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Progressive Candidates Face Harassment from Democrats and ‘Madigan Machine’

Illinois State Representative for the 6th District, Nicole Vaughn is facing continued petition signature challenges from Michael Madigan’s surrogate, Michael Kasper. Kasper, the general counsel for Illinois Democratic Party, arrived at the State Board of Elections hearing on Tuesday, January 16, 2018, unprepared to make a case against Candidate Vaughn’s petitions and demanded more time to issues subpoenas to all 54 volunteers who circulated petitions and signed affidavit attesting to their legitimacy of Vaughn’s petitions. The next hearing date is scheduled for mid-February within days of start of early voting.
Vaughn was not the only challenge during this cycle. Hard Lens Media covered the hearing concerning petition challenges over Candidate Andrea Raila running for Cook County Assessor against incumbent, Joe Barrios. Raila who was forced to obtain affidavits from all of her 290 petition circulators.  “That’s outrageous, we won’t have enough time to comply with those broad, sweeping…the allegations are so arduous because they say that my signature is not my own,” Ralia told Hard Lens Media.
Even state races within the local Democratic Party are being challenged. A party that reports to favor open Primaries has shown their leadership is not putting that facility into practice. When Peter Jenko, a Democratic Party volunteer and organizer with the Medicare for All- Northern Illinois group decided to run for the State Central Committee representing the 14th Congressional District, he was immediately met with push back from county party members. Democratic Party Executive Board member, Wendy Persall, even offered Jenko money to step down and choose another race, saying, “…I’ll commit right now to donate $500 to your campaign…”
Wendy Piersall, Fundraising Chair, for the McHenry County Democratic Party offers a candidate campaign contributions to end his Primary challenge for the State Central Committee race against neighboring county party Chairman Guethle.


Jenko is running as a challenger to Kane County Chairman, Mark Guethle, who also serves as the male representative in the State Central Committee for the Democratic Party.
Jenko said, “This race should be for the voters in the 14th to decide, not the party establishment. I have gotten a lot of feedback when I canvas from people happy to have choices and I am looking forward to having a full team working for the same goal – flipping this district. As a Progressive, I am not waiting for someone to tell me this district is flippable. I am working to make sure that it is.”
The female representative incumbent is Kristina Zahorik who also serves as Vice Chair of the McHenry County Democratic Party and is fond of saying the 14th Congressional District she serves cannot be ‘flipped” (. She faces a primary challenge by Alison Squires, Democratic Party Volunteer and Chair of the Progressives of Kane County.
No one in the Democratic Party seems unconcerned with the optics of consolidation of power and representation by county leadership roles also being occupied by State Central Committee representatives.
Mateusz “Mat” Tomkowiak was another Progressive challenger who faced similar scrutiny by the same Michael Kasper who represents the Illinois Democratic Party who challenged his bid to run against Michael Madigan to represent the state Democratic Party. Tomkowiak, an openly gay Polish immigrant who is a teacher seemed like the ideal Identity Politics candidate favored by the Democratic Party. Unfortunately, the incumbent currently leads the political machine in Chicago. hoped to run in the March 20 Primary as a candidate representing the 3rd Congressional District for the state party. Each Congressional district has two representatives, one male and one female, who make up the voting block of the Democratic Party at the state level. These representatives vote on the state party chair and help set goals and policy for the Democratic Party in Illinois. Tomkowiak lost his petition challenge on January 11 and will now be removed from the ballot.
In a recent Facebook post Tomkowiak wrote, “At the conclusion of my trial, the Chairman of the Illinois State Board of Elections said “for someone who is not a lawyer, you put up a pretty good fight, Mr. Tomkowiak.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough… It is impossible not to feel powerless, when the Board members butcher the pronunciation of your name while asking the opposing attorney how his family is doing. At every stage of this process, I felt that the State Board of Elections was weighed towards the powerful.”
Tomkowiak described the events in his post from The Thompson Center where petition hearings were being conducted, “There were about 40 other people at the trial who were facing similar challenges to their candidacies — they were mostly poor folks and people of color.” The Chicago Tribune ran a story on what they deemed a “David vs Goliath” battle, shrugging off the hearing as just another day in Illinois politics.
Justice Democrats endorsed candidate, Anthony Clark, was also targeted during his petition challenge when he filed to run for Illinois’ 7th Congressional District against Democratic Congressman incumbent, Danny Davis. Clark is a Progressive candidate challenging the status quo and supports expanding Social Security,military Single Payer/Medicare for All, as well as an active approach to Social Justice initiatives. Clark is a veteran, special education high school teacher, and founder of the Suburban Unity Alliance.
Clark told The Village Free Press in December he decided to run against Davis who was first elected to Congress in 1996, “I don’t believe that he’s truly progressive,” Clark said. “I think that he’s a status quo maintainer.” Clark was also endorsed by A Brand New Congress, a grass-roots organization with the goal of replacing all of Congress with responsive, Progressive voices.


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