The oddest political couple in the state's Democratic Party is teaming up again.
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is backing yet another young protégé of progressive US Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-Chicago) for the Illinois House at a time when other people appear to be distancing themselves from or even challenging the powerful House Speaker.
Madigan will help put state Rep. Celina Villanueva (D-Chicago) into the Senate to replace soon-to-retire disgraced Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago). Madigan shares Sandoval's Senate district with Rep. Villanueva, who worked for Garcia when he was a Cook County commissioner and was appointed to the House at Garcia's request to replace now-Ald. Silvana Tabares (23).
In Villanueva's place, Madigan will back Edgar Gonzales, a constituent services liaison for Congressman Garcia's district office. Gonzales is a Harvard graduate, but is otherwise a lifelong resident of the area. He filed petitions last week to run for the seat in the spring primary after the Madigan and Garcia operations spent the weekend going door to door with him. If all goes well, he'll also be appointed to the House seat after Sandoval officially retires and Villanueva moves to the Senate.
Both Madigan's 13th Ward and his 22nd House District are majority Latinx. He has the regular vote already sewn up, of course, so his big favors for the progressive Latino pol Garcia prevent any significant challenge to his local power and influence, and even to some extent his statewide influence, from his left flank.
This alliance also helps Madigan deal with the anger from some Northwest side Latinos allied with former Rep. Luis Arroyo (D-Chicago), who appointed Eva-Dina Delgado to Arroyo's seat after Arroyo was arrested by the feds and resigned, despite local support for another candidate from the party's left wing, Nidia Carranza. The appointment was against Madigan's wishes. The pols have threatened a federal civil rights lawsuit if Madigan follows through on his threat to challenge Rep. Delgado's qualifications and ejects her from his chamber.
Garcia, in turn, expands his influence over city and state politics without having to expend much effort. That's a big plus for Garcia because he didn't do well at all in city council races earlier this year. Garcia's candidates lost two races on the Southwest side (Ald. Ed Burke's 14th and Ald. Ray Lopez's 15th), the Pilsen-centered 25th Ward and another on the Northwest side against Ald. Ariel Reboyras, who took the lead in backing Eva-Dina Delgado's appointment to the House.
Reboyras was the first to threaten a lawsuit if Delgado is drummed out of the House by Madigan. Reboyras voted Arroyo's 36th Ward proxy at the meeting to appoint Delgado.
Ald. Ed Burke's 14th Ward is majority Latinx, but he is going "old school" Chicago on his Latino challenger. Burke was indicted on a 14-count corruption charge last summer, but he's stubbornly refusing to go away.
Freshman state Rep. Aaron Ortiz (D-Chicago) defeated Ald. Burke's brother, Rep. Dan Burke, in the 2018 Democratic primary. Ortiz then decided to challenge Ald. Burke for 14th Ward Democratic Committeeperson. But, on the last day of the petition filing period, Alicia Elena Martinez filed to run against Rep. Ortiz in the House district and also filed to run for committeeperson against Burke and Ortiz. What's going on?
Martinez is an active member of Ald. Burke's ward organization. This is a classic put-up job. Martinez's candidacy should help split the Latinx vote in the ward race between herself and Ortiz, which could help Burke get the most votes. She's also likely an insurance policy should something bad happen to the indicted pol before primary day.
The Martinez challenge of Rep. Ortiz is also designed to force the incumbent House member to choose which race he wants to focus on, his reelection bid or the committeeman job.
Burke is playing hardball to the end and Ortiz has very little money to fight. He had just $5K in his campaign bank account at the end of the third quarter and, as I write this, has reported raising $16K since then. Burke has over $9 million in his two campaign funds.