Even in the rough and tumble world of Chicago politics, it can sometimes get tough to tell the players without a program. Or where their loyalties lie.
For an example, one need look no further than Chicago's North Side 40th legislative district.
The players -- former 33rd Ward alderman Richard Mell, who ceded his seat to his daughter, former state representative Debra Mell, whose House seat was then occupied by Mell stalwart Jaime Andrade, who is being challenged by Chicago attorney Aaron Goldstein.
Following this so far?
Goldstein's name should ring a bell. He was part of the defense team for not one, but two trials of former governor Rod Blagojevich. Now he finds himself on the opposite side from Blagojevich's father-in-law, and his considerable political muscle.
"Irony is an interesting way to describe it," Goldstein said Thursday, as he accused the Andrade forces of dirty tricks as the primary approaches.
Goldstein says neighborhood residents have told him they have been contacted by "pollsters" who ask pointed questions about Goldstein's role as a criminal defense attorney, and whether voters believe he would be "soft on crime."
Further, he says the pollsters ask about his most famous client.
"They don't necessarily name him by name," he says. But they accuse me of representing 'corrupt officials'. And then charging the state to pay me."
Let's review: Dick Mell backs incumbent Jaime Andrade, who allegedly rips Goldstein for representing Rod Blagojevich, who just happens to be the son-in-law of -- Dick Mell.
"Correct," Goldstein said.
Mell goes back decades with Andrade, who was his former legislative aide. Today, Andrade shares a building on Kedzie Avenue with Debra Mell, the 33rd Ward alderman. Campaign records show that over the years, the elder Mell has loaned Andrade over $29,000. Those same records show he has repaid most, but not all of that money.
For his part, Goldstein says he never suggested that Mell should have backed him, because of his work to keep his son-in-law out of jail.
"Oh no", he says. "And I've never requested support from Mr. Mell."
It is a formidable race. Not only is the Mell juggernaut out in force, but Andrade also has the backing of House Speaker Michael Madigan. Goldstein says he is not intimidated.
"The Mell family has actually controlled these seats for so long, we have an opportunity with this recent appointment where we can actually change," he said.
Mell said he had no knowledge of the purported poll, only that he knew Andrade was working hard in the campaign. Asked about the considerable political heft of his legendary campaign organization, he reminded a reporter, "No organizations are what they used to be!"
Andrade did not return calls seeking comment.