January 8, 2020


Editor's note: Russ Stewart is taking the week off. Nadig Newspapers is reprinting a column published on Dec. 4, 2019, after candidate filing for the 2020 primary election in March has ended.

'Tis the season to be jolly, with goodies under the Christmas tree, a belly full of food and a libation or two to lighten the mood. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Come January it will be the season of irritation, with mailboxes clogged with political crap and the media suffused political drivel. The 2020 primary will be on March 17, and filing has closed on Dec. 2. Here is a snapshot of what is to come.

Tim Heneghan, John Arena, Joe Berrios, Luis Arroyo, Patrick O'Connor and "Proco" Joe Moreno are out, and Jim Gardiner, Gilbert Villegas and Andre Vasquez are in as Democratic "committeepersons," formerly known as committeemen.

Rob Martwick is on the cusp, and could lose his appointed senate seat to Danny O'Toole, but don't bet on it. Anthony Napolitano may be the unquestioned 41st Ward boss if Bill Kilroy wins. Mike Madigan is meddling in the 20th Illinois House district, and has found a candidate to oppose Brad Stephens (R).

Mark Kalish is rebounding in his Skokie district. Republicans are missing in action in the Cook County suburbs. Iris Martinez is positioning herself as the anti-Madigan candidate in the Circuit Court Clerk race. Kim Foxx is showing contrition in her handling of the Jussie Smollett fiasco, and Bill Conway is all over TV.

The prospects of the only Jewish candidate on the countywide ticket for any office, appointed Appellate Court justice Michael Hyman, look dim. And with three African-Americans running, justice Margaret Stanton McBride is favored for the Supreme Court seat.

41ST WARD: Firefighter Napolitano upset Alderman Mary O'Connor 9,702-9,087 in 2015. O'Connor passed the Democratic committeemanship to Heneghan in 2016, and he defeated Napolitano-backed Andrew DeVito 6,787-3,921, with 865 for Goran Davidovac in a 11,573 turnout. Heneghan ran against Napolitano on Feb. 26, losing by a hefty 12,502-5,289. In mid-June state Senator John Mulroe (D) was appointed to the Circuit Court and resigned. Heneghan's 41st Ward had the most weighted votes in the 10th District, and Heneghan sought the appointment because Martwick, the state representative from the east half (19th) of the district and 38th Ward committeeman, didn't want the job. Then Martwick did. And, with Arena's backing, became senator.

Now it's payback time for Heneghan, who has announced his retirement as committeeman because he wants to spend more time with his family. O'Toole, a decorated police sergeant and Marine veteran, is challenging Martwick - with the support of Napolitano's considerable precinct organization and Heneghan's endorsement. That is not good for Martwick, who will have to build a ground game west of Nagle and in the 41st Ward, but has name recognition in Norwood Park Township, where his father was the longtime committeeman and ally Frank Avino is the current committeeman. Martwick has $158,543 on-hand, so he will precipitate a deluge of mailers. He's a powerful guy.

The committeeman race to succeed Heneghan has complications. The contenders are Bill Kilroy, a retired police lieutenant and attorney who, according to a Napolitano spokesman, is "absolutely endorsed" by the alderman, and Joe Cook, an attorney from Wildwood who works for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and whose wife Jennifer Callahan is running countywide for judge against a slated male Democrat, Chris Stacey. "We need to build a (Democratic) party" in the ward, said Cook, a comment which engenders some skepticism. It is known in some circles that Martwick reached-out to Cook last summer to piggyback on his 41st Ward campaign, but Cook declined. "I am focused only on my campaign and my wife's," Cook said.

The 41st Ward is the most Republican/least Democratic ward in Chicago, with Donald Trump getting 42.6 percent in 2016. It is common knowledge in the ward, which encompasses Edison Park, Norwood Park and Oriole Park and is chock full of first responders, that Napolitano is not a huge liberal and likely a Republican. He opposed Mayor Lori Lightfoot's $11.6 billion 2020 budget, and his ward office provides exemplary service. If Kilroy is Democratic committeeman, Napolitano gets a free pass in 2023.

Another wrinkle is the Republican ward committeeman's post, now held by retired state Representative Mike McAuliffe, who quit last summer and was replaced by Rosemont mayor Brad Stephens. McAuliffe is seeking another term because he said he wants "to help" Stephens, his longtime ally. Opposing McAuliffe is Ammie Kessem, a Chicago police sergeant who ran against Martwick in 2018, getting 36.8 percent. Her chief backer is the NW Side GOP Club, led by Matt Podgorski. "She would be more active in backing all Republicans," including Stephens, he said.

