The last time Representative Dan Burke (D-Chicago) had a serious primary opponent, in 2010, the longtime Southwest Side legislator won by just 579 votes over activist Rudy Lozano. And it could’ve been a closer race had two Latino “candidates” not been put on the ballot to siphon away almost 400 votes from the progressive activist Lozano.
At the moment, the age-old Chicago machine practice of running fake primary candidates designed to draw votes away from opponents is on hold while a federal judge takes a look at a lawsuit filed by Speaker Michael Madigan’s vanquished 2016 primary opponent. Madigan is alleged to have put two do-nothing candidates with Latino surnames on the ballot to draw votes away from Jason Gonzales. That never used to be considered a crime. Unfair and maybe unethical, but not illegal. Whatever it is, it’s now under judicial scrutiny.
This time around, Representative Burke is going one-on-one with Aaron Ortiz, a teacher and head soccer coach at Back of the Yards High School.
What makes this race one to watch is that Ortiz has been endorsed by Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, a 2015 Chicago mayoral candidate and Bernie Sanders’ top guy in the city in 2016 who is now running for Congress with the support of the retiring incumbent, Congressman Luis Gutierrez.
Representative Burke is a member of Speaker Madigan’s leadership team and his brother Ed is a powerful Chicago alderman. Those guys take care of their own. If Representative Burke is willing to wage an all-out street fight, then that’s what will happen.
So two rival Chicago political factions – the regulars and the progressives – are gearing up for battle on several fronts while some are attempting to cut a deal that clears a path for people on both sides.
Commissioner Garcia and his allies are supporting Alma Anaya for Garcia’s county board seat. Anaya has run Garcia’s district office. Senator Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago) is supporting his daughter, Angeles Sandoval, for that same county board spot. Senator Sandoval, who has one of the strongest remaining political organizations in the city, and Senator Tony Muñoz (D-Chicago) have each contributed $55,000 to Angeles Sandoval’s campaign. Senator Muñoz is a top contender for Illinois Senate President whenever incumbent John Cullerton decides to retire. Ms. Sandoval should therefore have little trouble raising money from special interests.
Senators Sandoval and Muñoz and Representative Burke and their allies want Chuy Garcia to pull his support from Ortiz and Anaya, clearing the path for Representative Burke and Ms. Sandoval.
In exchange, the “regular Democrats” will stay out of the Garcia’s “progressive” campaign for Congress. If not, they may back someone like Sol Flores, the only woman in the race to replace Congressman Gutierrez. Flores was just endorsed by EMILY’s List.
So that may be why a Public Policy Polling survey was released last week showing Garcia getting 53 percent in the Democratic primary. Everybody else was in single digits, including Flores, who was at 3 percent. Garcia could wind up cruising to victory, so why not stick to his guns on the other campaigns?
Well, few people like to work more than they absolutely have to, and nothing is ever a 100-percent bet in politics. So we’ll see where this one goes. A lot of maneuvering appears to be ahead.
A couple of small pieces have already fallen into place.
Lourdez Laura Ramos, who was backed by Congressman Gutierrez, withdrew from the 3rd Illinois House District Democratic primary against Representative Luis Arroyo (D-Chicago). Representative Arroyo had been supporting Richard Gonzales in the 4th Congressional District primary against Gutierrez, but Arroyo will now reportedly withdraw his backing and word is Gonzales may get out of the race. Gutierrez and Arroyo have been waging a bitter battle over the future status of Puerto Rico.
Alex Acevedo, the son of former Representative Eddie Acevedo, recently dropped out of the Cook County commissioner race to replace Garcia and endorsed Angie Sandoval. Acevedo and Senator Sandoval are longtime allies.
However, state Representative Theresa Mah (D-Chicago) told me last week she is backing Alma Anaya for county board, which puts her at odds with her state Senator, Tony Muñoz. But, she said, she is not supporting the Chuy Garcia-backed candidate against Representative Burke, Aaron Ortiz.
Representative Mah has her own primary opponent, Francisco Rodriguez, who is apparently backed by former Representative Acevedo, who is now running for county sheriff. So there may be another knot to untangle before this is all done.
Got all that? Just your usual Chicago intrigue.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.