The candidacy of Little Village community activist Raul Montes Jr. would seem to pose no danger to the election hopes of state Sen. Steve Landek, who also is the mayor of Bridgeview. Montes, 36, has never held political office, has raised no campaign donations and, judging by his one-man effort to circulate nominating petitions, has no network of volunteers behind him.
Yet Landek has waged a full-bore legal campaign to challenge Montes’ nominating petitions and remove him from the ballot.
Montes says that Landek followed up that effort last week by inviting him to a skybox at Toyota Park, owned by the village of Bridgeview, where he says Landek used a carrot-and-stick approach to try to back him out of the race — alternately threatening to dirty him up in the petition challenge while also offering financial inducements.
Neither tactic is considered all that unusual in the cutthroat business of petition gathering and petition challenges overseen by a small cadre of election lawyers who make it their specialty to keep candidates on or off the ballot. It’s a world where incumbents almost always have the upper hand.
However, in this case, Montes brought in the FBI to secretly record his conversation with Landek. According to Montes, he said Landek promised him a job working on his campaign and later with his Senate staff if he agreed to withdraw from the race. Landek isn’t commenting, but his lawyer, election law specialist Burt Odelson, said Landek understood his legal bounds and offered Montes nothing improper.
Montes says, that he had brought along an FBI eavesdropping device, disguised as a fob on his key ring, to record what turned out to be their 2½-hour conversation. He said he met two female FBI agents before the meeting with Landek, then followed them to a residential neighborhood near the stadium where they put the recording device on his keychain.
Landek is an important suburban political power. So why would Landek, who can expect to have the entire Democratic establishment behind him, be intent on eliminating a rival who by all appearances stacks up as a non-contender?
Although Landek currently represents the 11th Senate District, legislative redistricting has pushed him into the 12th District, where Montes is his only would-be opponent. For one, if you have an opponent, there’s always a possibility, however remote, that you could lose. Also, when you have an opponent, you are put in a position to mount a campaign. Campaigns require time, energy, and most importantly, money.
Montes said Landek remarked on the cost of running a campaign several times during their talk to explain why it was worth his while to strike a deal.
Redistricting also creates uncertainty for incumbents. While Landek has only been in office a year, now he’s faced with running on new turf where Montes is bound to get some traction because of his Hispanic heritage.
As you would expect, the FBI is not confirming or denying any involvement with Montes. It is unknown as to what the outcome will be if the FBI did indeed set him up with an eavesdropping device for this meeting. I guess we will have to wait and see what transpires on this one.
This would be at least the second time Landek found himself on the receiving end of an FBI wiretap. The Sun-Times reported in 2006 that Landek was secretly recorded by a businessman who said he was being harassed to sell a real estate parcel that Bridgeview needed to build Toyota Park for use by the Chicago Fire.
Some information for this story was obtained @ suntimes