Will Arena replace Martwick, now a senator, as state rep.?
by BRIAN NADIG
The Northwest Side game of political thrones continues as Robert Martwick switches from the 19th Illinois House District seat to the 10th Illinois Senate District chair while Rosemont mayor Brad Stephens replaces the recently retired Michael McAuliffe in the 20th Illinois House District.
Furthermore, 45th Ward Democratic committeeman and former alderman John Arena reportedly is being considered as Martwick’s replacement for state representative. That decision is expected later this month.
Martwick was sworn in as a new senator during a June 28 ceremony at the Roden Library, 6083 N. Northwest Hwy., after he secured most of the weighted vote from the area’s Democratic committeemen. He replaced former senator John Mulroe, who was recently appointed a Cook County judge.
41st Ward Democratic committeeman Tim Heneghan had been lobbying for the senate position, but his efforts reportedly suffered when 39th Ward Democratic committeeman Robert Murphy pledged to support Martwick at the last minute.
Others pursuing the position included former WGN radio personality Patti Vasquez, Portage Park resident and former House democratic staffer Thomas Kelley, and Lindsey LaPointe, who works at a public interest law and policy center.
Heneghan said that Murphy switched his support from him to Martwick in the "11th hour" after Arena had arranged a meeting between Martwick and Murphy.
"For (Murphy) to do that, they had to offer him something big," Heneghan charged. He added that it makes little sense for Murphy to support Martwick, who backed Casey Smagala in Murphy’s failed campaign to become alderman earlier this year.
Murphy has about $75,000 in campaign debt and obligations, raising speculation in political circles that Martwick would help Murphy to retire his debt.
Martwick said that while it is not unusual for politicians to help out another’s campaign, there was "no quid pro quo" to retire Murphy’s debt in exchange for his votes.
Heneghan said that he tried to secure the position without the type of backroom deals which disgust Chicago voters. "I worked hard, and I just came in as a regular guy. (If selected) that would have been a great story," said Heneghan.
In an interview last week, Martwick said that the timing was right for a new position given that the General Assembly had "just accomplished huge, huge things," giving him a fresh start in the senate.
Martwick said that during his 7 years in the House he showed that "bipartisanship is not dead" by gaining some Republican support on all of his sponsored bills, except for the recent "fair tax" legislation.
He said that on most of his bills he first reached out to Republican legislators and that while he may not agree with them it is important to show respect for both sides of the political aisle.
Martwick will not be eligible to chair a committee as a freshman senator, but that will change if he is re-elected in 2020.
Meanwhile, Arena’s decision on whether to become state representative could be impacted by a possible job offer from Mayor Lori Lighfoot, as Arena needs 2 more years on the city payroll to secure a city pension.
According to sources, it is expected that Arena, who is the 45th Ward’s Democratic committeeman, would have enough votes to be appointed to Martwick’s former position, as Arena has about 45 percent of the committeemen’s weighted vote.
Each committeeman is assigned votes based on the number of votes cast in their precincts for the 19th District race in 2018 and they are expected to vote in July.
Heneghan suspects Martwick will try to secure commitments from other committeemen to put Arena over the 50-percent threshold without Martwick himself having to vote for the former alderman. He said that Martwick would face a tougher re-election if he were to vote for Arena, given the animosity toward Arena in several Northwest Side wards. "He’s hated even more in the 41st Ward than the 45th," Heneghan said.
In his 2019 aldermanic defeat by Jim Gardiner, Arena received about 30 percent of the vote in those precincts that overlap with the 19th District. The Old Irving Park area, where Arena won several precincts, is not in the 19th District.
Heneghan said that he expects several people to submit their Democratic credentials to be considered for the 19th District vacancy.
In the 20th District, Republican committeemen at a June 29 meeting voted to appoint Stephens as McAuliffe’s replacement.
McAuliffe, who still serves as the 41st Ward Republican committeeman, had the largest number of votes among the district’s committeemen and supported Stephens, who can serve as mayor and state representative at the same time and collect two paychecks.
(photo by Quenton Galvin)