Mihalopoulos: Don’t underestimate instincts of Chicago’s political clans

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No less a beneficiary of political nepotism than John Daley recently made what sounded like a call for reform, saying he was refusing to instantly anoint a retiring ally’s son who wants to replace his dad in the Illinois House.

How nice of our local political elite to end the venerable practice of elected officials stepping aside in the middle of a term of office and having their offspring appointed to succeed them. For many years, this machine tradition has given the manor-born a running start toward winning a full term from voters.

But don’t assume there’s been a sincere change of heart among the Daleys or other politicians.

With the finances of virtually every level of government in this state in shambles, maybe the local gentry finally see how being too closely associated with the politics of the past might prove to be more liability than benefit for their kids’ hopes of staying in the family business.

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The mid-term, hereditary handover of power nearly backfired on the 33rd Ward’s Mell dynasty earlier this year. A labor-funded challenger nearly forced a runoff with Ald. Deb Mell, whom the mayor had appointed to replace dad Dick Mell.

And so what if Democratic Party officials don’t formally slate would-be inheritors for government posts and make them wait until winning an actual election before getting the title? It doesn’t mean they don’t continue enjoying considerable advantages.

Just look at the fundraiser held last week for Alex Acevedo, who’s running to replace his dad, longtime state Rep. Edward Acevedo, D-Chicago.

In his capacity as 11th Ward Democratic committeeman, Daley said he blocked attempts to hand the seat to the younger Acevedo ahead of next year’s election.

That doesn’t mean Alex Acevedo can’t still count on the support of the powers that be. He worked to rally Latino voters for Emanuel in the last city election, helping the mayor win a runoff with Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, and also worked for former Gov. Pat Quinn’s losing campaign last year.

Now, friends from those races are repaying the favors. Co-chairmen of the fundraiser for Alex Acevedo held last Wednesday at Moe’s Cantina included:

  • Michael Ruemmler, who was campaign manager for Emanuel’s re-election bid
  • John D’Alessandro, who worked for Quinn as deputy chief of staff and chief operating officer
  • Maya Solis, a daughter of Emanuel’s loyal Council ally Ald. Danny Solis (25th)

Alex Acevedo didn’t return calls seeking comment Tuesday.

The signs are clear to Theresa Mah, a rival for his dad’s job.

“Alex is an insider,” Mah says. “He’s tied to the old, ineffective politics of the past.”

As she campaigns in the Southwest Side district, Mah says voters tell her “they don’t want the same, old establishment folks who are there for their own selves rather than listening to people and working for them.”

Mah says she, too, held a fundraiser last week that was attended by elected officials, including Ald. John Arena (45th). His ward is nowhere near the district but Arena has been among the most vocal members of the Council’s Progressive Caucus, which frequently criticizes the mayor.

Mah says she was encouraged by party leaders’ refusal to immediately install Alex Acevedo to replace Edward Acevedo in Springfield.

But she shouldn’t underestimate the self-preservation instincts of Chicago’s political clans.

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