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Mihalopoulos: Some surprised to find they are on Mendoza’s ‘growing list’ of endorsements

Susana Mendoza, Chicago’s ambitious young city clerk, has set her sights on statewide office, openly mulling a run for Illinois comptroller in next year’s election.

Already, many of the most powerful Democrats in Illinois appear on “the growing list of my endorsements” that Mendoza — recently elected to a second term as city clerk — has been circulating.

But some of the politicians and leaders of labor groups on the list say they haven’t endorsed Mendoza and can’t figure out why she’s claiming their support.

OPINION

One of them, Tim Bradford, repeatedly referred to her as “Susan” when asked about his purported endorsement.

“I never spoke with Susan,” said Bradford, who’s an elected commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and Rich Township’s Democratic committeeman. “Susan has never called me to ask me about an endorsement. I guess her campaign assumed I endorsed her since she’s endorsed by most of the party regulars, and they took it for granted.”

In fact, Bradford said he’s already “gladly” given his backing to Mendoza’s potential rival in the 2016 Democratic primary, state Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston.

Bradford, who’s also first vice chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, said he’s met Mendoza, but only in passing.

“I don’t know Susan,” he said. “I’ve been in her company. But we never had a conversation.”

Leaders of two politically powerful labor groups — the Chicago Teachers Union and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 — say their unions shouldn’t be on the list.

“We have not endorsed Mendoza,” said Ed Maher, Local 150’s spokesman. “This letter that was put out — we’re not sure how our name is on the letter. It was a surprise to us.”

“The letter is incorrect,” said the teachers’ union vice president, Jesse Sharkey. “The CTU is not endorsing Susana Mendoza. We have an elaborate [endorsement] process that involves our rank and file.”

That process customarily involves candidates answering a questionnaire from the union, followed by debate at the union’s endorsement committee and a final vote of the CTU’s House of Delegates.

“None of those things have happened,” Sharkey said.

A couple of other politicians on the list told me they also were surprised to be included after discussing the race with Mendoza but making no firm commitments to support her campaign. They didn’t want to be quoted because they said they might end up endorsing Mendoza after all.

In response to my questions, Mendoza sent a statement Tuesday. She did not explain how her endorsement list included people and organizations who aren’t supporting her.

“This isn’t the first or last time this has happened to a candidate on the campaign trail,” Mendoza said. “I am very proud and excited to have over 130 elected officials and labor organizations from every corner of the city and state ready to line up behind me should I run for state comptroller.”

Don’t cry for Susana. Even though Mendoza’s endorsement list is at least slightly exaggerated, she has the backing of the most influential Democrats in the state: Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, D-Chicago, and powerful Ald. Edward Burke (14th).

The 2016 special election for comptroller will take place because of the sudden death of incumbent Republican Judy Baar Topinka in December, soon after she was re-elected. GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner appointed Leslie Munger to serve until the election can be held.

Mendoza, 43, has been an elected official since 2001, when she won a seat in in the state House. In her letter, which solicited more endorsements for comptroller, she said she’s “excited to explore an opportunity to be of greater public service to the people of Illinois.”

The first service she might provide voters is an accurate list of who’s endorsing her.