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Guzzardi handily defeats Berrios in 39th House race

State Rep. Maria Antonia “Toni” Berrios (D-Chicago) — the daughter of Cook County Democratic Party Chairman and Assessor Joe Berrios — was handily defeated Tuesday by young challenger Will Guzzardi in a bitterly fought primary on the Northwest Side.

Guzzardi, 26, had nearly 60 percent of the vote while Berrios had just more than 40 percent, with 91 percent of the precincts reporting in the 39th Illinois House District.

Berrios, 36, has been in Springfield since 2002 and had the full backing of Illinois House Speaker and state Democratic leader Mike Madigan, who dispatched aides to work for Berrios and paid for mail ads attacking Guzzardi.

Berrios also enjoyed the endorsements of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.). Gutierrez recently recorded a robo-call to voters in which he alleged that “groups working to reduce the number of Latino public servants in the state legislature” had targeted Berrios.

Berrios marked the end of her tenure as an elected official by downing shots with supporters at the bar at Lazo’s Tacos.

“We’ve been up, we’ve been down, we’ve been sideways,” Joe Berrios told the crowd. “But we always survive.”

Toni Berrios added, “Will Guzzardi isn’t even from Chicago.”

Guzzardi was born in New York, raised in North Carolina and has lived in Chicago for just five years, since graduating from Brown University with a degree in comparative literature.

Two years ago, he nearly unseated Toni Berrios without any endorsements from elected officials in the district, but this time, he got the backing of State Sen. Willie Delgado (D-Chicago) and City Council members Joe Moreno (1st) and Scott Waguespack (32nd). The biggest cash contributions to Guzzardi’s campaign came from organized labor groups that included the Service Employees International Union, the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Chicago Teachers Union.

“The voters in this district stood up today and gave a clear message that they were ready for something new, that they were ready for new, independent leadership,” Guzzardi told the Chicago Sun-Times.

In his victory speech, Guzzardi said the result was a win for the progressive movement that champions public schools, pensions for public employees and higher taxes for “the very wealthy and biggest corporations.”

Another Madigan-backed incumbent in danger of defeat Tuesday was state Rep. Derrick Smith, who narrowly trailed lawyer Pamela Reaves-Harris with 82 percent of precincts counted. Madigan supported Smith’s re-election campaign even though Smith faces trial on federal bribery charges.

Reaves-Harris was endorsed by U.S. Rep. Danny Davis and 28th Ward Ald. Jason Ervin.

In another local House primary that drew attention from far beyond the district’s boundaries, state Rep. Christian Mitchell held a narrow lead over community activist Jhatayn “Jay” Travis.

While Travis had the backing of the CTU and other labor groups, Mitchell enjoyed large contributions from supporters of charter schools, and the incumbent cashed a $5,000 check late in the race from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s campaign fund.

State Rep. Jaime Andrade Jr., a former aide to longtime 33rd Ward Democratic boss Richard Mell, appeared set to claim the party’s nomination for a full term in Springfield. Andrade was appointed in August to replace Mell’s daughter Deb in the legislature, after Emanuel chose Deb Mell to fill the vacancy created by her father’s retirement from the City Council. The mayor’s political committee gave $5,000 to Andrade’s campaign a few days ago. Andrade also was backed by Madigan.