Meet some of Illinois's off-the-radar superdelegates.
Two Saturdays ago, after drinking Jim Oberweis’s proverbial milkshake to nab a seat in the House, Bill Foster became Illinois’s newest superdelegate. If the word superdelegate makes you vacillate between thoughts of the spandex-clad Justice League and a profound feeling of confusion, you’re not alone. In a nutshell, superdelegates are the 795 elected officials,party leaders and members of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) who (unlike regular delegates) are free to vote for either candidate at the August Democratic National Convention. (Republicans don’t use the superdelegate system.) To win the presidential nomination, either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton needs to reach the magic majority delegate number: 2,024 out of the 4,047 total delegates. Superdelegates make up about 40 percent of the delegates needed to win the nomination. In a race as close as this one, a superdelegate’s duty becomes crucial. (So far, all the Illinois superdelegates have pledged for Obama, though they are free to change their minds come August.)
Looking at the list of Illinois superdels, it’s no surprise to see names such as Sen. Dick Durbin and Gov. Rod Blagojevich, but who the hell are Willie Barrow, Steve Powell and John Rednour Sr.? What makes them so effin’ super?
The Rev. Willie T. Barrow, 83
DNC member-at-large and pastor of the Vernon Park Church of God in the Calumet Heights neighborhood, Barrow earned the nickname “the Little Warrior” for her lifelong efforts organizing communities against injustice. During the civil rights movement, she was a logistical engineer for many of the rallies led by Martin Luther King Jr. and was involved in the early days of the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Operation PUSH, which evolved into the RainbowPUSH Coalition. Barrow still works with RainbowPUSH, steering at-risk youth toward college. Though she gave her nod to Hillary’s hubby in past elections, Barrow says, “Barack is the man of our time. He’s a husband man. He’s a family man. He’s a community man. He’s a black man. And he’s an educated man.”
Steve Powell, 44
DNC member-at-large and committeeman in the 8th congressional district, Powell, the secretary-treasurer of the Local 881 United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) in Rosemont, grew up in the American labor movement. His father and boss, Ron, has been president of the UFCW since 1983. Powell works with legislators in Springfield and Washington to improve wages, health care and pensions for workers in arenas such as retail food and drug and meat packing. So what, you ask, is this union guy doing on the Democratic National Committee? “I try to make sure that the party platform in those issues are represented as we move policy forward for the country.” Powell says his union’s congenial collaboration with Obama in the state capitol was what originally swayed him. “He was able to bring the Republican and Democratic sides together on very difficult legislation. He has the ability to do the same on the national level.”
John Rednour Sr., 73
Often confused with his son, John Jr., who is a member of Hillary Clinton’s Illinois Steering Committee, DNC member Rednour has been incorrectly reported in the press as the only Clinton-pledged Illinois superdelegate. “My family is made up of free thinkers,” Rednour says. Active in the Democratic Party for more than 40 years, Rednour is like the Richard M. Daley of southern Illinois. Since 1989, he’s been reelected as mayor of Du Quoin (population 6,600) without facing any major competition. Rednour was an Illinois delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1972, 2000 and 2004, and was a presidential elector for Illinois in 1992.