CHICAGO — Ald. Margaret Laurino’s looming retirement from the Chicago City Council will close the books on one of the most enduring Chicago political dynasties — and usher in a new era of politics in the 39th Ward on the Far Northwest Side.
Laurino will leave the City Council along with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who tapped her to serve as president pro tempore of the City Council in 2013 and to helm the Legislative Reference Bureau, which was designed to help all 50 aldermen craft ordinances and resolutions with “impartial research.”
But come May 20, the 39th Ward will be represented by a rookie alderman for the first time since 1994, when Laurino was appointed by former Mayor Richard M. Daley to replace her father, former Ald. Anthony Laurino. He was elected to the City Council in 1965.
In 1995, Anthony Laurino was indicted by federal investigators on a ghost-payrolling scheme. He died before his trial ended, but his wife, Bonnie Rhein Laurino; another daughter, Marie D’Amico; and her husband, John D’Amico, were convicted.
Robert Murphy, who ran against Laurino in 2015 and fell 350 votes short of forcing her into a runoff, had expected a rematch with the veteran Chicago politician. Instead, he faces Samantha “Sam” Nugent, an attorney and former chief of staff for the Cook County Department of Homeland Security, who was the top vote-getter in the first round of voting on Feb. 26, finishing with 33 percent of the vote. Murphy won 29.56 percent.
In 2016, Murphy was elected the 39th Ward’s Democratic committeeman over Patrick Molloy, who is now the director of government and public affairs for the Chicago Public Library. Molloy was Laurino’s pick to replace her husband, Randy Barnette, who stepped down as committeeman rather than run for re-election.
Murphy said he was running to put an end to one-family control of the ward, which includes Sauganash, Edgebrook, Old Edgebrook, Mayfair, Gladstone Park, Indian Woods, Hollywood Park, North Park and Forest Glen.
“I’m running to make sure people have a real voice,” Murphy said.
Murphy has been endorsed by several leaders of the progressive wing of the Chicago Democratic Party, including U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, D-Chicago, and Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi, former Cook County Clerk David Orr and 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack, the chairman of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus.
Murphy pledges to hold mobile ward nights in all parts of the large ward, and launch a participatory budgeting process, which would allow residents to vote on how to spend his $1.3 million discretionary capital fund, known as menu money.
“For a lot of 39th Ward residents, the city’s not working for them,” said Murphy, an architect who lives in Forest Glen with his wife and daughter, who attends a Chicago Public School.
The two other candidates in the first round of voting — Casey Smagala, director of community engagement at the Albany Park Community Center, and Chicago Police Officer Joe Duplechin — have endorsed Nugent.
Nugent worked as a fellow at City Hall during the administration of former Mayor Richard M. Daley and for former Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s 2006 campaign. Nugent has the support of U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Chicago), as well as state Rep. John D’Amico (D-Chicago), who is the nephew of Ald. Margaret Laurino.
Nugent lives with her husband and three children, who attend a Catholic school, in Sauganash.
While the alderman has not endorsed either Murphy or Nugent, D’Amico’s support indicates that the Laurino family is behind Nugent, Murphy said.
Nugent said she was proud to have D’Amico’s endorsement, adding he was just one of several area elected officials she asked for their endorsement. It did not mean she would be a carbon copy of Ald. Laurino. “I’m Sam Nugent,” she said.
Concerned with an uptick in violent and property crimes, Nugent said public safety would be her top priority as alderman. “We’re hitting a tipping point,” Nugent said.
Murphy agreed that more officers need to be assigned to patrol the 16th and 17th Police Districts, which cover some of the city’s safest neighborhoods.
“We don’t see the kind of patrols that we used to,” Murphy said, adding that he would also work to bring more resources to the 39th Ward in addition to more officers. “I will take a much more holistic approach.”
Neither Murphy nor Nugent have endorsed a candidate in the mayoral contest, and both have vowed to focus on the ward’s roads and other crumbling infrastructure while preparing for a disaster or emergency.
In addition, the rivals are both open to the legalization of marijuana as well as the creation of a casino in Chicago to raise revenue to cover the city’s looming pension bills.
But while Nugent is open to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposal to borrow $10 billion to start paying down that debt, Murphy said that would be an “irresponsible use of money.”
But while Murphy and Nugent agree on some issues, Murphy said the “contrast is very stark” between the two.
Murphy’s campaign slammed Nugent on Monday for accepting a $4,800 contribution from Anchor Mechanical on Jan. 14.
That violates the city’s campaign contribution limits, since Anchor Mechanical has a city contract to maintain heating and cooling units. City vendors are limited to $1,500 contributions.
Nugent’s campaign refunded the excess to Anchor Mechanical. The company has given money to aldermanic campaigns dating back to 2002, according to records filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections — with a $3,300 check dated Friday.
“Our city has been ‘For Sale’ for far too long,” Murphy said in a statement. “Large donations like this are precisely why politicians put corporate profits above community interests.”
Murphy supports efforts to expand the authority of Inspector General Joseph Ferguson to include aldermen and the City Council’s committees.
Nugent returned the excess campaign contribution after an anonymous Twitter account that has criticized her and other aldermanic candidates flagged the contribution.
Nugent’s campaign manager Morgan Macfarlane said Murphy and his supporters “continue to sling mud” rather than focusing on “the actual issues facing the residens [sic] of the 39th Ward. Samantha’s positive campagin [sic] focused on public safety, improving our community, and economic development will continue and she’ll remained focused on that.”
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