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Saturday, July 20

Gapers Block

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The battle for the aldermanship of the 32nd Ward has turned into an insane alliance of established power versus upstart power, a need by the dominant political force in Chicago to stop the effect of yuppification on their power base. One of the unintended side effects of Mayor Daley's passion for development and luring "professionals" to Chicago is that his old base of politically involved (or at least aware) blue collar or working class families has dwindled and dwindled to the point where control of those wards is nearly impossible.

So what happens? Well, Scott Waguespack happens.

Scott Waguespack is a Democratic Party activist who helped orchestrate the recapture of Berwyn by progressive — or at least self-proclaimed "progressive" — forces. Waguespack launched a shoe-leather campaign last year, tirelessly knocking on doors in an effort to unseat incumbent alderman Ted Matlak.

What has ensued has been a bizarre, rough and expensive campaign that has come to include individuals and organizations from all over Chicagoland.

According to the Waguespack campaign, Matlak has been receiving help from Chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party and House Speaker Michael Madigan's vaunted political organization. Mayor Daley has sent considerable help as well. According to Dan Mihalapolous of the Chicago Tribune, a PAC supposedly set up to raise money for candidates for the 1st Congressional District has funneled money to Matlak. One of the largest contributors to that PAC, according to Mihalapolous, was Wal-Mart, who kicked in $100,000.

The campaign between Waguespack and Matlak has become a symbol of the irony of Mayor Daley's "development" policies, which have favored new over old, "professional" over working class and business over homeowners. That ethic has made it difficult for communities to retain their character, but a side effect has been that it has disconnected residents from the political process. That has made them either apathetic or more open to change.

Matlak says that Waguespack has misrepresented himself as a lawyer, and that he has been a disaster as a Village Administrator in Berwyn. Waguespack has countered that Matlak is basically a wholly owned subsidiary of development interests, having accepted $300,000 from developers over the years.

The reality is that Matlak is partially a victim of a political climate in Chicago that has encouraged development over everything else. Partially. But he may have been a pretty willing participant in the process that has so changed the 32nd Ward in just the last four years, not to say the last decade. His constituent services stand in stark contrast to neighboring Alderman Walter Burnett, who has also seen massive changes to his ward over the last few years, but has maintained a sophisticated and dedicated constituent services program.

Matlak has not made those efforts, and the result is that any natural political base has fallen away.

But travel through the 32nd, and it's heavy with Matlak signs. In homes and in business. Most people shrugged off my questions as to why they had it up, so lacking any other evidence, it's fair to say that Matlak's campaign, aided as it is by the Mayor and several neighboring aldermen, is using every advantage incumbency can give a candidate to bulk up their voter universe come next Tuesday.

Polling is too close to call. Waguespack has a serious money disadvantage, and the political machinations behind the scenes are stacking up against him with each passing day.

But aldermanic run-off elections are pretty low turnout. It's one thing to tell a paid canvasser you'll vote for their guy; it's something else to care enough to turnout to cast one vote.

Matlak has to be the prohibitive favorite. But Waguespack is going to win.

2nd Ward
A similar problem faces Madeline Haithcock: the difference is she's not getting the support Matlak is. Challenger Bob Fioretti will win.

24th Ward
Michael Chandler should win easily.

15th Ward
In this open seat, it has come down to community organizer Toni Foulkes and a state employee, Felicia Simmons-Stovall. Simmons-Stovall has been called a tool of the West Side political organizations, who have real tensions with South Siders. She is being funded in some part by Jesse White's 27th Ward Democrats. Foulkes has the more local and sophisticated operation and will be a gem on the Council come April 18th.

21st Ward
Howard Brookins, Jr. has turned the campaign into an "Us versus the Union Bosses" battle which, in the long run, will be bad for the residents of the 21st Ward. The fact of the matter is that no matter how much Brookins tries to lump "the Unions" together, the service unions that are supporting his opponent, Leroy Jones, Jr., have heavy African-American membership and have raised wages and guaranteed benefits for thousands of his constituents. Brookins does get an award for best mailer I've seen so far, with images of the union bosses' homes, and Leroy Jones laid out like a puppet on strings. That won't be enough to beat Jones, though. The momentum is against the incumbent.

49th Ward
Joe Moore was forced into a run-off by a combination of attacks from the left and right. The survivor is to the right of Moore, which won't fly in East Rogers.

50th Ward
Although Bernie Stone's signs are popping up all over the place — including phantom bus benches — talk to some people in the neighborhood and you don't hear much support for him. Still, Stone has every advantage over Dolar except freshness, and that will likely translate to a narrow victory for him. But don't expect his daughter, who may take over for him in the next few years, to survive a Dolar challenge in 2011.

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Craig Gernhardt / April 11, 2007 1:50 PM

I wonder why all those homes in east Rogers are sporting Gordon signs.

Don't believe me, take a walk around the ward.

Moore is getting killed on the ground game.

If it weren't for his 'pay to play' money from slumlords like Jay Johnson, Moore would've been toast on Feb 27th.

