Silverstein re-election bid aided by 'ghost candidate' McAteer-Fournier
The primary campaign of embattled state Sen. Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago), who faced sexual harassment charges late last year, was helped by a third candidate in the race, Caroline McAteer-Fournier, a source close to the race told North Cook News.
The source, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution, said McAteer-Fournier wasn't in the race to win, but to split the anti-Silverstein vote and attempt to assure him victory. The tactic didn't work, however, as Silverstein lost to challenger Ram Villivalam.
“It’s a common Chicago political trick to put up a ghost candidate to pull votes away from your main challenger,” the source said. “Any vote for McAteer-Fournier is a vote not going to Ram. His wife (Debra Silverstein) did the same thing in her 2011 run for alderman.”
In 2011, Debra Silverstein challenged longtime incumbent 50th Ward Ald. Bernard Stone. Stone won a five-way race, but didn't get 50 percent of the vote and was forced into a one-on-one run-off with Silverstein.
She comfortably prevailed, 61 percent to 39 percent.
A review of endorsements and donation records from the candidates reveals the connection between the incumbent Silverstein and McAteer-Fournier.
On Feb. 28, a powerful, politically active labor union, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, officially endorsed Silverstein.
Local 150 President James M. Sweeney, also runs the "Fight Back for a Better Tomorrow" political action committee, which makes donations to campaigns on behalf of Local 150 and other labor unions. This election cycle, it gave Silverstein $26,000 and McAteer-Fournier $55,385, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections (ISBE).
The McAteer-Fournier donation came on March 7, a week after Local 150 told Silverstein it would endorse him.
A review of her ISBE filings shows McAteer-Fournier received only two other small campaign donations this year.
"He thought I had a boyfriend"
Last year, lobbyist Denise Rotheimer filed a sexual harassment complaint against Silverstein, claiming he once killed a crime victims' rights bill she proposed because "he thought I had a boyfriend."
Rothheimer released 444 pages of Facebook posts and text messages between the two, leading legislators from both sides of the aisle to demand he resign.
Silverstein was forced to resign his Senate leadership post, but still received leadership backing in the campaign. The Senate’s Democratic Victory Fund contributed more than $55,000 to his campaign.
In January, Legislative Inspector General Julie Porter concluded that Silverstein did not commit sexual harassment, but that he did violate the section of the Illinois Governmental Ethics Act known as the legislative code of conduct. Porter recommended that Silverstein receive counseling from the Senate’s ethics officer.
Before the harassment charges, Silverstein’s re-election to his 8th district seat, which he’s held for 20 years, seemed all but assured. In light of the allegations, he had to appeal to Senate leadership and the unions for the large campaign donations he’s received.
The 8th Senate District covers parts of the far north side of Chicago and the near northern Cook County suburbs. That includes Chicago's 50th, 40th, 41st, 33rd and 39th Wards, which include the neighborhoods of West Rogers Park, North Park, Mayfair, North Mayfair, Forest Glen and Sauganash, as well as the suburbs of Lincolnwood, Skokie, Niles, Morton Grove, Park Ridge and Glenview.
McAteer-Fournier lives in Sauganash; Silverstein lives in West Rogers Park; Villivalam lives in Mayfair.
McAteer-Fournier, 42, works in the Career Center at DePaul University, where she earned a master's degree in public service management in 2007.
A native of south suburban Park Forest, she's a 1993 graduate of Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights and a 1997 graduate of the University of Dayton. Her husband, Brandon, is an industrial executive specializing in supply chain management.