February 27, 2019


Never let the grass grow under your feet. Never pass up an opportunity to move up. That ancient adage epitomizes the mindset of politicians in Chicago and Cook County.

The city municipal elections are only half over, but planning and jockeying is already underway for the next big event, which is the March 2020 Democratic primary.

10TH DISTRICT: Tom Allen, the former 38th Ward alderman, has submitted his resignation as a county Circuit Court judge, to be effective after he winds down pending matters. His likely replacement in the Northwest Side/Park Ridge/ Des Plaines 10th subcircuit is state Senator John Mulroe (D-10).

Should that happen, two things will occur. First, Mulroe, who was appointed chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in January, would have a clear shot in the 2020 primary, probably running unopposed. And second, a senatorial vacancy would precipitate an immediate fast and furious battle to get the appointment to finish his term, which runs through the end of 2020.

That appointment would be made by the Democratic committeemen from the 41st, 45th and 38th wards and from the suburban Maine Township based on a weighted-vote among the 31,539 ballots cast in the 2016 Democratic primary in the 10th District precincts of the ward or township.

The district has 44 precincts in the 41st Ward, where Tim Heneghan is committeeman; 38 precincts in the 45th Ward, where Alderman John Arena is committeeman; 32 precincts in the 38th Ward, where state Representative Rob Martwick (D-19) is committeeman; 22 precincts in Maine Township, where state Senator Laura Murphy (D-27) is committeeman, plus another 37 precincts scattered in five wards and townships.

The district includes two House seats, with Martwick representing the east end, and Michael McAuliffe (R-20) the west end, which is the 41st Ward and the suburbs. Murphy appointed herself to her seat in 2015 when Dan Kotowski resigned, having the most weighted-votes in her township in a district stretching west to Schaumburg and Streamwood. She will likely defer to Heneghan, Arena and Martwick to make the pick.

Martwick is the obvious choice, having run for state senator in 1996, losing to incumbent Walter Dudycz (R). His base at that time was Norridge and Norwood Park Township, where his father was Democratic committeeman. That area is in McAuliffe's district. Martwick then ran for county commissioner in 2002, losing to incumbent Pete Silvestri (R).

But he finally got his shot in 2011 when Mike Madigan and the Democratic legislature crafted a new map which added a few Norridge precincts (where Martwick resided) to the new 19th District, then represented by Joe Lyons (D), consisting of the 45th and 38th wards. Lyons then retired and Martwick was the slated candidate, winning the 2012 primary 4,326-3,281. Martwick then moved to Portage Park in the 38th Ward and, when Nick Sposato resigned as committeeman in 2017, he was appointed Democratic committeeman.

With 6-plus years of seniority, Martwick is now chairman of the Pension Committee. "I like what I'm doing and where I am" in the House, and "have no desire to start all over" in the Senate," said Martwick.

"It would be a great loss," said Senate President John Cullerton of Mulroe's possible departure, "but he would make a great judge." Alderman Nick Sposato (38th) also ruled out a bid.

The expectation is that the Arena-Martwick bloc will prevail, and that a new senator would be a Portage Park woman. There is also a possibility that Arena, if he loses re-election, could take the seat for himself. Defense attorney Tom Needham, Mulroe's law associate, is also a possibility. In the 2010 primary, Mulroe won with 43.3 percent against three opponents, and then defeated Alderman Brian Doherty (R) 27,389-21,081 in a brutal election. Mulroe was re-elected unopposed in 2016.

"There will be a primary," said Mike Byrne, a political advisor to Alderman Anthony Napolitano (41st). "We will have a candidate," he added, almost certainly a police officer.

10TH SUBCIRCUIT: The state Supreme Court will choose Allen's replacement, with the choice made by the three justices from the 1st District (Cook County), all Democrats. Allen went on the bench in Dec. 2010, before pension revisions took effect. He can "stack" his years as a public defender with those as judge and max out. But Allen would not be quitting had he been elected Chief Judge in 2016, failing to oust Tim Evans. Allen, age 66, will get two pensions, having been alderman for 15 years.

Pension considerations also factor into Mulroe's decision. New rules bar stacking, so Mulroe's tenure as an assistant state's attorney cannot be combined with the judgeship, so Mulroe, age 59, would have to put in 10 years on the bench to max out his pension, and he cannot draw his state pension while a judge. Allen's seat is Mulroe's for the taking, but he may take a pass. Mulroe said that he would consider it but he wasn't offered anything.

