Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Tuesday March 18th, 2014, 11:54pm

Guzzardi Unseats Berrios In The 39th State Legislative District

Will Guzzardi, Democratic challenger in the primary race for 39th district state representative, has successfully unseated long-time incumbent Maria "Toni" Berrios.

News that Berrios' campaign had conceded broke at Guzzardi's election night party at about 9:15 p.m. Audience members immediately erupted in cheers and people began hugging one another.

When Guzzardi entered the room, more than 300 of his supporters began chanting his name. Some at the victory party wore shirts reading "Team Guzz."

During his victory speech, Guzzardi said the community stood together to demand new leadership. 

"We said with one voice that every child deserves access to a great public education," Guzzardi told the crowd. "We said with one voice that the very wealthy and the biggest corporations ought to be held accountable to paying their fair share just like the rest of us. And we said with one voice that working people who have earned their retirement deserve to get it, right?" 

This was Guzzardi's second Democratic primary challenge against Berrios. During the 2012 election, Guzzardi lost to Berrios by only 125 votes.

After 11 p.m. on Tuesday, the 26 year-old writer and community activist had more than 60 percent of the vote with all of the precincts in. Guzzardi received 5,245 votes, while Berrios got 3,402 votes. Throughout the night after the polls closed, Guzzardi was ahead of Berrios, who has held the 39th state rep office since 2003. She is the daughter of Joe Berrios, who is the controversial Cook County assessor and chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party.

So what does Guzzardi's win say about the "political machine" on Chicago's Northwest Side?

"It says a lot about Joe Berrios, who should no longer be the chairman of the Democratic Party for Cook County. He created this fight," said State Sen. William Delgado (D-Chicago), one of a slew of elected officials at Guzzardi's party, held at the Logan Square Auditorium. 
 
"Will Guzzardi represents someone who can bring this many people together," Delgado added. "I like identifying with people who want policy first and politics last. Will Guzzardi represents that. Look how much energy is here."

This time around, Guzzardi was able to garner more endorsements and campaign funding than his first attempt to unseat Berrios. He had significant support from a number of unions, including AFSCME Illinois Council 31, the Chicago Teachers Union, SEIU*, and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, to name a few.

The 39th District, which is located on Chicago's Northwest Side, covers parts of the Belmont Cragin, Humboldt Park, Logan Square and Portage Park neighborhoods. It is a majority Latino district. No Republicans ran for the 39th District seat.

Guzzardi said his win was the result of a powerful movement in Chicago for "the basic values of justice and fairness."

"What we proved beyond a shadow of a doubt here tonight is that this is a movement that is alive and kicking here in Chicago," Guzzardi said, leading to a huge round of applause. "What we've shown here tonight is that real change, meaningful change in our political system, is truly possible. If we make good on the promise that we made to the voters of this community, if we take back [the] battle for votes and transform it into a battle for values, if we stand clear and determined in fighting for what we believe in, we will change this community and we will change the political landscape of the state of Illinois."

Ald. John Arena (45th), who was also in attendance, called Guzzardi's win symbolic.

"It's an amazing win for the community here who fought so hard for him last time, but came up just short. And to win with the resounding victory here, it really sends a signal that the progressive movement and what we're talking about is real — and it's time," the alderman said. "I just can't be prouder to even be a small part of this win, and I can't wait to start working with Will."

Arena is also a supporter of Nancy Schiavone, one of four candidates who were unsuccessful Tuesday at unseating incumbent State Rep. Jaime Andrade in the 40th District's Democratic primary race. Andrade won the Democratic primary Tuesday, with Schiavone coming in second. No Republicans were running in the district.

"We knew that was an uphill battle, but it was one worth fighting," Arena stressed. 

Guzzardi's win is "the kind of encouragement we need for Nancy, to know that you can come back and win, that for anybody out there who's thinking about, 'I want a change in my community', you start neighbor to neighbor, and you've got to persist, and that's the only way change happens," the alderman said.
 
Chicago Alds. Joe Moreno (1st), Bob Fioretti (2nd) and Scott Waguespack (32nd) were also at Guzzardi's victory celebration.

"I think it's a wonderful day of hard work and true progressivisim, which has been problematic, I think, with progressives in the past," Moreno told Progress Illinois. "They haven't wanted to go head-to-head with machine candidates. They want to play nice. You can't play nice. It doesn't mean that you do anything illegal, but you've got to go hardcore. Knock on doors. Grassroots movement. That's what we did."

* The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this website.

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