Murphy, Nugent make final pitch to voters in 39th Ward
Correction: State Senator Ram Villivalam has not made an endorsement in the 39th Ward aldermanic race, as previously reported. We regret the error.
by KEVIN GROSS
Aldermanic candidates Robert Murphy and Samantha Nugent verbally sparred during a final forum before the April 2 runoff election as they both vie for the leadership role of the 39th Ward.
More than 100 residents attended the forum on March 27 at Peterson School, 5510 N. Christiana Ave. The forum was sponsored by several civic and business groups including the Hollywood-North Park Community Association and moderated by Ted Cox, editor of One Illinois, a nonprofit internet-only news outlet.
"This race is about what is going on in this city. How do we know that? Well, because hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent in this race so that the voters are misled and to keep power," Murphy said. "The people supporting Samantha Nugent are the ones who raised your property taxes, they’re the ones that put the budget in a mess. We need to change that. We need to go and change the way the city operates." Murphy is the ward’s Democratic committeeman and an architect and said that he is running to make sure that the city has a strong City Council that will be "a check-and-balance on the mayor to make sure that we’re spending your money wisely."
Nugent, whose resume includes jobs with the Cook County Department of Homeland Security, former Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s re-election campaign and legislative work with former Mayor Richard M. Daley, bristled at Murphy’s comment.
"First of all, I’m incredibly grateful for my supporters. My supporters are working really hard and I find my opponent’s comments insulting, and I’m very proud of the campaign we’re running," she said. "I am not looking to raise taxes. I am looking to create a better ward, a better community, and a better place for all of us to raise our children."
Nugent said that she has experience to represent the interests of residents and has managed large budgets and community programs, worked with elected officials and negotiated to get more money for essential programs.
Murphy and Nugent have been campaigning for months, attending several neighborhood forums and discussing issues ranging from own campaign donations, economic development, pension debt and ethics reform.
The candidates said at the forum that the city’s financial woes are the biggest priority the city is facing.
On the issue of expanding service sales taxes, Nugent said that she wouldn’t support it and Murphy said, "Nobody is in favor of taxing $10 haircuts or dry cleaning, but we’re talking about taxing business-to-business, large scale corporate transactions."
Regarding housing, candidates were asked how they would structure development and the zoning process in the ward while respecting residents’ input in light of the contentious discussions around developments such as Lincoln Yards and the mixed-income housing complex at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy. in the 45th Ward.
"The community didn’t feel like they were involved in 5150," Nugent said. "We have to select our own development, we have to create more affordable housing, but we can do it as a community."
Murphy said, "We definitely have an affordability issue in the City of Chicago," and that he would gather community input through a zoning advisory board.
The candidates said they oppose using taxpayer dollars to fund private school vouchers, and both said that police need more support, with Nugent stressing that more officers are needed and Murphy calling for better mental health support for officers.
Donations have been an issue in the race. Murphy is being out-funded almost 3-to-1. He had 88,017.38 on hand versus Nugent’s $214,731.12 in available campaign funding, with more than $68,500 of her donations coming since Feb. 26, according to State Board of Elections figures.
Most recently Nugent’s campaign received just short of $9,000 worth of digital ads paid for by the Chicago Forward political action committee, which is aligned with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, as well as other donations, including from lobbyists, which is not uncommon.
On March 25, Murphy’s campaign called out Nugent for receiving an illegal $4,800 donation from Anchor Mechanical in January, a firm that maintains city heating and cooling devices. City vendors are legally limited to donations of $1,500 or less, and the next day Nugent’s campaign announced the money was returned.
"It was an over donation. The minute we found out it was sent back," Nugent said after the forum. "We didn’t know, but it’s already been sent back," she said.
Murphy has been endorsed by the Chicago Teachers Union and the SEIU Local 73, Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi, state Senator John Mulroe (D-10), state Senator Heather Steans (D-7), and the 45th Ward Independent Democrats.
Aside from her own political endorsements that include more than 10 unions, state Representative John D’Amico (D-15), Congressman Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer (D-10), Nugent said that she has the support of candidates Casey Smagala and Joe Duplechin who ran for 39th Ward alderman in the Feb. 26 election but lost.
"Joe Duplechin, we talked about our family and our kids, and Casey and I actually had a pretty friendly rapport on the campaign trail," Nugent said after the forum. "I’m honored to have their support. I’m grateful. Casey’s been knocking on doors with me. So has Joe. They’re reaching out to their supporters."