Mayfair resident, firefighter Michael Kelly chosen as new 15th District state representative, replacing John D’Amico
by BRIAN NADIG
Area committeepersons appointed longtime Mayfair resident and Chicago firefighter Michael Kelly as the new representative of the 15th Illinois House District to fill the vacancy of recently retired John D’Amico.
Addressing the state’s mental health crisis will be one of Kelly’s top priorities. “Most of our calls are mental health calls,” the 46-year-old firefighter said. “We are getting the same people over and over again with the same issues.”
Kelly was selected following a 5-hour appointment session held by the 15th District’s Democratic committeepersons on Nov. 23 at the Irish- American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox Ave. The panel heard presentations from seven applicants, including at least two who are expected to challenge Kelly in the 2022 Democratic primary.
Kelly said that he grew up in a Democratic, “middle-class, hard working” family and lives in the same house he grew up in. He attended Saint Edward School and Saint Patrick High School on the Northwest Side and serves as the Saint Edward athletic director.
Kelly told the panel that while he is a lifelong Democrat, he did pull Republican ballots in 2010 to vote for Judy Baar Topinka in the state comptroller’s race at the urging of his union and another time to vote for a friend. He also listed the names of about 15 union leaders who have voiced support for his candidacy for state representative.
Kelly said that he would need more time to study whether the statewide ban on rent control should be lifted.
Kelly’s appointment to fill out D’Amico’s term was not a surprise. In political circles he was considered the favorite, with the behind-the-scenes backing of D’Amico, who had served in the General Assembly since 2004.
Edgebrook area resident Michael Rabbitt said that he helped start the social justice ministry at the Saint Mary of the Woods Parish and launched Neighbors for Affordable Housing. He said that he would support lifting the statewide ban on rent control, explaining that towns should make their own decision on the matter, and that he supports the proposed 297-unit apartment complex at 8535 W. Higgins Ave., which Alderman Anthony Napolitano (41st) opposes. It would include nearly 60 affordable units.
“I have a track record as a problem solver (and) a community connector,” said Rabbitt, who works as a business transformation leader for Argonne National Laboratory.
Rabbitt, who is supported by SEIU Healthcare and the political group 39th Neighbors United, launched his campaign prior to D’Amico’s retirement announcement and plans to challenge Kelly next year in the primary.
Edgebrook resident Daniel Cotter said that about half of the 15th District is in the suburbs and that as state representative he would solicit feedback from several village mayors. “Not all issues in the 15th District are Chicago centric,” he said.
Cotter, whose father was a police sergeant, is the past president of the Chicago Bar Association and served on the Edgebrook School Local School Council for 10 years, including 7 years as chairperson. He said that the council successful advocated for an addition to the school.
Cotter said that he would be receptive to lifting the ban on rent control, adding that housing security is an important issue. He described the Democratic Party as “a big tent” with a diverse contingency. “We have to make sure all these people have a voice at the table,” he said.
Cotter described himself as a “champion of the rule of law” and “a big union supporter.”
Cotter, who helped manage other political campaigns, including an opponent who ran against D’Amico in 2016, said that he is looking to run in the 2022 democratic primary for the state representative position.
Sauganash Park resident Christina Brophy, a professor at Triton Community College, said that “more and more of my students are housing and food insecure,” calling it one of the driving forces for her desire to seek the representative seat. She added that she supports lifting the ban on rent control because it is not fair to have families priced out of their neighborhoods.
Brophy said that she considers herself a progressive Democrat and that the party needs to focus more on the future and less on the past. “I want to be a bridge from where we’ve been and where we need to go,” she said.
Edgebrook resident John Melaniphy III, who works as director of economic development for the Village of Niles, is a former president of the North Edgebrook Civic Association, which he said at the time successfully advocated for a new Edgebrook Library and a landscaping grant for the area near the Edgebrook Metra Station.
“I’d like to focus on restoring law and order in Chicago,” Melaniphy said. “I’ll support our first responders.”
Melaniphy said that he is not a fan of rent control, explaining that he prefers the “free market” to set rents. “I think it’s a very dangerous game to put a freeze on rents,” he said.
As state representative, Melaniphy said he would collaborate with the communities in the district to help to attract more brick-and-mortar businesses. “These are the guys paying property taxes and funding our schools,” said Melaniphy, whose father-in-law was former state senator Robert Egan.
Longtime Sauganash resident Judy Kehoe, who has experience in commercial real estate and marketing, said that she has worked on numerous campaigns, including those for Alderman Samantha Nugent (39th) and Governor J.B. Pritzker.
“I will listen to people,” Kehoe said. “To help people succeed … that’s why I’m a Democrat.” She added that “we should bring back the Fair Tax Amendment” and that she supports lifting the rent control ban while at the same time creating property tax relief.
She has served as minister of care for the Queen of All Saints Parish and has been active in the 38th and 39th Ward Democrat organizations, according to the resume she submitted to the panel.
Sauganash resident Vince Fattore is not a novice to running for office. In 1992 he made an unsuccessful challenge to then-state representative Bill Laurino, who is D ‘Amico’s uncle. He later became active in the Laurino-D’Amico political organization.
Fattore works as the chief information officer for Lexington Group, a wholesale supply distributor.
“In the suburbs there’s too many administrators in the schools,” Fattore said of a tax-savings measure he would consider. “I want less tax … better schools.”
On rent control, Fattore said that he would need to investigate the issue before taking a stance on the existing statewide ban.
As a Democrat, Fattore said that he has the experience to run a campaign. “Over 5,000 households I’ve knocked on the doors,” he said.
The committeepersons participating in the selection were Ram Villivalam, 39th Ward; Joe Cook, 41st Ward; James Gardiner, 45th; Debra Silverstein, 50th; Iris Martinez, 33rd; Anthony Quezada, 35th; Laura Murphy, Maine Township; and Lou Lang, Niles Township.
The vacancy is based on a weighted vote of the committeepersons, with Villivalam and Murphy having about 70 percent of the vote.
“I think that the district would be well served by any of (the applicants),” Lang said.
Cook County Judge Lorraine Murphy swore Kelly in a few minutes after his selection.