CHICAGO (CBS) — There could be two new Republican aldermen in the City Council when the new term begins, and, GOP State Party Chair Pat Brady says he’ll help make that happen.
The runoff elections for City Council are technically non-partisan. But two Northwest Side Republicans are among the contenders aiming to bring a different perspective to the overwhelmingly Democratic panel.
In recent years Ald. Brian Doherty (41st) has been the only Republican on the City Council. This time around, his right-hand aide, Maurita Gavin, is running to replace him.
Like Doherty, she takes a Republican ballot. But like her fellow Republican contender in the 45th Ward, John Garrido, she does not wave the partisan flag or call attention to her party leaning in a city where Democratic voters outnumber Republicans.
“I think the reality of it is that City Council doesn’t lend itself to politics,” Gavin said. “It’s not like in the General Assembly. Being an alderman, your responsibility is to advocate on behalf of your ward.”
Garrido, a Chicago Police lieutenant, made an unsuccessful run as a Republican for Cook County Board president in the last election. But he said he is more an independent than a Republican.
“It’s a non-partisan race — I don’t want to make this into a partisan race,” Garrido said.
But Garrido’s opponent in the runoff election, printer John Arena, points out Garrido’s Republican leanings on his web page.
“I truly believe that my mainstream Democratic ideals are a better fit for our community than my opponent’s conservative Republican values,” Arena says.
And state chair Brady said he expects to offer support to Gavin and Garrido:
“That would be a great thing if we get two Republicans in there,” he said.
“We’re looking forward to supporting them and we’re going to do everything we can to help ’em win.”
Garrido agrees his budget-cutting posture is in line with the Republican Party platform.
“Where I relate to the Republican Party is smaller government and lower taxes,” Garrido said. “I want to do a line-by-line audit. I want to cut the wasteful spending.”
Garrido said the only help he had from the party in the initial election was some volunteers from the Young Republicans. But if the state, county or city party wants to help now, he’ll be happy to take it.
Gavin notes she has taken a Democratic ballot in some prior elections and has been endorsed by the plumbers’ and electricians’ unions.
But her opponent, Mary O’Connor, has the more solid Democratic credentials, having been elected the ward’s Democratic committeeman.
But this is the city’s most Republican ward and O’Connor notes she earned a pro-business reputation serving as head of the Edison Park Chamber of Commerce. Though she’s the Democrat in the race, she argues she has more business know-how, having built her O’Connor’s Market up from the ground.
“I started off doing green bean casseroles and chicken on the bone,” she said.
“Nobody wants green bean casseroles and chicken on the bone anymore. You have to change. Every five years, I bring a consultant through here to tell me what I’m doing wrong. I get too comfortable so I bring people in here to shake us up. I’m competitive. When I’m sitting in City Hall, I’ll be fighting for 41.”
While Doherty is the lone Republican in the outgoing City Council, another sitting alderman also switched to the Republican Party for a while.
Longtime Democratic Ald. Bernard Stone (50th) became a Republican in 1987, and the encouragement of former alderman and power broker Ed Vrdolyak. He ran unsuccessfully as the Republican candidate for the county Recorder of Deeds in 1987.
Stone also sought the Republican slating for mayor in a 1989 special election, when Mayor Richard M. Daley first ran for the office successfully. But Vrdolyak ended up being the nominee. In 1990, Stone went back to being a Democrat.
Stone now faces a runoff election with challenger Debra Silverstein on April 5.
As for Republican mayors, the last one was William Hale “Big Bill” Thompson, who served from 1915 to 1923 and again from 1927 to 1931, and is best known for corruption and links to Al Capone. Since then, the closest a Republican candidate has come to the mayor’s office was in 1983, when Bernard Epton narrowly lost the general election to Harold Washington, the city’s first African-American mayor – 48 percent to 51 percent.
The Chicago Sun-Times contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire