by BRIAN NADIG
State Representative Robert Martwick (D-19) was one of the big winners in the March 20 primary election, while incumbents state Senator Ira Silverstein (D-8) and Cook County Commissioner (D-12) John Fritchey were defeated.
“I’m pleased,” Martwick said of the election results on Tuesday night. “I put out a positive message to the voters about my vision going forward.” He said that he meets a lot of his constituents at block parties where he gives away snow cones and that those block parties provide him the opportunity to discuss issues with residents.
Martwick faced a challenge from Chicago police officer Jeff La Porte. Martwick received about 66 percent of the vote in the district’s 78 Chicago precincts and about 71 percent in the eight suburban precincts compared to 34 percent and 29 percent, respectively, for La Porte.
During the campaign La Porte criticized Martwick for his ties to Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios, whose office grants property assessment reductions, and said that Martwick, a tax attorney, benefits from his connections as a political insider. Berrios lost in his re-election bid on Tuesday.
A large portion of the 45th Ward is located in the 19th House District, and one of the subplots of the Martwick-La Porte race was an attempt by La Porte to gain the support of those voters who oppose Alderman John Arena (45th), who has strong support from unions and who also serves at the 45th Ward Democratic committeeman.
La Porte’s campaign charged that Martwick indirectly supported a controversial mixed-income housing proposal at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy. by refusing to take a stance on the project and through his close association with Arena, who supports the project.
Martwick has maintained that local zoning proposals are controlled by the alderman of that ward and that he does take public stances on those issues. He has said that he also stayed neutral on the request to the state for low-income housing tax credits for the housing proposal.
Martwick’s campaign, including mailers, focused on claims that La Porte was being backed by Republicans. Records show that La Porte received an $11,000 donation from the Illinois Opportunity Project, a conservative advocacy group that counts amongst its senior fellows Dan Proft, who chairs Liberty Principles PAC.
During the campaign Martwick said that Governor Bruce Rauner is “trying to buy” his House seat.
La Porte, a 39th Ward resident, said that he considers himself an independent but that in a two-party system he had to choose a party affiliation to have a realistic chance of winning and that he leaned more Democratic than Republican.
Martwick has called for a progressive graduated income tax and last year filed House Bill 3522, which proposes tax brackets ranging from 4 percent to 7.65 percent. “If we do progressive revenue and spend it wisely, we can really address a lot of problems. We can equitably improve education, pay our pensions, make the state more business friendly,” Martwick said. “And in time, once we pay off that (pension) debt, we can be a low tax state again.”
Martwick also has supported an elected school board in Chicago and has called for tougher restrictions on the owners of vacant properties who do little to sell or redevelop the property.
Martwick, who also is the 38th Ward Democratic committeeman, will face Republican challenger Ammie Kessem, a Chicago police officer, in the general election this fall. Martwick has served in the Illinois House since 2013.
In the 8th District Senate race, Ram Villivalam defeated longtime incumbent Silverstein Caroline McAteer-Fournier and David Zulkey. Villivalam is a legislative coordinator and lobbyist for the Service Employees International Union.
Silverstein was unable to overcome reports of a sexual harassment allegation. The Illinois Inspector General’s office later ruled that the senator “behaved in a manner unbecoming of a legislator” and violated the Illinois Ethics Act but that his communication with the woman was not deemed to be sexual harassment.
In the Cook County Commissioner 12th District race, Fritchey’s opposition to the unpopular “pop tax” when it was first enacted was not enough to overcome a challenge by Edgebrook resident and lawyer Bridget Degnen, whose campaign was supported by the SEIU Illinois State Council and the Chicago Teachers Union.