November 20, 2019


Baseball legend Yogi Berra remarked, "It ain't over 'til it's over." In Mike Madigan's House, it ain't done until the speaker says it's done.

It ain't done done in the 3rd Illinois House district, recently vacated by Luis Arroyo, who has been arrested on bribery charges and later resigned his longtime seat.

The district's Democratic committeemen met Nov. 15 and chose Eva-Dina Delgado to fill the seat until the end of Arroyo's term in January of 2021, according to people at the meeting. Delgado was picked because she had a majority of the 19,782 weighted-votes needed, which was 9,892.

And she got the nod because Arroyo, the 36th Ward committeeman, gave his proxy of 7,447 weighted-votes to Alderman Ariel Reboyras, the 30th Ward committeeman, who had 3,687 weighed-votes. Their total amounted to 11,134, more than enough to anoint Delgado. Reboyras also had the proxy of 26th Ward committeeman Roberto Maldonado (344), state senator and Reboyras ally Iris Martinez had the proxy of 1st Ward committeeman Proco Joe Moreno (389), and Delgado got the vote of 29th's committeeman Chris Taliaferro (1,499) and the 37th's Emma Mitts (62). That amounted to a total of 13,418, 3,526 more than needed.

Two committeemen, the 31st's Joe Berrios (1,989) and Leyden Township's Barrett Pedersen (319), did not attend and gave no proxy, nor did state senator and 38th Ward committeeman Rob Martwick (1,843), who gave his proxy to 35th Ward Alderman and committeeman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (2,212). Ramirez-Rosa attended, objected to the process because of Arroyo's participation by proxy, and walked out before any presentations, as did three other presenters. That took 6,363 weighted-votes, or 32.1 percent, out of play, leaving 13,418 in play, which was more than a quorum.

So the arithmetic went like this: Arroyo's 7,447 weighted-votes were 37.6 percent of the total weighted-votes, 75.2 percent of the requisite majority (and quorum), and 55.5 percent of the vote cast for Delgado. BUT FOR the Arroyo proxy, there would have been NO quorum, NO meeting and NO Delgado pick. While it is a fact that Arroyo's preference for his seat, Rudy DeJesus, did not appear and present, it is also a fact that Arroyo through Reboyras was determinative in picking his replacement.

And that is explicitly what Madigan, in a Nov. 11 statement, forbade. Madigan said that if Arroyo played any role in picking his successor and/or if any of his 7,447 weighted-votes were utilized in the process, that the appointee would not be seated. Inasmuch as Delgado was lawfully chosen by a lawful committee following lawful procedures, and was thereafter certified by a House staffer and sworn-in as state representative by a judge, Delgado IS seated, and began drawing her $70,000-a year salary. And now she must be expelled, a process requiring a super-majority, meaning the vote of at least 71 of 118 members, 44 of which are Republicans.

The last member who was expelled was Derrick Smith, who was indicted for accepting bribes. Felonious wrongdoing is a valid pretext after all. But what has Delgado done other than being appointed to the seat? Nothing. And the process and procedure of her pick was not improper.

he committee met within 30 days, proper notice was sent, a quorum was present, a vote taken, and Delgado chosen and installed. So now Delgado may be expelled because some person (Arroyo) who is a lawful committeeman participated in the process of her selection? "This will go to federal court," predicted a former county judge if Delgado is unseated.

"Has the speaker (Madigan) ever not fulfilled any promise?" asked Martwick rhetorically. "The process was tainted by Arroyo being involved and determining the outcome," said Martwick, who was a state representative for 7 years before being appointed state senator this year by the same process. Martwick added that he gave his proxy to Ramirez-Rosa with the mutual understanding that his 1,843 weighted votes and Ramirez-Rosa's 2,212 would be cast only if the 36th Ward's 7,447 weighted-votes were not.

The 3rd District, which stretches from Montclare east to Central Park in Avondale, is over 65 percent Hispanic, mostly Puerto Rican. But there is a sizeable white voter base. Martwick is backing his longtime political operative Dave Feller, who lives in Portage Park, in the March 17 primary. Feller did not present his credentials on Nov. 15, calling the meeting a "sham. Let the voters decide." Martinez, who is running for Circuit Court Clerk, said the replacement of Arroyo by a non-Latino would be "racist."

