August 21, 2002


He may not be as dramatic as was William Tecumseh Sherman, but veteran State Representative Ralph Capparelli (D-13) is surely as emphatic. While Sherman proclaimed that he “will not run,” Capparelli is insistent that he “will not move.”

Sherman, the Union’s quiet but ruthless Civil War general, burnt a swath through Georgia, and precipitated an abrupt end to that conflict. But he thereafter disdained the Republicans’ perpetual entreaties that he seek the presidency, declaring that if nominated, he would not run, and that if elected, he would not serve. Ever since, such a statement is deemed to be Shermanesque.

Capparelli, age 78, is currently in his 16th term in the Illinois House from the far Northwest Side 13th District. He is the dean of the House (having been first elected in 1970), and the deputy majority leader. He is seeking re-election to a 17th term, but this year from the newly-configured 15th District, an area on the Northwest Side which contains only a small portion of Capparelli’s current 13th District, and which does not contain Capparelli’s Edison Park home, where he has resided since before 1970.         

Unlike Sherman, Capparelli does not aver that he will not serve if elected; he will. But, definitely like Sherman, Capparelli insists that he will not move if elected; that means he can’t seek another term in 2004 in that district, and will be a one-termer if elected from the 15th District.

To the uninitiated, that sounds like a bunch of political gibberish. But state law does allow incumbent legislators, in the first election year (such as 2002) after the census and the redrawing of legislative district lines, to run in any newly-drawn district which contains any portion of his current district. Some of Capparelli’s current 13th District precincts – in Skokie, Niles, Morton Grove, and parts of Edgebrook and Wildwood in Chicago – are in the new 15th District, so he can legally run there.

About 35 percent of Capparelli’s old 13th District is in the new 15th District. The new 15th District stretches from Dewes Street in Glenview, north of Lincoln and Central Road, all the way southeast to Foster and California, in Chicago, and all the way south to Addison and Keeler, between roughly Lincoln Avenue on the east, and Milwaukee Avenue on the west. It takes in Glenview, Morton Grove and Niles in the suburbs, most of the 39th Ward in Chicago, and parts of the 41st, 45th, 40th and 30th wards.

Capparelli is the 41st Ward Democratic Commiteeeman, and his residence is in the new 20th House District. Of the 102 precincts in the new 15th District, only 11 are in the 41st Ward, and only 35 come from the old 13th House District.

The new 20th District, which runs from Howard to Belmont, between roughly Nagle and Cumberland, encompasses about 40 percent of Capparelli’s old 13th District, about 50 percent of Republican State Representative Mike McAuliffe’s old 14th District, and about 10 percent of Democratic State Representative Bob Bugielski’s  old 19th District. The Democrats drew the lines, and the residences of both McAuliffe and Bugielski ended up outside the new 20th District – meaning that Capparelli had a clear shot at re-election in his home area, if he chose to run.

But, in a deal brokered by 39th Ward Democratic Committeeman Randy Barnette, who was thought to have ambitions for the 15th District House seat, Capparelli chose to file in the 15th District for re-election, thereby clearing the way for Bugielski, Capparelli’s good buddy, to file in the 20th District. McAuliffe also chose to run in the 20th District, and the upcoming Bugielski-McAuliffe contest is too close to call.

However, state law also requires that any state legislative candidate (excluding incumbents in remap years) be a resident of the district for two calendar years before he or she is elected. That means Capparelli, if elected in 2002, must, in order to run again in 2004 in the 15th District, move into the district before January, 2003.

“I’m not going to move,” declared Capparelli. If Capparelli stays put in Edison Park, then that means he has only two options for 2004: retire, or run in the 20th District. If Bugielski beats McAuliffe in November, then Capparelli may abruptly change his mind and move into the 15th District in December. If McAuliffe wins, however, Capparelli may gear up for a 2004 race against him.

Because of the fact that Capparelli’s campaign account has a balance of over $1.1 million, the common presumption in political circles is that only an idiot would dare challenge him. After all, that kind of money would unleash upwards of a  gazillion mailings, and permit an expenditure of more than a $1,000 per precinct for election day activities. But Capparelli does have a Republican opponent, Bill Miceli, and he is no idiot.

“People (in the district) don’t know Capparelli,” said Miceli, “and my job is to make certain that people know that Capparelli, if elected, won’t even live in the district. How can he represent us if he doesn’t even live with us?” As to whether he will be inundated in an avalanche of mailings, Miceli has a ready response: “Voters will ask: Who is this guy? And why have I not heard from him before? The more he (Capparelli) mails, the better for me. People will resent it.”

Capparelli scoffs at any suggestion that he has trouble. “He (Miceli) is a nobody, a perennial candidate,” noting that Miceli, a teacher at Jones College Prep, has lost bids previous bids for state senator and county school superintendent. Capparelli said that his top priority in November will “be electing Bugsy (Bugielski). We have completely revamped our precinct operation (in the 41st Ward). We will have three or four workers in every (41st Ward) precinct (for Bugielski), and he (Bugielski) will carry our ward (over McAuliffe).”

As for Capparelli’s personal campaigning in the 15th District, it will be non-existent. Capparelli will flood the district with mailings, and will rely on local ward committeemen (especially Barnette) and their precinct captains to carry him through. The 15th District takes in all or part of five wards and three townships. It includes suburban 37 precincts, with 27 in Niles Township (Niles and Morton Grove), two in Northfield Township (Glenview), and eight in Maine Township (Glenview and Niles), plus 65 Chicago precincts, including 11 precincts in the 41st Ward, 35 precincts in the 39th Ward, seven precincts in the 40th Ward, seven precincts in the 45th Ward, and five precincts in the 30th Ward.

Capparelli has already had one mailing into the 15th District: a February Legislative newsletter which touts his accomplishments, but makes no mention of his district. The mailing was paid for by Capparelli’s campaign committee, and was not taxpayer-funded. According to Miceli, Barnette’s precinct workers have been busy over the summer, pushing the candidacies of Capparelli and Rod Blagojevich for governor.

On issues, there is little to differentiate Miceli from Capparelli. Over his House career, Capparelli has been a consistent foe of any tax increase, even defying his party’s own leadership (of which he is a part); but he has voted for increased state budgets. Both Capparelli and Miceli support abortion restrictions.

Capparelli led the fight to award the state’s gaming license of the defunct Silver Eagle riverboat in East Dubuque to Rosemont, of which his close political ally, Don Stephens, is mayor. Among the 59 investors in the Emerald Casino is Capparelli’s son-in-law and his former business partner. The state Gaming Board has so far refused to approve that license, forcing Stephens to file a lawsuit. Stephens is also suing for libel the Chicago Crime Commission, which in 2001 alleged that a Rosemont casino could come under the influence of organized crime. Miceli said that Capparelli is staying in Springfield because “Stephens wants him to be there” until the Rosemont casino is a done deal.

An interesting sidelight: Capparelli has always aspired to be House Speaker, but his conservative voting record, and the presence of Mike Madigan have been impediments. Madigan, speaker for 18 of the past 20 years, is under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office for allegedly paying state bonuses to his employees just before they took leaves to work for his daughter Lisa Madigan’s attorney general campaign, and for some other staffing irregularities. If Madigan were to resign, however, it would be Barbara Flynn Currie, the majority leader, who would replace him, not Capparelli, the deputy majority leader.

As for November, expect Capparelli to win by a 60-40 margin.