The most contested Democratic primary for an Illinois House seat will soon see its only public candidate forum with all announced candidates in attendance.
No less than six candidates are vying to represent the 40th District, which sits on the Northwest Side of the city. In recent years, the seat was held by Deb Mell, daughter of powerful former 33rd Ward alderman Dick Mell, and is now held by Jamie Andrade, an ex-aide to Dick Mell.
Deb Mell is currently alderman of the 33rd Ward, which partially resides in the district.
The race has attracted much attention this cycle precisely because of it’s tangled history with the Mell clan. Challenging Andrade are attorneys Nancy Schiavone and Aaron Goldstein, Chicago Public School teacher Mel Ferrand, engineer and Logan Square resident Mark Pasieka and district resident Wendy Jo Harmston, all of whom have agreed to the forum.
For many, it’s difficult to separate the district from the influence of the Mell political dynasty, seeing how the revolving door between alderman, state rep and political staffs has swung both ways over the years. However, while the 40th District was once solidly associated with much of the 33rd Ward, controlled by Dick Mell, the new 2015 ward redistricting map places much of the 33rd Ward outside of the 40th District boundaries.
As a result, many voters are unfamiliar with the Mell dynasty, and some of the candidates are looking to capitalize on what they see as an opportunity for new leadership.
The 40th District race is only one of four Illinois House races statewide with more than three announced candidates. Two Republican primaries—in the 11th and 45th —have more than four, and the Democratic 10th has five.
The forum is sponsored the Old Irving Park Association (OIPA) and seven other community groups. Anna Zolkowski-Sobor, OIPA president, said the forum is necessary for a race with this many candidates.
“The Old Irving Park Association has a history of sponsoring public forums, and we felt it was important in the Illinois 40th House District to have a candidate’s forum because our communities do not really know much about any of the six candidates that are running,” she told Ward Room. “Our mission is to educate and inform, and so we partnered with other community groups throughout the district so people throughout the 40th had an opportunity to actually see and hear from all the candidates side by side.”
The forum is slated for 7:00 PM Monday, February 10th at the Irving Park Baptist Church, 4401 W. Irving Park Road.