July 19, 2023

In the bygone days of Chicago “machine” politics, a cardinal rule was “don’t make no waves, don’t back no losers.” And, most importantly, don’t be a loser, if you can help it.

Cook County Clerk of Circuit Court Iris Martinez (D) is challenging that premise in next March 19’s Democratic primary. For her it will be either a Break-Out Day or a Bust-Out Day. Martinez aspires to be “queenmaker” of North Side Puerto Rican politics. To do that she will have to overcome the political clout of congresswoman Delia Ramirez (D-3), Toni Preckwinkle, and the North Side’s ascendant Far Left movement that includes alderpersons Rossana Rodriguez and Carlos Ramirez-Rosa.

Martinez faces three significant 2024 challenges which  amount to a crisis. She needs to prevail in battles for Clerk of Court, 20th District state senator and 33rd Ward committeeperson. With just $19,328 on-hand as of June 30, a demonstrably impotent ward organization and a nebulous countywide Latino base, Martinez has put enormous pressure on herself.

First, she must get slated when the 80 ward and township committeepersons meet Aug. 14 to15. Two Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) commissioners, Mariyana Spyropoulos and Eira Corral Sepulveda, are gunning for the clerk’s job. The total weighted-vote assigned to committeepersons is about 540,000 and a Martinez strategist told me she has commitments of over 260,000. That is unimpressive.

Sepulveda is part of Chuy Garcia’s (D) South Side 22nd Ward organization and Preckwinkle, the Cook County chairwoman (D) and board president, is chairing a late July Sepulveda fund-raiser. Sepulveda has $17,331 on-hand. Spyropoulos served as MWRD president from 2015 to 2019 and was elected commissioner in 2022.  She has $572,900 on-hand but can self-fund.

At the June pre-slating both challengers criticized Martinez for being laggard in implementing “reforms” in her office, which runs the court system, courthouses, handles case filings, stores millions of  pieces of paper and employs 1,400. Martinez won with 33.7 percent in 2020 over the slated Mike Cabonargi (see chart).

Second, Martinez engineered the choosing of Natalie Toro to fill the 20th District state senate vacancy of Cristina Pacione-Zayas (D-20), who became Mayor Brandon Johnson’s first deputy chief-of-staff. “This is a Puerto Rican seat,” said ex-judge Gloria Chevere, a longtime Martinez confidante. Toro, a CPS teacher for over a decade, is Chevere’s niece. Martinez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, held the seat from 2003-2020.

Toro’s 2022 political debut was inauspicious. She ran for county commissioner in the 8th District, finishing third with 16.3 percent. The winner with 35 percent was Anthony Joel Quezada, an ally of 35th Ward alderman Ramirez-Rosa, chair of the city chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. Incumbent Luis Arroyo Jr. got 19.3 percent. Quezada was elected ward committeeperson in 2020, but quit and gave the post to Ramirez-Rosa in early 2023. Martinez endorsed Toro, who got 18.5 percent in the 33rd Ward.

Six persons presented at the July committeepersons’ meeting: Toro, Thomas Day, Ross Escler, Daisy Navar, doctor and farmer Dave Nayak, and Graciela Guzman, Pacione-Zayas’s chief-of-staff. Ramirez-Rosa’s 35th Ward’s weighted-vote (21 precincts) went for Guzman, the Leftmost contender. Martinez assembled a coalition of her 33rd Ward (28 precincts) plus the 32nd (33) and 30th (21), a majority, for Toro.

Outlook: Nayak and Guzman are running in the primary, setting up 2024’s marquee Left vs. Mainstream match-up. Guzman’s Left base is 35-40 percent. Her one liability is that she is not Puerto Rican. That could matter. Guzman wins if Nayak tops 25 percent.

The biggest loser is state Rep. Jaime Andrade (D-40), who wanted the job, got no support, and then bailed. A Leftist allied with Guzman will challenge him in 2024 and the Toro/Martinez bunch will provide no help.

And third, alderperson Rossana Rodriguez is going to run for committeeperson in 2024. She got 5,754 votes in 2019 and 5,814 in 2023. Martinez got 5,712 and 5,287 in 2020, but dropped to 2,246 in 2022 for DSCC and her 2023 candidate got 3,604. The numbers bode ill for Martinez.
Now if only Rossana could stop insulting Italians on Twitter, but that’s another story.

A TRANSGENDER BREAKTHROUGH: The fundamental difference between the political Left and Right is all about “rights.” Human rights versus property rights. The Right (conservatives/Republicans) champions tangible rights, as in constitutional and 2nd Amendment (gun) rights and “personal freedom” while the Left (liberals, Democrats) champions intangible rights, stressing group victimhood and systemic oppression. That motivates each base.

Going back 70 years, the Left has used all kinds of “rights” for political gain.

Now the Left’s new crusade is transgender rights. Everybody should have the right to pick their sexual identity, they insist.

A story about a study published by Reuters estimates that about 0.5 percent of all U.S. adults, some 1.3 million people, and about 1.4 percent, or 300,000, of youth between 13- and 17-years-old identify as transgender. That’s out of 331.9 million people.

Democrats are doubling down, so governor JB Pritzker recently appointed Precious Brady-Davis, a transgender Black woman to a MWRD vacancy. She will be the party’s slated candidate in 2024 for the 2-year term. She will win. Brady-Davis ran for commissioner in 2022 and received only about 11 percent and lost.

GARDINER IS STILL     UNOPPOSED: That resoundingly loud yawn in the 45th Ward was occasioned by the announcement by JC Strzalka-Steil that he was NOT running for Democratic committeeperson in 2024. The incumbent is Jim Gardiner, the ward’s alderman. “It eats at me” that Gardiner holds the party post, said Strzalka-Steil.

“It’s mostly a title with little power,” he said, although many would disagree. That wasn’t the case earlier this year when Strzalka-Steil was what he called an “unpaid advisor” to the aldermanic campaign of Megan Mathias, who lost the runoff to Gardiner with 46.1 percent.

“I  told her I was interested in running ” he said. Had Mathias won he would have had a built-in organizational base. Also, had Mathias won, she would have had to move into the 45th Ward. Mathias is NOT running for anything in 2024. “There will be” a Woke/Leftist candidate against Gardiner next year, predicted Strzalka-Steil, whose ambition is to run for alderman in 2027. He bailed for 2024 because a loss would have been politically terminal.

Joe Cook, the 41st Ward committeeperson (D) whose Edgebrook residence was remapped into the 45th Ward, is also not running.

Read more Analysis & Opinion from Russ Stewart at Russstewart.com

This column was published in Nadig Newspapers. If you, a friend or a colleague wish to be added to Russ's BUDDY LIST, and be emailed his column every Wednesday morning, email webmaster Joe Czech at Joe@Nadignewspapers.com