March 15, 2023


“Hapless” is an adjective defining somebody who is unfortunate or unlucky. In politics it’s somebody who puts themselves in a situation beyond their control and then loses. Hapless should not be confused with clueless, jobless or dumb.

Cynthia Santos, the now former $127,000-a year member of the Illinois Pollution Control Board and defeated 38TH WARD aldermanic candidate (she got 10.7 percent), is not hapless. She did NOT put herself in a situation beyond her control, which makes her somewhat clueless.

After 20 years as a $70,000-a year Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) commissioner, Santos was appointed to a 6-year term at the PCB by former Governor Bruce Rauner in January of 2017. The PCB hears appeals from environmental decisions by state agencies. Like a judge, a PCB member is supposed to be non-political and abide by state ethics rules which bar overt political activity. No “appearance of impropriety” is allowed. The PCB meets twice monthly and each member is assigned an attorney who does all the legal appeal research work.

In the summer of 2022 governor J.B. Pritzker re-nominated Santos for another 6-year term, subject to IL Senate confirmation. That did not occur during the autumn session. Also in the late summer of 2022 Santos and her husband Rich Bradley, an ex-state rep and current staffer for MWRD commissioner Marcelino Garcia, began circulating nominating petitions for each to run for 38th Ward alderman, a job held by Nicholas Sposato. The incumbent had dawdled until late August before deciding to run in 2023. Ed Bannon, a member of Rob Martwick’s 38th Ward Dems, also got into the race.

Santos did not take a leave-of-absence or resign her PCB job. She, not Bradley, filed in December, as did Sposato, Bannon, Franco Reyes and Bruce Randazzo. She did not file a D-1 statement with the state Board of Elections (IBOE) to create a campaign committee to report receipts and expenditures. “I’m paying my own expenses,” she later told me. That was not true, however a group called “Citizens in Action for Better Government” (CABG) paid for her flyers, which was an in-kind contribution and reportable by Santos and CABG. Neither has.

The flyers (not mailers) hyped her as a “community activist.” They blared that she was pro-police, pro-choice on abortion, and would be an active and competent alderman, inferring that Sposato was neither. She thought her gender would help. She endorsed Paul Vallas. And she kept collecting her PCB paycheck. “I don’t campaign on work time,” she later told me.

Meanwhile, her PCB re-nomination stalled. Firefighters Local 2 is rumored to have intervened. (Sposato is a retired firefighter.) On March 6 Pritzker withdrew her PCB re-nomination. Santos was then on holdover, so she was out-the-door.

On Feb. 28 Santos garnered 1,431 votes to Sposato’s 7,200, or 54.6 percent, and Bannon’s 3,637, or 27.2 percent, with 1,213 to the others. Credit Santos with a two-fer: She LOST for a 140K job and then LOST her 127K job all within the span of several days.

“She has nobody to blame but herself,” said Sposato, who  spent close to $200,000, had 8 mailings and won 22 of the 38th’s 25 precincts, with an outright majority in 15 and a plurality in 7. Sposato got 51-59 percent in 6 precincts, 60-69 in 4, 70-79 in 4 and over 80 in one. Bannon won a plurality in 3 precincts, all in the east (Portage Park) end.  Santos got under 10 percent in 11 precincts and 10-15 in 14. In her and Sposato’s home precinct along East River Road north of Montrose, the alderman crushed her 711-67. “I won because my office provides ward services,” said Sposato. “That is what people care about.”

Lest anybody have the urge to start a Go-Fund-Me page for Santos, remember that she has her MWRD pension and her husband has his state and city pensions, plus his well-paid MWRD job. They’ll get by.

TEAM VALLAS: There was a definite correlation between the Vallas mayoral and the conservative aldermanic vote in some Northwest Side wards. In the 38th Ward, Vallas got 7,788 votes, or 57 percent, compared to Sposato’s 7,200. The 38th Ward Dems and Bannon endorsed Brandon Johnson, who got 1,649 votes, or 12.1 percent in the ward. That, plus Chuy Garcia’s 1,445 (totaling 3,094) almost equaled Bannon’s 3,637.

