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NW Side Democrats, Republicans Jostle for Power in Committeeman Races

By Heather Cherone | December 16, 2015 4:53am
 Both Ald. Nicholas Sposato and Ald. John Arena are unopposed in their bids for ward commiteeman.
Both Ald. Nicholas Sposato and Ald. John Arena are unopposed in their bids for ward commiteeman.
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PORTAGE PARK — Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th) will replace 38th Ward Democratic Committeeman P.J. Cullerton, ending her powerful family’s nearly 80-year reign over Democratic politics in Portage Park and Dunning.

Sposato will be unopposed in his March bid to become the head of the Democratic Party in the 38th Ward after Cullerton declined to run again. Her brother, former Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th), retired from the Chicago City Council in May.

While the move will consolidate Sposato's hold on political power in the northwest corner of the city, the position of committeeman — which is unpaid — is much less potent than it used to be before federal judges dismantled the city's political patronage system and ended the ability of committeemen to hand out plum positions.

"It is a nothing position," Sposato said. "Not like in the old days, that's for sure."

Committeemen — one each for the Democratic and Republican parties — slate candidates, oversee voter registration, work to boost voter turnout and ensure elections run smoothly. In many wards, the alderman — or his or her close ally — serves as the committeeman to consolidate power and operations.

Members of the Cullerton family have led the 38th Ward Democratic Organization since the 1930s. Both P.J. Cullerton and Tim Cullerton endorsed non-profit executive and eventual second-place finisher Heather Sattler in the 2015 aldermanic race over Sposato.

P.J. Cullerton did not respond to a request for comment from DNAinfo Chicago about her decision not to run for committeeman again.

City employee Bruce Randazzo, who ran against Sposato in 2011 in the race for 36th Ward alderman, withdrew from the race for 38th Ward committeeman Monday.

The February 2015 aldermanic election was the the first under a new City Council map that moved most of Dunning — including Sposato's house — from the 36th Ward into the 38th Ward along with Portage Park.

Randazzo, who also ran unsuccessfully for state representative in 2012, failed to have his official statement of candidacy notarized. He withdrew Monday after his petitions were challenged, according to records from the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

Randazzo said in an interview with DNAinfo Chicago that he decided to run for committeeman against Sposato after the alderman voted in favor of the largest property tax hike in Chicago's history.

In the race for 38th Ward Republican Committeeman, Peter Podgorski is unopposed.

45th Ward

Ald. John Arena (45th) is also unopposed in his bid for re-election as 45th Ward Democratic Committeeman. The ward includes Jefferson Park as well as parts of Portage Park, Old Irving Park, Forest Glen and Gladstone Park.

Arena won a second term on the Council after beating Chicago Police Lt. John Garrido in the April runoff.

The field for the contest to determine the 45th Ward Republican Committeeman is up in the air, with objections pending against candidates Melanie Fialkowski and Roisin M. Dohl.

Fialkowski's challenged Dohl's petitions, alleging she did not submit 296 signatures from registered Republican voters in the 45th Ward.

The objections to both candidates are scheduled to be heard Thursday by election officials.

Steve Gustafson, the current 45th Ward Republican committeeman, is not running for re-election.

39th Ward

In the 39th Ward, Robert Murphy — a leader of the anti-O'Hare noise group the Fair Allocation in Runways Coalition — is running against Patrick Molloy for the Democratic committeeman post.

Murphy unsuccessfully challenged Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th) in this year's aldermanic election. The ward includes Sauganash as well as parts of Albany Park, North Park and Mayfair.

The current committeeman is Randy Barnette, Laurino's husband.

Molloy was once the chairman of Laurino's campaign committee, according to records on file with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

The field for the contest to determine the 39th Ward Republican committeeman has yet to be determined, with both candidates facing petition challenges.

Republican committeeman William C. "Bill" Miceli is running for re-election, but his petitions must survive an objection filed by prospective challenger Kevin Edward White.

White's petitions were also challenged, with allegations that he collected only 79 valid signatures — far less than the required 288 signatures.

41st Ward

In the 41st Ward, the race for Democratic committeeman will be a three-way race after former Ald. Mary O'Connor declined to run for re-election. The 41st Ward includes Edison Park, Norwood Park, O’Hare and parts of Edgebrook.

The 41st Ward Democratic Organization and O'Connor endorsed firefighter Tim Heneghan.

Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st), who defeated O'Connor earlier this year, endorsed Andrew "Andy" DeVito, a retired city employee and union official.

Goran Davidovac, a member of the Taft High School Local School Council, is also running.

State Rep. Michael McAuliffe, who represents the 20th District in the Illinois House and is the current Republican committeeman, is running unopposed for re-election.

36th Ward

In the 36th Ward, Sposato will be replaced by State Rep. Luis Arroyo, who represents the third district in the Illinois House, as the Democratic Committeeman. Arroyo is unopposed in the contest.

In the Republican committeeman contest, Sammy Tenuta is also unopposed.

The 36th Ward includes parts of Portage Park.

31st Ward

In the 31st Ward, Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios' bid for re-election as 31st Ward Democratic committeeman is unopposed.

But current 31st Ward Republican committeeman Edward Vazquez will be replaced by Bob Howington, who is also running unopposed.

The 31st Ward includes parts of Portage Park.

The election will take place March 15.

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