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‘S—‘ storm brewing in City Council over endorsements in mayoral race

Ald. Nicholas Sposato, left, (36th) at a City Council meeting in 2017. File Photo. Brian Jackson/ For the Sun-Times; Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), right, in January. File Photo. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

The ‘s—‘ hit the fan in the City Council chambers Tuesday between two aldermen on opposite sides of the mayoral race.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) and Ald. Nick Sposato (38th) exchanged words — and tweets— after mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot accepted the endorsement of a union Sposato is a member of last week.

In a thread on Twitter, Ramirez-Rosa said as he entered Council chambers for a committee meeting Tuesday, Sposato said “Hey Carlos, I got something for you to tweet out. Tweet out that Ald. Sposato said you’re a pile of s—!” The tweet also includes a video of Sposato repeating the remark.

The incident — and tweets — come a week after Lightfoot accepted the support of Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2, standing with Sposato and 41st Ward Ald. Anthony Napolitano.

Ramirez-Rosa tweeted that they are the “Council’s two most conservative and anti-immigrant members.”

Ramirez-Rosa shared a petition created by members of Chicago’s immigrant community calling for Lightfoot to reject the aldermanic endorsements and saying Lightfoot “has been silent about the support she received from Ald. Sposato. When confronted about his support at a recent debate, Lightfoot claimed he didn’t endorse her — despite clear statements to the contrary in the press.”

Ramirez-Rosa said Lightfoot’s comment was “disingenuous” and despite being silent about workplace abuse in the past, he wanted to talk about Tuesday’s incident.

Sposato offered no apologies for the insult — although he did seek to clarify his remarks.

Sposato told the Sun-Times that his “pile of s—” comment was in response to Ramirez-Rosa’s tweets from a few days ago about the Lightfoot endorsement, which Sposato says “mischaracterized” him.

Sposato said he showed up after the union called to ask him to stand with them in support of Lightfoot.

As for his comments Tuesday, they started small, Sposato said.

“I told him ‘you’re nothing but a big liar, phony, anti-semitic piece of s—-,” Sposato said. “Then I said ‘no, you’re not a piece of s—, you’re a pile of s—.”

Sposato is a former firefighter whose Northwest Side Ward is home to many police officers, firefighters and other city workers. He quit the Council’s Progressive Caucus more than two years ago for health and philosophical reasons. Sposato suffers from multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair. But he also acknowledged that he is a social conservative and has clashed with members of the Progressive Caucus on a host of social issues ranging from immigration to police reform.

In particular, Sposato drew the ire of some fellow aldermen when he opposed a $1.3 million legal defense fund to assist immigrants threatened with deportation after the election of President Donald Trump.

Napolitano stood against the CityKey, a municipal ID card, saying that by allowing the card to be used to register to vote would mean the city is “documenting undocumented people.”

Ramirez-Rosa has ruffled the feathers of his colleagues as well. He supported a challenger to Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) in the February election and was briefly removed from the Latino Caucus after other members said he wasn’t engaged enough in issues they supported. He was later reinstated.

And Democratic gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss dropped Ramirez-Rosa as his running mate last year after comments surfaced that Ramirez-Rosa had made about U.S. divestment from Israel.

Speaking to the Real News Network in 2017, Ramirez-Rosa said the U.S. government “has subsidized the oppression of the Palestinian people, and it’s time that stopped.”

On Tuesday, Ramirez-Rosa said Lightfoot must now explain herself.

“In a few months we’re going to have a new mayor and Ald. Sposato has said clearly that he supports candidate Lightfoot,” Ramirez-Rosa said. “It’s important that we hold him accountable and clarify any role he may play in a Lightfoot administration.”

Mayoral candidates Lori Lightfoot, left, and Toni Preckwinkle, right, square off in the first TV debate of the runoff campaign. The NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago debate was held in partnership with the Union League Club of Chicago and the Chicago Urban Leag
Mayoral candidates Lori Lightfoot, left, and Toni Preckwinkle, right, square off in the first TV debate of the runoff campaign. The NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago debate was held in partnership with the Union League Club of Chicago and the Chicago Urban League. From Twitter.

Ramirez-Rosa is supporting Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle for mayor, but he tweeted that if Sposato endorsed Preckwinkle, he would’ve “shared the same criticism” and “what I & the immigrant community want are assurances from the possible next mayor that bigoted harassment & policies will have no place in her admin, & Sposato will play no leadership role.”

Napolitano did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but Preckwinkle’s campaign wasted no time demanding Lightfoot respond to Sposato’s comment.

“How can Lightfoot accept support from someone capable of such discrimination and bullying? If this is the type of company Lightfoot keeps, how can she be trusted as Mayor?” part of a statement from Preckwinkle’s campaign asked.

A statement from Lightfoot’s campaign said Napolitano and Sposato “attended the press conference as members of the Firefighters Union Local 2, which endorsed our campaign.”

“Lori has been a relentless fighter for progressive causes her whole life, and that won’t change as mayor,” the statement read in part, also listing the support of “progressive champions” such as U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, former County Clerk David Orr, and Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd).

“As mayor, Lori will fight tirelessly to move Chicago forward from the old-school machine politics Toni Preckwinkle represents,” the statement read.

Sposato said if Ramirez-Rosa apologizes to him, Sposato will do the same.

“All he’s worried about is stirring the pot,” Sposato said. “He only shows up to disrupt. He rarely shows up for committee meetings.”