July 7, 2021

"I'm being disrespected," lamented newly elected county Board of Review (BOR) commissioner Tammy Wendt (D). To be correct, Democrat Wendt's district has been dumped and purged. I can see why she feels this way.

Springfield Democrats during the 2021 session remapped and transformed her mostly White and almost entirely suburban BOR 1st District into a 43 percent Hispanic-majority domain with the expectation that Wendt's job will be bequeathed to Southwest Side 12th Ward Alderman George Cardenas in the 2022 Democratic primary. Cardenas will be the slated candidate.

That reminds me of the ancient proverb that no good deed goes unpunished. Wendt in 2020 defeated 10-year incumbent Dan Patlak (R) by 30,000 votes, riding on the coattails of Biden-Harris, which won Cook County by more than 500,000 votes. The 1st District encompasses only one-third of the county, but the Trump undertow was enough to drown Patlak. Wendt was a Democrat in a Democratic year, and being a woman helped. She raised only $20,000 and has cash-on-hand of $6,624. Patlak raised and spent close to $800,000.

The Board of Review is both important and lucrative. It adjudicates property tax appeals from the assessor's assessed valuations, a task which can save appellant property owners thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars. And it used to be pay-to-play, with tax appeal lawyers donating lavishly to the three commissioners - who are now Democrats Wendt, Mike Cabonargi (2nd) and Larry Rogers (3rd). The recent ethics law, however, caps donations at $750 per lawyer or law firm. All three face re-election in 2022.

One perk is that each commissioner gets to hire 30 "analysts" who get paid about $55,000 and evaluate every complaint, making a recommendation which must be approved by at least two commissioners. Does that require a special skill set? Like a real estate license? Or a college degree? Of course not. These analysts make decisions of great monetary magnitude. Rogers a few years ago reduced qualifications to a high school diploma or a GED.

From a Democratic perspective, Wendt's win should be thought a good deed, a cause for merriment and celebration. She defeated the last vestigial Republican county officeholder (albeit only one-third). But she committed two unforgivable, politically-incorrect bad deeds. She defeated Abdelnasser Rashid, a politically connected "progressive" party operative who was the slated candidate in the primary. The vote was 110,559-91,893. And she was part of Jason Van Dyke's legal defense team in the Laquan McDonald "murder" trial. "That's why they won't support her," said Todd Theilmann, her chief-of-staff.

The powers that be, meaning county Democratic chairperson/ board president Toni Preckwinkle and state's attorney Kim Foxx, won't back her for 2022 slating, much as they didn't assist her 2020 campaign against Patlak, she said. "My voice was not heard during the remapping process," claimed Wendt. "I submitted a map" to Springfield. It was ignored.

Instead she got a map that transformed her 80 percent White suburban district, which contained parts of the 41st and 19th wards in Chicago. The new 1st is 43 percent Hispanic, with Whites at 41 percent and Blacks at 8 percent. The White vote was chopped in half. Ever magnanimous, Democrats even chopped Wheeling, Patlak's base, in half and put him in Cabonargi's district.

Cabonargi's current district encompasses the North Shore to roughly I-294 and extends into Chicago along the Lakefront to the Loop, plus most of the Northwest Side and Hispanic wards. His new district loses the Hispanic wards and extends west to Route 12 (Elmhurst Road), then down to Euclid and west to include Elk Grove, Des Plaines and Park Ridge. The 2nd is now 61 percent White, with Hispanics at 19 and Blacks at 7 percent. The entire 41st Ward is now in Cabonargi's district.

So where did the White vote go? Rogers' current 3rd District begins at the south Loop and takes in the entire South Side below the Eisenhower Expressway to the Black-majority south suburbs. It was nearly 70 percent Black and 25 percent Hispanic. Now it's 58 percent Black, takes in all of the Loop, loses the Hispanics north of the Stevenson Expressway (I-55), and is 25 percent White and just 14 percent Hispanic. Rogers also picked up the 1st's white-majority suburban turf south of 111th Street, including Orland Park and Tinley Park. Amazingly, Wendt's home of Palos Heights was kept in the 1st District - by about 4 blocks. Was that an oversight?
The remap added Melrose Park, Northlake and parts of Cicero and Berwyn to Wendt's district, kept the far northwest suburbs of Schaumburg, Streamwood and Hanover Park. It also takes in the Northwest Side Hispanic wards south of Addison east to the Kennedy Expressway, including the 36th, 30th, 35th, 33rd, and 26th wards.

