clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Some worry process to pick senator replacement on North Side ‘leaves behind the voters’

Indivisble IL-9, a North Side group, said the process of picking who will serve out the remaining two years in Sen. Heather Steans’ term “leaves behind the voters.”

(L-R) Rev. Al Sharp of Clergy for a New Drug Policy, state Sen. Heather Steans and state Rep. Kelly Cassidy push for pot legalization last April. | Andrea Salcedo/For the Sun-Times
(L-R) Rev. Al Sharp of Clergy for a New Drug Policy, state Sen. Heather Steans and state Rep. Kelly Cassidy push for pot legalization last April. | Andrea Salcedo/For the Sun-Times

Committeepeople in a North Side state senator’s district say they’re committed to an open and “transparent process” for picking a replacement, but some in that district say the plan for picking a successor leaves out voters.

Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth, a co-coordinator of the Indivisible chapter, Indivisble IL-9, that encompasses Andersonville and Edgewater — part of Indivisible Illinois, which was founded in 2016 to push back on former President Donald Trump’s agenda — said the process of picking who will serve out the remaining two years in Sen. Heather Steans’ term shuts independent voices out.

“The process leaves behind the voters,” Manaa-Hoppenworth said. “It shuts out ... people and independent voices. And who, instead, has the power to give that elected office to a person is a very select few people; they’re political insiders.”

Manaa-Hoppenworth’s group has put out a petition regarding the appointment process and said the response to that petition has been, “It’s very naive to think you would have an idea to change the system.”

In their list of demands, the Andersonville and Edgewater group wants the committeepeople to “acknowledge the appointment process should be reserved for special and extenuating circumstances.”

Among other things, they also want the group of nine committeepeople to “recognize the remarkable history of appointments and midterm resignations in our neighborhoods in particular,” which they say dates back to the 1970s, and “commit to breaking the toxic cycle and appoint an interim placeholder State Senator who promises not to run for re-election in 2022” so there is a “level playing field,” Manaa-Hoppenworth said.

Steans announced her plans to resign after 12 years in the state Senate on Tuesday, and Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a Democrat whose district is part of Steans’, jumped into the race not long after, announcing her intention to seek the appointment to Steans’ seat.

The district includes Rogers Park, Edgewater and Andersonville.

Harry Osterman, who represents the 48th Ward as its alderman and committeeperson, said Sunday, while he respects the opinions of Indivisible 9, “The responsibility of the committee is to fill the Senate seat.”

“Given that the state has the challenges it does, I think it’s important that we find the right person who can take [Steans’] place,” Osterman said. “This is a year where redistricting is going to take place. I think having a strong voice representing our communities is going to be critical, and the reality also is that, in probably 10 months, there’ll be petitions on the street where candidates can run for the senate seat … I think residents who live in our communities are going to decide, now and in the future, that we get it right.”

Osterman, who has the largest share of the weighted vote, said he plans to convene the nine committeepeople for an open forum at 1 p.m. on Feb. 6 at the Swedish American Museum, though the meeting will be conducted via videoconference.

He and other committeepeople have been getting texts and phone calls about the Senate seat, he said. Until the meeting, they will get the word out on social media and meet with the candidates who want to be appointed to Steans’ seat.

“We’re trying to do this in an open, fair, transparent process,” Osterman said. “I think that’s really important for us, I think our constituents expect that, and that’s what we’re committed to.”

Others including 40th Ward Committeeperson Maggie O’Keefe and 47th Ward Committeeperson Paul Rosenfeld also say they’re committed to an open and transparent process.

Candidates announced their plans to seek the appointment to Cassidy’s seat, though it won’t be open unless — or until — Cassidy is appointed to the state’s upper legislative chamber.

That could be an easy feat.

As a Democratic committeeperson for the 49th Ward, Cassidy has the third largest share, or about 22%, of the weighted vote needed to pick Steans’ successor. She would only need to align herself with a few other committeepeople to ensure she’s moved up to the seat.

The chosen candidate must receive 50% plus one to secure the appointment.

In a statement, Cassidy said seeking the appointment would “ensure seamless representation of the residents of this Senate district in what I hope will be an open and transparent process.

“Should my current seat become open, I would expect that will be filled in an open and transparent process as well,” Cassidy’s statement reads in part.