makes the heart grow fonder. And nothing makes a
Chicago alderman fonder than the absence of
detailed in last week's column, the pro-Daley
aldermen in the 33rd, 38th, 41st, 45th and 50th
wards will face desultory opposition, if any, in
2007. But contested races are developing in the
30th and 36th wards, and quite possibly in the
32nd and 47th wards, where demographic trends have
created a large and growing liberal base.
an overview of those races:
Ward (Galewood, Montclare): Power oozes through
the pores of Alderman Bill Banks, the City Council
Zoning Committee chairman and the ward's pro-Daley
Democratic committeeman. According to 2005
financial disclosures, Banks had cash on hand in
his campaign and ward accounts of $742,321.
The bulk of that money comes not from his
constituents, but from out-of-ward attorneys, real
estate agents and developers. Bank's committee
hears roughly 1,000 zoning cases annually.
Banks is beholden to special interests, not to the
people who elected him," asserted Nicholas
Sposato, a Chicago firefighter, community activist
and former Banks' precinct captain who is running
for alderman. "Voters want a change."
Sposato spitting into the proverbial wind?
age 56, has been the ward's committeeman since
1981 and an alderman since 1983. Given his money
and his close ties to Daley, Banks has no problem
fielding up to four workers in each of the ward's
55 precincts. He won the open aldermanic race in
1983 with 56 percent of the vote, was unopposed in
1987, got 71 percent of the vote in 1991, and was
unopposed in 1995, 1999 and 2003. Was that a
testament to Banks' enduring popularity? Or is he
perceived as being so powerful that opposition
intends to attack Banks for allowing
"unrestrained community development" in
the ward. According to a Chicago Sun-Times
investigative report in November of 2005, Banks'
nephew, zoning attorney James Banks, was
successful in 29 of 32 36th Ward zoning cases
which he handled before his uncle's committee that
year, and James Banks' construction company,
Sergio and Banks, built and sold one house and 78
condominiums in the 36th Ward in the past few
years. Alderman Banks abstained from voting in all
cases in which his nephew was the attorney --
about 20 percent of all cases, according to the
early outlook: The 36th Ward hugs the city's
northwest edge, extending from North Avenue,
between Harlem and Narragansett, north to Addison,
west through Harlem-Irving to Cumberland, and
north to the area southwest of
Lawrence-Cumberland. The south area has a growing
Hispanic population. To win, Sposato has to muddy
up the incumbent. He has to give voters a reason
to oust Banks. He likely will use the family
favoritism issue, claiming that it redounds to the
detriment of the 36th Ward.
the Cubs have a better chance of getting into the
World Series than Sposato has of beating Banks --
which means next to none.
Ward (Wicker Park, Lakeview, Ukrainian Village):
Alderman Ted Matlak, age 41, is a blue-collar kind
of a guy in an upscale, gentrifying area. He is a
protege of Democratic Committeeman Terry Gabinski,
the alderman from 1969 to 1999, and he is a solid
Daley supporter. That makes him vulnerable.
being appointed alderman in 1999 to replace
Gabinski, Matlak fended off a strong challenge
from liberal feminist Lorna Brett, getting 54
percent of the vote. In 2003, against big-spending
Jay Stone, the son of 50th Ward Alderman Berny
Stone, Matlak won with 74 percent of the vote. For
2007 there surely will be a Howard Dean liberal
Democrat in the race, as well as an anti-Daley
contender (maybe the same person) and perhaps a
rich self-funder. Matlak is a Machine Democrat in
a ward where that's a dirty word.
Matlak's most formidable foe would be state
Representative John Fritchey (D-11), age 42, an
ambitious Democrat who makes no secret of his
desire to run for state attorney general in 2010,
when incumbent Lisa Madigan is expected to run for
governor; if he wins that post, Fritchey aspires
to be governor in the next decade.
in late 2003, after Gabinski announced his
retirement as committeeman and endorsed Matlak,
Fritchey jumped into the race. That caused major
heartburn among area Democrats, and Alderman Dick
Mell eventually brokered a deal whereby Gabinski
ran again and Matlak and Fritchey got out.
an articulate, upscale attorney, would have great
appeal against Matlak, and he likely would win.
