House Speaker Michael Madigan has never hesitated to use the hook whenever one of his handpicked aldermen got in trouble or strayed too far from the approved political script.
But, Marty Quinn is no John Madrzyk or Frank Olivo. Quinn is a top-notch political operative known to colleagues as the “The General,” who masterminds pivotal legislative races in a way that has helped Madigan hang onto his Democratic majority in Springfield.
That’s why the consensus among Democrats in the know is that Marty Quinn will be allowed to continue as 13th Ward alderman — and seek re-election a year from now — in spite of the go-between role he played in the latest sex scandal to rock state politics, this one involving Quinn’s own brother.
“Absolutely, he survives. He’s one of the best aldermen I’ve ever seen. I’m sure the speaker knows what he’s got,” said a Democratic operative, who asked to remain anonymous.
Yet another veteran Democrat said Madigan would be loath to yank Quinn out of the City Council because he is that rare combination of a nuts-and-bolts, “workaholic” alderman and a “tough as nails” political strategist.
“He’s the brains behind the outfit — a campaign genius. Just like Madigan. Very disciplined, very organized with a ton of experience working campaigns from the ground up,” the Democratic operative said.
“Some people get it. Some don’t. Marty sees the landscape and knows what has to be done in campaigns and the tactics that need to be implemented. He can sift through what’s important and not important in these legislative races. He knows what voters care about.”
Madrzyk resigned in 1994 under pressure from Madigan, who had become disenchanted with the alderman’s performance and drinking problem.
Four years later, Madrzyk was sentenced to 41 months in prison for putting five “ghosts” on the City Hall payroll, including his daughter-in-law.
The #Me, too controversy swirling around Marty Quinn’s brother is an entirely different type of scandal. But, it has provided a seldom-seen peak into — and revealed a chink in — the Madigan political fortress.
Political consultant Alaina Hampton claims she told Ald. Marty Quinn, her political mentor, a year ago that the alderman’s brother, political aide Kevin Quinn, had stalked her with a series of harassing text messages. She called it the “hardest thing I have ever done in my life.”
But, Hampton accused Ald. Quinn of choosing to “protect Kevin instead of me,” giving her no choice but to leave Madigan’s vaunted political organization.
“You allowed people in the organization to believe that I betrayed you by quitting even though I told you I was scared to be at the office,” Hampton said Tuesday.
“When I told you about your brother, I needed you to protect me. I didn’t feel safe. I knew telling you would risk everything I had worked for in my entire career, and I was right.”
In a statement released Tuesday, Ald. Quinn maintained that, as soon as Hampton told him about the text messages, he immediately directed his brother to “stop all communication” with her and warned Kevin Quinn that, if he didn’t, he would be fired immediately.
Ald. Quinn said he took no further action—nor did he tell Madigan—because, “I was attempting to protect Ms. Hampton’s privacy and honor her wishes” that the allegations be kept quiet and that Kevin Quinn “not be further reprimanded.”
For Marty Quinn’s colleagues and political associates, there was only sympathy for an alderman forced to choose between a brother behaving badly while going through a marital break-up and a woman who turned to the alderman for help.
“I don’t know that there’s a playbook on how to deal with these situations and, if there is one, I don’t think anybody knows what it is” in a political landscape changed forever by sexual harassment allegations against Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, said a longtime admirer of Ald. Quinn, who asked to remain anonymous.
The son of a Southwest Side ward sanitation superintendent, Quinn is a graduate of St. Rita High School and St. Xavier University whose feel for old-fashioned, shoe-leather politics runs in the family.
“My father was a very talented precinct worker, and he taught me you have to put in the time going door to door,” Quinn told Chicago Reader columnist Ben Joravsky in 2016 after masterminding Juliana Stratton’s resounding victory over incumbent state Rep. Ken Dunkin.
“I still spend a lot of time going door to door. Last year, I met 1,611 people.”
Around City Hall, Marty Quinn is a mild-mannered Clark Kent of an alderman who seldom speaks unless he’s railing about stinky sound-reducing windows in his ward near Midway Airport, Airbnb or the dangers of registered sex offenders in public libraries.
In the Southwest Ward office he shares with Madigan, Quinn is better known as a workaholic political superman.
That’s why superman will likely be allowed to keep his cape—as well as his day job.