Joe Berrios's Bad Night

Joe Berrios should reconsider his role as head of the Cook County Democratic Party.

A party chairman’s job is to win elections, and Berrios nearly blew his own daughter’s renomination for her seat in the state House of Representatives. In a district that included his own 31st Ward. With one precinct left to count, Rep. Toni Berrios was leading Will Guzzardi by 72 votes. Guzzardi is a 24-year-old, politically inexperienced blogger who just moved to Chicago two years ago.

And he’s nearly beating the daughter of the head of the most famous local political organization in America.

Throughout the state of Illinois, no incumbent Democratic state representative lost a primary on Tuesday. Or even came close. Derrick Smith, facing a bribery charge, beat his opponent 3-1. Clearly, Joe Berrios was a liability for his daughter. The Northwest Side’s progressive white voters are repulsed by Berrios’s nepotism -- besides putting his daughter in the state House, he employs his sister, son and another daughter at the County Assessor’s office. The Boss represents everything they hate about Chicago politics.

Even though he holds countywide office, I didn’t hear any candidate bragging about Joe Berrios’s endorsement in this primary. Because Berrios’s name could have hurt any campaign with which it was associated.

Clearly, Berrios didn’t do a good job of protecting his daughter in the legislative remap. He should have known Toni was in trouble when a Green Party candidate won 35 percent of the vote in the 2010 election, the best showing by a Green anywhere in the state. In two more years, the 39th District, which is now 54 percent Latino, may be gentrified enough for a young white liberal like Guzzardi to win.

“The 39th Illinois House District, as created in 2001, became distinctly less hospitable in the 2011 remap,” wrote Nadig Newspapers’ Russ Stewart, who predicted Toni Berrios would win by 300 votes. “This is inexplicable, as ‘Big Daddy’ is a longtime ally of Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, with whom he served in Springfield from 1982 to 1988 and whose law firm regularly practiced before the Board of Review over the years, securing huge reductions in assessed valuations (and huge fees).”

But it’s not even a white vs. Latino issue. In Cook County, there are plenty of minority candidates who thrive by combining an ethnic base with a good government appeal to white voters. Barack Obama did it. So did Toni Preckwinkle. And on Berrios’s own Northwest Side, Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno unites both communities. On Tuesday, Moreno was elected 1st Ward committeeman, beating incumbent Jesse Ruben Juarez -- who was hurt by his alliance with Berrios.

Berrios, who thinks winning elective office entitles him to share the wealth with his friends and family, has never figured that out.

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