Patrick Botterman was one of a kind in Cook County Democratic politics — a well-connected Democratic operative who had the guts to take on house speaker Michael Madigan and Mayor Richard Daley and the savvy to beat them. Botterman, the Democratic committeeman of Wheeling Township, died yesterday of a massive heart attack. He was 44 years old.

In 2006, he engineered Brendan Houlihan’s successful campaign for Cook County Board of Review, over candidates backed by Madigan. And in 2007, he oversaw Scott Wauguespack’s upset of 32nd Ward alderman Ted Matlack, who was backed by Daley and virtually every elected official on the north side.

I’ve interviewed Botterman enough over the years to know he didn’t care if the big boys had it in for him — in fact, he relished the fight.

There’s a widespread cynicism about politics around here that undercuts the effectiveness of progressives or reformers. It says you can’t beat the machine, so why even bother to try?

If there were more politicians like Botterman maybe there’d be less corruption infecting our our city and state government.