An upset victory of two candidates backed by political extremist Lyndon LaRouche stunned Illinois Democratic leaders Wednesday and wreaked havoc with the party's plans to capture key state offices, including the governorship, from the Republicans in November.
The victories in Tuesday's election--the nation's first 1986 primary--were the first ever for LaRouche's National Democratic Policy Committee in a contested statewide election.
Threat to Stevenson
They threatened to derail Adlai E. Stevenson III's hopes of becoming governor in November because Illinois law requires the governor and lieutenant governor to be from the same party and to be elected as a team.
"These people invaded our party," said Cal Sutker, chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party. "They're extremists. They're not in the mainstream of Democratic thought or philosophy and they're objectionable."
At a packed news conference Wednesday night, Stevenson declared: "I will never run on a ticket with candidates who espouse the hate-filled folly of Lyndon LaRouche."
The LaRouche-backed lieutenant governor nominee, Mark Fairchild, narrowly defeated the Democratic Party's candidate, state Sen. George Sangmeister.
"We now find ourselves faced with a possibility that radicals--fringe candidates--may fill the lieutenant governor and secretary of state slots on the Democratic ballot," Stevenson said. "These candidates are not remotely qualified. Nor are they Democrats. They are adherents to an extremist political philosophy bent on violence and steeped in bigotry."
The press conference was briefly disrupted when a man identified as an organizer for LaRouche's group peppered Stevenson with questions about efforts to investigate and discredit Fairchild. Stevenson ignored the heckler, who was eventually pushed from the room by Chicago policemen in civilian clothes.
Stevenson added that he was "exploring every legal remedy to purge these bizarre and dangerous extremists from the Democratic ticket."
New Party Possible
He said his options included seeking a recount of Tuesday's vote, a challenge to the candidacies of the LaRouche supporters and the possibility of forming a "New Democratic Party" in time for the November general election.
The LaRouche supporter who won the Democratic nomination for secretary of state, Janice A. Hart, a 31-year-old campaign organizer for LaRouche in Chicago, defeated Aurelia Pucinski, the daughter of a Chicago alderman. In that race, however, Republican incumbent Jim Edgar is expected to win in the general election.
With 99% of the state's roughly 11,000 precincts counted, Fairchild had 331,480 votes to Sangmeister's 310,510. Hart had 370,209 votes to Pucinski's 355,325.
"It's a sad day for the Democratic Party, and I think the public's made a very poor choice," said David Druker, spokesman for the Illinois Democratic Party.
"The Democrats must be in a state of chaos," Republican Gov. James R. Thompson said. "Every politician in the state of Illinois should sit down tonight and say, 'I'm never going to take voters for granted.' You had a fair and free election, and two people lost who never expected to lose."
Thompson aides said that they expected Tuesday's outcome to be a setback for the statewide Democratic campaign.
In Washington, Nicholas F. Benton, a spokesman for La Rouche, attributed the victories to "an unprecedented level of disgust with leaders of both major parties. We've opened the primary season with a stunning demonstration of the new mood of the American people and their support for the kinds of remedies . . . offered by Mr. LaRouche."
AIDS Quarantine Urged
In their position papers, Hart and Fairchild repeated the LaRouche national platform, which calls for, among other things, mandatory testing for AIDS and quarantining those who have the disease, reversal of the Gramm-Rudman budget-balancing law and a crash program to build a "Star Wars"-type laser defense system. They did not delve into state issues.
The Chicago office of LaRouche's National Democratic Policy Committee held a jubilant news conference Wednesday afternoon, with party spokeswoman Sheila Jones declaring that "the Democratic Party no longer exists except for what we're building right now."
At the conference, Fairchild and Hart promised a campaign against bankers who, they contend, launder drug dealers' profits.
"There will be Nuremberg tribunals set up around the country," Hart told reporters. "Illinois will lead the charge. Traitors will be charged with treason, drug runners will be charged with killing children."