Stephens is unopposed in his primary, but a Democratic primary looms between Cary Capparelli, son of former state Representative Ralph Capparelli, who served 1970-2004, and Madigan recruit Michelle Darbro, a CFD paramedic who lives in Norwood Park. Firefighters' Local 2 is reportedly upset with Madigan because union by-laws mandate a $5,000 contribution to any member who runs for office. Local 2 wants to support Stephens, the $260,000-a year mayor of a town that is deemed union-friendly. "I can and will self-fund," said Capparelli, "and I will win," questioning whether Darbro is a shill for Madigan, programmed to lose and let Stephens serve until the 2022 redistricting, when the district will be cannibalized.

Another factor is the "cop vote" and where it will go. State's Attorney Kim Foxx is on the ballot, as is 16th (Jefferson Park) District police lieutenant John Garrido for 10th subcircuit judge, which takes in the 41st and 45th wards. In the 19th District, Martwick's former seat to which Lindsey LaPointe, an Arena protege, was appointed, cop Joe Duplechin is running, along with Patti Vasquez. There will be great motivation for officers to vote democratic on March 17 to vote for other cops.

45TH WARD: Firefighter Jim Gardiner upset two-term alderman Arena 7,570-5,385 on Feb. 26, and Arena has gone on to a $123,996-a year job in the Lightfoot administration. Some say Arena harbors illusions of a 2023 comeback, and a 2020 defeat for committeeman would be politically fatal. Gardiner is seeking the committeemanship in order to consolidate his power base and destroy Arena's power base. Also filing was Ellen Hill, an Arena ally from Portage Park. The word is that Arena will focus his energies to help LaPointe and on a big turnout of "progressives" in the presidential contest. With two opponents, LaPointe could win nomination with 40 percent or less, which would make her the ward's liberal champion and back-up 2023 aldermanic candidate if Arena doesn't run. LaPointe will run a coordinated campaign with Martwick, (they have offices at the same address) who needs to win his 10th District's east half by 55-58 percent to counteract O'Toole's edge in the west half. The 10th extends west into parts of Park Ridge and Des Plaines as well as Rosemont, Norridge and Harwood Heights, so both Martwick and O'Toole must introduce themselves to a lot of voters in a short time.

36TH WARD: Filing to replace Arroyo, who resigned his House seat Nov. 1, were Alderman Villegas, Dave Feller and Jacqueline Baez, the latter two also filing for the 3rd District House seat.

40TH WARD: O'Connor, committeeman since 1984, lost his aldermanic seat to Vasquez on April 2. Only Alderman Vasquez and 2019 aldermanic loser Maggie O'Keefe filed.

31ST WARD: Alderman Felix Cardona is unopposed in Berrios's ward.

33RD WARD: Incumbent Aaron Goldstein faces state senator Iris Martinez, who is also running for Clerk of Circuit Court.

30TH WARD: Alderman Ariel Reboyras, involved in the Arroyo/ 3rd District mess, faces Juan Elias.

50TH WARD: Alderman Debra Silverstein, who replaced husband Ira, faces Halle Quezada Olmos.

1ST WARD: Alderman Daniel LaSpata beat Moreno, and filed for committeeperson; Moreno is backing Jay Ramirez, with Lauren Weber also filing.

STATE'S ATTORNEY: Filing were incumbent Kim Foxx, Bill Conway, Donna More and, as a late entrant, former alderman Bob Fioretti, who lost recent bids for mayor and county board president.

CLERK OF CIRCUIT COURT: Filing were Martinez, Jacob Meister, Richard Boykin and the slated Mike Cabonargi.

METROPOLITAN WATER RECLAMATION DISTRICT: 14 aspirants filed for three seats, including Todd Stroger (remember him?). Ballot position and gender are critical. The slate is Cam Davis, Kim Dubuclet (both incumbent commissioners) and Eira Corral Sepulveda. Frank Avila filed, as did Patricia Flynn, Heather Boyle, Kim Dulaney, Mike Grace and Mike Cashman. Grace has some money, and Irish-surnamed women do well. Also on the ballot are Eddie Nwosu, Deyon Dean, Shundar Lin and Kisha McCaskill.

BOARD OF REVIEW: For the seat now held by Republican Commissioner Dan Patlak, the Democratic field includes Maureen Murphy, Tammy Wendt and Abdelnasser Rashid. There are also 16 countywide judicial races.

There is a Republican primary of note: Retired judge Pat O'Brien and 2016 loser Chris Pfannkuche are running for state's attorney, hoping for (1) Foxx's nomination, (2) that she keeps self-destructing and (3) that Trump loses the county by less than a million votes. Dream on.

There are roughly 2,950,000 registered voters in Chicago and the Cook County suburbs. In 2016 the Democratic primary turnout was 1,422,337, about half of RVs. On March 17 a whole lot of people who know next to nothing about a whole lot of candidates are going to vote. Such is the glory of democracy.