July 15, 2020


A teacher's pet almost always gets to the head of the class. But a Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) favorite doesn't necessarily go to Springfield - as was demonstrated in the Hispanic-majority 3rd Illinois House District way back on March 17.

Eva Dina Delgado defeated teacher and CTU activist Nidia Carranza 6,302-5,922, with 51.5 percent of the vote despite her being the hand-picked choice of criminally-charged former state Representative Luis Arroyo (D-3) and because of the key backing of Alderman Gilbert Villegas (36th), an Arroyo protege who replaced him as 36th Ward committeeperson. Villegas is also Mayor Lori Lightfoot's City Council floor leader. He's also Arroyo's still existent 36th Ward political operation. Son Luis Arroyo Jr. is a county commissioner, and his term expires in 2022.

Carranza raised a hefty $266,898, a large chunk from the CTU PAC and the group United Working Families, and spent $264,999. Delgado, whose husband is a top staffer to county board president Toni Preckwinkle, raised $194,258 and spent $189,967.

Given the total amount spent, about $453,000, and the turnout of 12,224, that came to $37 per vote.

Delgado won by 380 votes, and she won the 36th Ward by 362 votes (see chart) and Alderman Ariel Reyboras's 30th Ward by 32 votes. That sealed the deal. Arroyo was arrested last October and charged with bribery in a criminal complaint for allegedly offering a payoff to another as-of-yet unnamed legislator, and resigned his seat Nov. 1.

Arroyo was not indicted, so the charges are vague, but he waived a probable cause hearing on the bribery charge. Because of the COVID-19 situation and court delays, a formal indictment likely still awaits, with possibly further charges.

Arroyo did not resign as Democratic committeeman (now committeeperson), so he retained a major voice in choosing his replacement, which was done at a November meeting of Democratic committeemen, each of whom had a weighted-vote based on past primary turnout.

The 3rd District is 65 percent Hispanic and runs from Montclare in the west to Central Park Avenue in Hermosa, encompassing Belmont-Central and Belmont-Cragin. The district has 84 precincts, with the largest number (26) being in the 36th Ward (see chart), and the second largest (14) in the 30th Ward. The duo of Arroyo-Reboyras had a majority of the weighted vote and Arroyo gave Reboyras his proxy, and their choice - Delgado - was the committee's choice.

Two committeemen, Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) and state Senator Robert Martwick (38th) proclaimed the Delgado pick "tainted," as did Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan, who promised that no choice picked by a committee on which Arroyo served would be seated. The promise was idle. Nothing happened. Ramirez-Rosa backed Carranza for the Arroyo seat, and both walked out of the meeting. Carranza shares Ramirez-Rosa's "democratic socialist" ideology.

Rosa-Ramirez is chair of the Chicago Socialist Party and did not seek re-election as Democratic committeeperson in 2020. He won his ward, which has 8 precincts, 825-668 for Carranza.

Delgado was indeed "tainted," in that she was an insider who would puppet the Madigan line in Springfield - as did Arroyo. When chosen, Delgado was now a lobbyist and assistant to the president of Peoples Gas, before that having "legislative affairs" jobs with the CTA and in the Daley administration. Her husband Erik Varela is a top aide to Preckwinkle, and multi-tasks as a Union Pacific lobbyist. Varela was tight with Arroyo, who as the ex-chairman of the House Latino Caucus appointed Varela to the board of the Chicago City Council Latino Caucus Foundation, which gives state college scholarships to the children of undocumented immigrants.

Arroyo, a bricklayer by trade and a 27-year Chicago employee, was an old-school politician, once a precinct captain for Dick Mell, who believed in patronage politics. He got jobs for people in state, city and county government and he expected those jobholders to do their job for him in assigned precincts. Throughout the 2000s and 2010s Arroyo was engaged in an intense turf war with former assessor Joe Berrios, the adjacent 31st Ward (Avondale) committeeman and county party chair, who had plenty of jobs and could raise plenty of money, usually in excess of $500,000 per election cycle as assessor (elected in 2010) and, before that, as Board of Review commissioner (elected in 1988).

Arroyo got elected to the Illinois House in 2006, but needed a ward of his own for a power base. That opportunity arose after the 2010 Census. White encroachment into and gentrification of West Wicker Park, Bucktown, Ukrainian Village, Roscoe Village, Logan Square and East Humboldt Park was pushing working-class Hispanics, both renters and homeowners, farther west into Galewood, Montclare and sections of the 38th Ward north of Belmont, plus the south ends of the 41st (Oriole Park) and 45th (Portage Park and Jefferson Park) wards
After the census a new Hispanic-majority ward would be created, effective 2015, and both Berrios and Arroyo WANTED IT. Arroyo lived in the 36th Ward, which took the east and south of Alderman Nick Sposato's 36th Ward. (Sposato subsequently relocated to the Cumberland corridor part of his ward, which was put in the 38th Ward, and he won there.) As always happens, a deal was made.

It was the infamous 2013 "Son Swap." Berrios agreed to dump county Commissioner Edwin Reyes, who was out of Roberto Maldonado's 26th Ward, and back Arroyo's kid, Luis. Jr., who won the 8th District 2014 primary 8,084-6,560. In exchange Berrios would use his considerable clout to create a new 36th Ward in which Arroyo would be committeeman, but the alderman would be Omar Aquino, son of 31st Ward Alderman (and Berrios loyalist) Ray Suarez's best friend. In other words, Berrios would dictate the alderman in Arroyo's ward. That "deal" was short-lived. Once Luis Jr. was ensconced, Luis Sr. underwent an epiphany: Yesterday's deal is no deal at all. He recruited 2015 candidates for aldermen in the new 36th (Gil Villegas) Ward, where he expected to be appointed committeeman, and in Berrios's 31st Ward (Millie Santiago), taking on Suarez. The result was a Berrios debacle, with Villegas beating Aquino 4,594-3,656 and Santiago squeaking past Suarez 4,218-4,139, a margin of 79 votes. Arroyo sent his workers into the 31st Ward for Santiago.

The contest for North Side's number one was underway, and Berrios scored a coup by filing Aquino for state senator and then knocking incumbent Willie Delgado (D-2) off the ballot because of faulty petitions. Berrios had gotten Delgado petitions with the same signatures that he had previously gotten for Aquino. Delgado was gone. There may be honor among thieves, but not among politicians.

In 2018 Berrios got his comeuppance, losing his March assessor primary to Fritz Kaegi, and got dumped by Preckwinkle as chairman the next month. Luis Jr. was unopposed for renomination. It looked like Arroyo was the new boss. But then Lori Lightfoot was elected mayor in 2019, and Felix Cardona, who was quietly backed by Berrios, beat Santiago 3,584-3,017.

And then came Arroyo's arrest. As of March 31 he had $108,774 on-hand, but most of that will go to attorney fees.

Villegas, with $60,311on-hand, is attempting to fill the void for the number one head honcho, but so is state Senator Iris Martinez (D-20), who won the Democratic primary for Clerk of Court and was elected 33rd Ward Democratic committeeperson.

In an office with 1,500 jobs, Martinez can assemble a crackerjack political team. As Lightfoot's council advocate, Villegas - now committeeperson - has City Hall clout.

Expect for a time that there will two political bosses. And expect Luis Jr. to have a really tough race in 2022.