Nine candidates appeared on Nov. 15: Delgado, firefighter Joaquin Vasquez, Belinda Cadiz from the 33rd Ward, Ruth Cruz and Otilio Serrano from the 30th Ward, Alonzo Zaragosa, a perennial candidate aginst Berrios in the 31st Ward, former 1st Ward alderman Jesse Granato, TV broadcaster Ruben Calderon, and Jacqueline Baez, who announced months ago and is circulating petitions for both state representative and for 36th Ward committeeman, which will set up a three-way contest for Arroyo's party post between her, Feller and Alderman Gilbert Villegas (36th), Arroyo's ally. But Vasquez, Baez and Zaragosa walked-out with Ramirez-Rosa (but Vasquez came back), sources said.

The March 17 primary will feature Feller, Delgado and Baez against Nadia Carranza, a teacher and CTU member who is Ramirez-Rosa's candidate, and also backed by state Representative Delia Ramirez (D-4). Rosa-Ramirez is a "democratic socialist" and chairman of the Chicago Socialist Party, and he and his organization will be working fervently for Bernie Sanders. To win, Delgado needs equally fervent support from Reboyras, Villegas and Alderman Felix Cardona (31st), who is running for the retiring Berrios's post.

Whether Delgado does or does not get seated is a critical factor. She can position herself as a martyr, a pristine victim of either Arroyo's wrongdoing or of Madigan's arrogance. Or, as Martwick predicts, she will be revealed as a self-promoting insider with connections to Arroyo. It is a fact that Delgado, who now works for Peoples Gas, Edison, was a lobbyist in Springfield for Chicago for many years, and that her husband Erik Varela has a top county job under Toni Preckwinkle and multi-tasks as a lobbyist for Union Pacific. Arroyo, chair of the House Latino Caucus, put Varela on the board of the Latino Caucus Foundation, which doles out college scholarships, primarily to children of undocumented immigrants who can't get aid elsewhere. This "Arroyo connection" will surely surface during any expulsion hearing. Delgado's name ID will rise exponentially, but not necessarily favorably.

The 3rd District primary turnout in 2016 was 15,860 and in 2018 was 7,906. Whoever gets 33-36 percent will win. About 4,500 votes will do it. That leaves out Feller and Baez. Give the edge to Carranza, who will have CTU money and no baggage.

STATE SENATE PRESIDENT: There used to be "Four Tops" in Springfield, who worked with the governor to get things done. They were the party leaders of the House and the Senate. That changed significantly in 2002, when Democrats took control of both chambers (it is now 40-19 and 74-44), and massively in 2018, when J.B. Pritzker beat Bruce Rauner (R). Now there are Three Tops - the governor, Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, who announced his resignation effective Jan. 6, reportedly to spend more time vacationing.

"There's something else going on" with Cullerton, said one of my sources, a former state senator. That's a fair assessment. Cullerton's term extends through 2022. And Democrats aren't going to lose their 40-19 majority in 2020. Why is he bailing RIGHT NOW?

What's also now going on is a fast and furious struggle for both Cullerton's presidency and his Lakefront/Lincoln Park senate seat. "It should be a woman," said Martinez, specifically pointing to majority leader Kimberly Lightford (D-4), who has been senator since 1998. "She deserves the job," added Martinez.

There are others, either in leadership as assistant majority leaders or whip, or with internal networks, who are in the mix: Chicagoans Mattie Hunter (D-3), Antonio Munoz (D-1) and Heather Steans (D-7), and Downstaters Michael Hastings (D-19) of Matteson, and Andy Manar (D-48) of Springfield, Cullerton's former chief-of-staff. Not in the mix is Terry Link (D-30) of Waukegan, rumored to be the recipient of Arroyo's alleged bribe. But the unquestioned frontrunner is Don Harmon (D-39) of Oak Park, former president pro tempore, who has $1.3 million in his campaign account. Steans' family is worth multi-millions. The decision will come to this: Is "identity" politics more important than procedural competence. Cullerton's successor must do as he did: Raise money, help re-elect incumbents, win open seats and get difficult bills passed.

The contest is underway, as Cullerton will resign on Jan. 6, and the 40 Democratic senators will meet to pick their new leader. Harmon has the best prospect of corralling 21 of them.

In Cullerton's 6th District, the contenders are the two state representatives - Sara Feigenholtz (D-12), elected in 1994, and Ann Williams (D-11), elected in 2010. Feigenholtz was an assistant majority leader through 2018, but was dumped by Madigan in January. She was thought to be on a track to be speaker in the 2020s. She reportedly has 2020 primary opposition.

A senate appointment would be golden parachute: She wouldn't have to run in 2020, and would serve until the end of 2022.

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