March 23, 2011


Bring on a phalanx of portable potties. Deposit one on every street corner in the 45th Ward. Given the odiferous nuggets of negativity gushing from the campaigns -- and mouths -- of aldermanic candidates John Garrido and John Arena, appropriate waste product receptacles are urgently required.

Both candidates agree on one premise: that their opponent is a liar, a fraud, a partisan, utterly unqualified and devoid of integrity, and that he will visit a Biblical plague of locusts upon the 45th Ward if elected. But, to their eternal credit, neither has yet accused the other of being a leper, a lecher or a serial killer.

According to a recent mailer from Arena, a graphic designer and a self-proclaimed "Obama Democrat," Garrido is the insidious advocate of "Republican ideas," an apostle of such reprehensible Republicans as George Bush, Sarah Palin, John McCain, Dick Cheney and Bill Brady, and he will be a "partisan Republican alderman." In addition, Arena adds, a "tough cop" is not needed in a ward with the "lowest crime in the city."

"This is a Democratic ward, and it should have a Democratic alderman," Arena argued.

According to Garrido, a Chicago police lieutenant who portrays himself as an independent even though he sought office in 2010 as a Republican, Arena is a utopian dreamer with a flawed concept of job creation and with no supervisory or leadership skills, the beneficiary of "over $100,000 in union money" for mailings and cable television ads, and with a "record of failure" as a community leader in Portage Park. In addition, Garrido adds, Arena is "maliciously and intentionally misrepresenting my record."

"The ward rejected the unions' 'sweetheart' on Feb. 22," Garrido said. "It will do so again on April 5." Garrido added that he is "the only union member" in the race.

Marina Faz-Huppert, a union lobbyist and the recipient of nearly $200,000 in union funding, finished a humiliating third in the Feb. 22 election, gaining just 19.5 percent of the vote. Alderman Pat Levar, the ward Democratic committeeman who was first elected alderman in 1987, retired last November for health reasons and plucked Faz-Huppert from obscurity as his candidate.

The turnout in the ward last month was 15,864. In a field of eight candidates, Garrido, of Gladstone Park, finished first with 5,138 votes, or 32.4 percent of the total cast. Arena, of Portage Park, was second with 3,595 votes (22.7 percent), edging Faz-Huppert, who had 3,092 votes, by 503 votes. Three other candidates, Mike Ward (who got 1,650 votes), Don Blair (972) and Bruno Bellissimo (216), have endorsed Garrido. Anna Klocek (1,201 votes) has made no endorsement, and she will run for state representative in 2012 as an independent.

Rahm Emanuel, supported by the Levar organization, carried the ward by 8,223-6,036 (with 51.2 percent of the vote) over Gery Chico, who ran as the more conservative, anti-establishment candidate. Emanuel has made no runoff endorsement in the 45th Ward.

Here are the factors which will decide the runoff:

*Base expansion. Garrido finished first in 33 of the ward's 53 precincts and had an outright majority in three. He got 40 to 50 percent of the vote in 10 precincts, 30 to 40 percent in 20, 20 to 30 percent in 13 and less than 20 percent in seven. Arena was first in 13 precincts, with a majority only in his home precinct. He had 40 to 50 percent of the vote in four precincts, 30 to 40 percent in seven, 20 to 30 percent in 17 and less than 20 percent in 24.

Faz-Huppert, despite the unions' money and at least 15 mailings, won a plurality in just seven precincts, exceeding 30 percent in five. She got 13.9 percent of the vote in her home precinct, 34.4 percent in Levar's home precinct and 32.2 percent in state Representative Joe Lyons' precinct (where Garrido lives). "Dismal" is a charitable description of the 45th Ward Democrats' performance.

The line of demarcation in the runoff is Lawrence Avenue. In the 17 precincts south of Lawrence, which cast about 35 percent of the ward's vote, Arena won 11, Faz-Huppert won four, and Garrido won two. In the 36 precincts north of Lawrence, which cast about 65 percent of the vote, Garrido won 31, Arena won two, and won Faz-Huppert three.

Garrido won about 40 percent of the vote in his north-of-Lawrence base (Gladstone Park, north Jefferson Park, Forest Glen, Edgebrook), topping Arena 4,082-1,977 in those precincts. Arena won 32.0 percent of the vote in his Portage Park/south Jefferson Park base, topping Garrido 1,618-1,056. Garrido got 20 percent in Arena's base, and Arena got 18 percent in Garrido's base.

