SPEAKER TO COMMITTEMEN: NO ARROYO ROLE IN PICK
Analysis & opinion by RUSS STEWART
Toxic and tainted. That describes the expected process to occur on Nov. 15 when ten Democratic committeemen from various parts of the 3rd Illinois House District meet to fill Luis Arroyo’s vacancy.
One of those ten is Arroyo himself as he is still the 36th Ward committeeman. And therein lies the problem. "He (Arroyo) cannot participate" in the upcoming meeting, said state Senator Rob Martwick (D-10), the 38th Ward committeeman. "We must have some semblance of integrity. He (Arroyo) cannot handpick his own (House) successor." If he did, "the whole process would wear a stain." Added Martwick: "He (Arroyo) must re-cuse himself." Message to Martwick: The law says otherwise.
And now there will be an eleventh man in the room: Speaker Mike Madigan. He sent a Nov. 11 letter to the committeemen stating that any choice made on Nov. 15 which included the 36th Ward’s 7,447 weighted-votes, if cast by Arroyo, and/or his participation in any way, would result in that choice not being seated. Message to Madigan: The law says otherwise. "This is racist," fumed state Senator Iris Martinez (D-20). "The fix is in for Dave Feller (an ally of Martwick)." The district is "an overwhelmingly Latino district," Martinez said, "and should have a Latino representative."
Martinez said that the powers that be are "trying to disenfranchise" the Hispanic voters in the 36th Ward, and therefore in the district, which stretches from Montclare to Avondale, north of Diversey.
Arroyo was arrested on Oct. 25 and charged by the feds with bribing a state senator to vote for a certain sweepstakes gaming bill for which Arroyo was a paid lobbyist of the beneficiary. The senator wore a wire. Arroyo resigned as state representative on Nov. 1, but has not yet resigned as committeeman and is legally eligible to vote to pick his Springfield successor, which is accomplished through a weighted-vote allocation. The entire selection process is clearly set forth in state statute, and was followed in the summer in the 10th Senate and 16th House, 19th House and 20th House districts, when John Mulroe, Lou Lang, Martwick and Mike McAuliffe, respectively, resigned. There was never a question about the validity of those picks. (Though in some instances the optics looked bad). Now, in the 3rd District, there is.
Arroyo received 19,782 votes in the 2018 election, divided among nine Chicago wards (1st, 26th, 29th, 30th, 31st, 35th, 36th, 37th, 38th) and the Leyden Township, among 84 precincts. The Nov. 15 pick, who will serve through the end of 2020 and earn $70,000 starting upon selection, will be whoever gets half-plus-one of 19,782, or 9,892 accumulated committeeman votes. The 36th Ward cast 7,447 votes for Arroyo in 2018, which is 37.6 percent of the total weighted-vote, or nearly 75 percent of the 9,892 needed. Arroyo’s pick for the seat is Rodolfo "Rudy" De Jesus, a longtime operative in the 1st, 31st and 36th wards, who is now aligned with Alderman Gilbert Villegas (36th), Arroyo’s protŽgŽ who was picked by Arroyo’s precinct captains to be the new committeeman AFTER Arroyo resigns, subject to chairman Toni Preckwinkle and the county executive committee’s approval. (The committee asked for Arroyo’s resignation on Nov.4.)
By statute, the committeeman with the highest weighted-vote, which is Arroyo, calls the meeting within 30 days – which he did. And then he chairs the meeting – which he may or may not do. Arroyo has several options: (1) He can refuse to be chairman, which passes the post to Reboyras, who has the second-highest weighted vote, but keep and cast his 7,447 36th Ward votes. (2) He can give his 7,447-vote proxy to Villegas or his son, county Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr., and they can vote for De Jesus. That proxy, however, would allow neither to be chairman. Or (3) he could show up and preside and see where that goes. If I were Arroyo, that’s exactly what I would do. Bring it on.
The law is clear: If ANYBODY shows up on Nov. 15, presents their credentials, and in executive session gets 9,892 votes, then he or she goes to Springfield, either with or without the 36th Ward’s vote. Arroyo cannot be removed. "We must boycott" the meeting, said Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, the 35th Ward committeeman. That won’t work. All Arroyo (or his proxy) needs to anoint De Jesus is his 7,447 plus 2,445 more. The only option for the anti-Arroyo bunch is to unite behind an anti-De Jesus alternative, cast more than 9,892 votes for that somebody, or NOT CAST 9,892 votes for anybody.
