David Krupa didn’t spend his high school graduation windfall on a hot car, big trip or a party for his pals. Instead he bought chairs. He also purchased a big conference table and rented an office, he said.
Now the recent Fenwick High School graduate, part-time FedEx fork lift operator and freshman at DePaul University is running for alderman in Chicago. And his friends and family aren’t even the slightest bit dismayed at how he cashed in some savings bonds and blew through his graduation gifts.
He said he has spent about $10,000 to open a campaign office.
“And my grandmother she almost fainted because she was so happy,” he said.
Krupa isn’t running for just any aldermanic seat. He’s got his sights set on the 13th Ward, home base for Michael J. Madigan, speaker of the Illinois House and, since 1969, the Democratic ward committeeman. And home to Madigan’s hand-picked alderman, Marty Quinn.
In 2011, Quinn replaced Frank Olivo, who took over for John Madrzyk in 1991. In fact, you have to go back to 1991 to find the last time anyone - any single candidate - was on the ballot against the sitting 13th Ward alderman.
That’s not to say it was a serious challenge. Madrzyk won with 85 percent of the vote. Records provided by the Board of Election Commissioners for the City of Chicago show there has not been a serious challenge since at least 1979.
Located in the flight plan of Midway International Airport, the 13th Ward is filled with bungalows and flags.
"Great alderman," ward resident Jennifer Burnson said of Quinn as she watched her kids play in the plastic pool in her front yard.
"I asked him for help with something just recently with the local theatre and we are getting the ball rolling," she added.
Walk through the ward and Quinn signs are easy to spot, as aldermanic elections, after all, are just four months away.
So, how much money has he raised this year in individual donations for his re-election campaign?
"I would imagine he’s raised a quarter-million dollars or something like that," said former alderman and current UIC political science professor Dick Simpson.
It’s a good guess, but he’s wrong.
Quinn’s total so far this year? $750 In individual donations, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections.
Those records show he raised the exact same amount in individual donations in 2017.
"He’s consistent," said Simpson when he learned the real figure, adding, "Well, if you have Mike Madigan as your sponsor you don’t need money."
Earlier this year, Quinn’s brother Kevin, a longtime Madigan political operative, lost his job over allegations of sexual harassment. Kevin Quinn has denied the allegations.
But those allegations, said Krupa, are one reason he decided to make his maiden political voyage at the age of 18.
"I think that my biggest uphill climb is getting on the ballot and staying there,” he said, noting he has contacted an election lawyer to help him understand the ins and outs of securing names on petitions and filing the necessary paperwork.
Neither Quinn nor Madigan were available for an interview.
"I say Marty Quinn has been excellent for this community,” said 13th Ward resident Rich Howard. “Marty just does his job.”
It all makes for a contest reminiscent of biblical battles. Remember David and Goliath?
"I would say I’m David and Marty Quinn combined with Madigan is Goliath,” said Krupa. “They could offer me a million dollars and I wouldn’t back away from this.”