As primary elections approach next week, the 40th District race has become a race of idealistic voices looking to stand up for their community. Five candidates hailing from very different backgrounds are vying for a seat to represent an even more geographic and socio-economically diverse community.
Encompassing the Avondale, Logan Square, Old Irving Park and other northwest neighborhoods, the predominantly Hispanic 40th District occupies a variety of demographics.
Last August, the former40th District representative Debra Mell vacated her position for her father, Chicago legend, Richard Mell’s seat in the city council.
Other than the appointed incumbent, Jaime Andrade Jr, none of the candidates have previously held public office.
Nancy Schiavone, the arguable frontrunner of the race along with Andrade, has the most political experience as she ran against Ald. Rey Colon (35th) for the alderman seat back in 2011 and is the 35th Ward Democratic committeeman.
Schiavone has the strongest financial backing as the Illinois State Board of Elections shows her current campaign contributions almost topping $250,000. Schiavone has aired ads that criticize incumbent Andrade Jr.’s qualifications. Andrade Jr. has run a minimal campaign, raising little and ignoring the usual mailing methods and appearances of the other candidates.
Schiavone has received the most endorsements from former state Sen. Carol Ronen, and the Illinois Federation of Teachers among others. Andrade Jr. has received endorsements from outlets like the Chicago Tribune for his stance on pension reform.
“She’s a strong progressive democrat and she knows what it takes,” Ronen said of Schiavone’s qualifications. “She’s not going to be anyone’s puppet.”
Aaron Goldstein is perhaps best known as former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s lawyer during his trial, but he doesn’t want to be defined by that role.
Goldstein calls himself a “true blue progressive Democrat.” “This race was the ultimate example of machine politics,” Goldstein said, referring to Andrade’s appointment.
“This primary is about leveling the playing field,” Goldstein said.
He said despite the diversity of the District, Goldstein said the main uniting factor has been “economic issues.”
“This is a middle class area, but the working class and the poor have been pinched,” Goldstein said.
“I know that he is going to have integrity, will represent his District based on progressive values, and he won’t be subject to external interests,” said Samantha Liskow, an attorney at Loevy & Loevy.
She said Goldstein is “quintessentially independent, but not independent from the community.”
Wendy Jo Harmston, a former CPS teacher and community leader, doesn’t have the same exposure as the other candidates.
“I don’t have the big money, but I have the name recognition and you can’t buy that kind of experience,” she said.
Harmston has worked more than 25 years with the North River Commission along with community organizations like the Old Irving Park Association. Harmston, and a number of her associates, credit her with the entry ramp into Old Irving Park off of the Kennedy Expressway.
“She does not take a quick position, she’s able to look to reason,” Marlena Ascher, a devoted citizen in the 40th District, said of Harmston’s working style.
Ascher worked with Harmston at the Old Irving Park association as well as on a number of other projects.
“It seems to me that she’s spent a lifetime preparing for something like this,” she said.
Mark Paiseka, an engineer from Avondale, hasn’t had the most traditional campaign. With no committee website, and only thriving off a grassroots strategy, but to those who know him he’s built the reputation of the “fixer.”
“He’s always willing to help, whether my car is stuck or there’s a police car in the neighborhood, Mark is the first one there,” said Sandra Ramos, a long time neighbor and life long resident of the 40th District.
Paiseka has never been involved in politics; in fact, Paiseka refuses to use the word politician. Paiseka is adamant in his philosophy of suppressing his own beliefs for the good of his neighborhood.
“I might think I know something, but I will listen to my District first and foremost,” Paiseka said.
Rep. Jaime Andrade Jr. declined to comment for this story.