October 9, 2002


Instead of the usual exhaustive political analysis, the column will emulate the “60 Minutes” TV news program, and present an array of “segments” on some colorful, confusing, and outright convoluted local political contests:

Segment One: “Let bygones be bygones just as long as I’m not gone.”

Alderman Mike Wojcik, despite nearly 12 years as the dominant political figure in the Northwest Side’s 30th Ward, suffered an embarrassing defeat in the March Democratic primary for 20th District state senator. Wojcik, more renowned for his energetic physical presence in his ward than for his intellectual input at city council deliberations, was the proverbial loose cannon in City Hall. When it came time for the 2001 ward remap, it was Wojcik alone, of the 50 sitting aldermen, who was drawn into a ward that he could not win. Quite clearly, Wojcik was a dispensable man.

Mayor Rich Daley and the council’s chieftains wanted to create a Hispanic-majority ward on the Northwest Side, and Wojcik’s existing ward was cannibalized to do so. Their message to Wojcik was: Step aside quietly, and you’ll be taken care of – meaning a comfy city or county job. But Wojcik, obdurate as always, ran for state senator, took on Daley and the Hispanic Democratic Organization, and got pulverized, winning only 38 percent of the vote, and losing to Iris Martinez. After his defeat, Wojcik publicly ruminated about running in the 38th Ward against incumbent Tom Allen. Since his defeat, Wojcik has gotten some nasty publicity: he reportedly had an extra-marital affair, and his wife has filed for divorce.

Now, either by overcoming his Delayed Synapse Syndrome, or by simply reasoning that his elective political career is over, Wojcik has finally gotten last year’s  message. Wojcik has publicly endorsed Ariel Reboyras, a major HDO insider, for 30th Ward alderman next year, and is likely to resign as alderman later this year so that Reboyras can be appointed by Daley to replace him, enabling Reboyras to run as the incumbent next February. Wojcik will not run for alderman against Allen.

Expect Wojcik to get a plush job. The only question now is how many of Wojcik’s family members and friends will be bounced from the city payroll after Wojcik’s departure.

Segment Two: “If it sounds screwy, then maybe you’re just not bright enough to figure it out.”

The tempestuous contest for state representative in the far Northwest Side 20th District between Democratic incumbent Bob Bugielski and Republican incumbent Mike McAuliffe won’t affect who controls the Illinois House. But it will affect Alderman Bill Banks’ (36th) ambition to become the Northwest Side’s dominant politician.  If Bugielski wins, that means both the 10th District state senator (Jim DeLeo) and the 20th District state representative (Bugielski) come out of the 36th Ward Democratic Organization, of which Banks is the committeeman. That, plus Banks’ City Hall heft – where he is chairman of the council’s Zoning Committee, and is a close ally of the mayor – would make him the local Democrats’ Numero Uno.

After taking out McAuliffe, Banks’ next goal would be to oust incumbent Alderman Brian Doherty in the 41st Ward next February, and replace him with John Malatesta, a longtime crony. McAuliffe is allied with Doherty, and Doherty is managing McAuliffe’s campaign. Doherty well understands that he needs to save McAuliffe in order to save himself.

The McAuliffe-Bugielski race is replete with subtexts. In fact, there are several significant political players, each with their own personal agendas, involved in the race.

But there is no indication that Daley wants to take out Doherty next year. In fact, Doherty has been generally supportive of the mayor, although he casts token –but politically important – votes against city budget and tax hikes. Malatesta, a longtime city Streets and Sanitation official who currently has a job with the CTA,  has run numerous Daley campaigns in the 41st Ward. But Malatesta’s clout is Banks. Does Daley want an alderman from the 41st Ward who’s really in the pocket of the alderman from the 36th Ward?

Malatesta was supposed to run the joint Rod Blagojevich (for governor)-Bugielski precinct operation in the 41st Ward, and then use those workers for his own ward race a few months later.

But Malatesta got yanked out of the 41st Ward, and is now running the joint Blagojevich-Lisa Madigan (for attorney general) precinct operation in the 45th Ward. That ward’s Democratic committeeman is Tom Lyons, the county chairman, and a Daley insider. He has plenty of precinct workers. He doesn’t need Malatesta’s bodies mucking up his precincts. So what happened?

One scenario is that the mayor checkmated Banks, and ordered Malatesta out. Another is that Alderman Dick Mell (33rd), Blagojevich’s father-in-law, doesn’t trust Malatesta, and thought the joint 41st Ward Blagojevich-Bugielski effort might be just a little too light on his kid’s behalf. Another is that State Representative Ralph Capparelli, the 41st Ward’s Democratic Committeeman, didn’t want Malatesta in his ward, especially since Malatesta wants to run for ward committeeman in 2004. Capparelli is running for re-election to the House in the adjacent 15th District.

