Guzzardi upsets Berrios in 39th House primary
by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI
Repeat challenger Will Guzzardi defeated six-term incumbent Toni Berrios by nearly 1,900 votes in the March 18 primary election in the 39th Illinois House District and called his victory a win for progressive Democrats and a changing of the guard on the Northwest Side.
Guzzardi, age 26, a former editor and reporter for the Huffington Post online news site, received 5,245 votes, or 60.7 percent of total cast. Berrios, age 36, who is the daughter of county Democratic Party chairman and 31st Ward Committeeman Joseph Berrios, received 3,402 votes, or 39.3 percent of the total.
The race has been portrayed as a fight between the political machine of Berrios, who also is the Cook County assessor, which was supplemented by funds provided by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, and support provided to Guzzardi by public sector unions.
Guzzardi said that he was particularly surprised by how many votes he received in the 31st Ward. "That was their home turf, their stronghold," he said. Guzzardi received 1,219 votes to 1,421 for Berrios in the ward.
"I know that the turnout was low, but it was actually up by 10 percent in our district," Guzzardi said. "We performed pretty well in some of the areas on the Northwest Side, like in parts of Portage Park."
Berrios defeated Guzzardi 4,021-3,896 in the primary election in 2012. Berrios won the 30th Ward and the 31st Ward and Guzzardi won the 1st, 26th, 35th, 38th and 45th wards that year.
The 39th District, which has a significant Puerto Rican population, was 56 percent Hispanic after the 2011 remap, but 55 percent of the registered voters were white. The remap moved the district westward from Logan Square, extending it into the south Portage Park area.
"It was a tough and long campaign, and there was a lot of effort being made by our staff, and we had some support from local leaders and aldermen who came out in our corner," Guzzardi said.
Guzzardi said that he feels that voters were looking for new leadership "because the state is broken."
"I know that the narrative is that the Northwest Side elected Guzzardi, but we had people come out to support us all along Milwaukee Avenue," Guzzardi said, citing support from Aldermen Joe Moreno, Scott Waguespack, John Arena and Nicholas Sposato. "We have a growing progressive base on the Northwest Side, and we are sending the message that we are standing together and this hasn’t been done out here before in the past."
Guzzardi said that he moved from North Carolina to work for the Huffington Post and that it was his experience reporting on local and state races that has made him think about running for elected office.
"I covered a lot of the elections in 2011, and I met many candidates and their staff, and I realized that people who believed in progressive politicians could accomplish something," Guzzardi said. "We need more young progressive people. I had seen first hand how the broken system in Springfield has an impact on the neighborhoods when they don’t receive core services."
Guzzardi said the thinks that the pension reform legislation that was passed in the General Assembly is unconstitutional and that he would like to work for public schools and having an elected school board. He does not support charter school expansion.
"One thing about winning 60-to-40 percent is that I still will be able to stand up for what I believe in and remain independent," Guzzardi said. "For me a victory with a 60-to-40 margin sends a message."
"Congratulations to Will Guzzardi and I wish him the best of luck," Berrios said in a statement. "It is an honor to serve the 39th district.
"I want to thank all of my staff and volunteers who worked tirelessly for my campaign. I would like to thank my family for their unwavering support. I plan on making them proud as I continue to serve the remainder of my term.
"There are going to be some important votes coming up, particularly with pensions in Chicago, and I’m going to be there to take them. I look forward to what the future holds, and I hope I can continue to be of service to my community."
In the five-way race in the 40th Illinois House District, appointed state Representative Jaime Andrade Jr. received 2,840 votes, or 50.4 percent of the total cast, Nancy Schiavone received 1,536 votes (27.2 percent), Aaron Goldstein received 601 votes (10.7 percent), Wendy Jo Harmston received 367 votes (6.5 percent) and Mark Pasieka received 293 votes (5.2 percent).
Andrade was appointed to former state representative Deborah Mell’s seat after she stepped down and took over as 33rd Ward alderman for her father, Richard Mell, who retired.
Andrade, a former political aide in Richard Mell’s office, faced union-backed attorney and 35th Ward Democratic Committeeman Schiavone, Goldstein, one of the defense attorneys in the federal corruption trial of former governor Rod Blagojevich, Pasieka, an engineer, and Harmston, a former public school teacher.
Schiavone said that she was proud of her staff and the support that she received. "We ran a terrific campaign, and I am grateful for the support that we had received and I am pleased with the results," Schiavone said.
Schiavone said that she spoke to Andrade and wished him the best "and I’m sure he will work for the people."
"I thought that I could have done better," Goldstein said. "I was not shocked by the results, but I was surprised by the specific numbers.
"I think that there were two crucial factors why I didn’t do better, and that’s because it was a crowded field which benefits the incumbent and because once the unions provided support to Schiavone, it was something I couldn’t handle. Unions provided automatic votes."
Goldstein said that he was surprised that Schiavone did not receive more votes and that "she decided to lump me with Andrade" instead of worrying about him, he said.