February 12, 2020


Elections? We really don't need any elections at this point do we? That's the reality of Chicago's Northwest Side politics, where the "Oligarchy Party" dominates.

Its philosophy is succinct. Let no public office go unfilled and let no perk or salary go uncollected since a well-paying vacancy is a terrible thing to waste. That's when the politicos get together and appoint somebody as soon as possible. And, if possible, leave no kin left behind. If there is some cushy vacant job to which one's kid or spouse can be appointed to then let's do it.

An oligarchy is defined as a form of government in which ruling power belongs to a few "persons" ... and that means Democratic committeepersons for legislative office, the Illinois Supreme Court for judicial office, and the county Democratic chairman for party office. Under Illinois law, they do the appointing to fill the vacancies.

Look at 2019: State Senator John Mulroe (D-10) was appointed judge in the 10th subcircuit to replace retiring judge Tom Allen, the former 38th Ward alderman who was appointed judge in 2010. State Representative Rob Martwick (D-19), the 38h Ward Democratic committeeperson (who was appointed to that job) got appointed to fill Mulroe's 10th District seat, being one of the Democratic committeepersons doing the choosing. Lindsey LaPointe, a protege of former alderman John Arena, got appointed to Martwick's 19th District House seat with the votes of Arena and Martwick.

The 33-year incumbent Lou Lang (D-16) resigned and, as Niles Township Democratic committeeperson, had the votes to appoint Mark Kalish to his 16h District House seat. The 23-year incumbent Mike McAuliffe (R-20) resigned and, as 41st Ward Republican committeeperson, had the votes to appoint Rosemont mayor Brad Stephens, who as Leyden Township committeeperson voted for himself for the 20th District House seat. And Eva-Dina Delgado (D-3) got appointed to Luis Arroyo's vacant 3rd District House seat after Arroyo's arrest for alleged bribery, but Arroyo as 36th Ward committeeperson voted for her through proxy, after which he quit his party job and ally Alderman Gil Villegas was appointed his replacement.

Similar seamless hand-offs occurred in the 50th Ward, where defeated state senator Ira Silverstein (who is running for judge) quit his party post and gave it to his wife, Alderman Debra Silverstein, and in the 39th Ward, where defeated aldermanic candidate Robert Murphy quit and state senator Ram Villivalam (D-8), who defeated Silverstein in 2018, was anointed.
"Aren't we supposed to elect officeholders?" asked Joe Duplechin, who is running for 19th House District seat, noting that "one third" of current Northwest Side/suburban officeholders are appointees.

From a voter perspective, a vacancy is NOT a bad thing, as every legislative incumbent runs up about $200,000 annually in salary, staff, office and pension and health insurance benefits.

A major faction of the oligarchs are the monarchists, who view themselves as royalty and their power as a perpetual DNA-entitled hand-me-down. They beget unto their kin. The 38th Ward Cullertons, who had an alderman back in the 1870s, established their now-defunct ward dynasty in 1935, and begat a line of alderman (which ended in 2015) and an assessor. The 39h Ward Laurino dynasty begat Tony and Marge as aldermen and now perseveres through grandson/ nephew state Representative John D'Amico (D-15). Dick Mell's 33d Ward dynasty began in 1975 and ended with daughter Deb Mell's 2019 defeat for alderman. Roman Pucinski begat daughter Aurie Pucinski, first as Clerk of Court and now Appellate justice. Tom Lyons made cousin Joe Lyons state representative (1996-2012), and Martwick, whose father was the longtime and heavily clouted Norwood Park Township Democratic committeeman, succeeded him.

McAuliffe was preceded as state representative by his father, as was Stephens as mayor. Cary Capparelli, son of longtime state representative (1970-2004) Ralph Capparelli, who lost to McAuliffe in the redistricted 20th District, is now running to oppose Stephens.

19TH DISTRICT: Patti Vasquez, a former WGN radio personality and stand-up comedian, faces LaPointe and Duplechin in this race. Martwick has endorsed LaPointe, as has the teachers' (CTU) and public sector (SEIU) unions. "I expect to spend $200,000," said LaPointe, which means there will soon be a huge influx of SEIU money, primarily for direct mail. Alderman Jim Gardiner (45th), who defeated Arena in 2019 and is running for Democratic committeeperson, has campaigned for Duplechin, as has the FOP (police), Firefighters' Local 2, and a plethora of trades' unions. Duplechin has raised close to $100,000, and projects ten mailings to the district's 18,000 households, comprising 27,000 voters. Duplechin is part of the area's unofficial cop/firefighter slate, which includes Danny O'Toole for state senator (against Martwick), John Garrido for judge, Gardiner, and Bill Kilroy for 41st Ward Democratic committeeperson. "9,000 votes will win it," Duplechin said of the race he is in.

Polling from a number of sources puts Vasquez in the lead, with a huge "undecided" vote upwards of 40 percent. The breakout is roughly 25-20-15 percent, with Duplechin last. The reason is simple: Vasquez campaigns door-to-door for 10 hours a day, pushing 1,200 doorbells a week.

"I talk to a lot of doors," she said, meaning to front porch security cameras, and claims a face-to-face contact rate of 22 percent. She has been daily canvassing since August, emulating the methodology of Gardiner, who walked the ward for months, knocking on every door (and some twice), and former state senator Dan Kotowski, who spent 18 months walking his Park Ridge-Des Plaines district in 2005-06. Vasquez notes that 25 percent of the district's population is Latino, as are 40 percent of schoolchildren.

LaPointe also walks precincts daily, has a phone bank operation and claims to be the "most experienced" candidate in terms of "human resources and policy." LaPointe was a social worker prior to her appointment, and a self-described "progressive." The most common comment of voters, she said, "is getting Trump out." At a forum last summer, LaPointe said that she supported State's Attorney Kim Foxx's policies, but now she's focused on her own race.

"There are a lot of conservatives" in the district, said Vasquez, who added that people "don't know who I'm running against." Duplechin said an "uptick" of crime in the ward is the voters' main concern, and that they have "lost faith in the integrity" of the government. Vasquez has no union backing, but claims to have raised $48,000 in small individual donations.

The 19th District contains 81 precincts, of which 73 are in Chicago, with 36 in the 45th Ward and 29 in the 38th Ward, plus 8 in Norridge. 2016 turnout was 16,957.

My prediction: Vasquez is energetic and charismatic, and will win. "I'm the outsider," she said. The vote will be close, but Vasquez will top LaPointe 9,500-8,500, with Duplechin at 6,000.

20TH DISTRICT: Rosemont is a union-friendly town, with a multiplicity of trade shows at the Stephens Convention Center and lots of high-end restaurants. The presumption was that, given Speaker Madigan's 74-44 super-majority, and his failure to defeat McAuliffe in 2016, that Stephens would be given a free pass in 2020. But Local 2's political director Rob Tebbens recruited Michelle Darbro, an EMT/firefighter to run as a Democrat, and she has been the beneficiary of a flood of Madigan/ union money. Capparelli is also running.

Darbro raised (or had raised for her) nearly $100,000 through Feb. 9, half through Madigan's own fund-raising committees or other state representatives where he "parked" his dollars, and the rest through unions who Madigan directed to do so. She is planning ten mailings, commencing this week - four introductory, three negative on Capparelli, then three positive.

She is going to "do a Garrido," which means replicating the 2011 45th Ward Garrido-Arena aldermanic race, when SEIU spent close to $500,000 demonizing Garrido as a "Bush Republican" because he ran for county board president in the 2010 Republican primary. It was enough to beat him by 30 votes.

Capparelli did in fact run as the Republican nominee for Metropolitan Water Reclamation District commissioner twice in the past 6 years, and once in the Democratic primary. "My political ideology has never changed," he said. "I am a moderate conservative" on fiscal and social issues, "as are the voters" of the 20th District.

The district contains 86 precincts, 43 in Chicago, with 36 in the 41st Ward and 7 in the 38th Ward, plus 43 in the suburbs, including Norridge, Harwood Heights, Rosemont and Park Ridge. 2016 turnout was 13,227 -7,266 in Chicago and 5,961 in he suburbs.

The rap on Capparelli is that he is MIA on the campaign trail, doing no door-to-door stuff. That is correct. He is running a "digital" campaign, buying e-mail and iPhone lists and flooding social media. This is the future of politics. Capparelli will have no mailings.

My prediction: who is the "shill?" Is Darbro running to take a dive for Stephens? Or is it Capparelli, whose father was a political crony and an ally of Stephen's father? "I am no shill," said Capparelli, who has not defined himself thus far. Darbro's mailings will lambaste and DEFINE Capparelli as a "Trump Republican." Darbro will win with 55 percent.