clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The race to replace a Northwest Side dynasty

For the first time in more than half a century Far Northwest Side voters won’t see the name Laurino when they vote for their local alderman.

Ald. Marge Laurino’s pending retirement is ending her family’s 54-year hold on the City Council seat, and openng the door open to four candidates vying to represent the 39th ward.

They include an architect promising a clean break from the Laurino dynasty, a veteran public servant stressing that she is the only woman in the race, a Chicago police officer positioning himself as the law-and-order candidate and a local school council member whose self-deprecating pitch is that he’s “all ears.”

Laurino, 66, has held the City Council seat for 24 years after taking over from her father, Anthony Laurino. He died while awaiting trial on charges that he hired friends and relatives for no-show jobs. His wife, one of his daughters and his son-in-law and stepdaughter were all convicted of ghost payrolling in a scheme that cost taxpayers nearly $1.5 million in salaries and benefits.

When Marge Laurino announced last year that she would not run again, she expressed confidence that she could’ve won her seventh election. Her last one proved to be a tougher battle than usual when architect Robert Murphy nearly pushed the race into a runoff. She led by only 300 votes, but Murphy took over as the Democratic Committeeman for the ward.

Murphy is running again, and this time he’s positioned himself as the “independent, progressive” candidate with a ward plan that emphasizes cleaning City Hall corruption to “change the culture of our politics.” He’s got the support of the Chicago Teachers Union, U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi, Former Cook County Clerk David Orr and Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd).

39th Ward aldermanic candidate Robert Murphy met with the Sun-Times Editorial Board Wednesday, December 19, 2018. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times
39th Ward aldermanic candidate Robert Murphy met with the Sun-Times Editorial Board Wednesday, December 19, 2018. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Murphy wants to push for an elected school board and promises to engage the community in participatory budgeting and a zoning advisory board. He wants to give the inspector general full authority to investigate aldermen and Council committees, and eliminate conflicting outside employment for aldermen such as property tax or zoning legal work. He says he would no longer work as an architect if elected.

“We have a real opportunity to break the chain from the family politics that have gone into this ward,” Murphy said. He criticized his opponent Samantha Nugent for taking endorsements from “general democratic machine” politicians in the city, such as state Rep. John D’Amico, one of Marge Laurino’s nephews.

“When you have the same people taking the same money, you get the same results,” Murphy said.

Nugent rejects that categorization.

“I have some really good endorsements I’m incredibly proud of, ” she said. “I spent the better part of 22 years working in public service, I’m fair, pragmatic and bring stakeholders together. If my campaign is successful because of that, it’s an honor.”

Nugent worked as former Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s director of operations. One mailer features a perfectly polished hand gesturing the number one. “The only one for 39th Ward Alderman,” the mailer reads. She is the only woman running, though she’s still among a crowd of four white candidates seeking to represent what is one of the most ethnically diverse areas in Chicago.

Campaign literature from candidates for the 39th Ward mailed to a resident.Her campaign literature emphasizes that she’s a mother of three children in elementary school and is endorsed by Emily’s List and Chicago’s National Organization for Women PAC, U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, retiring U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, and state representatives Ann Williams and Sara Feigenholtz. She commends Laurino’s record on pushing for sexual harassment policies in City Council.

As alderman, Nugent hopes to prioritize bringing additional police officers and assisting with needs of local businesses. That includes fixing the streets’ infrastructure.

39th Ward aldermanic candidate Samantha “Sam” Nugent at the Sun-Times Dec. 19. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times
39th Ward aldermanic candidate Samantha “Sam” Nugent at the Sun-Times Dec. 19. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

“The status of the infrastructure in the 39th Ward is abysmal, potholes in the streets, the whole ward,” Nugent said. “Devon, the downtown Edgebrook area, it was shut down most of last year. All the businesses were dying, that’s when you really have to get in front of a crisis.”

Police officer Joe Duplechin, with support from the Fraternal Order of Police, SEIU Local 73, Chicago Federation of Labor and the carpenters and firefighters union, is targeting both Murphy and Nugent in his mailers.

39th Ward aldermanic candidate Joe Duplechin at the Sun-Times Dec. 19. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times
39th Ward aldermanic candidate Joe Duplechin at the Sun-Times Dec. 19. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

“Murphy & Nugent, What were they thinking?”

“Murphy & Nugent, Wrong for our neighborhood”

“Murphy & Nugent, Putting us at risk”

Duplechin positions himself as the law-and-order candidate, blasting Murphy for his 60 tickets, which include “running stop signs, driving with expired license plates and city permits” and accusing him of wanting to move police away from lower crime neighborhoods such as those of the 39th Ward.

“I work in Englewood, we probably have double the amount of police there,” Duplechin said. “There’s a lot of property crimes up here, that bothers people.”

Campaign fliers mailed to a 39th Ward resident from police officer and candidate for alderman Joe Duplechin.
Campaign fliers mailed to a 39th Ward resident from police officer and candidate for alderman Joe Duplechin.

Duplechin lets his mailers do the attacking, sounding a more neutral tone in interviews.

“I’m just a regular person trying to make the city a better place and will do the best I can. I’ll make some mistakes but make more right decisions,” Duplechin said. “I might not even do one term to be honest.”

Casey Smagala’s ears may seem comically disproportionate to his head, but the first-time candidate has no problem making a caricature of himself to let voters know “I’m all ears.”

“Not having the most money in this race means I need to be the best listener.”

39th Ward aldermanic candidate Casey Smagala at the Sun-Times Dec. 19. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times
39th Ward aldermanic candidate Casey Smagala at the Sun-Times Dec. 19. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Smagala touts a record that includes participating on the Local School Council for Roosevelt High School, organizing community festivals and likes to mention he was captain of his football team at North Park University.

But he earnestly advocates for greater school resources, having grown up in a household challenged by drugs and alcohol, “school was my sanctuary growing up.”

Smagala supports a fully elected school board and a moratorium on new charter schools.