the Northwest Side, in the 39th District's
Democratic primary for state representative,
"Big Daddy's Little Girl" is facing a
spirited challenge from the "Chapel Hill
former is 10-year incumbent Toni Berrios, age 35,
the daughter of Chicago's very own "Big
Daddy," Joe Berrios. As the Cook County
assessor, the Democratic county chairman, a former
Board of Review commissioner and the 31st Ward
Democratic committeeman, "Big Daddy"
Berrios is the consummate political insider, and
he can raise thousands of dollars just by hitting
his speed dial. He anointed his daughter as a
state representative in 2002, and he's not about
to let some fancy East Coast liberal beat her.
latter, Will Guzzardi, age 24, is a Chapel Hill,
N.C., native who currently lives in Logan Square
and an Internet journalist who worked briefly for
the Huffington Post online newspaper, and he
possesses boundless energy and ambition. "I'm
an independent," Guzzardi proclaimed.
"I'm not part of the political machine. The
incumbent fights for corporate interests and
(Democratic) party interests. I promise
is not for sale," sniffed Berrios's media
consultant, noting that of the $86,148 Guzzardi
raised from 82 contributors during the period from
July 1 to Dec. 31, 2011, 70 of those contributors
were from North Carolina, the East Coast or the
West Coast. That's right. Chicago is only for sale
to Chicagoans. How dare those impudent, subversive
North Carolinians spend their grubby dollars in
the Second City? After all, Joe Berrios has a deed
to the 39th District, and he bought the seat fair
for the "Berrios Clan," the political
neighborhood has changed. The 39th Illinois House
District, as created in 2001, became distinctly
less hospitable in the 2011 remap. This is
inexplicable, as "Big Daddy" is a
longtime ally of Illinois House Speaker Mike
Madigan, with whom he served in Springfield from
1982 to 1988 and whose law firm regularly
practiced before the Board of Review over the
years, securing huge reductions in assessed
valuations (and huge fees). "Big Daddy"
was a board commissioner from 1988 to 2010, when
he was elected assessor. From 2002 through 2009,
Berrios's campaign committees raised $4 million,
and during 2009-10, Berrios raised $1.9 million
for assessor. Take that, North Carolina.
Chicagoans can well afford to buy their own
existing district is 59 percent Hispanic, mostly
Puerto Rican, and it encompasses 26 of the 51
precincts in "Big Daddy's" Avondale-Cragin
31st Ward, 29 of the 36 precincts in the Logan
Square 35th Ward, 12 precincts in the 1st Ward and
another 11 scattered precincts, including one in
the 38th Ward. The district extends from Oakley
Avenue and North Avenue in Logan Square to Laramie
and Belmont avenues in south Portage Park.
of opposition is a testament to any politician's
heft, and "Big Daddy's" money and
manpower initially squashed all discontent.
Between 2002 and 2010, Toni Berrios was unopposed
in four of five of primaries and three of five
elections. In the 2004 primary, the Berrios
machine obliterated Pedro de Jesus by 6,050-2,832,
in a turnout of 8,882, getting 77.4 percent of the
vote in the 31st Ward and 61.5 percent in the 35th
recent elections spell trouble. In 2008, against
Jeremy Karpen, an obscure Green Party candidate,
Toni Berrios won by 19,859-5,176, with 79.3
percent of the vote. In 2010 she defeated Karpen
by 10,487-5,526, with 65.5 percent of the vote. In
her father's 31st Ward, Toni Berrios won 2,948-668
(81.5 percent) in a turnout of 3,616, while in the
Logan Square 35th Ward, she won by 4,567-3,231
(58.6 percent) in a turnout of 7,798.
significant. When a Democrat beats a Republican
2-1, it means the Democratic base is solid. When a
Democrat beats a Green Party candidate 2-1, it
means that the Democratic base is fractured and
that liberal and independent voters find the
Democratic nominee repugnant. Barack Obama won the
district with 84 percent of the vote in 2008, and
John Kerry won it with 77 percent in 2004, so
those Karpen voters are largely pro-Obama,
anti-"Big Daddy" Democrats.
fact, the higher Joe Berrios rises and the more
the media pounds on his fund-raising frenzy, the
greater his erosion of support. In 2008, running
for renomination to the Board of Review against
Lakefront liberal Jay Paul Deratany, Berrios won
the 31st Ward 5,031-1,213 (with 80.6 percent of
the vote) and the 35th Ward 5,484-3,661 (with 59.9
2010 was different. In the primary for assessor,
facing former judge Raymond Figueroa and Robert
Shaw, Berrios eked out a 39.2 percent countywide
victory. But in his back yard, he lost the 35th
Ward to Figueroa by 1,620-1,593 (getting just 42.6
percent of the vote), and he won the 31st Ward by
an unimpressive 2,093-772 (with 65.7 percent). In
the election against independent Forrest Claypool
and two other candidates, Berrios won his ward
4,661-1,281 (with 68.3 percent of the vote) over
Claypool, in a turnout of 6,821, and he took the
35th Ward 4,914-3,069 (with 50.8 percent) over
Claypool, in a turnout of 9,669.
