The oddest political couple in the state's Democratic Party is teaming up again.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is backing yet another young protégé of progressive US Representative Chuy Garcia (D-Chicago) for the Illinois House at a time when other people appear to be distancing themselves from or even challenging the powerful House Speaker.

Madigan will help put State Representative Celina Villanueva (D-Chicago) into the Senate to replace soon-to-retire disgraced Senator Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago). Speaker Madigan shares Sandoval's Senate district with Representative Villanueva, who worked for Representative Garcia when he was a Cook County Commissioner and was appointed to the House at Garcia's request to replace Silvana Tabares, now an Alderman of the 23rd Ward.

Speaker Madigan and Representative Garcia's operations will gather petition signatures for Representative Villanueva's Senate bid during a "special" December 3-9 filing period created by Senator Sandoval's 1 January 2020 resignation.

In Representative Villanueva's place, Speaker Madigan will back Edgar Gonzales, a constituent-services liaison for Representative Garcia's district office. Gonzales is a Harvard graduate, but is otherwise a lifelong resident of the area. He filed petitions last week to run for the seat in the spring primary after the Madigan-and-Garcia operations spent the weekend going door to door with him. If all goes well, he'll also be appointed to the House seat after Sandoval officially retires and Villanueva moves to the Senate.

Both Speaker Madigan's 13th Ward and his 22nd House District are majority Latinx. He has the "regular" vote already sewn up, of course, so his big favors for the progressive Latino pol Garcia prevent any significant challenge to his local power and influence, and even to some extent his statewide influence, from his left flank.

This alliance also helps Speaker Madigan deal with the anger from some Northwest Side Latinos allied with former Representative Luis Arroyo (D-Chicago), who appointed Eva-Dina Delgado to Arroyo's seat after Arroyo was arrested by the feds and resigned, despite local support for another candidate from the party's left wing, Nidia Carranza. The appointment was against Madigan's wishes. The pols have threatened a federal civil-rights lawsuit if Madigan follows through on his threat to challenge Representative Delgado's qualifications and ejects her from his chamber.

One of those politicians, Senator Iris Martinez (D-Chicago), has called on Speaker Madigan to resign his state party leadership unless he explains his involvement with his former consigliere Mike McClain's secret bid to funnel money to Kevin Quinn after Quinn, the brother of Madigan's Alderman, was accused of sexual harassment.

Representative Garcia, in turn, expands his influence over city and state politics without having to expend much effort. That's a big plus for Garcia because he didn't do well at all in city-council races earlier this year. Garcia's candidates lost two races on the Southwest Side (Alderman Ed Burke's 14th and Alderman Ray Lopez's 15th Wards), the Pilsen-centered 25th Ward, and another on the Northwest Side against Alderman Ariel Reboyras, who took the lead in backing Eva-Dina Delgado's appointment to the House.

Alderman Reboyras was the first to threaten a lawsuit if Delgado is drummed out of the House by Madigan. Reboyras voted Representative Arroyo's 36th Ward proxy at the meeting to appoint Delgado.

Alderman Ed Burke's 14th Ward is majority Latinx, but he is going "old school" Chicago on his Latino challenger. Alderman Burke was indicted on a 14-count corruption charge last summer, but he's stubbornly refusing to go away.

Freshman State Representative Aaron Ortiz (D-Chicago) defeated Alderman Burke's brother Representative Dan Burke in the 2018 Democratic primary. Ortiz then decided to challenge Alderman Burke for 14th Ward Democratic Committeeperson. But, on the last day of the petition-filing period, Alicia Elena Martinez filed to run against Representative Ortiz in the House district and also filed to run for committeeperson against Burke and Ortiz. What's going on?

Martinez is an active member of Alderman Burke's ward organization. This is a classic put-up job.

Martinez's candidacy should help split the Latinx vote in the ward race between herself and Ortiz, which could help Burke get the most votes. She's also likely an insurance policy should something bad happen to the indicted pol before primary day.

The Martinez challenge of Representative Ortiz is also designed to force the incumbent House member to choose which race he wants to focus on, his reelection bid or the committeeman job.

Alderman Burke is playing hardball to the end and Ortiz has very little money to fight. He had just $5K in his campaign bank account at the end of the third quarter and, as I write this, has reported raising $16K since then. Alderman Burke has over $9 million in his two campaign funds.


Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and

Support the River Cities' Reader

Help Keep the Reader Alive and Free Since '93!


"We're the River Cities' Reader, and we've kept the Quad Cities' only independently owned newspaper alive and free since 1993. Now we find our ability to continue providing all the features you love in serious jeopardy without the financial support of our readers.

So please help the Reader keep going with your one-time, monthly, or annual support. With your financial support the Reader can continue providing uncensored, non-scripted, and independent journalism alongside the Quad Cities' area's most comprehensive cultural coverage." - Todd McGreevy, Publisher