March 25, 2020


Voters did some serious "political distancing" on March 17. A number of veteran politicians along with some newcomers were not just self-quarantined. Instead, they were banished to that land of has-been politicians. Think 6 feet underground.

Those taking a lot of political damage and some getting outright booted included John Garrido and Ira Silverstein for judge, Mike McAuliffe as 41st Ward Republican committeeman, Yehiel "Mark" Kalish as state representative, Cary Capparelli for state representative, Frank Avila as Metropolitan Water Reclamation District commissioner, Mike Cabonargi for Clerk of Court and Bill Conway for state's attorney.

Some political myths were also punctured: Turnout was not as high as expected: It was 479,902 and 387,778 in the city and suburbs (total 867,680), down from 2016's 924,341. Kim Foxx clobbered Conway with 58.2 percent, easily surviving the Jussie Smolett fiasco. The anti-cop vote easily exceeded the pro-cop vote. The African-American vote did not split, coming out overwhelmingly for Foxx and Scott Neville for Supreme Court. The countywide Democratic slate won 14 of 20 races. The Northwest Side "First Responder" slate had mixed success. Neither Aldermen Jim Gardiner (45th) nor Anthony Napolitano (41st) emerged as a political "Goliath." The "McSister" slate, composed of four Sauganash/ Wildwood women, all lost. Irish-surnamed women lost races for Supreme Court and Appellate Court. Latinas won four of six countywide contests, the most significant being Iris Martinez's upset of Cabonargi.

Also, the small margin of victory of state senator Rob Martwick (D-10) bodes ill for his future. Martwick outspent Danny O'Toole 10-1 but won 15,332-13,174, or by 53.8 percent. Chicago cop O'Toole will be back in 2022. And 2023 Chicago aldermanic contests began on March 17 with Maggie O'Keefe beating Alderman Andre Vasquez by 419 votes in the 40th Ward, Ellen Hill losing to Gardiner by only 406 votes in the 45th Ward, and Joe Cook beating Napolitano-endorsed Bill Kilroy by 996 votes in the 41st Ward. O'Keefe, Hill and Cook will all run for alderman. (Editor's note: While the candidates above are the likely winners, the officials results have not come in yet and there could be thousands of mail-in ballots that have not been counted.)

PRESIDENT: Joe Biden dispatched Bernie Sanders 919,172-561, 561 statewide, getting 59.1 percent to Sanders' 36.9 percent in a turnout of 1.5 million.

In Chicago, Sanders lost 248,516-198,242, getting 42.3 percent, running well in Hispanic wards but not among white liberals or African-Americans. He lost 239,163-125,357 in the suburbs, losing "progressive" bastions Evanston (12,785-6,800) and Oak Park (10,297-5,802). Biden won the black-majority wards 2-1 to 3-1, but Sanders won all 14 Hispanic-majority wards. His vote was down in Chicago and in the suburbs over 2016. The 2020 turnout averaged about 30 percent. The 2016 county Clinton-Sanders vote was 633,300-536,805 countywide.

The Northwest Side presented stark contrasts. Biden won the cop-filled 41st Ward 5,841-3,575, or 57.1 percent, but lost the adjoining 45th Ward by 18 votes to Sanders, 4,721-4,703. Biden won by 4,945-4,178 in the 39th Ward, 4,021-3,568 in the 38th Ward, but lost 5,876-4,920 in the 40th Ward.

41ST WARD: Popularity is not transferable. Napolitano won re-election in 2019 with 70 percent. He built a reputation as a non-partisan, hands-on alderman. But he was all over the place in 2020, endorsing Democrats O'Toole, Garrido, Kilroy and Michelle Darbro for state representative, and Ammie Kessem for REPUBLICAN committeeman (against McAuliffe). O'Toole pounded Martwick 4,654-3,112 in the ward, Garrido 4,128-951-2,662 over Jon Stromsta and Maire Dempsey, Darbro 4,745-2,122 over Capparelli, and Kessem 1,054-627 over McAuliffe.

But on the KEY race, which impacts Napolitano's future, Cook beat Kilroy 5,013-4,017, or 55.1 percent, winning 29 of the ward's 47 precincts. The alderman need not despair. Napolitano won 12,502-5,289 in a 2019 turnout of 17,791, winning every precinct. The "cop vote" was definitely there: Conway blasted Foxx 6,417-1,617 in the ward, and will be there in 2023. Cook needs to expand his base beyond 5,000. Cook is a definite 2023 underdog. But he is a factor.

Kessem ran as unabashedly pro-Trump, pro-life and pro-gun while McAuliffe snoozed. Turnout was 4,576 for committeeman in 2016, down by two-thirds on March 17, She beat McAuliffe in 41 of 47 precincts.

45TH WARD: John Arena may be history, but his progressives/ democratic socialists are quite alive and well, especially in Portage Park. Gardiner beat Arena 7,570-5,382 fro alderman in 2019 in a turnout of 14,865. He most likely beat Hill 4,806-4,400 in a 9,206 turnout, getting 52.2 percent. There are 34,672 registered voters in the ward, and primaries are dominated by leftists. Garrido ran against Arena twice, getting 6,053 votes in 2011 and 7,263 in 2015, but he got 3,777 votes, or 46.7 percent, for judge. Foxx won the ward 4,367-3,037 over Conway, getting 44.6 percent. Combine that with Sander's 4,703 (46.6 percent), and there is a solid base for Hill. With 34,672 registered voters, Gardiner is under no pressure to pacify the liberals, and has plenty of time to grow his base.

19TH HOUSE DISTRICT: Lindsey LaPointe is an Arena protege, appointed to Martwick's House seat last summer. It is Speaker Mike Madigan's policy to back all incumbents, so LaPointe had Springfield staff and enough money for 12 mailings. She distanced herself from Arena and Martwick, and won 6,232-5,377-3,478 over Patti Vasquez and cop Joe Duplechin, getting 42 percent. All three waged intensive door-to-door campaigns. Gardiner endorsed Duplechin. Duplechin may have cost Vasquez a win.

20TH HOUSE DISTRICT: There is a new norm in post COVID-19 politics: Voter-distancing. No touching, hugging or handshaking, no at-door contact, no events, no fund-raisers, no rallies, and no mass mailings that may have been touched. What's left? It's the social media, which means digital and broadcast outlets, eschewing print media and on-street avenues. Capparelli tried exactly that, and got clobbered by Darbro, losing 8,871-4,495, getting only 32.3 percent. Capparelli spent $25,000 and claims he sent out 250,000 "impressions" to voters' iPhones and computers. Capparelli had no mailings, knocked on no doors, and had no yard signs. With e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers now readily purchasable, political messaging is now SPAM, like repetitive TV ads, the difference being that you don't have to open it.

Darbro faces appointed incumbent Brad Stephens (R), Rosemont's mayor, and will have the full resources of the Madigan Machine behind her. She would have spent the next 6 months door-knocking, but Madigan must figure out some new contact technique. All depends on the status of COVID-19 on Nov. 3.

10TH SENATE DISTRICT: Martwick is not a good fit for the district. He and Arena had the votes to make him senator last summer, but March 17 demonstrated he had no name ID or ground game west of Nagle. Turnout was 29,506, and Martwick won Chicago 11,111-10,314, with O'Toole getting a whopping 59.9 percent in the 41st Ward...but he needed 70 percent. Martwick won his 38th Ward 58-42 (3,374-2,441) and the 45th Ward 60-40 (3,930-2,629), and he carried the suburbs (Park Ridge, Rosemont, Norridge, Harwood Heights) 4,221-2,860, for an overall 15,332-13,174 win, a 2,158-vote margin. Problems await in 2022.

10TH SUBCIRCUIT: Garrido was the best-known candidate, but he had baggage and a lot of enemies. It didn't help when every bar association gave him a not recommended rating. Dempsey is an Irish-surnamed woman. Stromsta was slated, and had 47th Ward backing. The final vote was 23,349-15,253-9,324, with it being 19,128-13,470-8,176 in Chicago. Garrido got 46.7 percent in the 45th Ward and 53.3 percent in the 41st Ward, but got demolished in the 47th (13 percent), 40th (19 percent) and 39th (32.8 percent) wards. The total Garrido-Stromsta vote was 1,228 more than Dempsey's, but as I've been writing for year, when two men run against one woman, the woman always wins. Dempsey got 48.7 percent. For the other vacancy the winner was judge Mary Marubio, who got 16,884 votes in a 5-candidate field. Marubio had a whole lot of votes in the district's east end.

9TH SUBCIRCUIT: An old song by the late Kenny Rogers drones that "you need to know when to fold 'em." Silverstein didn't. He lost re-nomination for state senator in 2018 because of #MeToo allegations, but had more name ID than Pam Stratagakis, Tom Cushing or Tim Carter. But Cushing crushed him in the 49th Ward and Evanston. Silverstein finished with 11,228 votes, or 20 percent.

STATE'S ATTORNEY: The presumption was that Foxx had a vote ceiling of 40 percent. She beat the beleaguered Anita Alvarez 645,738-317,594 in 2016 because of the Laquan McDonald shooting, getting 62.4 percent of the Chicago vote. Conway's polling indicated that the anti-Foxx vote was 60 percent, and that he would win if he kept the vote of opponents Donna More and Bob Fioretti under 20 percent. Conway spent over $10 million on TV ads, most of which were insipid, and accomplished one of his two goals: He kept the More-Fioretti vote under 20 percent. But he didn't keep the Foxx vote at 40 percent. Foxx got 56.4 percent of the Chicago vote and 40.4 percent of the suburban vote, for an overall win of 409,010-252,157-108,392-40,415, or 50.4 percent. Spending $10 million for 252,157 votes?

It's the kind of thing Mike Bloomberg would do.