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Michael O'Connor

Michael O'Connor, currently on temporary leave from his post as legislative aide to state Rep. Constance Howard, is a familiar face at GLBT events, and he is one of the city's most well-known African-American GLBT political activists. In addition to supporting Howard's re-election bid, O'Connor does not shy away from strong opinions in other key races.

"I think the 10th Congressional District race with Mark Kirk and
Hank Perritt is a very interesting race. I think that's great with a
gay candidate [Perritt]," O'Connor said.

"We may all have same-sexual orientations, but the agendas may
be different. His race is a perfect example of that. He is an openly
gay man with a history of being progressive in terms of politics in
Illinois, and he's not getting the full support from the gay
community--I think HRC [which is backing incumbent Mark Kirk,
who received less than a 70% rating from HRC] needs to listen to
people who are in the trenches on a local level. If they did that
they would probably be a lot more in tune what is happening. All
politics is local."

O'Connor certainly has a passion about all of the Black
congressional districts, and he lives in the African-American
community, but most of the incumbents are secure in their districts.
As for statewide candidates, O'Connor said Democratic
gubernatorial candidate Rod Blagojevich "is an excellent candidate
compared to Jim Ryan. His inability to deal with answers about
supporting the human-rights bill--in Chicago he is saying one thing,
another thing downstate. His commercials attacking Rod--that
were not featured here, but were downstate--imply that Rod was
for same-sex marriages [which Blagojevich actually opposes]."

"Ryan's inability to see the bribes-for-licenses scandal in his office
[as Attorney General] tells me he is either too incompetent or too
corrupt to be governor. His prosecutorial conduct has been
questionable in a number of death-row cases. Those things also
affect the gay and lesbian community. We're affected because
some of us have family members on death row."

As for the Treasurer's race with Dart v. Topinka, O'Connor said
that while his own politics are independent Democrat, in this
situation he supports Republican Judy Baar Topinka. "I wouldn't
vote for Tom Dart if he was the only one on the ballot," O'Connor
said, pointing to the Act to Create a Safe Neighborhood Law
which Dart supported. O'Connor said the measure expanded
various criminal laws to the point where persons who previously
had not been felons now were.

For state Attorney General, O'Connor believes "Lisa Madigan will
make a better, more progressive Attorney General. Lisa has been
part of us wherever we go, not just as gays and lesbians, but also
people seeking justice. She has a background of helping people. I
don't care anything about her father and his issues. I am not voting
for Michael Madigan, I am voting for her."

"When Equality Illinois went to Springfield, a number of us went to
see Senate President Pate Philip--we were refused. [Attorney
General candidate] Joe Birkett was walking out of the office. One
of the Equality Illinois guys asked Birkett and Joe said our rights
would be special rights when he is elected. As far as he knew, HB
101 is a special-rights bill. That's outrageous, and unacceptable. I
witnessed that personally."

As for his own boss, O'Connor has strong confidence in
Howard's ability to lead her district. He said her opponent pushes
abstinence instead of HIV/AIDS education, and is out of touch
with the district.

One race that is dividing the Black community is Rev. Meeks and
Bill Shaw in the 15th District. "This is one of the roughest, most
mud-slinging races I have seen in a long time. It's rough,
allegations of Meeks' church with drug dealers--by Shaw. Meeks
alleges that Shaw hired convicted felons to be running dope out of
Mexico. I am with Bill Shaw. If Shaw wins, the Dems are able to
control the Senate. Then bills like HB 101 [the gay-rights bill] will
be able to get out of committee. And Senators will be able to vote
for it," O'Connor said.

"Bill Shaw has supported the gay-rights bill, he said so publicly on
[radio station] WVON. Rev. Meeks said he has not looked at the
specifics of the bill," O'Connor added.

O'Connor also sees a strong interest in this election both in the
African American and overall GLBT communities. "With
social-service cuts, high unemployment, people going to jail made
into felons, there is a lot more interest now," he said. "And with us
maybe going to war, people are starting to reach out and deal with
public policy as a tool to be empowered."

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