Committeemen unite to defeat Reyes, Guzzardi


by RUSS STEWART

The burden of the fiction writer or novelist is to concoct and embellish the "Five D’s" — drama, distortion, deceit, duplicity and dumbness. The joy of writing a political column on Chicago and Illinois politics is that one need not concoct, one need only observe. The "Five D’s" are everywhere apparent.

Bizarre, weird and/or wacky — that’s the norm in local politics. Nobody could make up this stuff.

Here are two examples:

In the political food chain, an alderman supersedes a county commissioner in clout and prestige, so when the governor appoints an alderman a senior advisor in 2009, the commissioner, who is the ward Democratic committeeman, beseeches the mayor to appoint him as the alderman. The mayor acquiesces. The new alderman, once married to the sister of a powerful local congressman and a staffer for the congressman when he was an alderman, with his ego bloated, demands his choice be named his successor as commissioner.

However, the Cook County Board district’s 10 other Democratic committeemen, who have the power to appoint the successor, quickly cut the new alderman down to size. They reject his candidate and pick a state trooper. The alderman is apoplectic, he fields his choice in the 2010 primary, and he gets whomped, with nine committeemen plus an influential area alderman and a state representative uniting behind the new commissioner, who wins the three-way primary with 51.2 percent of the vote, carrying every ward — even the new alderman’s.

In 2011 the City Council creates a new ward in the area, effective in 2015, and the state representative wants to "move up" to the post, but he encounters resistance from the "influential alderman," who represents the ward where the committeeman is the Democratic Party county chairman and assessor and who has $1.2 million in his campaign account. The alderman has promised his best buddy that the buddy’s son will get the new aldermanic seat, leaving the "influential state representative" fuming.

So a deal is hatched. Call it the "Son Swap." The alderman’s buddy’s son gets the new ward, and the state representative’s son, who is a $70,000-a-year truck driver for the Chicago Water Department, gets the $85,000-a-year county board seat occupied by the former state trooper whom all the committeemen backed against the new alderman. In fact, the "influential state representative" was the trooper’s 2010 deputy campaign manager, and the once errant alderman and his congressman ex-brother-in-law, who likes to posture as "progressive" and "independent," join with the machine committeemen to purge the now-expendable ex-trooper/commissioner.

Whew. That’s at least "Three D’s" — drama, duplicity and deceit — and add another "D" for dumbness, that the new commissioner believed that he was living on more than borrowed time.

OR is an acronym for opposition research, which has become an indispensable part of every campaign, especially Democratic primaries. When everybody running is uniformly liberal, pro-union, pro-abortion rights and pro-gay marriage, and against any spending cuts for anything, the only way to differentiate oneself from one’s opponent is to indulge in character assassination and issue-stance fabrication.

With the advent of the Internet, a candidate’s paper trail (or electronic imprint) can be readily followed, unraveled, manipulated and distorted for maximum political damage.

In a 2012 state representative primary, a 24-year-old workaholic and North Carolina transplant challenges the daughter of a powerful Northwest Side Democratic committeeman. She got her job in 2002, and she keeps her job because she is "Daddy’s Girl." The transplant loses by 125 votes. In the rematch, "Big Daddy" and his committeeman allies have two options. Plan A is to extol the virtues of the incumbent, a loyal cog in Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s Springfield juggernaut, highlighting and embellishing her accomplishments. Plan B is to go negative on the challenger. The problem is that the background of a 26-year-old is still somewhat mistake-free.

No problem. It’s Plan B. How about a well reasoned 2006 piece in his college newspaper, when the candidate was age 18, exploring the possibility that convicted sexual predators might be subject to Constitutionally impermissible double jeopardy? They get convicted and serve time, but after release they must submit to registration and tracking for the rest of their lives. The mailers blare that he’s "out of touch" and will not rein in "dangerous sex offenders."

In addition, due to a non answer to a questionnaire by the Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization, the young challenger, who has been endorsed by the Chicago Teachers Union, the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Educator’s Association, is ripped in another mailer for advocating the use "of our tax dollars to fund charter schools that drain resources from our public schools" and "force them to close."

This is not "Fantasy Island." These are two "strange but true" contests on the ballot for March 18.

8th County Board District: On the North Side, where politicians of Puerto Rican ancestry dominate, the operative phrase is "Fruit of the Loins," which involves one’s offspring into every elective or appointive job possible. The district takes in all or parts of the Hispanic-majority 1st, 26th, 30th, 31st, 33rd and 35th wards, plus a few scattered predominantly white and black precincts.