So now Bugielski’s 41st Ward campaign is being jointly run by Capparelli and Dominic Longo, another former city worker out of the 36th Ward who runs what he calls the “Coalition for Better Government”;  Longo’s specialty is precinct organization, and he used to control a roving army of city and county workers in excess of 500. But now he’s down to about 100, and has been supplanted as the mayor’s chief precinct operative by Danny Kandeletic, another Streets and Sanitation official. Kandeletic’s army of about 400 workers has been dispatched out to the Elk Grove-Schaumburg area to work for Brian McPartlin, a Democrat running for county commissioner.

Bugielski needs to get at least 43 percent of the vote in the 41st Ward to win districtwide. Capparelli claims to have workers in all 67 of his ward’s precincts. That’s non-sense. It’s Longo’s workers, supplemented by Mell’s workers, that are doing the heavy lifting for Bugielski.

If Bugielski loses, then prospects of ousting Doherty recede. And, if McAuliffe wins, then Capparelli, in 2004, could move back into the 20th District to run against McAuliffe.

Chicago politics isn’t screwy. It just takes more time to figure out everybody’s hidden agenda.

Segment Three: “Snooker me, snooker you.”

The contest for county commissioner in the Northwest Side 9th District is a supplement to the above segment. Incumbent Republican Pete Silvestri is a political ally of the McAuliffe-Doherty organization, and is also a close personal friend of Banks. Silvestri is the mayor of Elmwood Park, which is adjacent to the 36th Ward. Silvestri’s 2002 Democratic foe is Rob Martwick, son of Norwood Park Township Democratic Committeeman Robert Martwick. The understanding last November among the district’s committeemen was that Martwick the Elder would push his son and Bugielski in his township, that Banks would push Bugielski-Martwick in the 36th Ward, and that Capparelli would push both. Malatesta was supposed to push Blagojevich-Bugielski-Martwick.

Snooker time is drawing near. Precinct captains usually solicit hard for three candidates. But there are four biggies: Blagojevich, Bugielski, Madigan and Martwick. Will Banks cut Martwick or Madigan in his ward? Banks will bring in 65 percent for Bugielski, but not for Martwick. If Silvestri gets 45 percent in Banks’ ward, then he wins districtwide. Can Martwick depend on Longo and Capparelli to deliver in the 41st Ward? Right now, they’re pushing Blagojevich-Bugielski. If Martwick doesn’t get 45 percent of the vote in the 41st Ward, then he loses districtwide. Somebody’s going to get snookered on Nov. 5, and it’s likely to be Martwick.

Segment Four:  “Whom do you trust?”

It’s no secret that Mayor Daley’s authority as Illinois’ most powerful Democrat would be undercut if Blagojevich becomes governor. It’s no secret that Blagojevich’s people don’t want Lisa Madigan to be attorney general, since that would make her father, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, even more powerful, and Lisa would become a governor-in-waiting, ready and eager to cause Blagojevich problems, so she can take his job. When the votes get counted, we’ll see who screwed who. If Blagojevich and/or Madigan run well ahead (or behind) of other Democrats, or each other, you’ll know.

Segment Five: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

To abort or not to abort: That is the question which has long polarized the near-Northwest suburbs, around Park Ridge and Des Plaines, especially in state legislative elections. Pro-choice Republicans have battled anti-abortion Republicans for years, beginning with the titanic efforts of pro-choicers to oust Penny Pullen as state representative in 1990 and 1992. Pro-choicer Rosemary Mulligan beat Pullen in 1992, and has kept the seat since. The late Marty Butler, as Republican committeeman, papered-over the schism, but his death in 1998 caused the paper to peel.

Bill Darr replaced Butler as committeeman. Darr then backed Bob Dudycz for township supervisor, and he ousted fellow Republican Mark Thompson in 2001. Thompson, backed by Mulligan, then ousted Darr in 2002. Thompson is strongly backing Mulligan, of Des Plaines, who faces a stiff challenge from Democrat Barbara Jones, of Park Ridge, a Cook County assistant State’s Attorney. Mulligan spent over $250,000 in 2000, and beat Democrat Mary Beth Tighe by just 1,329 votes; Tighe spent over $180,000. PersonalPAC, a pro-abortion political action committee, funded several mailings for Mulligan. The reason: Tighe tried to straddle the abortion issue, supporting choice but opposing partial-birth abortions.

“This year is different,” said Jones. “We are both 100 percent pro-choice. That takes abortion off the table.” But does it really? What about the anti-abortion voters? What about the Darr-Dudycz Republicans? Mulligan has a lot of enemies. And 2002 may be the year they decide that Jones is their friend, just to get rid of Mulligan.