May 24, 2023

Blessed are those who expect nothing for they shall not be disappointed. In Chicago’s 2023 municipal election there were quite a few candidates on the ballot, 11 for citywide office and 181 for alderman. 53 of them won, or 27 percent. The rest were not blessed.

As a final rehash of the Feb. 28 and April 4 outcomes before moving on, here are my “Sour Raspberry Awards” for those whose obvious mistakes compounded by poor judgment made them this year’s “Biggest Losers” politically.

The Top Eight Bust-Outs include Lori Lightfoot and Chuy Garcia, plus Jessica Gutierrez, Megan Mathias, Chris Taliaferro at the ward level, plus – though not on the ballot -- George Cardenas, Iris Martinez, and Mike Quigley. Their endorsees got pounded.

And  then there are those who deserve a “Shifty Peach Award” for avoiding mistakes, exercising great judgment, raising needed cash, peaking at the right time, and knowing when to “pivot” which is a euphemism for switching strategy, positions or alliances on a moment’s notice. That was obvious in the 30th, 36th and 29th wards where Ruth Cruz, Gil Villegas and Chris Taliaferro won their runoffs by clinging to the Brandon Johnson bandwagon.

Cruz beat Jessica Gutierrez, daughter of 26-year congressman Luis Gutierrez, by 291, Villegas beat CTU and UWF darling Lori Torres Whitt by 1,313 votes, and 2-termer Taliaferro eked out a 308-vote win over desultory opposition. Taliaferro badly craves a judgeship (he lost a 2022 subcircuit race), voters know it, and there’s no way they will give him a fourth term in 2027. Interestingly, Johnson LOST the 30th Ward by 1,478votes, but WON the 36th by 117 and the 29th by 3,633. Their well-timed pivots got them 15-20 percent of the Johnson vote.

Cruz was the choice of outgoing alderman Ariel Reboyras, who beat Guterriez by 302 votes in 2019. Woke/Leftists and the Chicago Teachers Union were wild about Warren Williams on Feb. 28, but he finished third, 315 votes behind Cruz, who was 1,108 votes behind Gutierrez, the early favorite. After Williams lost, CTU pulled out even though Gutierrez was a former CPS teacher.  Her sin was that she supported charter schools and was cozy with developers, both of which funded her. Sshe spent over $400,000.

Cruz tacked Left, alienating Reboyras by endorsing Johnson, spending about $200,000. Reboyras endorsed Paul Vallas. But the quick pivot worked.

TYPES OF LOSERS: Those who exceed expectations and get a second shot and those who underperform expectations, lose and fade away. Like those below.

LIGHTFOOT: She got 94,890 votes, meaning 83.1 percent of the 564,524 turnout voted against her, as did 94.1 percent of the 1,581,564registered voters (RVs), as did 96.5 percent of Chicago’s 2,665,591 population.

GARCIA: Given the congressman’s underwhelming Feb. 28 mayoral showing, in which he tallied-77,222  votes, or just  13.7 percent, the 67-year old Garcia has reason for concern. He blew his chance to be mayor in 2019 because, after losing quite respectably to Rahm Emanuel, he grabbed Luis Gutierrez’s congressional seat in 2018. Had Garcia announced for mayor in June 2022 he would have co-opted both CTU and union support. But he foolishly waited until mid-November and CTU was by then all-in for Johnson.

Garcia is hunkering down in his 22nd Ward. His alderman Michael Rodriguez is secure. His longtime political director Eira Corral Sepulveda, a MWRD commissioner who is running for Clerk of Court, has relocated from Schaumburg to Garcia’s ward. The 2022 4th District primary (D) drew a measly 37,449 turnout. It’s possible that a Leftist could win the seat soon.

CARDENAS: It’s the “Art of the Bail.” Get out before voters throw you out. Cardenas was alderman of the Southwest Side Mexican-American 12th Ward for 19 years, since 2003, and got his political start with Daley’s Hispanic Democratic Organization (HDO). Cardenas figured it was time to move on up. The county board created a Latino-majority seat on the Board of Review (BOR), which handles tax assessment appeals, specifically for Cardenas. He defeated a White commissioner 60-40 in the 2022 primary (D).

The BOR is a classic example of identity politics with 3 districts:  one majority-White (north Lakefront, suburban North Shore stretching west to Palatine), one majority-Black (South Side and south suburbs) and Cardenas’s majority-Latino (Southwest Side, west, southwest and northwest suburbs, stretching from Tinley Park to Schaumburg)

Cardenas’s ward base has evaporated. He got the mayor to appoint his chief-of-staff –Anabel Abarca to his seat. She lost  to Julia Ramirez. Another top staffer Samie Martinez lost to “democratic socialist” Rossana Rodriguez in the 33rd Ward by 54.7-33.9 pecent. The BOR is a gold mine for lawyer donations, so Cardenas is not yet through.

