State Rep. Maria Antonia “Toni” Berrios (D-Chicago), the 34-year-old daughter of Cook County Chairman Joe Berrios, was just slightly ahead of opponent Will Guzzardi in the Democratic primary race of the 39th District election night.
With 98 percent of precincts reported, Berrios had gathered 3,918 (50.46 percent) of the votes, only 72 more than Guzzardi, who had 3,846 (49.54 percent) at 11 p.m. last night.
“It’s definitely too close to call,” Guzzardi said, at his election party at the historic Logan Square Auditorium. “We’re going to count every single vote until the end.”
New to Illinois’ political environment, Guzzardi, 24, is a former reporter for the The Huffington Post and campaigned as “independent” from the Democratic forces that control the local and state governments.
“He stands for something other than the government we have now,” said Ross Richman, 23, a recent DePaul University graduate who lives in the area. “This regime is incredibly entrenched and it’s not going to change unless people like Guzzardi move forward.”
Since summer last year, both candidates emphasized door-to-door canvassing in the largely Hispanic district that includes parts of Logan Square, Belmont Cragin and Hermosa neighborhoods.
Julia Helton, a bakery manager in Logan Square, said while both candidates have strong name recognition in the neighborhood, Guzzardi is “ahead of the game.”
“Toni seems to focus on seniors, schools and working families,” said Helton, 41, early morning yesterday. “Will has found room to call out the rest of the neighborhood speaking for equal rights, improving the immigration system and access to healthcare.”
Berrios’ campaign, on the other hand, focused on the representative’s “proven record.”
“She’s been fiscally responsible while striving to ensure essential services can continue to be available to the community,” said Berrios spokesperson Manuel Galvan. “She will continue to put people back to work, fight for stronger laws to hold corporations accountable and work to freeze unfair property tax increases.”
Guzzardi has targeted Berrios as the “establishment” candidate.
“She has received hundreds of thousands from special interests and corporate PACs in her legislative career,” he said in a interview Monday. “Berrios has consistently sided with those interests in her votes in Springfield.”
Ronia Manganero, an actress of Logan Square, said she woke up at 4 a.m. to help people “get out and vote.”
“We feel insanely inspired by the movement Guzzardi has carried out,” said Manganero, 23. “Based on the amount of genuine support I saw today, I think there’s a real chance of victory.”
Esteban Burgoa shares Manganero’s views. An Iraq War veteran, Burgoa said his community is mostly working class and their issues have not being addressed lately.
“We’re tired of paying higher and higher property taxes while our homes prices keep going down,” said Burgoa, 49. “We need someone who can stand up to the mayor and the politicians in Springfield.”
Despite the festive atmosphere at Guzzardi’s “election day party,” a political analyst said it’s “extremely difficult” for a new candidate to defeat an incumbent in the state’s legislature.
“The Democratic stronghold in the city and state makes sure their current legislators stay in power year after year,” said James Nowlan, an expert in Illinois politics at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Even with the odds against him, Guzzardi’s campaign remained optimistic.
“We’ve being confident from the onset,” said Rebecca Reynolds, Guzzardi’s campaign manager. “This community is tired of the old way of doing politics; they want change.”