Rift appears poised to rip apart Dems in 39th Ward elections
The Northwest Side Democratic elections in 2018 and 2019 are shaping up as battles between incumbents linked to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) and the up-and-coming progressive faction, particularly in the 39th Ward.
The incumbents are represented by Alderman Margaret "Marge" Laurino and her nephew, state Rep. John D'Amico (D-Chicago), aka, the establishment. Laurino has held her seat since 1994 and won another term in 2015. If she decides to run for re-election in 2019, she might face progressive candidate Robert Murphy.
Murphy is the 39th Ward Democratic committeeman. He came within approximately 300 votes of a runoff with Laurino in 2015. The following year, he beat Laurino/D'Amico-backed candidate Patrick Molloy for the committeeman post, with 55 percent of the vote.
Lautino and Murphy are associated with former and current Chicago politicians with less-than-savory reputations. Laurino's father was facing criminal charges before he died in 1999. He served as alderman from 1965 to 1994.
Laurino succeeded her father, Anthony Laurino, as the 39th Ward alderman after he stepped down due to ill health. The next year, the senior Laurino and several family members faced charges of "ghost payrolling" 36 jobs for political cronies, friends and relatives during his tenure as the Chicago City Council's Traffic Committee chairman. He was indicted on 11 charges, but in December 1996 U.S. District Judge Joan Gottschall continued the case indefinitely due to Laurino's severe cardiovascular disease. Four other family members, including D'Amico's parents, were among the 24 convicted of the scheme; three were sentenced to prison.
Marge Laurino was never charged with any wrongdoing in the case and was appointed to replace her father by Mayor Richard Daley.
Murphy is associated with activist Jac Charlier, who ran against D'Amico for the 15th District seat in the Illinois House in the 2016 primary, and embattled 45th Ward Alderman John Arena, who has faced allegations of domestic abuse, assault and campaign finance fraud.
The 2018 primary election might provide leads to the progressives' plans for the 2019 aldermanic elections. They might run a candidate against incumbent D'Amico, who votes a consistent party line with Madigan.
As Charlier pointed out in the 2016 primary race, D'Amico holds a second job as assistant superintendent in the Chicago Water Department. When D'Amico retires, he will have two government pensions. Charlier also called D'Amico a machine politician and blamed the lawmaker for contributing to the state's budget impasse.
The progressives, however, might put their energy into unseating Laurino in 2019. Should Laurino decide to retire, the dynasty is likely to support another family member for 39th Ward Alderman.
While the local Democratic Party faces a split, the Northwest Side GOP Club is gearing up for the 2019 elections. Matt Podgorski, 39th Ward Republican committeeman, is already working to build a relationship with the conservatives and Republicans on the Northwest Side.
“There are a lot of Republicans and conservatives in the northwest Chicago area,” Podgorski said on the Illinois GOP website. “We want to let them know we are here to help give them a voice and find representation. We want to let areas conservatives know we are here to help them build a network.”
The GOP is scheduling fundraisers and making plans to run conservative candidates in local elections. Precinct captains are in place, preparing for upcoming elections, including former 15th District candidate Jonathan Edelman. Recognizing that the area has a Democratic majority, the GOP is likely to back a relatively moderate candidate for the 2019 alderman seat.