Look up “upset” in the dictionary, and you will see a smiling photo of Will Guzzardi, the 26-year-old upstart in the 39th legislative district on the city’s Northwest Side who pulled off an upset victory Tuesday night.
He defeated incumbent state Rep.Toni Berrios.
Then look up the other meanings for “upset” and you’ll find side-by-side unsmiling photos of Toni’s dad, Joe Berrios, head of the Cook County Democratic Party, and Michael Madigan, boss of the state Democratic Party.
What good is the all-powerful Democratic Party if its bosses — with their clout and their cash— can’t deliver?
It’s — well — upsetting.
Guzzardi had already embarrassed them in the 2012 election by coming within just 125 votes of defeating Ms. Berrios while big dog Dems were asleep at the switch.
When Guzzardi returned for a re-match this year, did they still not take him seriously enough?
But there is a larger meaning to Guzzardi’s victory than just one legislative seat moving from the “regular” to “progressive” column.
His supporters included three aldermen/committeemen whose wards are part of his district. They are three of only a handful of politicians who’ve been willing to buck the system. Scott Waguespak (32nd), John Arena (45th) and Proco Joe Moreno (1st) are part of a progressive minority in Chicago’s City Council who have not walked in lockstep with either Mayor Rahm Emanuel or their rubberstamp colleagues in the majority.
“We are looking at a Milwaukee [Avenue] corridor of progressives, helping us on city level and state level,” said Waguespak. “It really upsets the system, striking at the heart of the Democratic Party.”
Think that’s an overstatement?
You wouldn’t if you’d read Joe Berrios’ letter to committeeman last week which stated, “No committeeman should promote or assist in any way a candidate who was not endorsed in due form at our slating session last August.”
Then came the hammer:
“The party will … legally sanction any ward or township that works against a slated candidate.”
Then came the plea:
“We are imploring all 80 of our committeemen to stand united with our endorsed candidates. If we do not, the party endorsement will be meaningless and our future candidates will suffer.”
The Democratic Party sure did its level best to making Guzzardi suffer, wallpapering his district with slimy mailers claiming he would protect child molesters. The claim was based on a college paper Guzzardi wrote about the criminal justice system when he was 19 years old. Guzzardi is not nor has he ever been a predator protector.
But never mind the truth. And never mind a fair fight. That’s not how the Madigan/Berrios team operates.
Seventy-five minutes before the polls closed, Will Guzzardi was still campaigning, greeting commuters on the Blue Line at California and Milwaukee. He was trying hard not to sound like victory was near.
What did he think about Joe Berrios’ letter suggesting there would be hell to pay for anyone going against the party?
Guzzardi just laughed.
“There will be hell to pay,” he said, “one way or another.”