In the 41st Ward, Vallas got 12,585 votes, or 71.2 percent, compared to alderman Anthony Napolitano’s 12,710, which was 72.9 percent. In the 45th Ward, Vallas got 8,448 votes, or 52.3 percent, just slightly more than alderman Jim Gardiner’s 7,681, which was 48 percent. In the 39th Ward, Vallas got 7,124 votes, or 48.1 percent, trailing alderman Samantha Nugent, who got 8,972. But the 39th’s combined Johnson/Garcia vote of 4,956 was only slightly less than CTU/UWF-backed Denali Dasgupta’s 5,344.

But there were exceptions, as there was sort of a “Team Johnson” out there: In the West Rogers Park 50th Ward, Vallas got 5,184 votes, or 49.8 percent, getting almost 2,000 fewer votes than alderman Debra Silverstein’s 7,018. Johnson and Garcia got a combined 29.3 percent, or 3,047, compared to CTU/UWF-backed Mueze Bawany’s 3,348. Bawany had sent past profane emails regarding his detestation of Zionism and Israel but still won 10 of 28 precincts.

In the Latino-majority 36th Ward alderman Gil Villegas and Garcia cross-endorsed, but Villegas got 4,236 votes to Garcia’s 2,023 and opponent Lori Torres Whitt 2,736 to Johnson’s 2,618. In the 33rd Ward, where Latinos are half the vote, avowed democratic socialist and incumbent Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez rode a Leftist tide, with Johnson getting 4.046 votes to her 5,810, or 54.9 percent. In 2019 she beat Deb Mell 5,754-5,741 in the runoff, a 13-vote margin. She upped her base slightly while Iris Martinez, the ward’s committeeperson (D) and county Clerk of Circuit Court, could not match Mell’s vote. She backed Sammie Martinez, who got 3,602 or just 33 percent. 

TOTAL LIGHTFOOT REPUDIATION: The mayor’s Northwest Side vote was inconsequential and embarrassing. She got 5.7 percent in the 38th, 4.8 in the 41st, 7.1 in the 45th, 8.8 in the 39th, 8.4 in the 36th (where Garcia got 27.9), 8.4 in the “progressive” 33rd, and a booming 11.6 in the multi-cultural 50th.

She was more toxic to Chicagoans than Donald Trump. No Chicago mayor has ever been rejected so decisively.    

41ST WARD: Paul Struebing lost to Napolitano12,710-4,725, getting 27.1 percent. The good news for Struebing, an Edison Park lawyer backed by committeeperson Joe Cook’s Democratic organization, is that he got a lot more votes in the ward than Lightfoot (842) and than Kim Foxx in the 2020 state’s attorney (D) primary (1,923).

The bad news is that he got fewer votes than Tim Henegan, the ward’s Democratic committeeman in 2019, who lost to Napolitano 12,502-5,289, getting a paltry 29.7 percent, and fewer votes than Foxx in the 2020 election, which was 6,114, or 21 percent. Of the 41st’s 31 precincts Napolitano swept all, getting over 80 percent in 2, over 70 in 21 and over 60 in 8.

“It was a terrible environment,” said Struebing. He got that right. Struebing ran a professional  campaign, spending close to $100,000 with 5 mailers which hammered Napolitano for having “skipped nearly 1 out of every 4 required…Council meetings.” That was false. A Chicago alderman can be MIA anytime he/she wants. There is no “required” attendance, no time-clock, no docking of pay. It’s virtue signaling.

Napolitano said he attended every full council meeting since his 2015 election but did not attend every meeting of his 9 assigned committees. Many are “a waste of time,” he said, adding “I can vote on whatever they pass.”

Voters clearly accepted Napolitano’s explanation. His job, to them, was to vocally oppose the Lightfoot Administration and to vote against tax hikes (even if in vain). What a clear majority DID NOT accept was Struebing’s mix-and-match issue stances.  He was for hiring more cops, but he was also for the affordable housing project in the Marriott parking lot on Higgins, as noted in the Chicago Tribune’s endorsement.

45TH WARD UPDATE: She’s nearly out of time. 83.1 percent of 45th Warders didn’t vote for her on Feb. 28. None of her four losing opponents have endorsed her yet.

The CTU/AFT/SEIU has taken their money elsewhere, like for Johnson, to the 36th Ward or Lakefront races. But Megan Mathias soldiers on.

“There’s a lot of disinformation (about me) out there,” she said. Being on the defensive this late is a bad place to be. People on social media are taunting her for several past digressions, but so what? Her odds of winning dim by the hour.

Read more Analysis & Opinion from Russ Stewart at

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