Martwick victorious in primary
by BRIAN NADIG
State Representative Robert Martwick (D-19) was one of the big winners in the March 20 primary election on the Northwest Side while incumbent state Senator Ira Silverstein (D-8) was defeated.
"I’m pleased," Martwick said of the election results on Tuesday night. "I put out a positive message to the voters about my vision going forward." He said that he meets a lot of his constituents at block parties where he gives away snow cones and that those block parties provide him the opportunity to discuss issues with residents.
Martwick faced a challenge from Chicago police officer Jeff La Porte. Martwick received 9,119 votes, or 67 percent of the votes cast, while La Porte received 4,491 votes, or 33 percent of the vote in Chicago and suburban Cook County.
During the campaign La Porte criticized Martwick for his ties to Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios, and whose office grants property assessment reductions, and said that Martwick, a tax attorney, benefits from his connections as a political insider. Berrios lost in his re-election bid on Tuesday, March 20.
A large portion of the 45th Ward is located in the 19th Illinois House District, and one of the subplots of the Martwick-La Porte race was an attempt by La Porte to gain the support of those voters who oppose Alderman John Arena (45th), who has strong support from unions and who also serves at the 45th Ward Democratic committeeman.
La Porte’s campaign charged that Martwick indirectly supported a controversial mixed-income housing proposal at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy. by refusing to take a stance on the project and through his close association with Arena, who supports the project.
Martwick has maintained that local zoning proposals are controlled by the alderman of that ward and that he does not take public stances on those issues. He has said that he also stayed neutral on the request to the state for low-income housing tax credits for the housing proposal.
Martwick’s campaign, including mailers, focused on claims that La Porte was being backed by Republicans. Records show that La Porte received an $11,000 donation from the Illinois Opportunity Project, a conservative advocacy group that counts amongst its senior fellows Dan Proft, who chairs Liberty Principles PAC.
La Porte, a 39th Ward resident, said that he considers himself an independent but that in a two-party system he had to choose a party affiliation to have a realistic chance of winning and that he leaned more Democratic than Republican.
Martwick has called for a progressive graduated income tax and last year filed House Bill 3522, which proposes tax brackets ranging from 4 percent to 7.65 percent. "If we do progressive revenue and spend it wisely, we can really address a lot of problems. We can equitably improve education, pay our pensions, make the state more business friendly," Martwick said. "And in time, once we pay off that (pension) debt, we can be a low tax state again."
Martwick also has supported an elected school board in Chicago and has called for tougher restrictions on the owners of vacant properties that do little to sell or redevelop the property.
Martwick, who also is the 38th Ward Democratic committeeman, will face Republican challenger Ammie Kessem, a Chicago police officer, in the general election this fall. Martwick has served in the Illinois House since 2013.
In the 8th Illinois Senate District race, Ram Villivalam defeated longtime incumbent Silverstein, Caroline McAteer-Fournier and David Zulkey. Villivalam is a legislative coordinator and lobbyist for the Service Employees International Union.
Villivalam received 14,343 votes, or 51.3 percent of the votes cast, Silverstein received 8,374 votes, or 30 percent of the votes cast, McAteer-Fournier received 3,752 votes, or 13.4 percent of the votes cast, and Zulkey received 1,453 votes, or 5.2 percent of the votes cast in Chicago and in suburban Cook County. There were 26 votes cast for write-in candidates in the county.
Silverstein was unable to overcome reports of a sexual harassment allegation. The Illinois Inspector General’s office later ruled that the senator "behaved in a manner unbecoming of a legislator" and violated the Illinois Ethics Act but that his communication with the woman was not deemed to be sexual harassment.