Rep. Mell Wants Father's Seat on Chicago City Council - NBC Chicago
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Rep. Mell Wants Father's Seat on Chicago City Council

Richard Mell (33rd) announced last week he'd retire effective July 24



    State Rep. Deborah Mell (D-Chicago) will apply for the soon-to-be-vacated aldermanic seat currently held by her father, political powerhouse Richard Mell, she confirmed to NBC Chicago on Monday afternoon.

    Her announcement comes just days after the 33rd Ward alderman said he would step aside, effective July 24.

    "I think I'm going to have a strong application," she said by phone while shopping at Jewel before heading down to a special legislative session in Springfield. "And I hope I get the job."

    With her 74-year-old father retiring mid-term, it's Mayor Rahm Emanuel -- not voters -- who have the final say in who gets the coveted job.

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    There will be a "blue-ribbon" commission to consider applications, but really it's the mayor who makes the pick, just as it was under Emanuel's predecessor, Richard M. Daley. And there is a longstanding tradition of passing these legacy seats on to the children or wives of alderman who have retired or died.

    Just ask Alderman Ed Burke who sits in his father's seat, Alderman Carrie Austin who inherited her late husband's seat or former alderman Darcel Beavers who briefly held her father's seat. The list goes on.

    "I would run for the seat if I could run for the seat," said Mell, who was first elected to office in 2008.

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    Did she tell her father she'd rather do it that way?

    "He doesn't listen to me," she said.

    Mell, as the first openly lesbian member of the General Assembly, said that if Emanuel appoints her to City Council, it would "break my heart not to vote for a same sex marriage bill." The Illinois House did not vote on the proposed legislation by the close of session in May, though Mell made an impassioned speech in its behalf.

    Still, Mell could choose to remain in the House and vote for it if it's called in the next session.

    "Personally and professionally, being alderman trumps that," she acknowledged, adding: "I will continue to make a strong case for it."

    Did her dad strike a deal with the mayor about appointing her?

    "There is no deal. My Dad is just retiring," she said. "I think my Dad just wanted to retire."

    But at a time when voters cannot weigh in.

    Has she spoken to the mayor, who attended her wedding two years ago to longtime partner Christin Baker, about filling her Dad's seat?

    "I have never had a conversation with him about that," she said. "Not ever."

    And what about the rumor, promulgated by some 33rd ward insiders, that her sister, former Illinois First Lady Patty Blagojevich, wife of imprisoned former governor Rod Blagojevich, wanted the aldermanic appointment instead?

    "That," said Mell, "is the funniest thing I have ever heard."

    Emanuel is expected to make his appointment by July 24th.