a state senate seat in 2012.) He apparently is slow at catching subtle inferences.

He's retired now from managing his eponymous commercial dairy, so he needs more time for golf.

Rich Miller of Capitol Fax did a point-by-point assessment of Oberweis's case for victory, and the evidence reflects Oberweis apparently misunderstands how elections work in 2021. Also, there's something very "fishy" about vote-by-mail. It's a plot. Where's Rudy and Sidney Powell when you need them? Very Trumpian. And very Oberweisian.

As far back as 2014, a Roll Call profile noted his "Milk Dud" appellation, and that was the Republican view.

Roll Call reminded us that Oberweis at that point had "spent a combined $4 million losing GOP primaries for the Senate in 2002 and 2004 (note: mostly his own money). Then he put $2.2 million more into a runner-up bid for the 2006 gubernatorial nomination. And then he threw $3.8 million at twin quests for the House in 2008, but was unable to hold what looked like a reliably Republican district in either the special or general elections after former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert resigned."

Daly never seemed to care if he won. Running and making everyone uncomfortable was his raison d'ĂȘtre. He just wanted to play the game. Oberweis wants to win, but can't. He's not very good at it.

Oberweis's campaigns are mostly financed by him, and he constantly underfunds himself.

How does a bad candidate act? He led the state senate's veto override to increase rural highway speed limits from 65 mph to 70 mph. He listed the override as his most noteworthy Senate achievement. Really? That's just sad. Then the Chicago Tribune found he'd been ticketed for speeding 11 times since 1988.

The week before one winter primary he went to Florida to spend a week golfing with his second wife for her birthday. He seems to lack some DNA component of public service.

But he's almost 75 now, which does not give enough time to catch Daly, who ran 30 times and never won, often for president and sometimes as a simultaneous member of both parties. If we elected a King of the Solar System, Daly would have chased that, too.

Daly was sort of the Bill Veeck of loser strategy.

Daly did get 75,000 votes once, trying to dunk Sen. Charles Percy, a fact that Illinois should remember with some embarrassed humility. Though he did not get past his first year of high school, he ran for Cook County Superintendent of Schools, and lost with 300,000 votes accumulated mostly because his name "sounded Irish."

There was no official Looney Fringe Party then, other than Southern Democrat racists, like there are now with the modern GOP. Daly pretty much carried the "America First" banner all by himself on days when the Klan was getting its sheets laundered.

I only know about Lawrence Joseph Sarsfield Daly because of my father, who somehow adopted Lar "America First" Daly as his personal, universal symbol for idiocy. Any discussion about useless human beings, ignorant political concepts or junk commercial products would invoke a comparison to Daly.

At one time Dad alluded to a hometown beer brand from Southern Indiana - Sterling - as the "Lar Daly of Beers."

"Lar Daly" was shorthand for everything useless but resiliently intrusive in your life. It took energy to ignore them, and that was their only real power. As with mosquitos, their energy was spent irritating you.

He won one election in 1932 for Republican ward committeeman, and never seemed disheartened he'd never win again. They found he was 20 that fall, and ineligible to run. Beat it, Lar.

But he persisted.

He ran 30 times for every office on the ballot and never won again.

Oberweis gave up his state senatorship to challenge Underwood. He followed the Trumpian protest model, and declared victory even before the votes were counted.

My personal theory is that voters in the 25th Senate District elected him because its suburban counties regularly lean right, but also just to make him go away. Far, far away.

His campaign advertisements have teetered on the precipice of racialism, if not racism. Not Oath Keepers-Proud Boys racism, of course. But people with brown skin do not leap to his side easily.

He has campaigned with a former soldier pardoned by Trump for murdering Afghanistan civilians. He switched sides to "OK, if you insist" on same-sex marriage. Wanted to kill Obamacare.

But mostly he has been an inconsequential-to-bad candidate.

As an exemplar of eccentricity, Daly was far more interesting and compelling. He often dressed as Uncle Sam with red, white and blue ribbons and a tall hat. He had a deep, resonant radio voice. He put campaign signs on his coat. He was an isolationist Libertarian.

He was odd and passionate though this was an antique era in which non-conformity did not come armed with guns. Daly was strange and, almost as a comfort, he seemed to realize that.

In 1960, he briefly broke through the bozo barrier by using the federal "Equal Time Law" requiring TV and radio to provide time to all competing candidates. They had not factored Daly's insistent crackpotism into the calculus.

He eventually bulled his way legally onto Jack Paar's NBC Tonight Show after Jack Kennedy got an interview. Paar gaped open-mouthed as Daly described his philosophy: "Your only choice is America first - or death."

Paar nearly fainted. Paar often almost fainted. Cut briskly to commercial.

Congress changed the law as fast as it could.

According to Unremembered, "Daly lived in a modest two-story brick bungalow on Chicago's South Side and drove a Ford Station wagon, painted red, white and blue. He had six children and sold bar stools for a living. 'To bookies,' he once said, 'so they had somewhere to stand when they wrote the odds on the chalkboard.'"

A month before he died, Daly is believed to have pawned his Uncle Sam outfit for cash.

Oberweis is a multimillionaire. Plays lots of golf.

Oberweis's second wife, Julie, moved her legal self to Florida, and changed her official voting residence.

She has not voted for Oberweis recently. As for who lives where and with whom, the political issue soon will be moot and mute.

The chances Oberweis will cast a vote in the U.S. House seems remote. As a matter of fact, why Oberweis is even pursuing the grail is unclear unless he seeks redemption. Maybe he wants to untangle the "perpetual loser" knot hung around his neck.

As for the Oberweises, they now share ownership of a $1.2 million four-bedroom condo in Bonita Springs, near Fort Myers. For the record, the area contiguous to Fort Myers contains 92 golf courses.

Daly didn't play golf. He was too busy running after history.

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David Rutter is the former publisher/editor of the Lake County News-Sun, and more importantly, the former author of the Beachwood's late, great "The Week In WTF" column. His most recent piece for us was Where Quarterbacks Don't Die. You can also check him out at his Theeditor50's blog. He welcomes your comments.



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