AVONDALE — Ald. Deb Mell (33rd) is getting help from an old political hand in her re-election campaign — none other than her sister, Patti Blagojevich.
The former Illinois first lady, wife of disgraced and imprisoned former governor Rod Blagojevich, has returned to politics by making calls for Mell's re-election campaign, even going so far as to call neighbors displaying yard signs for her sister's challenger, Tim Meegan.
"You never give up hope. You fight for every last vote," Blagojevich said Thursday. "You never know if there's another person in the house."
In one voicemail she left, passed on to DNAinfo Chicago, she introduces herself and says she's been making calls and knocking on doors "trying to urge my neighbors to vote for my sister, Deb Mell," in her bid for re-election.
Listen to Patti Blagojevich's voicemail below
"I noticed you had a Meegan sign in your front lawn, but I still would like to urge you to vote for Deb Mell," Blagojevich says.
She goes on to insist that Mell's "got the interests of our neighbors and our neighborhood in mind with everything that she does."
Blagojevich even gives her phone number and makes one final request for the neighbor to vote for Mell on Tuesday.
It's a friendly and upbeat call — and quite different from the last recorded calls she starred in.
In FBI-taped surveillance phone calls with her husband when he was governor, they're heard discussing the job opportunities that might present themselves to both if he appointed various candidates to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama at the end of 2008. She even drops a series of F bombs in discussing the Tribune editorial board and the Cubs, then owned by the Tribune Co.
Rod Blagojevich was arrested at the end of 2008, charged with attempting to sell the seat and indulge in various other forms of pay-to-play corruption and eventually convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison, which he began serving in 2012.
Many legal experts said Patti Blagojevich could have been charged as well, but only Rod Blagojevich's brother, Robert, faced charges, dropped after their first trial ended in a hung jury.
Patti Blagojevich has mostly stayed out of the public spotlight and the political arena since, although she appeared at City Hall in 2013 when Deb Mell replaced their father, Dick Mell, as alderman of the 33rd Ward, appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
"The only person I'd go out campaigning for right now is my sister," she said. "I wouldn't be doing that for anybody else."
Yet she also said that, having been around politics her entire life, when duty calls, especially on behalf of a family member, one answers. She said she had been well-received by voters, adding, "People in the neighborhood have been awfully wonderful."
Deb Mell is now in a three-way battle for re-election, facing Meegan, a teacher at Roosevelt High School, and reformer Annisa Wanant.
"I think she's doing great," Blagojevich said, adding that in her assigned area "she's killing it" and that "people have responded very favorably."
Mell has been among the City Council's biggest recipients of support from Emanuel "super" political action committee Chicago Forward, having benefited from more than $50,000 in support from the fund this year.
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