The other committeeman players, all of whom owe Arroyo some payback, are the 30th Ward’s Ariel Reboyras, an ally of Martinez who Arroyo alienated in 2019 by dispatching workers into his ward for Jessica Gutierrez. Reboyras has 4,687 votes, or 18.6 percent. The 31st Ward’s Joe Berrios, once assessor and county party chairman until ousted by Preckwinkle, who Arroyo alienated in 2015 by backing and electing Milly Santiago, who defeated Berrios ally Alderman Ray Suarez. In 2019 Arroyo abandoned the erratic Santiago, and she lost to Felix Cardona, a onetime assessor’s employee who carefully created separation from Berrios, who has 1,989 votes, or 10 percent, on Nov. 15. Berrios is quitting as committeeman, and Cardona will replace him after March 17. Ramirez-Rosa is the polar opposite of Arroyo: He is a democratic socialist and also chairman of the Chicago Socialist Party. He takes umbrage with Arroyo’s innovative brand of capitalism. He has 2,212 votes, or 11.1 percent, on Nov. 15. What goes around comes around.
Also in the mix are 29th Ward Alderman Chris Taliaferro, who has 1,499, or 7.5 percent, votes, and Martwick, whose ward has seven precincts and 1,843 votes, or 9.3 percent. The combined Reboyras/ Berrios/Ramirez-Rosa/ Taliaferro/Martwick vote is 11,230, or 56.7 percent, more than needed to make the pick. There are another nine precincts, with 5.7 percent, in three wards and Leyden Township. The anti- or non-Arroyo committeemen can stop De Jesus, or Feller, from the appointment, but a slew of state rep candidates are circulating petitions, and will show up on Nov. 15.
They include De Jesus, a community outreach specialist for an area bank, Feller, who works for Sheriff Tom Dart, Vianny Marzullo, and Otto Serano. Also circulating are Ruth Cruz and Eva Dina Delgado. Villegas, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s floor leader, and Feller, who lives in Portage Park, are running for 36th Ward committeeman. Martinez is running for Circuit Court Clerk and 33rd Ward committeeman, and will milk the 3rd District situation for maximum publicity.
As for Madigan, he full well knows that while he can remove a state legislator accused or convicted of wrongdoing, he cannot remove the choice of a lawful committee not engaged in wrongdoing. The speaker is scapegoating and grandstanding, throwing Arroyo – who is presumed innocent until proven guilty – under the bus to distract attention from the feds’ probe of Madigan cronies like state senator Martin Sandoval and south suburban mayors.
Prediction: A caretaker will be picked on Nov. 15. The March 17 primary will be a circus.
COOK COUNTY STATE’S ATTORNEY: Preliminary polling in the contest has bad news and good news for incumbent Kim Foxx. Her disapproval numbers are around 55 percent, but she has a support floor of 36-38 percent. She has two opponents: Bill Conway, who is poised to spend $5 million of family wealth, and Donna More, who lost in 2016. To win, Conway needs two-thirds of the anti-Foxx vote.
45TH WARD COMMITTEEMAN (DEMOCRATIC): Hope springs eternal. Among those who voted for Jim Gardiner for alderman on Feb. 26, the hope is that they’ve seen the last of John Arena, and joyous that the former alderman is not seeking re-election as committeeman in 2020. Gardiner will easily win that post, although he has opposition from Ellen Hill, a backer of the Six Corners’ Point project, which Gardiner opposes. Arena got a $123,996-a-year-job this year job in the Lightfoot administration, so he will get his city pension. His supporters hope he tries a 2023 comeback. Without a political base, that is unlikely.
10TH SUBCIRCUIT (McGING VACANCY): Chicago police lieutenant John Garrido lost two close, bitter races against Arena for alderman in 2011 and 2015. He’s now running for judge in the Northwest Side subcircuit, which stretches from Ravenswood to Park Ridge, against John Stromsta, the slated choice out of the 47th Ward, and Maire Aileen Dempsey. Edge to Garrido.
CIRCUIT COURT JUDGE: There are 13 countywide vacancies, and already almost 60 candidates, with several different slates beyond the party slate. There is a state’s attorney/public defender slate, black slate, and others, all needing 3,322 signatures. The most innovative is the four well-funded, Irish-surnamed women from Sauganash-Wildwood. They are Beth Ryan, Suzane McEneely, Jennifer Callahan and Heather Kent. Each is spending over $100,000 on giant billboards. And each is shrewdly circulating for vacancies in which the party has slated a man, three of whom are black. Way to go.
The filing period is Nov. 25-Dec. 2. It won’t be boring.