City's black, white and Latino districts will see new faces in Springfield

This year, about a dozen state legislative districts in and around Chicago will elect a lawmaker who is new to the district.

Scanning the contests--in African-American, Latino and white districts--there are few that, up to this point, have not been hard-fought battles.

For instance, remapping has forced incumbents Steve Landek, the current 11th District state senator, and Martin Sandoval, who is presently the 12th District state senator, to swap the district races they're running in.

Sandoval, a Mexican American, is running unopposed in his new 11th District, which is 53 percent Latino--a voter base Sandoval has done extremely well with during his eight years in the Senate.

But Landek is facing Raul Montes, a Little Village activist, in the new 12th District, which is now 57 percent Latino. Earlier this year, there were reports that Landek was so worried about his chances against Montes that he allegedly offered him a bribe to drop out of the race.

In the 5th District on the West Side, which is 50 percent black, Annazette Collins is up against Patricia Van-Pelt Watkins.

Collins, the former 10th District state representative, replaced Rickey Hendon after he retired last year. This is the first time she has run for the seat, though.

And this is possibly the most contentious race in the city.

For months, Van-Pelt Watkins has pressured Collins to explain several residency controversies that have come to light. Collins has said little, and Secretary of State Jesse White, who supports Van-Pelt Watkins, has publicly criticized Collins.

Last week, White called Collins "the most unethical person in government" and said, "You can almost put Blagojevich beside her."

This week, Collins threatened to sue White for defamation of character if he doesn't apologize, but White said he has no plans to do so. No suit has been filed yet.

Then there's the 15th District, which James Meeks has represented since 2003.

Meeks announced in November that he isn't running for re-election in this South Side district, which is 57 percent African American.

Jockeying for his seat is Napoleon Harris, a former NFL linebacker who  owns a chain of South Side pizzerias; Patricia Mahon, an attorney who is the village administrator in South Holland; and Donna Miller, a Lynwood woman who works in sales and has gathered an impressive list of endorsements.

In the 18th District, longtime state Sen. Ed Maloney is retiring, and 35th District state Rep. Bill Cunningham is running unopposed in the Democratic primary to replace him.

There are two Republicans in the race: Barbara Ruth Bellar and Ricardo Fernandez, both of whom live in the south suburbs. The district, which is 75 percent white, now spans the far South Side and suburbs.

Four new candidates will run to replace Cunningham in the House's 35th District, which is 74 percent white.

Elsewhere in the lower chamber, some lawmakers have switched districts because of remapping, while others have retired or opted not to run.

Dan Burke currently represents the House's 23rd District, which spans the South Side and some nearby suburbs. It has a small, white majority of 47 percent.

During this summer's remapping, his Democratic colleagues conveniently drew him into what is now an unopposed 1st District race.

The 1st District, also on the South Side, has a 68 percent Latino majority.

Burke will replace Dena Carli, a Chicago cop who was appointed last May to replace Susana Mendoza when Mendoza was elected Chicago City Clerk.

When this happened, it was rumored that Carli was only a fill-in picked to hold the seat until a long-term replacement could be found.

Burke, the brother of powerful 14th Ward Alderman Ed Burke, will likely be that replacement.

Michael J. Zalewski, who currently represents the 21st District, will run unopposed for Burke's old seat in the 23rd District.

This means the South Side's 21st District, which is 60 percent Latino, is up for grabs, and Rudy Lozano and Silvana Tabares will vie for it.

Lozano, an activist and teacher, touts a progressive agenda and has significant support from labor groups, progressive organizations and some city and county pols.

Adding a twist to this race, Tabares was reportedly supposed to have been the candidate who was being groomed to fill Mendoza's 1st District seat--the one Burke is now running for--after Carli finished the term.

Instead, the former editor of EXTRA newspaper ended up getting mapped out of the district.

Tabares has fewer endorsements than Lozano, but one came from 23rd Ward Alderman Michael R. Zalewski, the father of the aforementioned state representative whose seat she's trying to fill.

In two largely black districts on the South Side--the 26th and 34th Districts--the current representatives will not try to retain their seats.

In the 26th District, which is 54 percent black, Kenny Johnson is going up against Christian Mitchell as they compete for Kimberly DuBuclet's seat.

Johnson has a background in marketing and advertising, and he wrote on his website that job creation is his top priority. He has the support of big labor groups and pols like 7th District congressman Danny Davis.

Mitchell is a University of Chicago graduate and a community organizer. On his website, he claims that both Chicago and Illinois can improve their economies by investing in transportation. First District congressman Bobby Rush is backing Mitchell.

Over in the 34th District, which is 58 percent black, Constance Howard is stepping down after 17 years in the state House.

Five candidates are vying for her spot. Elgie Sims, an attorney and business owner has the best shot at winning, several insiders said. In 2010, Howard backed him when he run, unsuccessfully, for Cook County Commissioner.

The other candidates include Richard Wooten, a South Side organizer and businessman. Kyle Kasperak, an accountant from Calumet City is also running. Paul Gregorie, a Chicago cop who works in Englewood, and Sandra Wortham, an attorney who has Secretary of State White's support, are in the race, too.

The 19th District will also see some new blood this year. Longtime state Rep. Joseph Lyons is retiring after this term. Two candidates are vying for that spot: Robert Martwick Jr., a Norridge attorney, and Sandra Stoppa, a Chicago cop.

The 19th District includes the Northwest Side and bordering suburbs and is 75 percent white.

© Community Renewal Society 2012

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  • As complicated as this whole process may be, I know I'm voting for Lozano for the 21st district. The choice was obvious after doing some research on him and his issues especially in comparison with Tabares.

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