base is collapsing, and his ward's turnout is
collapsing," Guzzardi said. "I will win
because my majority in the 35th Ward will be
bigger than her majority in the 31st Ward, and I
will break even in the 38th Ward."
the 2011 remap, designed by Madigan, more than
one-third of the territory in the 39th District is
new and the district is 54 percent Hispanic. It
moved dramatically westward, west of Cicero Avenue
into Belmont-Central and Portage Park, extending
to Six Corners (Milwaukee/Irving Park/Cicero) and
ending at Meade Avenue. It incorporates 20
precincts from the existing 38th Ward (now in the
36th Ward), which are heavily Mexican American, 17
from the 35th Ward/Logan Square (down from 29),
and 40 from the 31st Ward (up from 26).
have represented the district well," asserted
Toni Berrios, whose anointment in 2002 was
something of a joke. At that time, she was a
25-year-old student at Northeastern Illinois
University, and she got her psychology degree in
2006. But she's no airhead. "She's very
bright and hardworking," said former state
representative Ralph Capparelli.
her accomplishments, Berrios, who is the
chairwoman of the House Bio-Technology Committee
and co-chair of the Latino Caucus, highlights
funding for a number of local projects, including
a Haas Park fieldhouse, a Logan Square skating
park, a summer school food program and annual
resource fairs. But she has been part of the
House's Madigan majority, voting for the state
income tax hike, the ComEd rate hike and $300
million in tax breaks for Sears and the Chicago
do we solve the state's budget crisis and $500
million fiscal 2012 deficit? "We need
bipartisan cooperation," Berrios said. Hold
on. Don't the Democrats have a 64-54 House
majority and a 35-24 Senate majority? Why can't
they solve the problem themselves? "We need
Republican votes," she lamely insists.
have corruption and insider deals," Guzzardi
said. "We have job loss, foreclosures and
neighborhood decay. People are looking for change,
and they're not going to get it if they keep the
same politicians in office."
laments that many in state government are
"lining their own pockets," and his
solution is as lame as his opponent's: "Less
waste . . . better revenues . . . more taxes on
the wealthy," he avers. "I'm an Obama
Democrat," he adds.
are various dynamics:
Berrios Baggage: "Big Daddy" earns
$125,000 annually as assessor. He gave up his
lucrative lobbying (for video poker) and insurance
businesses. His kids are all on the assessor's
payroll: Vanessa as a $68,288-a-year chief
industrial appraiser, Joey as a $48,000-a-year
residential analyst and Carmen as an
$86,000-a-year director of taxpayer services. Toni
Berrios earns $67,836. That's $395,124 of taxpayer
dollars yearly lining, to use Guzzardi's phrase,
the Berrios family's pockets.
Berrios Bucks: Guzzardi expects to spend $130,000.
"Well match that," Joe Berrios said.
"Nobody's going to outwork us." As of
Dec. 31, Joe Berrios' countywide committee had
$338,718 on hand, the 31st Ward Democrats had
$93,082, 31st Ward Alderman Ray Suarez, Berrios's
longtime ally, had $1,107,568, and Toni Berrios
Almost three-quarters of the Hispanics in the old
39th District were Puerto Rican. In the new
district, 40 percent are Mexican American -- but
many are non-citizens. Mexicans traditionally
hesitate to vote for Puerto Ricans.
35th Ward Chaos: Alderman Rey Colon, who once was
an independent and who now is a Berrios ally,
failed to file the requisite number of signatures
for Democratic committeeman. A white liberal,
Nancy Schiavone, is unopposed for the job. That
means Colon's organization is dormant. If Colon
stays neutral, that helps Guzzardi. If he endorses
Toni Berrios, that gives Schiavone an opening to
blast Colon when she runs for alderman in 2015.
"Colon will endorse Toni," predicted Joe
Berrios. "Colon will be neutral,"
38th Ward Vacuum: Committeeman P.J. Cullerton has
endorsed Toni Berrios, but she has few workers in
the southwest Portage Park area, where Toni is
unknown. "I'm getting a great reception"
there, Guzzardi said.
prediction: Turnout will be low, but the
negativity will be high. Expect "Big
Daddy" to carpet-bomb the district with
mailers ripping the "Chapel Hill Kid"
and his seditious outside-the-district money. In a
turnout of 6,500, Guzzardi will lose by a
minuscule 300 votes.