MARTINEZ: No good deed goes unpunished. While the Mell Clan ran the 33rd Ward for 44 years, Martinez waited her turn as state senator. When Deb Mell lost in 2019 Martinez moved to run for Clerk of Circuit Court, which Dorothy Brown left in massively dysfunctional condition, and ward committeeperson (D).

Martinez failed to beat Rodriguez this year, and she has struggled to implement “reforms” as clerk. What she has done has not been well-packaged and marketed, and Sepulveda has been encouraged by Toni Preckwinkle to run, and the MWRD commissioner can self-fund.

QUIGLEY: Don’t back no losers. That was Rule One among Chicago Machine bosses. Quigley has been in Congress since 2009 and his district stretches from the Lakefront (Lincoln Park and Lakeview) across to the Northwest Side and then to the western suburbs and east DuPage County. In the 2022 primary (D) he got 82,490 votes, has had no competitive race since 2009. Quigley endorsed loser Kim Walz (46th) in the runoff. The 5th District has a 40-50 percent hardcore Woke/Leftist primary base. While unlikely, somebody like state Reps Will Guzzardi (D-39) or Lindsey LaPointe (D-19) may take him on in 2024 or 2026.

MATHIAS: Next to Ed Burke, Jim Gardiner appeared to be the alderman who could be easily beat, with his “scandals,” and TV anchors getting ecstatic by adding the word “embattled” next to his name. Yet Mathias lost, getting 46.4 percent. She won’t be back in 2027.

METROPOLITAN WATER RECLAMATION DISTRICT (MWRD): Most Cook County politicians want to get out of Springfield, with its 200-mile drive (one way) 35 weeks per year, $77,000 salary, monotonous committee meetings and, if a Democrat, being told by Speaker Welch how to vote as part of the veto-proof  78D-40R majority.

But MWRD commissioner Kim DuBuclet,  the MWRD VP and ex-Preckwinkle staffer, resigned May 13 to be appointed to replace state Rep Lamont Robinson (D-5), who resigned his Hyde Park seat after moving on up to be 4th Ward alderman. By every conceivable guidepost DuBuclet is moving in the wrong direction.

A commissioner (there are 9) is paid $70,000, has a 6-year term, attends 22 meetings per year, gets a free car, has an office and 2 staffers, has medical benefits and earns a pension. It’s considered a “part-time” job. Sweet. So sweet that a gaggle of upward ambitious pols want the governor to appoint them to DuBuclet’s 2-year vacancy.

DuBuclet is a South Side woman, so her replacement will be the same demographic, with Chakena Perry, wife of a Pritzker aide who served 2021-22 (by appointment) and Precious Brady-Davis, a trans-sexual woman, Sierra Club executive and 2022 loser  topping the list. There will be 4 commissioners elected, with incumbents Kari Steele, Marcelino Garcia and Dan Pogorzelski re-slated.

Likely to run for the 3 6-year terms or 2-year term are Brady-Davis, 2022 losers  Sharon Waller, Cristina Nonato and Elizabeth Joyce, Sepulveda staffer Rolando Fabela and Harvey alderman Marshun Tolbert.

Pogorzelski won by 4,042- votes over Joyce in 2022. The 2–year race will draw away some women. If the slate faces just one woman, Pogo is at risk. He needs 4 or 5 female foes.

The MWRD is also an up-and-out job. Steele ran for assessor in 2022, and commissioners Sepulveda and Spyropoulos, who can self-fund, are running for Clerk of Court in 2024.

ANDRADE WATCH: You can’t be a senator if there’s still a senator. Cristina Pacione-Zayas was appointed to Martinez’s 20th District seat in 2020, elected in 2022 and was named Johnson’s first deputy chief-of-staff in mid-April, a policy-making job which pays over $150,000. According to Jaime Andrade Jr. (D-40), whose state rep district covers half of the 20th, Pacione-Zayas is still collecting her state pay, has not resigned, shows up for work since May 15 at City Hall but is NOT collecting her city paycheck.

“Can you imagine if I did that?” asked Andrade. “The media would be all over me.” Andrade is “interested” in the senate appointment, which will be made by the weighted-vote of the 20th’s ward committeepersons (D), who must meet within 30 days.

“I’m waiting for a vacancy” to decide, he said.  Already in the mix is wealthy area pharmacist and sometime farmer Dave Nayak.

It’s OK for state Rep. Brad Stephens (R-20) to be the $265,000 mayor of Rosemont, but it’s dubious that 20th District voters want a senator who is MIA.

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