I love watching Alderman Moore struggle to hold on to his seat he sleeps in.

E.R.P. Resident / April 11, 2007 5:15 PM

I'm an East Rogers Park resident and I am a liberal and I do not plan on voting for Joe Moore next week. For years I watched drug dealers work the corner of Jarvis & Greenview. They are gone from the corner and have been for a couple of years but that has nothing to do with our current alderman. It has to do with new businesses moving onto the block, attracting a different clientle which chased away the dealers.

You'd think Joe Moore would have taken an interest in ridding the aforementioned corner of drug dealers. Not only were they directly in front of his ward service office but his home is a block away. Joe Moore is a father and, while divorced, I assume his children are at his home from time to time. You would think a father would want to do something about criminal activity in the neighborhood where his children live, especially when that father is an alderman with access to considerable resources.

For me the election is not about where the candidates stand on issues like wages at big box stores, the war in Iraq or the livers of French geese. It's about who will be the best administrator of the ward's business. Joe Moore has done a pretty poor job and so I am willing to give Don Gordon a try.

Jocelyn / April 11, 2007 10:30 PM

I also disagree wth your take on the 49th Ward. Don has a different approach than Joe- it's called doing the job he was hired to do- fix our Ward. Oh, and he's a Democrat.

the pet / April 11, 2007 11:30 PM

I caught the debate on Chicago Tonight - was anyone else bothered by Moore's incredibly shifty eyes? It drove me NUTS.

I would love to know who "The Concerned Citizens of the 15th Ward" are - the ones that sent out the mailing on Toni Foulkes.

dm / April 12, 2007 6:23 AM

what about 16 and 3 wards ?

those are some real dirty ones.

look for Tillman to lose and for Coleman to lose.

So Sandi Jackson will have allies from Ward 2, 3, 20, 9, 16, 15, 21.

A nice little block of 8 votes to give a foundation for a run in 2011.

amyc / April 12, 2007 6:30 AM

Matlak's signs in the 32nd are so often on construction sites and empty storefronts, you'd think the Waguespack people were doing it to make a point about development in the ward.

Richard, have you heard anything about Waguespack's $5 mil defamation suit against Matlak? I saw it reported on CLTV the other night, but haven't found any articles in the papers about it.

Richard F Carnahan / April 12, 2007 10:19 AM


My understanding is that that defamation suit against Matlak and a Berwyn alderman is going to go forward no matter what the result of the election. The basis I believe are allegation made about Waguespacks supposedly disastrous run as Village Administrator.

Big up to Amy C for watching CLTV.

jerry 101 / April 12, 2007 12:51 PM

I'm not sure where the Matlak signs are coming from, but I get the feeling they are going up on apathetic people's homes. My upstairs neighbors aren't registered to vote, yet they had a Matlak sign in their window Friday. By the time I got back from the Easter weekend they had disposed of it.

Matlak might win, but I think there are enough of us who are sick of him and the giant condo buildings going up and the terrible ward service to oust him.

Great post as always.

35th Neighbor / April 12, 2007 1:23 PM

Kick out all those old crusties from the Matlak school. We need new blood, new ideas, new energy. Look at the disaster that is Vilma Colom in the 35th. She was voted out for much of the same that is sticking to Matlak: old machine hack that is unresponsive to her constituents. She is running again, and getting even less support. It took Rey Colon an election or two to unseat her but she is history. Wags should win handily, but if he does not, I certainly hope he continues working to establish a base for 2011. Matlak's days are clearly numbered.

anthony / April 12, 2007 9:21 PM

I don't see Fioretti joining a Sandi Jackson coalition, d.m.

anthony / April 12, 2007 9:23 PM

Thinking more about it.....I don't see any Sandi Jackson coalition forming.

Carter / April 13, 2007 1:47 PM

my thoughts on the 32nd:

bigdummy / April 13, 2007 5:21 PM

toni foulkes "a gem in city council" u are either misinformed or a shrew for the unions. go to and read about her bankruptcy and how she defaulted on her student loans. even the 15th ward has standards. we may be poor but we still deserve an alderman who will represent our interests and not the unions who have given foulkes over $300000 to run for alderman . sounds like the unions are buying the ward for real cheap.

a / April 13, 2007 9:33 PM

Hey, if you can't attack someone on the issues, student loan default is always a good way to go. What with the national default rate as high as 22% in the early 90s, a little digging, and you've got a headline! Add to that the suggestion that the unions purchased a "slave," and well, I don't know what that adds up to. . . but it is f*cked up. Thanks!

Bucktown Res / April 15, 2007 5:19 PM

Only 2 more days of Matlak in office. Haven't had much time to learn about this Scott guy but he has a strong liklihood of winning and has got to be better than Matlak!

snuh / April 17, 2007 7:44 PM

hey! raise your hand in the air if you were harassed by a matlak-thug outside da polling place! woot-woot!


About the Author(s)

Richard F. Carnahan is a true South Side Sox fan who's played a bit part in Chicago politics more than once over the years. Contact him at

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