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Connecting the Dots

By Kevin Robinson in News on Feb 15, 2007 2:50PM

2007_2_dots.gifIf you live in a ward that is contested, you've probably noticed that you are getting mailings from the aldermanic candidates where you live. Maybe you've even gotten the so-called "robocall" — a recorded message from a candidate (usually the incumbent) encouraging you to come out to vote (for them), and listing some of the reasons why you should. Our friends in the 32nd Ward tell us that the two headline candidates, Ted Matlak and Scott Waguespack, have both sent mailings out to ward residents. A more hands-on approach is often taken as well, with both candidates and volunteers knocking on doors and talking to voters. Dispatching people to do the heavy-lifting of collecting signatures and turning out the vote is par for the course as well.

But what makes the campaign in the 32nd Ward different from a million other races in communities across the nation goes back to convicted former Deputy Water Commissioner Donald Tomczak and the Hired Truck scandal. One of the candidates, Catherine Zaryczny, produced transcripts for the Chicago Journal from the Robert Sorich trial in which Tomczak admitted to sending patronage workers out to work on Matlak's '03 re-election campaign. Old news? Not so fast! It seems that history is repeating itself in the 32nd Ward, and the press conference at City Hall yesterday seems to confirm the Tomczak connection that Waguespack first brought to the attention of a Sun-Times publication. Maybe not a smoking gun, but when you add it all up, it doesn't put Matlak in a good light.

This can't come at a good time for the increasingly unpopular Matlak, who is fighting to keep the seat he inherited in 1999 from his mentor, Terry Gabinski, who resigned. The Machine connections in this ward are deep and thick, going back to Dan Rostenkowski (who went to prison in 1995 after pleading guilty to two counts of mail fraud), and the ward was redrawn in 2001, excising most of the Latino population into the 1st Ward, ostensibly to protect Matlak. Still dealing with the fallout from the hyperdevelopment that Gabinski largely engineered in the area, Matlak is also percieved by ward residents as being unresponsive to the basic needs of the ward: city services like timely trash collection and street cleaning, not to mention the ease that developers have in getting zone changes. This is one of the races we're watching this season, and at least one of the challengers has the opportunity to take out a sitting alderman, if not at least force him into a runoff. With February 27 primed to be a day for aldermanic turnover, our money is on Waguespack.