In the aftermath of the March Primary, it’s a tale of two parties
April 5, 2018

March primary Democratic candidates, whether they won or lost, came together with supporters in a show of unity for the fall election.

There’s a lot to take away in the aftermath of the March primary election. Not many political pundits expected that the alley fight between Republican incumbent Governor Bruce Rauner and challenger Jeanne Ives would have been as close as it was. Not only did his less than 4% razor thin win expose Rauner’s weaknesses heading into the November general election, but it showed a major fracture between his backers and the far right wing fringe of the Republican Party. Ives, who defiantly ran on a Trumpian platform, refused to give an endorsement to her party’s state leader, saying she would vote for Rauner, but would not offer her official support. That’s harsh.

On the Democratic side, there seems to be a much more unified front and many political morsels to digest.

Within days of seeing the final votes tallied, Democrats gathered for a Unity Breakfast. Under the banner of “Unite Illinois,” nominee for Governor JB Pritzker and running mate Julianna Stratton, candidate for Lieutenant Governor, welcomed several of their former adversaries, including State Sen. Daniel Biss, Chris Kennedy, and Tio Hardiman. Having survived the “circular firing squad” that Democrats are so wont to act out in the primaries, those vying for the top of the ticket got together and threw their unwavering support to Pritzker.

That’s nice to see if you are a Democrat, but going forward, can the Dems try and stick to the issues and quit tearing one another limb from limb in the primaries? Where’s the party leadership to reign in the candidates so that they focus on honing their individual messages and let the best candidate win? Maybe there really wasn’t anyone to turn to with Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan eerily silent during the primaries, as he was reeling from the sexual harassment charges plaguing his staff and the criticism he received for acting slowly when a former employee came forward about those charges last year.

Maybe Democrats need to take their lessons from how wolves act in their packs. The fact that Ives went so fast and furious after Rauner may have left him mortally wounded. Biss and Kennedy nipped hard at JB’s heels, trying to overcome the more than $50 million he poured into his campaign. In the end they couldn’t outspend their foe, nor could they break his early momentum. Of course, it didn’t hurt Pritzker to also get the early backing of Madigan and Democratic Party leadership under Joseph Berrios.

It’s heartening to see that Biss and Kennedy, and their backers, including the likes of Congressmen Danny Davis and Bobby Rush, are creating a unified front. The Unity Breakfast was a “who’s who” of Democratic Illinois politicians, including U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Secretary of State Jesse White, Democratic nominee for Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, State Comptroller Susana Mendoza, and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.

Besides Pritzker, who came out the biggest winner in the March 20th primary? This one’s easy. It has to be Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. Not only did Garcia become the Democratic nominee to replace Luis Gutierrez in the 4th Congressional District with more than 66% of the vote, but he hit a grand slam with everyone else on his Progressive ticket sailing to victory. Long-time aid, Alma Anaya, who has an Horatio Alger story if there ever was one—an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, who at one time found herself homeless, garnered more than 57% of the vote against a slate that included Angeles “Angie” Sandoval. This race was a good old fashioned, down in the dirt brawl, as Sandoval, the daughter of Martin Sandoval—who had long ties to the now defunct Hispanic Democratic Organization—had the backing of established party leaders. Take a look at the photograph on page four of this issue—where Sandoval’s team created look-a-like signs that touted the backing of Garcia. Yep, there they were, hitched to a fence in front of a Pilsen voting place—looking a heck of a lot like Anaya’s signs—right down to the color schemes and the fonts of the type. This could happen only in Chicago.

In another astounding win, Garcia’s endorsed candidate, 26-year-old Aaron Ortiz beat long-time State Rep. Dan Burke in the 1st District. Not only did Garcia help topple a 27-year incumbent, but he beat back the powerful Southwest Side one-two punch of Alderman Edward Burke (Rep. Burke’s brother) and House Speaker Madigan. There just might be a new political king maker in town and his name is “Chuy.” 

If this is indeed the case, we at Gazette Chicago have a comfort level with Garcia at the helm. He is an inclusive political leader who won’t leave people out in the cold or left behind. It will be very interesting to see how this political tussle takes shape over the next two years with Mayoral and Aldermanic elections on the horizon in 2019. Under Garcia’s leadership, Latinos are creating a formidable force in local Democratic politics and these young and hungry leaders are demanding change and an even playing field—and they are leading a wave of Progressive candidates. It will be very interesting to see whom Garcia supports in the Mayoral race. Oh, what fun this will be. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves—the November statewide election is critical to the future of Illinois. Frankly speaking, Rauner must go.

In a final stunner, Berrios was toppled from his County Assessor’s throne by first-time challenger Fritz Kaegi. Berrios was under a cloud as investigative reports found his office unfairly over-valuing the homes of middle class and lower income families and offering property tax breaks to the wealthy. Tsk, tsk, Mr. Berrios. Folks are waking up in Chicago and across this country. You should have seen this coming. Now, the fight is on for control of the Cook County Democratic Party—the other seat you currently hold.

Yes, there is a lot to digest from the March primary. And, there is no time to catch your breath. The November election is officially underway whether you want it to be or not. This almost feels like the National Football League—the season never seems to end. 

A few words of advice: Don’t get voter fatigue. Stay engaged. Pay attention. Educate yourself and your friends and colleagues. Turn to news sources that have a record for accuracy. (Heaven help us when Facebook and Cambridge Analytics are shown to have played such critical roles in the 2016 national election—don’t let them, or others do the same in the 2018 mid-terms.) Also, don’t let television attack ads sway your decisions. Join the Progressive Blue Wave here in Illinois and help make it happen across the country. It would be an understatement to say there is a lot at stake.