39th Ward, 15th District candidates introduce themselves at forum


Engaging residents in an open and fair political process was one of the themes expressed at a Feb. 25 forum attended by some of the candidates running in the 39th Ward committeeman and 15th Illinois House District races.

The participants in the forum included Robert Murphy, who is challenging 39th Ward Democratic Committeeman Patrick Molloy, and Democratic candidate Jac Charlier, who is challenging state Representative John D’Amico. Molloy and D’Amico both said that they could not attend the forum due to prior commitments.

Also at the forum were 39th Ward Republican Committeeman William Miceli and Republican state representative candidate Jonathan Edelman, both of whom are running unopposed in the March 15 primary. In December Miceli withdrew his nomination after a challenge was filed to his nominating petitions, but he has submitted his declaration of intent to run as a write-in candidate to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

The forum was sponsored by the Hollywood-North Park Community Association, the Mayfair Civic Association, the North Mayfair Improvement Association and Nadig Newspapers. About 130 people attended the forum, which was held at Palmer School, 5051 N. Kenneth Ave.

“I’m running for 39th Ward committeeman because I have a vision for how the ward can operate,” Murphy said. Murphy, an architect and a past president of the Forest Glen Community Club, and Charlier, are founding members of the Fair Allocation In Runways Coalition, which is working to reduce jet noise from O’Hare Airport.

Murphy received about 43 percent of the vote when he lost his bid to unseat 39th Ward Alderman Margaret Laurino in 2015. D’Amico is Laurino’s nephew.

Committeemen, who are not paid for their position, are in charge of slating candidates in aldermanic, legislative and judicial races for their party, and the campaign and raise funds for candidates.

Murphy said that he would be a visible force in the community, attending block parties and neighborhood festivals, in an effort to solicit the opinions of residents on the type of candidates people would like to see run for political office. “We need an open and participatory process,” he said.

Murphy said that 52 years of Laurino and D’Amico family members controlling political positions in the 39th Ward has created a climate of fear in which residents often are afraid to express their political beliefs. He said that some of his supporters are “afraid of repercussions after the election” if they post a sign for Murphy’s campaign.

Murphy said that his priorities would include slating candidates who would “look after your taxes” and who would solicit a range of public opinion.

Molloy, a Sauganash resident, is the director of government and public affairs for the Chicago Public Library. He became committeeman last year after Randy Barnette, who is married to Laurino, resigned.

“I have an intimate knowledge of the people and needs of this ward,” Molloy said in a statement given to the forum committee. “If you ask those that I have worked closely with over the years, regardless of their feelings toward other local officials, they will tell you that I have always worked hard on behalf of the communities in the ward.”

As the 8-year incumbent Republican committeeman, Miceli said that his duties include distributing lawn signs and making sure that Republican election judges in the ward are actually Republican, given Chicago’s leanings toward the Democrats. He said that he reviews the voting history of judges to make that determination.

Miceli, a North Mayfair resident, said that he is a strong supporter of youth athletics and that he worked for the Chicago Public Schools for 40 years. Although he retired as a full-time teacher, he works as a substitute teacher, sometimes filling in at Palmer.

Charlier, an Edgebrook resident, said that he has been the victim of lies in campaign mailers because his D’Amico does not have a record of accomplishment to run on after 12 years in office. The mailers accused Charlier of opposing Planned Parenthood and being a member of the conservative Tea Party.

“Have you ever heard a Democrat being a Tea Party member?” Charlier said. Charlier, who works as a criminal justice consultant, said that he is pro-choice on abortion and that the attacks on the mailers are attributed to made-up sources and are insulting to voters.

Charlier said that he is running as an independent Democrat, and he urged residents to vote for him if “you’ve had enough” of the state’s financial crisis and of political corruption. He said he would welcome opposing views and that he would work to engage a more residents to participate in the political process.

“As state representative, I will continue to represent the best interests of this community. I believe that our state’s challenges are best solved when people work together for meaningful, lasting solutions,” D’Amico said in a statement issued to the forum committee.”

D’Amico, an Edgebrook resident, said that he sponsored legislation to increase training for teen drivers.

Edelman, an attorney and an Edgebrook resident, will face the winner of the D’Amico-Charlier primary election in the Nov. 8 general election. Edelman said that as representative he would never vote for legislation that would increase the state’s debt or deficit.

Edelman said that the budget for his campaign is $75,000 and that he will stop raising money once he meets that goal. “When was the last time you saw a politician do that?” he said.

Edelman said that he does not support term limits but that would serve no more than two terms. “I can’t imagine spending more than 4 years in that zoo, Springfield,” he said.

Charlier said that he supports terms limits and that he would limit himself to five terms. Murphy said that he opposes term limits because they can deny voters the opportunity to elect someone whom they feel is most qualified.

Miceli said that he would consider supporting a two- or three-term restriction for office holders because it would rid the General Assembly of the entrenched legislators. “Springfield, of course, is a mess,” he said. “Term limits would help some of that.”

Editor’s note: Nadig Newspapers publisher Brian Nadig moderated the forum.