To win, Arena needs 60 percent of the south-of-Lawrence vote (a 900-vote margin) and 45 percent of the vote in the northern portion of the ward (an 850-vote loss), while Garrido needs 55 percent of the north-of-Lawrence vote and more than 40 percent of the vote in the southern portion of the ward.

Turnout will decline by 20 percent, to about 13,000 on April 5. If Garrido and Arena each motivate 90 percent of their Feb. 22 base, that puts the race at roughly 4,650-3,250, with 5,100 votes in play. The "magic number" is 6,600. Arena needs 3,350, or 66 percent, of those 5,100 votes, and Garrido needs 1,950, or 38 percent, of those votes.

The only way Arena can prevail is to redefine, demonize and discredit Garrido -- on character, issues or political affiliation.

*Partisanship: Arena's blithe and superficial presumption that the 45th is a "Democratic ward" is wrong. The ward has 31,559 registered voters. In the 2010 primary elections, 8,228 voters took a Democratic ballot and 1,879 took a Republican ballot; more than 21,000 didn't vote. In the 2008 primary, featuring the titanic Obama-Clinton presidential battle, 13,168 voters took a Democratic ballot and 1,937 took a Republican ballot; more than 16,000 didn't vote. In actuality, depending on the year, 60 to 70 percent of the 45th Ward's voters do not participate in Democratic primaries, which makes it a non-Democratic ward.

The ward did vote 15,509-7,266 for Obama over McCain in 2008 and 9,032-5,433 for Quinn over Brady for governor in 2010. The vote for those Democrats was a third to half of the ward's registered vote.

"I vote Democratic" in elections, insisted Arena, who refused to disclose if or how he voted in any past Democratic primaries. "I am an anti-organization Democrat," he said, adding that Obama was the "best choice (in 2008) and I still support him." Arena said he has voted for Republicans, but he declined to name them. "This election is not about my voting history," Arena fumed hypocritically.

Yet mailings unleashed by the Service Employees International Union Illinois Council political action committee on Arena's behalf are all about partisanship -- excoriating Garrido as a Republican and as a supporter of Bush's "failed economic policies," for "standing with Republican friends who want to take away collective bargaining rights of most public employees," and for "supporting privatization" and "taking contributions from the company that got the parking meter deal."

 "An absolute lie," Garrido responded. "I am a public employee. I am a member of the (Federation of Police) union. I oppose any denial of collective bargaining rights. I oppose any city privatization." Garrido adds that he voted in Democratic primaries in 2004, 2006 and 2008 and in the Republican primary in 2010. "I am the independent," Garrido said. "He is the partisan Democrat."

*Union money. Expect a postal deluge, Garrido warns. "The SEIU and Chicago unions are going to spend $35,000 per week on negative mailers and attack TV ads in the three weeks before the election," he charged. Two negative mailers were delivered between March 14 and March 18.

Does that make Arena the unions' new "sweetheart"? "Absolutely not," he responded. "You don't understand separation. Those are not my (mailing) pieces or ads. I had no control or input. He has an integrity problem. Last year, he was for privatization and against unions. They don't want him to win."

What about the $22,500 received in union contributions during the week of March 18? "They gave me the money to spend as I see fit," Arena said. "I am not beholden to them." What about the unions' $646-per-week in-kind payment for your "volunteer coordinator"? "They want to help me," he replied.

*Experience. Although Garrido has been a police officer for 20 years, Arena said that his credentials are "shallow."

"He works outside the ward," Arena said. "He has not been active in the community."

"I have supervisory experience," Garrido responds. "I have 30 people under my command. I have leadership skills."

"I have 10 years of community service," said Arena, who was vice president of the Portage Park Neighborhood Association. "And look at (Portage Park)," Garrido said. "It's a commercial disaster area. Empty storefronts everywhere. He's been a failure."

*Social issues: Garrido is culturally conservative, and he supports the death penalty, gun ownership and abortion restrictions with exceptions. Arena is socially liberal, and he backs gun control and abortion rights and opposes the death penalty.

My prediction: Arena has the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times endorsements, and union money will allow him to stay negative on Garrido. The key is the Faz-Huppert vote -- people in Levar's precinct captains' pockets, who trade their vote for a garbage can or a favor. If half those 3,092 voters break for Garrido, he wins. In a turnout of 12,900, Garrido beats Arena by 6,800-6,100.