Sposato’s plight shows no BFFs in politics
Analysis and Opinion by Russ Stewart
In politics there are no BFFs, or Best Friends Forever. In fact, there are no friends, only temporary alliances based on expediency and momentary convenience. And certainly nothing lasts forever, as Alderman Nick Sposato (38th) has discovered to his chagrin.
Sposato also discovered that hesitancy and indecision telegraph weakness, and that weakness telegraphs opportunity. The 90-day circulatory period for 2023 aldermanic petitions began at the end of August, but he didn’t formally announce his re-election candidacy until Sept. 29 at a kickoff rally. And that was because he took a poll to see whether he could hand off his aldermanic post to someone like chief-of-staff Katherine Blonski, age 30.
The poll indicated that a Sposato-backed candidate would not win. But the poll did indicate that Sposato, age 64, could win. His favorable/unfavorable was 57/27 (by comparison, Lori Lightfoot was at 22/66 in the ward), his re-elect was 52/15 with 32 percent undecided, he had name recognition of more than 75 percent and his service office’s performance was a positive 60-30 approve-dissaprove.
He also raised $72,750 in the 3rd quarter, with $10,000 from firefighters Local 2, and another $25,000 promised from unions in October. His campaign disclosure D-2s, due by Oct. 15, will show $165,000 on-hand, he said. So he decided to run, but not because he really wanted to run
But time waits for nobody. What would have been a slam-dunk had Sposato announced in July is now a grab-bag with four to five candidates running. “Our (38th Ward Democratic) organization needs to have a candidate,” said Ed Bannon, who began circulating petitions in mid-September. The group, founded by state senator/committeeperson Rob Martwick in 2018, has about 50 members of varying stages of activity. Bannon is a former newspaper reporter, 10-year 6-Corners Association director and part-time staffer for Alderman John Arena (45th) from 2015 to 2019, when Arena was ousted by Jim Gardiner.
“I expect to file,” said Bannon. “And I expect to be part of the (38th Dems) team.” Of course he is. The team is circulating HIS petitions. Martwick said he is in “an awkward position.”Martwick told me several years ago that Sposato was a great alderman and that he (Martwick) would never run against him. The 2011 remap merged parts of the 36th (where Sposato was alderman) and 38th wards and included Sposato’s home west of Cumberland. He was re-elected alderman in 2015 over a Cullerton-backed candidate and Democratic committeeman in 2016.
Sposato, a CFD firefighter on-leave, describes himself as “pro-union” on economic issues but “conservative” on social issues. He admits that he voted for Trump, is an avid viewer of FOX News, recently opposed the city council’s resolution re-affirming abortion rights, and said he was “disgusted” with the Democratic Party’s leftism. “That’s not the party I grew up in,” he added.
Sposato resigned as committeeman in 2017, handing off the job to Martwick, then state rep. When John Mulroe resigned as state senator in 2019 to be judge, Martwick allied with Arena to promote himself to that job. “I’ve made no decision” on the 2023 race, said Martwick. “We (38th Dems) will make an endorsement after filing closes.” Which means AFTER Bannon files. Martwick said his group is not circulating Sposato petitions. “Members can pass for whoever they want,” he said. So forget about all that Martwick and Sposato best friends forever stuff.
Sposato scoffs at Martwick’s posturing. “They (38th Dems) have a weighted-vote endorsement procedure which he (Martwick) set up. Members get points for showing up (at meetings), working precincts, donating. But three guys run it” – Martwick, David Feller and Bannon — “and they’ve made a decision.” And that is for the group to help Bannon for now.
It requires 500 signatures to get on the ballot, but 1,500 is the comfort zone. Sposato said he has a personal network of volunteers and Local 2 workers. Since he cannot door-knock because he is in a wheel-chair, he will do saturation mailing, likely 8-10 pieces, and has the money to do so. “I will run on my record,” which he said includes the Taft Freshman Academy in Dunning, elementary school additions, playlot upgrades and school security cameras.
