Patrick Botterman, veteran Democratic political operative and Wheeling Township Democratic committeeman, dies at age 44

March 12, 2008

Dan Mihalopoulos and Trevor Jensen, Chicago Tribune

Veteran Democratic political operative Patrick Botterman guided candidates for offices from alderman to Congress in a career driven by the adrenaline of hard-fought campaigns and dedicated, more often than not, to the underdog.

A lifelong resident of Arlington Heights, Mr. Botterman, 44, died Monday, March 10, after suffering a heart attack following lunch in the Loop, said his brother Kevin. He was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, but resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful.

Mr. Botterman, Wheeling Township Democratic committeeman, combined creative thinking with attention to detail to craft innovative, community-focused campaigns for cash-strapped candidates, said fellow political consultant Kevin Lampe.

Mr. Botterman, who was idealistic in the belief that putting the right people in office could make the world a better place, also got a kick out of time-honored political ploys like picking up a load of an opponent’s yard signs and reworking them for his candidate to save money.

“He would take on the powers that be because he felt it was the right thing to do,” said state Sen. Daniel Kotowski (D-Park Ridge), whose 2006 campaign was managed by Mr. Botterman. “He loved the underdog, and he was someone that was just so dedicated to doing what was right and so dedicated to doing it well.”

In Melissa Bean’s unsuccessful first run for Congress in 2002, Mr. Botterman built a grass-roots network that paved the way for Bean’s victory two years later over longtime incumbent Philip Crane in the 8th Congressional District.

“Ahead of the curve, he envisioned and built the suburban Democratic party infrastructure and team that is now growing and strong,” Bean said in a statement.

Mr. Botterman had a hand in such upsets as the 2000 election of Dorothy Brown as Cook County Circuit Court clerk and Scott Waguespack’s win last year over incumbent Ted Matlak in Chicago’s 32nd Ward aldermanic race.

“It was all about the grass-roots and reaching out to people — it wasn’t about big, glossy mailers and TV ads,” Waguespack said. “It was about openness and getting the candidate out there to empathize with people. He was able to relate to any community, and that is what made him great, in the city or the suburbs.”

Mr. Botterman’s most recent campaign was last month’s unsuccessful Democratic primary challenge by Mark Pera against U.S. Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.).

“If he believed in the candidate, he’d go to the mat for you, and he wasn’t afraid to take on the power brokers in Cook County and in the state,” said Pera. “When he was with you, he was with you, and he would do everything he could for you, within the boundaries of ethics.”

Mr. Botterman came into conflict with the state’s top Democrats in 2002, when he was the only Cook County committeeman to back John Schmidt’s bid for attorney general over Lisa Madigan, daughter of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. Mr. Botterman believed party leaders retaliated by supporting a challenger to his re-election as committeeman. He won that race narrowly, while managing Schmidt’s failed bid.

Early in his career, in a campaign when funds were typically tight, Mr. Botterman conducted opposition research by going through the garbage outside the opponent’s campaign headquarters, Lampe said. During one such excursion, Lampe was dangling Mr. Botterman by his ankles over a trash bin when Lampe lost his pager. Lampe immediately dropped Mr. Botterman into the bin so he could find the pager before police showed up.

“He could make light of his role in the process, and the process itself, the shenanigans,” said brother Kevin Botterman, a reporter with Triblocal, a division of Chicagoland Publishing Co., which is owned by the Chicago Tribune. “He certainly developed his share of scar tissue in the process. But he was always ready to strap on the gear for another campaign.”

Mr. Botterman, whose grandfather also was Wheeling Township committeeman, grew up in a large family where politics and current events were grist for lively dinner-table discussions.

After graduating from Arlington High School (since closed), he received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Western Illinois University in Macomb.

Mr. Botterman also is survived by his mother, Marian; brothers Mark, Terry and Mike; and sisters Mary Jo Coonen and Katie Buxton.

Visitation will be from 3 to 9 p.m. Friday in Glueckert Funeral Home, 1520 N. Arlington Heights Rd., Arlington Heights. Mass will be said at 9:30 a.m. Saturday in Our Lady of the Wayside Catholic Church, 434 W. Park St., Arlington Heights.