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Party over for Burke and Arroyo? Democrats ask ward bosses hit with charges to hit the bricks

The Cook County Democratic Party’s Executive Committee voted to formally request the resignations of Burke and Arroyo. Burke was first elected 14th Ward committeeman in 1968.

Ald. Edward M. Burke, left, in 2014; former state Rep. Luis Arroyo, right, in 2013.
Ald. Edward M. Burke, left, in 2014; former state Rep. Luis Arroyo, right, in 2013. File Photos.
Alex Wroblewski/Sun-Times; Seth Perlman/AP.

Cook County Democratic Party leaders voted unanimously Monday to ask former state Rep. Luis Arroyo to step down from their ranks — and plan to send a letter to indicted Ald. Ed Burke requesting he relinquish the party post he’s held for more than half a century.

Arroyo, who is the Democratic committeeman for the Northwest Side’s 36th Ward, is the latest member of the party to come under federal scrutiny, joining Burke and former 25th Ward Ald. Danny Solis, though Solis has not been charged.

Democrats hadn’t previously asked Burke or Solis to hit the road, although the chair of the party, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, had asked Burke to step down from his party post in January when Burke was first hit with federal charges.

In the middle of her failed mayoral run at the time, Preckwinkle sought to distance herself from Burke by returning the $116,000 she raised at Burke’s house in January 2018. She also stripped Burke of his power to help get judges elected to the bench, removing him as chair of the Cook County Democratic Party’s judicial slating committee.

“I won’t have my name dragged through the mud,” Preckwinkle said at the time.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is self-isolating after a member of her security detail tested positive for COVID-19, her office announced April 7, 2020.
Cook County Democratic Chair Toni Preckwinkle in March. File Photo.
Colin Boyle/Sun-Times file photo

Solis secretly recorded more than a dozen conversations with Burke over the last two years to aid the feds in their investigation, which led to the charges against Burke.

Solis wired up to save himself from a case — federal investigators listened in on more than 18,000 conversations on one of Solis’ cellphones for about a year while also surveilling his private meetings and trips to massage parlors, the Chicago Sun-Times has reported.

Burke was eventually charged with racketeering and bribery in a 59-page federal indictment.

On Monday, the Cook County Democratic Party’s 10-member Executive Committee voted to formally request the resignations of Burke and Arroyo because they had been charged with crimes, Delmarie Cobb, a spokeswoman for the party, said.

Cook County Democratic power brokers discuss candidate slating in 2011.
Cook County Democratic power brokers discuss candidate slating in 2011. From left to right are, Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Larry Rogers, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle; state Sen. Don Harmon (standing), Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios — then chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party — and Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th), then chairman of the party’s judicial committee. On Monday, Preckwinkle, Harmon and Berrios all voted to send Burke a letter asking him to resign his party post. File Photo.
John J. Kim/Sun-Times

The vote was unanimous, although Ald. Carrie Austin, the 34th Ward committeeman, did not attend the meeting or vote. Austin herself was named in a federal grand jury subpoena earlier this year, prompting FBI agents to remove files and equipment from her Far South Side ward office. Like Solis, she has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Committeemen are unpaid party positions, elected by primary voters during presidential election years. The Cook County Democratic Party is composed of 80 members, 50 committeemen elected from Chicago wards and another 30 from suburban townships.

Burke was first elected committeeman of the Southwest Side’s 14th Ward in 1968 after the death of his father, Ald. Joseph Burke.

Arroyo was first elected 36th Ward committeeman in 2016.

Burke and Arroyo both ran unopposed in their 2016 committeeman races.

Mayor Richard J. Daley, left, and Ald. Edward M. Burke, right, in 1976.
Mayor Richard J. Daley, left, and Ald. Edward M. Burke, right, at a Democratic State Convention in Springfield in 1976. File Photo.
Associated Press.

Arroyo stepped down from his seat in the Illinois House of Representatives last week after being charged last month with bribery.

The criminal complaint detailing the case against Arroyo revealed a state senator collaborated with the FBI. That senator expects to be charged for filing false tax returns.

Neither Burke nor Arroyo responded to requests for comment.