But there is a downside. Fritchey is James Banks'
brother-in-law, and he does a lot of zoning work
himself before the Zoning Committee. Fritchey got
Rod Blagojevich's Illinois House seat in 1996 as
part of a deal between Mell, Blagojevich's
father-in-law, and Bill Banks, whereby Banks
agreed to support Blagojevich for Congress in
exchange for Fritchey becoming state
representative. If Fritchey challenges Matlak, and
if the news media and Matlak begin poking into
Fritchey's zoning activities, Fritchey's
squeaky-clean image could be sullied.
outlook: Fritchey won't run. And Matlak will win
again, with 60 percent of the vote, proving that
providing efficient ward services, even in a
liberal, upscale area, is more important than
prattling about foreign policy issues, slavery
reparations or Daley Administration corruption.
Ward (Logan Square): Vilma Colom is understandably
perplexed. In Chicago Hispanic politics,
yesterday's enemies can be today's allies. Colom,
a protege of Mell and bolstered by an army of Mell
and Hispanic Democratic Organization precinct
workers, won the newly created Hispanic-majority
35th Ward seat in 1995 with 59 percent of the
vote, and she was re-elected in 1999 with 61
percent. She was elected ward Democratic
committeeman in the heavily Puerto Rican area in
1996, and she was re-elected in 2000.
in 2003, despite the energetic backing of Mell and
the HDO, Colom was upset for alderman by Rey
Colon, who got only 39 percent of the vote 4 years
earlier. Colon attacked Colom as a "pawn of
Mell and the developers" and scored an upset
win, taking 58 percent of the vote. But soon after
winning, Colon became an apostata -- a turncoat.
He has been a solid pro-Daley vote, and now he is
backed by the HDO.
2004 Colom did a reality check and didn't bother
to run for re-election as committeeman, letting
Colon win unopposed.
Colom is back, and she is positioning herself as a
pro-Daley "independent." The outlook:
Colon, age 45, will be backed by the HDO, Daley
and Mell. Colom apparently is not allying herself
with either Luis Gutierrez or Jesse Jackson Jr.,
both potential mayoral candidates. She understands
that being the "Jesse candidate" is not
advantageous among Hispanics, who usually prefer a
white nominee to a black nominee. Colon is the
Ward (Ravenswood): Gene Schulter, age 58, was long
the caricature of the meek, mild, loyal,
do-what-you're-told Chicago alderman. Back in
1975, when Schulter was just 27, powerhouse 47th
Ward Democratic Committeeman Ed Kelly plucked him
from obscurity and ran him for alderman. In a
major upset, Schulter beat 28-year Republican
incumbent John Hoellen by 2,300 votes, getting 57
percent of the votes cast.
was the Chicago Park District superintendent from
1973 to 1986, and at that time he could assemble
and deploy hundreds of precinct workers. Schulter
was unopposed in 1979 and 1983, but he broke with
Kelly in 1987. Harold Washington was seeking a
second term as mayor that year, and Schulter had
been part of the "Vrdolyak 29." Kelly
had been fired by Washington, and he backed Tom
Hynes for mayor in the Democratic primary.
Schulter stunned all by endorsing Washington and
moving out of Kelly's office. In 1987 Ed Vrdolyak
carried the 47th Ward (after Hynes' withdrawal and
with Kelly's support) with 68 percent of the vote,
and Schulter was re-elected with 78 percent.
was unopposed in 1991, got 82 percent of the vote
in 1995, and was unopposed in 1999. In 2000, after
more than a decade of estrangement, Schulter ran
against Kelly for committeeman, losing by just 80
votes. In 2003 Kelly attempted to gain revenge,
backing Jack Lydon for alderman. Schulter crushed
him 7,714-4,319, with 64 percent of the vote.
Schulter then announced for committeeman in 2004,
but Kelly, then age 80, bowed out of the race.
Schulter is the undisputed boss of a ward in which
the voter demographic is rapidly trending liberal.
Barack Obama got 60.4 percent of the vote in the
2004 primary, and John Kerry crushed George Bush
21,515-5,818, getting 78.7 percent of the vote.
Given this sizable liberal base, Schulter needs to
worry about an anti-Daley "reformer"
liberal voters may be receptive to Jackson's
candidacy, and Schulter, who has been a solid
pro-Daley alderman and who waited three decades to
be committeeman, may find himself hard-pressed by
a pro-Jackson "outsider." The identity
of that candidate is unknown, but there will be
possible contender is Bob Hoellen, a Ravenswood
attorney and the son of the former alderman. The
outlook: Schulter is exactly the kind of alderman
who could lose if there's an anti-Daley,
pro-change wave in 2007. He should be very, very