Nancy Schiavone, who is running in the hotly contested Democratic primary race in Illinois' 40th representative district, saw support Tuesday morning from SEIU* Local 1 members who hit the streets on Chicago's Northwest Side to canvas on behalf of the candidate.
"We've identified folks, and we're hoping that we get them to the polls," Schiavone told Progress Illinois at her campaign office ahead of the canvas. "We have a really terrific field program, and we're just going to keep at it until 7 o'clock tonight," which is when the polls close.
Schiavone is one of four Democratic candidates vying to unseat incumbent State Rep. Jaime Andrade (D-Chicago), a former top aide to the now retired Chicago Ald. Dick Mell (33rd). Andrade has represented the 40th District since August after being appointed to fill the vacancy left by Deb Mell, who succeeded her father as alderman of Chicago's 33rd Ward.
The other Democratic candidates in Tuesday's 40th District Democratic primary battle include attorney Aaron Goldstein, community development organizer Wendy Jo Harmston and electrical engineer Mark Pasieka. There are no Republicans running in the 40th district, which includes parts of the Logan Square, Albany Park, Avondale and Irving Park communities in Chicago.
"It could be a very close race, and for us every single vote counts," Schiavone's deputy campaign manager Ross Secler told about 25 SEIU volunteers at the campaign office before they went door knocking.
"We're feeling very good about this, but numbers in advance don't mean anything unless we get our supporters and our voters to the polls voting today," he added.
At least two polling places in the district saw low voter turnout early this morning. From 6 a.m., when the polls opened, to about 8 a.m., just four people had voted at Carol Von Linne Elementary School, the voting location for the 4th precinct in Chicago's 33rd Ward. Poll watchers for the 4th precinct described the voter turnout this morning as "really bad" and "very, very low."
As of 9:30 a.m., 26 people had cast ballots at Brands Park, another nearby polling site for the 9th precinct. Ald. Deb Mell was outside that polling location chatting with voters. Mell, who supports Andrade, said the incumbent is doing a "great job" as a state representative.
Throughout his campaign, 40th District candidate Goldstein has blasted Andrade for being part of the Mell "family dynasty."
But Mell pushed back on those concerns Tuesday, telling Progress Illinois that Andrade "has been working in this area for 18 plus years."
"He really knows the neighborhood and knows the issues, and I think he's the right man for the job," she said.
Community member Brian Krantz, 38, an attorney and 33rd Ward resident, voted at the Brands Park polling site. Krantz said he marked his ballot for Andrade, adding that he does not see the incumbent's connection to the Mell family as a problem.
"I think it's good to have that support network," Krantz told Progress Illinois. "It doesn't necessarily work against you just because you're connected with people. It shouldn't mean you don't get a vote. I really don't buy into the outsider mentality, where the only legitimate candidates are outsiders, because I don't think there's any such thing. Once they become elected, they become insiders."
He acknowledged, however, that "a lot of people have issues with it."
"You become connected to certain people, and then you get elected," he continued. "It's sort of the way Chicago does things."
Meanwhile, Schiavone said she is "a little nervous" about the outcome of the race, but she is optimistic that her message has resonated with voters.
"We need jobs. We need equitably funded education, and people want a change," she said. "They're tired of the middle of the night appointments in Springfield, and it's encouraging to us. We knock on doors, and people are very engaged with us."
Miguel Flores, a security officer and SEIU Local 1 member, was one of the volunteers who went door knocking for Schiavone. Among other reasons, Flores supports Schiavone because she wants to increase Illinois' minimum wage and boost up families that are struggling financially.
Here is more from Miguel as well as Schiavone speaking to the SEIU volunteers:
Overall, union support has "really meant a lot" to Schiavone and has provided her campaign with an "extra sense of urgency and commitment to the working families," she said. Other unions that have thrown their weight behind Schiavone include AFSCME Illinois Council 31, the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the SEIU Healthcare Illinois-Indiana.
Schiavone said her 13 year-old son was the driving factor for her to run for state office. If Schiavone wins tonight, the first thing she will do is hug him, she said.
"I want him to have opportunities," the candidate said. "I want him to have a quality public education. I want him to be able to have job opportunities when he gets out in the workforce, and I want our families to have the same opportunities that I had growing up."
*The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this website.