The incumbent is Eddie Reyes, who retired from the Illinois State Police in 2012. He was appointed to replace Roberto Maldonado, who was appointed to replace Alderman Billy Ocasio, who joined the Quinn Administration. Ocasio was appointed in 1993 to replace U.S. Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-4), who was elected alderman as a pro-Harold Washington candidate in 1987.

Joe Berrios, the county party chairman, assessor and "Big Daddy" of state Representative Toni Berrios, had $513,558 in cash on hand in his 31st Ward Democratic account and $551,418 in his assessor’s account as of Dec. 31, while Toni Berrios had $156,778 on hand. Joe Berrios is unopposed in the March 18 primary. His ally, Alderman Ray Suarez (31st), had $1,249,950 on hand, and he is ready to spend some of to get buddy Willy Aquino’s son, Willy Aquino Jr., elected 36th Ward alderman. The elder Arroyo had $169,851 on hand and is unopposed in the primary, while the younger Arroyo had $42,983 on hand. Reyes had just $26,287 on hand. That means that the Berrios/Suarez/Arroyo alliance have a potential $2,184,538 to spend and a cash advantage of 84-1. Reyes said that "they’re buying" the election. He’s got that right.

In the 2010 primary, Reyes faced Maldonado-backed Xavier Nogueras and Ariel Rosa. In a turnout of 18,073, Reyes got 9,256 votes, to 6,075 (33.6 percent) for Nogueras and 2,742 for Rosa. Reyes finished first in every ward. He got 56.6 percent of the vote in Berrios’ and Suarez’s 31st Ward, 51.7 percent in Maldonado’s 26th Ward, 53.6 percent in Dick Mell’s 33rd Ward, 53.6 percent in Alderman Ray Colon’s 35th Ward, 51.2 percent in Alderman Ariel Rebeyros’ 30th Ward, and 46.6 percent in Alderman Proco Joe Moreno’s 1st Ward. Of the district’s 238 precincts, 210 were in those six wards, and every alderman and committeeman backed Reyes.

Not so this year. The 2011 ward remap juggled the ward boundaries, but the district is unchanged. Everybody who backed Reyes in 2010 except Moreno and Colon, who are "neutral," have endorsed Arroyo, including Gutierrez.

Reyes’ backers include a "who’s who" of Hispanic "progressives," including state Senators Iris Martinez (D-20), who may run for 33rd Ward alderman against Mell’s daughter in 2015, and Willy Delgado (D-3), former state senator and 2011 mayoral loser Miguel del Valle, county Commissioner Jesus Garcia and Alderman Ricardo Munoz (22nd). His non-Hispanic backers include Aldermen John Arena (45th), Bob Fioretti (2nd) and Scott Waguespack (32nd), county Clerk David Orr, and county board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Reyes hypes the fact that he supported the rollback of the county sales tax, a boycott of doing business with Arizona, and more minority and women firms doing business with the Cook County Forest Preserve District and opposed deportation of County Jail inmates. It matters not. "He’s got no money, he’s got no name recognition," said one local player of Reyes. "He’s going to lose big."

One salient issue is nepotism. Berrios’ son and sister are on the assessor’s office payroll, and according to news reports, 15 members of the Berrios family either are in or are retired from public jobs, costing taxpayers $1.05 million annually in salary and benefits. By comparison, the elder Arroyo is a piker: only three of his kids and his spouse are on the city, Metra, state or county payroll. The younger Arroyo is attacking Reyes as a "double dipper" because he was a trooper while he was a commissioner. Reyes took a leave of absence in 2012 and retired in 2013. "He has no college degree," Reyes said of Arroyo. "He has no qualifications. His candidacy is a joke."

My prediction: The Joker wins. In a low turnout, part one of the "Son Swap" will materialize.

39th District: Will Guzzardi, who nearly beat Toni Berrios in 2012, says he spends 4 hours a day walking precincts. That matters not. Despite a sparse "paper trail," Toni Berrios’ mailers have — four to date and three more likely — have demonized Guzzardi.

One Berrios mailer ripped Guzzardi for in 2006 advocating "societal double jeopardy," meaning that tracking and registering sex offenders after incarceration or probation violates the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment. The Barrios mailing blared that Guzzardi "doesn’t believe dangerous sex offenders" should be monitored. "I support state statutes," Guzzardi said. "The allegation is misleading and a scare tactic. Voters are intelligent." Or so he hopes.

Guzzardi said Chicago’s schools are "woefully underfunded" and that funding charter schools "radically defund" them, but he does not oppose state funding of charter schools.

Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.


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