Morton Grove’s Action Party facing rare challenges from within
Morton Grove Mayor Dan Staackmann hugs Trustee Larry Gomberg at Action Party headquarters on election night, 2009. This year, running for his second term, Staackmann is facing a general election challenge.
Updated: February 19, 2013 12:32PM
MORTON GROVE — In its decades of control over village government, the Morton Grove Action Party has rarely been challenged successfully.
But now the Action Party, for what some members say is the fist time, is being challenged from within.
Trustee Dan DiMaria, who’s served on the board as an Action Party member since 2001, is challenging Action Party Mayor Dan Staackmann in the February primary. Village Trustee Larry Gomberg, also elected on the Action Party ticket, has filed as an independent candidate for mayor in the April 9 general election.
The Action Party has faced challenges from outsiders in the past. In 2003, Rick Krier, running on the Caucus Party ticket, was elected trustee, and two years later was elected mayor in an unusual race that swept all of the Caucus Party candidates into office.
The Caucus party’s success ended there, as the Action Party won all of the races in 2009 and 2011. But Stackmaan said he doesn’t think the Action Party’s members have ever faced off against each other before.
“This is very out of the ordinary,” Staackmann said. “It’s the very first time anybody ever heard of it happening in Morton Grove.”
Both Staackmann and DiMaria went before the party’s slating committee last fall seeking its endorsement for mayor. Staackmann won, but DiMaria said it was so close he decided to challenge Staackmann.
However, DiMaria said he is as strong a member of the Action Party as ever.
“I’m not going against the party. I’m running with the party,” DiMaria said.
As proof, he cited his endorsements from current Trustee Bill Greer (running this year for reelection on the Action Party slate) and from former Action Party Trustee Jim Karp.
DiMaria said the Action Party slating committee was split 8-7 in its endorsement of Staackmann. With that in mind and with the encouragement of several Morton Grove residents, DiMaria said he decided to challenge Staackmann in the primary.
“It came down to the party being split,” DiMaria said. “I thought, ‘Let the residents decide.’ I’m getting too much feedback from residents not to do it.”
For his part, Gomberg said he has no interest in talking about the Action Party.
“That whole thing is behind me,” Gomberg said.
“First and foremost I think I’m doing the right thing for the village of Morton Grove,” he said. “I just want to go forward with an issue-oriented, positive campaign.”
Gomberg said DiMaria’s primary challenge works to his advantage. It gives him time to campaign for the general election while the two Action Party candidates are mired in a primary fight. Gomberg will face the winner of that race in April.
Mark Matz, chairman of the Action Party, said it’s not surprising that there would be different views among members.
“We’ve got a group of people who have different opinions,” Matz said. “The party is made up of people with different ideas. It’s good.”
Rather than hurting the party, Matz said the challenge from within will actually make it stronger in the end.
“They have different ideas. That’s the best thing about a democracy,” Matz said.
At the same time, he expressed his support for Staackmann, the party’s endorsed candidate.
“I’m confident our current mayor has the best plan,” he said.
Staackmann is less enthusiastic about the challenge to his candidacy.
“They do ask every candidate that they screen, ‘Will you support the endorsed candidates?’” Staackmann said.
“I think the party followed its procedures the proper way,” he added.
He said DiMaria is going back on that pledge by running against him in the primary.
But DiMaria said the fact that Staackmann was endorsed so narrowly made it critical for him to run also.
“That showed me the party is split,” DiMaria said. “I’ve been a loyal Action Party trustee and village clerk. I’m a proud Action Party member.”