Wendt's cash-on-hand is $6,624, but she does have a path to re-nomination: Roberto Sepulveda, a political operative for congressman Chuy Garcia (D-4), a rival of Cardenas, may run, as might Rashid. As the only woman against three men, she could win with 30 to 35 percent.

If I was woke and politically correct, I would sputter and shout that the Democrats' purge of Wendt is sexist. Apparently, dumping a White woman in favor of a Hispanic man is now quite OK in the world of Democratic identity politics. It's just politics as usual, I guess.

10TH STATE SENATE DISTRICT: "I'm not running" for state senator in 2022, said Chicago police officer Danny O'Toole. That's good news for incumbent Rob Martwick (D-10), who beat O'Toole narrowly in the 2020 Democratic primary, getting just 54 percent. It's also good news for Patti Vasquez, who got 38 percent in her 2020 primary run for 19th District state representative against appointed incumbent Lindsey LaPointe (D-19). With O'Toole out, Vasquez would have a good one-on-one chance against Martwick, since that was her undoing in the state rep race, with some saying that Joe Duplechin took away her votes.

"I'm looking at running for senator, representative or alderman," said Vasquez, a former WGN talk show host who is now a deputy policy advisor to state comptroller Susana Mendoza and a liaison for human services and health care. Isn't the comptroller just supposed to pay Illinois' bills?

Vasquez lives around Milwaukee-Foster in the 45th Ward where Jim Gardiner is alderman, and is up for re-election in 2023. "I'm looking at all my options," Vasquez said. "A lot depends on the (aldermanic) ward remap." Gardiner lives in north Gladstone Park, a few blocks inside the northern boundary.

One declared 2023 candidate is Megan Mathias from the ward's south end of the ward. Another possible candidate is J.C. Strzalka-Stell, an aide to Martwick. The ward remap is due by Dec. 1. If it doesn't get 40 council votes there will be a citywide referendum, probably in February of 2022. This mess may not be resolved until then.

METROPOLITAN WATER RECLAMATION DISTRICT (MWRD): May the best woman win. Or, more accurately, no woman will lose. Three $60,000-a year commissioner seats are on the county ballot in 2022 and only one incumbent - Maryiana Spyropoulos - is running. Commissioner Josina Morita of Skokie is running for county commissioner and Commissioner Barbara McGowan is retiring.

The jockeying is already fast and furious. McGowan sent committeepersons a letter recommending Anita Hayes, a 29th Ward precinct captain. Already announced is Patricia Theresa Flynn, who finished fifth in the 2020 primary and whose father is an official in an engineers union. She is from Crestwood and south suburbanites want a seat. Also Cristina Nonato, and Sharon Waller of the 47th Ward, plus Rick Garcia, former director of Equality Illinois, a gay rights political group. Another will emerge from the Schakowsky-Lang North Shore faction.

Outlook: Slated will be Spyropoulos, Flynn and an African-American woman. But MWRD primaries are notoriously unpredictable.

COUNTY JUDGESHIPS: Chief Judge Tim Evans has decreed that all courtrooms open on Aug. 1, which will prompt a flood of retirements. During the COVID-19 shutdown, $210,000-a year judges could work 2-3 hours a day from their couch or beach chair, doing Zoom hearings. Criminal courts were basically closed, jury trials were banned, and the criminal and civil case backlog reached staggering proportions. Statutory rules like the 120-day Speedy Trial Act and the 160-day trial when held on bail mandate were suspended, so the pending backlog of jury demands (which take 2-3 days each, with one day for jury selection) is overwhelming. Foxx has said her prosecutors are toying with the idea of dismissing many criminal cases. When ALL courts reopen judges will be working 12-hour days - and a whole bunch will be heading for the exit.

Justice may be blind, but judges can read a calendar. The key date was July 1. If they retired after that date they get a pension credit for the whole year. Expect about 20 retirements of countywide-elected judges, especially those in criminal courtrooms.

The alternative is an associate judgeship, of which there are 146, who are appointed by a vote of the 254 elected Circuit Court judges. There are over 15 openings. There is no need to politically campaign. The long list of applicants as of Feb. 1 contained 212 names. That was winnowed down to 30, giving applicants a month to campaign among the judges, with a judge's vote held by Aug. 31.

Those appointed won't run in 2022 but there's still another 200-plus who might.