For the first time in 48 years, the name "Mel" will not be on the ballot for aldermen in Chicago's 33rd District on the Northwest Side.
And while the Socialist-Democratic aldermen who toppled the Melly family government four years ago are facing challenges from new adversaries, the same tactics that cemented the county's reputation in the Chicago Democratic political machine have found their way into this year's alderman race.
After defeating Mel's descendant Deb Mel in the lopsided 2019 Election Old. Rosana Rodriguez-Sanchez said Mel's father's ally, family patriarch Richard Mel, worked hard behind the scenes to get him on the vacant city council.
Opponents of Rodriguez-Sanchez deny using old-school political tactics in the campaign and say they want Rodriguez-Sanchez to be removed from office not because of power play in the area, but because he does a poor job of providing public services to residents and does not help. . them. Sal. use. for environmental crimes.
As this debate continues, the 33rd District race highlights some of the dynamic changes taking place in Chicago's political arena. The neighborhood organizations created by Mell are slowly being squeezed out and replaced, at least in some parts of the city, by well-organized labor unions and progressive groups with money to spend and candidates to spread new ideas.
In fact, Rodriguez-Sanchez was one of several candidates assisted in 2019 by various people, including Dick Mell himself, in the so-called new political machine: progressive groups like the United Workers Families and allied labor organizations like the Chicago union of teachers.
As federal investigations target longtime Chicago politicians, Deb Mell becomes vulnerable by association; his father, his "man of the block", served on the city council for almost 40 years and commanded an army of hundreds of police officers who helped him get re-elected. he and others often got jobs in the city.
Although the organization has since disappeared, members of the 33rd District Democratic Committee use the same tactics, Rodriguez-Sanchez said.
Cook County District Court clerk Iris Martinez was a member of the committee. Martinez supported Sami Martinez in the race for aldermen, and records show that several members of the clerk's office supported Sami Martinez's campaign.
Of the 50 prints listed in Samy Martinez's board member petition, 23 names are current employees of the county clerk's office.
Rodriguez Sanchez and another running candidate, Leith Shaaban, have said they believe the old Mel is still involved in environmental politics and back Sami Martinez's candidacy. Mel did not respond to a Tribune request for comment, but other people familiar with Mel's relationship see him and Iris Martinez as allies in this race.
“This issue of an ethical nature worries me,” Rodriguez-Sanchez told the Tribune. “The government of Chicago and the government of Cook County do not speak well of the guarded office, which is closely monitored to see how many employees leave, campaigning for political allies (judicial officials).
Personality also comes into play.
Iris Martinez and current board members "do not agree with this policy," Rodriguez-Sanchez said. This year, Rodriguez-Sanchez supported Martinez's opponent in the race for a state Central Committee seat, elected the winning U.S. Representative, Delia Ramirez, and criticized Martinez's relationship with the head of the Fraternal Police Order.
Sami Martinez is also Old's former chief of staff. George Cardenas, 12, who previously had a confrontation with Rodriguez Sanchez over a parking deal with Cardenas' brother.
But Patrick Hanlon, a spokesman for Iris Martinez, said in an emailed statement that Martinez "has spent decades in public service fighting the politics of the Democratic machine and championing independence by doing the right thing for her constituents." The conclusion that it exists and operates as a democratic machine is far from reality.
Sami Martinez, who is not related to the officers, told the Tribune via email that he was not selected to face Rodriguez-Sanchez. He was the first person to contact Iris Martinez and others in the department "for their thoughts on running for captain and for their help in getting my petition around."
He said he focused much of his campaign on public safety and improving city services.
He said he was inspired by the race after the fatal shooting of Ernie Perez in Albany Park in the fall of 2020, adding that "there have been" at least 5 shootings in the 33rd Precinct area since my wife and I bought the car. our house in 2016
Asked if she knew so many employees helped spread the word about her petition to be on the ballot for the February 28 election, Sami Martinez didn't answer directly, but said, "Everyone has a First Amendment right to participate." . electoral process.
A major issue in the debate is the fact that the secretary's office has recently been removed from federal oversight of hiring and promotion practices that began under Iris Martinez's predecessor, Dorothy Brown.
Monitoring to enforce Shakman's decision, named after a lawyer who led legal efforts to reform public offices, began after a string of indictments and a lengthy federal investigation into the clerk's office. The lawsuit focused on allegations of bribery for his work with the county. office . Brown was not prosecuted, pleaded not guilty, and announced in 2019 that he would not seek re-election.
Martinez made the custody of Shakman, which he inherited from the Brown administration, a priority for his first term and celebrated its completion last month. Iris Martinez's spokeswoman, Hanlon, said she was not a tool in the old Cook County Democratic Party machine, noting that she won the clerks' race despite the party's lack of support.
For the lawyers most involved in overseeing recruiting and promotions at the Martinez County office, the help of Martinez's staff goes largely unnoticed.
Brian Hayes, a lawyer on Shakman's team at Locke Lord LLP, notes that most of the signatories to his titles appear to be employees whom Shakman "liberates" from a political role. According to him, until Iris Martinez speaks about government politics, she will not rape Shackman.
“If I called or talked to them after hours and said, ‘Hey, we need to support this guy,’ no one would rape Shakman,” Hayes said. He declined to comment on the ethics of supporting employee Martinez, but said that overall his loyalty to Shakman was excellent.
A spokesman for Hanlon said that Martinez "asked the people of the 33rd District Democratic if they would like to help him circulate the petition for Sami Martinez, and they are in no way obligated to circulate the petition for anyone."
“Petitions are circulated in the evenings and weekends” or during the private hours of government employees, Hanlon said in a statement.
One of Sami Martinez's applicants, who worked in the clerk's office, was Carmen Navarro Gercone, who was the executive clerk for litigation. With the political backing of Iris Martinez Navarro, Guercone campaigned for Cook County Sheriff but was removed from the ballot following legal action by incumbent Sheriff Tom Dart.
Navarro Guercone told the Tribune in a written statement that he previously knew Sami Martinez "through his involvement with the Northwest Side, the 33rd District, and the Hispanic community, and with many of my colleagues." Everyone who volunteered did it on their own initiative, because he is an extraordinary young man who will make an excellent adviser.” She said she volunteered for him while on vacation in the county.
Adding to the racial mix is the fact that, like all areas of the city, the boundaries of District 33 are new. Following a once-a-decade redistribution, the new District 33 boundary is expected to bolster Rodriguez-Sanchez's political position as he displaces the more affluent area of the Ravenswood estate and retains Albany Park, his base of operations.
In 2019, Rodriguez-Sanchez defeated Deb Melly with just 13 votes in a predominantly moderate district after campaigning for police reform, rent controls and "progressive" tax increases.
Shaaban, who previously worked in finance, campaigns as an independent. He said he did not support old-school machines or Rodriguez Sanchez's "purity policy", which he said prevented him from building a governing coalition. He also said that public safety is his main concern.
"Look, the electorate in the 33rd district is tired of machine politics, leftist politics and far-left politics," said Shaaban, who hopes to become the first Arab-American to serve on the city council. “They need people who put safety first, who put accessibility first and make sure their voice is heard at City Hall.”
© 2022 Chicago Tribune. Visit chicagotribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.