Bannon lives in Dunning and is staking out turf as the most left candidate, decrying the country’s “institutional racism,” insisting Chicago be a “welcoming city,” and championing abortion rights. He said he has a $150,000 budget target, will stress “service and (his) experience,” and “will not go negative” on the alderman. We’ll see, especially if he gets in the runoff. Then the CTU, United Working Families and the public sector unions will funnel big money to bring down Sposato.
Rich Bradley and Cynthia Santos, married to each other and residing a block away from Sposato, both are reportedly interested in his aldermanic seat. Only one will file during Nov. 21-28.
Santos is presently a $123,000-a year board member at the state Pollution Control Board, which hears appeals from state agencies, and Martwick in 2022 sponsored her for reappointment to a second 6-year term. Sposato said she met with him during the summer and asked for his backing if he retired.
Santos was formerly a Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) commissioner, being nominated in 1996 running against the party (D) slate, being renominated in 2002 and 2008 on the slate, and being dumped in 2014 from the slate but winning anyway. While drawing pay at her part-time MWRD job she was also a full-time Chicago Transit Authority staffer. So she’s got 3 vested pensions – CTA, MWRD and state. It’s unclear whether (1) she can keep her PCB job while running for alderman and/or (2) keep her PCB job after being elected alderman. If (2) is possible, count on it. But she needs a decade as alderman to get her fourth (Chicago) pension.
Bradley, age 67, is the type of guy who always keeps his hand in the public trough. Maybe even both hands, plus maybe his feet. He had a mid-level job with the city’s Streets and Sanitation, which he kept after being elected state rep in 1996 from a 33rd Ward-centered district, including south Albany Park and Ravenswood Manor, plus east of the North Branch of the Chicago River. But then Deb Mell decided that she wanted to go to Springfield, and Alderman Dick Mell, her father, dumped Bradley in 2008. Deb Mell got her father’s job in 2013, but was beaten in 2019 by Susana Rodriguez Sanchez.
Bradley was adrift for a while, working as a political consultant, most recently for Marcelino Garcia for MWRD in 2018, Iris Martinez for Clerk of Court in 2020, and Sheriff Tom Dart in 2022. But he got himself a nice gig in Dec. 2018 at MWRD working as an “aide” to Garcia, a job he still holds and which is budgeted at $80-90,000 per annum – more than the commissioner’s $60,000. I’ve called his office a half-dozen times since early 2020 and always got voice mail. “Everybody works remotely” in Garcia’s office, said an MWRD source who works in the building. That gives Bradley plenty of flex-time. Bradley did not return my call to Garcia’s office.
Just think about the brilliance of the Bradley/Santos duo. While the rest of us invest in IRAs and 401(k)s, the value of which has decreased by one-seventh this year, the duo has spent nearly 40 years on multiple public payrolls, often simultaneously. When they sail off into the wild blue yonder, they will be secure in the knowledge that on the first of every month they will get a direct deposit of $20-25,000 (with a 3 percent COLA). That’s a half-million a year. How dumb are the rest of us? “Public service” does have its rewards.
Outlook: Sposato was unopposed in 2019, getting 9,340 votes out of 33,342 registered voters. Also running in 2023 are Greg Schorsch and Franco Reyes. With a 5-candidate field there will definitely be an April 4 runoff. The questions are (1) how far under 50 percent will Sposato finish and (2) who finishes second – Bannon or Santos? Consider Bradley out. If Sposato draws 40 percent or under on Feb. 28, which means the anti-Sposato base is close to 60 percent, he will lose the runoff.
45TH WARD: And now there’s five—and four are women. Gardiner won in 2019 with 50.9 percent, avoiding a runoff with Arena by 282 votes. Gardiner’s crude texting flap has created problems..As in the 38th Ward, the question is how low under 50 percent will Gardiner go? His opponents thus far are Megan Mathias, Susanna Ernst, Ana Santoyo and Marija Tomic, with Santoyo being the latest entry.
Most of the women will compete for (and divide) the Far Left base.
Kim Foxx got 31.1 percent in the ward 2020 primary, and Donald Trump got 30.2 percent in the election. That’s the Left/Right divide, leaving 38 percent in the middle. Gardiner needs more than half of that to win.
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