The 2012 race for Illinois 39th District was one of the tightest contests that year. State Rep Toni Berrios beat newcomer Will Guzzardi by only 125 votes.
Both candidates will likely square off again in 2014, and this time the same race could be even closer.
Guzzardi, 26, shocked much of the political establishment across the city and state in 2012 by nearly pulling off the upset, seen as an impressive feat for a relative unknown against a member of a powerful political family. Berrios’ father, Joe Berrios, is chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, County Assessor and committeeman of the northwest side 31st Ward. His daughter Toni has represented the 39th District since 2003.
The Illinois 39th covers the Northwest Side neighborhoods of Avondale, Belmont-Cragin, Portage Park and Logan Square.
A new poll commissioned by the Guzzardi campaign surveyed 406 respondents in the district, and it shows more than 50 percent of those polled saying it was time to elect someone new in the district. Only 28 percent said Berrios deserved to be elected. And while Guzzardi currently still has much lower name recognition—58 percent to Berrios 93.1 percent—his current name recognition is much higher than the beginning of the last election, where it hovered in the single digits. Among those who currently know both candidates, the poll showed voters prefer Guzzardi 57.7 percent to 26.1 percent for Berrios, with a margin of error of 4.8 percent.
As before, Guzzardi is framing this race as one of a true progressive running against an entrenched political insider who no longer represents the interests of her district. He cites his increased experience, along with a more developed volunteer base, a spate of new endorsements, stronger fundraising and a hunger for change in the district, as reasons to believe he has an equal or greater chance of winning than before.
Guzzardi’s strong showing in 2012 has been cited by a number of other, relatively inexperienced candidates in upcoming area races as their inspiration for jumping into politics. For his part, Guzzardi believes people are simply interested in developing a new generation of leadership in Springfield and elsewhere.
A spokesman for Rep. Berrios declined to comment on the race, saying he preferred to wait until the December filing deadline for state rep candidates.
*An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Joe Berrios was the committeeman for the 35th Ward. We regret the error.