Mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot and state Rep. Robert Martwick got into a heated argument in which they traded insults and shouted over one another after Lightfoot called a press conference to criticize a bill Martwick introduced in the Illinois statehouse.
Martwick – a supporter of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s mayoral bid – introduced a bill in the House on Friday which would give the president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners the power to appoint the Cook County Assessor instead of having voters elect one.
The former assessor, Joe Berrios, was ousted by voters last year in the wake of mounting scandals, including a ProPublica Illinois-Chicago Tribune investigation that found that, under Berrios, the Assessor’s office failed to reassess property values to the benefit of owners of expensive properties and at the expense of small businesses.
Preckwinkle has previously called Berrios a “political ally” and assumed his role as chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party after Berrios was voted out.
“President Preckwinkle has had no conversations with Representative Martwick about this bill and does not support it,” Preckwinkle said on Twitter after the press conference. “This bill would mean more politics in County government, not less.”
Martwick, the 38th Ward Democratic committeeman who also represents a district in which includes parts of Northwest Chicago and its surrounding suburbs, has endorsed Preckwinkle’s mayoral bid and previously worked for Berrios as a consultant.
Martwick is also a property tax appeals lawyer in Cook County where he deals in the lucrative business of appealing the Assessor’s valuations of his clients’ properties, an industry that prospered under Berrios.
Lightfoot called on Preckwinkle to oppose the bill, which she says is tantamount to giving the board president a “patronage hire.”
Lightfoot said at the press conference that, if the bill passed, she would not be surprised if the board president reinstalled Berrios or “someone of his ilk.”
Martwick then crashed Lightfoot’s press conference and challenged her to a debate in front of reporters and TV cameras.
The debate immediately escalated into a heated argument, with both politicians hurling insults at one another. Martwick at one point called Lightfoot “Trumpian” for “trying to draw attention to [herself] without assessing the facts of the situation.” Lightfoot accused Martwick of taking orders from Preckwinkle, which he denied.
Martwick admitted he doesn’t know whether it would be better to have an appointed or an elected assessor, and he just submitted the bill to start a conversation about the topic.
“You’re not credible,” Lightfoot told him.
“Well, neither are you, Lori. If you intend to govern the city of Chicago like this, this is exactly why you’re not prepared to be mayor of the city of Chicago,” Martwick replied.
“This is Rob Martwick, Exhibit A of the broken and corrupt political system,” Lightfoot said as she turned toward cameras and pointed at the state representative standing just feet away from her.
“Thank you, that’s very nice,” Martwick said.
When the argument finally came to an end at the urging of an aid, neither could resist getting the last word in.
“Thanks for showing. Lovely, wonderful,” Lightfoot said. “I’ve heard lots of great things about you.”
“That’s nice,” Martwick said. “Bully.”