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Guzzardi Beats Berrios in Northwest Side State Rep. Race

By Quinn Ford | March 18, 2014 5:37pm | Updated on March 19, 2014 7:01am
 North Carolina transplant Will Guzzardi (r.) beat longtime incumbent Toni Berrios.
North Carolina transplant Will Guzzardi (r.) beat longtime incumbent Toni Berrios.
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Illinois House Democrats/WillGuzzardi.com

LOGAN SQUARE — Despite the political muscle of state and county Democratic leaders, longtime incumbent state Rep. Toni Berrios was defeated Tuesday by 26-year-old Will Guzzardi.

Guzzardi emerged as the victor of the Democratic primary in the race for the 39th District Illinois House seat by a comfortable margin of 1,843 votes, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

The race pinned the clout-heavy Berrios against the young challenger for the second time.

In 2012, Berrios beat Guzzardi in the primary by just 125 votes, but on Tuesday, Guzzardi sailed to victory with 60 percent of the vote.

Guzzardi, a North Carolina native who moved to the city in 2009, formerly worked for the Huffington Post before making his first run for public office in 2012.

Berrios, 36, has held the 39th District seat since 2003 and is the daughter of Joe Berrios, Cook County Democratic Party chairman and assessor .

"This is the biggest race in the city of Chicago," one voter said Tuesday.

After the narrow finish two years ago, both sides campaigned heavily, and some voters said Tuesday it has been too much.

"I just have felt bombarded by ads. I think a lot of people have," said Mary Dannevik after she cast her ballot. "I just couldn't wait for Election Day, so it'd be over."

The district includes parts of Belmont Cragin, Portage Park, Humboldt Park and Logan Square, and some had painted the race as being between two communities: Hispanics and hipsters.

Dannevik, who has been living in Logan Square for eight years, said both groups live in the neighborhood but she did not expect the election to break down that way.

"I don't think it's fair," she said. "I think it has a little bit of truth, but I don't really think it's fair. I think there are lots of Hispanics voting for Guzzardi, and I think there are a lot of white people who are voting for Berrios."

Maria Martinez, a longtime Logan Square resident, said she voted for Guzzardi because she wanted to send someone new to Springfield.

"Everyone should take the opportunity to see what he is," Martinez said. "If he shows he's good, he'll stay, and if not ... he'll be going out."

Like many voters, Martinez said education was an important issue, but the 30-year resident also said she wanted to see more job-training opportunities in the neighborhood.

Jacob Kenney, 26, said he hadn't paid close attention to the Illinois House race before he cast his ballot Tuesday.

The Indiana transplant said a recent push by Illinois Democrats to raise the state's minimum wage was enough to make him register to vote in the primary.

"It's expensive to live in the city," said Kenney, who has lived in Logan Square for two years.

When it came to voting for his state representative, Kenney said name recognition played into his decision.

"I see Berrios' name everywhere," he said. "When I saw the other candidates, I didn't really know who they were."

But some voters said Berrios' advertising blitz worked against her, especially when it came to attack ads.

"To see what Toni Berrios [is saying], it really makes me sick to my stomach, so that makes me come out and vote just because of how yucky politics is," Logan Square resident Amanda Fitzgerald said.

Election officials projected low voter turnout for Tuesday's election, according to a spokesman from the city's Board of Election Commissioners. Poll results showed a total of 8,647 votes cast in the race, with 5,245 of those votes going to Guzzardi.

The closely watched race had caused many Chicago Democrats to pick sides. In addition to her father's support, Berrios had the backing of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle as well as Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, among others.

Guzzardi won support of many aldermen, including Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) and Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) as well as nods from groups like the Chicago Teachers Union and the Fraternal Order of Police.