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A new shade of blue in DuPage County
By Jake Griffin | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 3/6/2008 12:19 AM

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Operation: Turn DuPage Blue can no longer be considered an offshoot of the county's Democratic Party.

They're running things now.

The splinter group's chairman, Bob Peickert, handily defeated incumbent DuPage County Democratic Party Chairman Rob Bisceglie at Wednesday night's convention in Wheaton.

In all, 215 of the nearly 250 Democratic precinct committeemen showed up to vote for new party leadership.

"I think what this signifies is the Democratic Party is more united than ever before," Peickert said shortly after the results were announced. "This is a party to be reckoned with. This is the biggest turnout of elected Democrat leaders in DuPage ever."

Peickert's group was formed a little more than a year ago in an effort to grow the Democratic Party in DuPage County. Among the successes Operation: Turn DuPage Blue helped garner is the doubling of elected precinct committeemen and more voters picking Democratic ballots over Republican ballots in the Feb. 5 primary. That was widely regarded as a first in anyone's memory.

Peickert said attempts to ingratiate his group with the Democratic hierarchy in DuPage County was rebuffed by leaders, but it didn't sway their desire to work for Democratic candidates and strengthen the local party.

Bisceglie has pledged to work with Peickert during the transition and accepted a post on Peickert's executive council.

Bisceglie rose to power after longtime DuPage Democratic chairman Gayl Ferraro stepped down from the post late last year.

Doug Higgins, a committeeman from Lisle Township, nominated Peickert. He touted Peickert's grassroots efforts to invigorate the local party as a selling point for the 63-year-old retired union negotiator from Elmhurst.

"For the first time ever in this county, a person can stand up and identify themselves as a Democrat and not feel like an oddity," Higgins said. "He has shaken up the establishment of our party."

The committeemen's leadership votes were weighted by the number of Democratic voters who turned out in their precincts in the Feb. 5 primary. That meant the ballot of a committeeman from a precinct that had 300 voters carried three times the value of a committeeman whose precinct turned out just 100 voters.

The final tally of the chairmanship vote Wednesday was 24,448 points for Peickert and 17,531 for Bisceglie.

Treasurer Bob Jeffers was amazed by the turnout at the Wheaton Park District's Community Center.

"It's the biggest one I've ever attended," he said. "We've never had a convention in a place this big that I can remember, and I've been doing this a long time."

The event even attracted an audience. Several area Democrats showed up simply to watch the proceedings.

"I just wanted to see what happens," said Loretta Zainine of Glen Ellyn.

DuPage Republicans also held a convention to elect party leadership Wednesday. They took far less time than the Democrats since Sen. Dan Cronin of Elmhurst was the lone nominee for chairman, a post he's held since being appointed last year.