METROPOLITAN WATER RECLAMATION DISTRICT: "We are the most diverse governmental agency in Illinois," proclaimed Audrey Avila, administrative assistant to her father, Commissioner Frank Avila. But purifying liquid waste and processing solid waste does not require political diversity - and does not require 9 well-paid, part-time commissioners to do it. The MWRD's function is twofold: To collect wastewater, purify it, and then dump it into the Chicago River, from whence it flows to the Mississippi River, then to the Gulf of Mexico. And to collect solid waste, dry it in huge vats, and then truck if off as fertilizer to farms in Downstate Illinois.

But there is always a constant flow of political drama at the $1.15 billion agency, the most recent eruption being the dumping of district president Mariyana Spyropoulos last December by a cabal put together by Commissioner Kari Steele, consisting of commissioners Steele, Barbara McGowan and Kim Du Buclet, and Avila and Spyropoulos to thwart the attempt of the North Shore progressive commissioners Debra Shore, Cam Davis, Josina Morita and newcomer Marcelino Garcia to take over the top three positions - president, vice-president and finance chairman.

Race, ideology, revenge and opportunism all played a role. Shore coveted Spyropoulos's job. The key was Avila, the finance chair. The vote was 5-4 for Steele, McGowan and Avila for the top three spots, with Du Buclet, a former top aide to Preckwinkle, and Spyropoulos joining the majority.

The nine commissioners (all Democrats) are paid $60,000 and each has a 6-year term, with three on the ballot every 2 years. The Democratic primary is determinative, with incumbency and slating far less important than ballot position, gender, and having an Irish surname.

Commissioners Du Buclet, Davis and Avila are up in 2020. Avila is expected to retire, and his daughter slated in his place. That is allegedly part of Avila's bargain with Steele: The party chairman (Preckwinkle) and black committeemen back Audrey Avila, keeping two Hispanics on the board, and then Garcia defects from the Shore bloc to be finance chair, keeping Steele in place.

20TH DISTRICT: For McAuliffe, the defeat of Bruce Rauner was beyond catastrophic. The former governor and his pals were McAuliffe's cash cow, having pumped almost $2 million into his 2016 re-election race, which was a Rauner-Madigan proxy battle. McAuliffe won district wide 25,739-20,142, a margin of 5,597 votes over Mary Marwig, for whom Madigan spent over $1 million. McAuliffe was unopposed in 2018 after Marwig withdrew. That won't happen in 2020.

Madigan now has a 71-47 House majority, a Democratic governor, and access to plenty of special interest money. Madigan will find and fund a candidate. McAuliffe has no godfather or a "big bucks" benefactor. Don't be surprised if McAuliffe, age 55 with 24 years of service, retires in 2020.

2ND DISTRICT: It was the "Son Swap" back in 2014. Then "The Great Deceit" in 2016. And now it will be good riddance in 2020. State Senator Omar Aquino (D-2) was part of the now-defunct powerhouse duo of Joe Berrios and Ray Suarez, one the assessor/county party chairman/31st Ward committeeman and the other the 31st Ward alderman. The "swap" was a power-sharing deal between the duo and state Representative Luis Arroyo (D-3), whereby Arroyo was to be committeeman of the newly-created, Hispanic majority 36th Ward in 2016, son Luis Arroyo Jr. a county commissioner in 2014, and Aquino, son of Suarez's best pal, the 36th Ward alderman in 2015.

It didn't work out as intended. Arroyo reneged on the deal, and ran Gilbert Villegas for alderman, who beat Aquino in the 2015 runoff. Suarez also lost to the Arroyo-backed Milly Santiago for alderman. But the Berrios/Suarez crowd got revenge in 2016 when they promised to circulate petitions for state Senator Willie Delgado, circulated petitions for Aquino for state senator, then went back and got the same signatures for Delgado. Aquino filed on the last date, but his signatures pre-dated Delgado's. When this was discovered, Delgado withdrew, and Aquino won the 2016 primary easily.

"It was absolute deceit," said Arroyo, who promised to field 2020 candidates against Aquino and Berrios, who lost in 2018 for assessor and was ousted as party chair. Both will soon be history.