Megan Mathias, Marija Tomic plan on running against Alderman James Gardiner in the 45th Ward; candidates can start circulating nominating petitions on Aug. 30
by BRIAN NADIG
Megan Mathias and Marija Tomic are seeking to unseat Alderman James Gardiner (45th) in next year’s city election, while aldermen Samantha Nugent (39th) and Nicholas Sposato (38th) each have at least one challenger.
The first day when aldermanic candidates can circulate their nominating petitions is Tuesday, Aug. 30, and candidates need about 500 valid signatures to make the ballot for the Feb. 28, 2023, municipal election. Additional Northwest Side candidates could announce in the next couple of months, as the deadline for filing petitions is Monday, Nov. 28.
The boundaries of the 45th Ward have changed significantly since the 2019 election, now taking in Wildwood, all of Edgebrook north of Devon Avenue, and portions of Norwood Park, including several blocks just to the west of Nagle Avenue. The ward lost portions of Old Irving Park but continues to take in most of Gladstone Park and Jefferson Park and portions of Portage Park.
Mathias formally announced her candidacy almost a year ago and said that she would bring “respectful leadership” to the 45th Ward.
“I will draw on decades of experience as a lawyer, mother, active community member and small business owner to represent our diverse community with grit and determination,” Mathias said.
“I am in the neighborhood every day and residents are telling me that they have had enough gamesmanship and want genuine leadership to bring the residents together around shared concerns. I will listen to the community and will treat people with the respect they deserve,” she said.
On her Web site, Mathias lists economic revitalization for families and businesses, improving local schools and addressing public health and safety issues as among her priorities. Mathias, whose husband died in 2019, lives in Old Irving Park with her three children.
Tomic said that as an alderperson her priorities would include addressing crime by working to stop the redeployment of local officers to other parts of the city and fighting for the restoration of mental health services. She added that she will seek to streamline city services and repeal the ordinance linking property tax increases to the rate of inflation, arguing that it creates a hardship for people on fixed incomes.
“We love Jefferson Park because it is a small town in the big city. However, recently I have noticed that the small town I once knew has started to slip away and the quality of life is different than when I was my children’s ages,” Tomic said in a statement.
“The crime has increased, and local businesses are struggling. This is evident as many empty storefronts haunt our ward. Graffiti, carjackings and shootings are becoming commonplace in our ward. I have not seen any benefit to our increase in property taxes,” she said. Tomic lives in Jefferson Park along with her husband and two children.
“Public safety. Public safety. Public safety. If our residents aren’t safe, everything else is meaningless,” Gardiner, who is seeking his second term, said of the ward’s priorities. “People are concerned and rightfully so.”
Gardiner said that that the local and national “defund the police” movements have led to policies that restrict the ability of officers to do their job effectively and that he voted against a city budget which left about 600 vacant police positions unfunded. “It’s just another way of defunding the police,” he said.
Gardiner, a firefighter, added, “I’ve voted against every property tax increase since I’ve been in office.” He opposed a budget that included linking a tax increase to the rate of inflation.
Gardiner made headlines last year after a former aide released private text messages they sent to each other. In some of the messages he called several women profane names and made disrespectful remarks about an alderman.
He apologized at a City Council meeting in September of last year for the disparaging comments. Gardiner has also been the focus of several lawsuits in the ward since he took office.
In 2019 Gardiner defeated then-alderman John Arena, who received about 36 percent of the vote compared to Gardiner’s nearly 51 percent. Gardiner also serves as the 45th Ward Democratic committeeperson.
In the 39th Ward, which includes Mayfair, Sauganash and the portion of Edgebrook south of Devon, incumbent Nugent faces a challenge from North Mayfair resident Denali Dasgupta, a member of the 39th Ward Neighbors United. Nugent is seeking her second term.
In the 38th Ward, which includes Dunning, incumbent Sposato faces a challenge from Greg Schorsch, who said his family has more than 100 years of “community development and service” to the ward. Sposato has served three terms in the City Council, although the first was as alderman of the 36th Ward.
The final ballot for the aldermanic races may not be decided until next January due to possible petition challenges.