The LaRouche victories had Democratic leaders nationwide worried. "They've been doing a lot of filing in a lot of elections, hoping that lightning would strike. And lightning apparently has struck in Illinois," said Terry Michael, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee.
"They are nothing but the fringe of the kook fringe in American politics," he added. "They have been trying to confuse themselves with the national Democratic Party for years. So far, they've been a minor thorn in our side."
Results Called 'Incredible'
Michael called it "incredible that this could have occurred at offices of the level of lieutenant governor and secretary of state. Obviously, we're going to have to do an education job, making people aware that these people are filing for public office."
"It must have been the Halley's comet factor. This came out of nowhere," said a stunned Tom Serafin, campaign aide for Pucinski. He suggested that voters may have confused Janice Hart with former Democratic presidential contender Gary Hart.
None of the candidates for secretary of state and lieutenant governor campaigned hard enough to become well known by voters statewide, and on the ballot they were listed simply as candidates on the Democratic ticket. Bob Benjamin speculated that voters were more comfortable voting for "familiar"-sounding names like Hart and Fairchild than for names like Sangmeister and Pucinski.
He said also that an analysis of the vote showed that, in districts where Hart and Fairchild appeared first on the ballot, they ran well, suggesting that voters did not pay much attention to whom they were casting ballots for.
The primary victory of Fairchild, a 28-year-old former electrical engineer from Rockford, Ill., who now is a full-time LaRouche political organizer, put him on the Democratic ticket as Stevenson's running mate in the race to unseat incumbent Thompson, who was unopposed in the Republican primary.
Sangmeister, Stevenson's choice for lieutenant governor, is a three-term state senator.
"Obviously, this was an enormous loss for us," said Terry Stephan, deputy press secretary for the Stevenson campaign.
Stevenson is the son of Adlai E. Stevenson, who was a United Nations ambassador and twice unsuccessful candidate for U.S. President, being defeated by Dwight D. Eisenhower. The younger Stevenson ran for governor in 1982 in a bitter campaign against Thompson. The election was not decided until almost two months after the voting was completed, when the Illinois Supreme Court declared Thompson the winner by 5,000 votes.
Stevenson spokesman Bob Benjamin called Fairchild's nomination "a freak occurrence. Everybody took the election for granted and everybody was surprised this morning--including Fairchild."
Stevenson could remain on the ticket with Fairchild, but, if he wants to run without Fairchild, he "would have to withdraw as a Democrat and run as a new political party candidate," said Ron Michaelson, executive director of the Illinois Board of Elections.
To do that, Michaelson said, Stevenson would have to put together a statewide slate and file a petition with 25,000 signatures by Aug. 4. Under state law, it is too late for Stevenson to run as an independent.
Chicago Results Confused
Meanwhile, Chicago voters remained confused Wednesday over the results of a special City Council election that pitted the Democratic machine against Mayor Harold Washington's independent political movement.
By Wednesday evening, the outcome of two of seven council races was still uncertain, and politicians said it may take days, perhaps weeks, before it is clear whether Washington or his foe, Democratic machine boss Edward R. Vrydolak, holds the reins of political power in the nation's third most populous city.
What was clear was that Vrydolak, who has used his majority of 29 councilmen to thwart Washington's programs for the city, now commands only 25 councilmen and that Washington's council strength has increased to 23 from 21. The key to controlling power lies in the two undecided races.
In one race, it appears certain that a final vote tally will require a runoff election on April 29. In the second, considered the pivotal election, only nine votes separate the Washington-backed candidate from the Vrydolak-backed campaigner. That election could be decided today, when election officials count the ballots from one precinct that forgot to take a tally when polls closed Thursday night.
But, more likely, the outcome of the race will be decided in a court challenge or in a runoff election on April 29.
Times researcher Wendy Leopold in Chicago and staff writers Jeffrey A. Perlman in Orange County and Dave Palermo in the San Fernando Valley contributed to this report.