I’m not planning on going too in depth on many of these past primaries but very close elections are always interesting and this election was very close. Incumbent Toni Berrios edged out challenger Will Guzzardi 4,021 to 3,896, a difference of 125 votes.
The new 39th district is a majority hispanic district, with 55.06% of the voting age population identified as hispanic in the 2010 census. The map on the right shows the hispanic percent of the population by census tract for every census tract that lies in whole or in part of the district. Click on the map to view the census data in greater detail. You can also see census data on median household income and/or percent of the population with at least a bachelor’s degree by clicking here.
As you can see from the census data, the central part of the district has a very high concentration of hispanic voters. The southeastern portion of the district is the gentrifying part with a high concentration of college graduates and a stronger median income. The northwestern part of the district has a significantly lower college graduate rate than the southeastern corner but an only somewhat lower median income.
The race pitted an hispanic incumbent female with a strong ballot name (her father is the Assessor of Cook County as well as the county party chairman) against a motivated young progressive with an ivy league background. Based on the demographic profile of the district and the candidates’ respective backgrounds you would expect each to find a regional base of support in the district. However as an incumbent female (typically the female to male ratio in democratic primaries is about 55-45) in a majority hispanic district the district favored Berrios.
The map on the right shows Guzzardi’s performance by precinct (click on the map to see it in greater detail). As you can see from the map he ran strong in the Logan Square neighborhood in the southeastern part of the district with a collection of precincts where he performed better than 60% (dark green and light green). In the northwest part of the district he once again had a handful of blue precincts but most of these precincts were either light blue (50-55%) or pink (45-50%) meaning they were narrow victories/losses. Throughout the district he only won two precincts with better than 70% (with the exception of the 20th precinct in Ward 31 which had only 1 total vote) so while he was able to earn votes throughout the district he didn’t really rack up any large numbers with dominant precincts.
This map shows Berrios performance by precinct. As expected her strongest area was in the central part of the district where she was able to run up some big numbers in precincts that would be expected to be her base. You can see a greater number of precincts in the dark grey (70-80%) and even a few in the light grey (80-90%). Since this map is essentially the mirror image of the Guzzardi map you can see that he outperformed her in the southeast corner of the district, but up in the northwest part you can see that Berrios won her fair share of narrow victories (light blue 50-55%) and held quite a few of her losses to narrow losses (pink 45-50%).
The difference in this race was that Berrios was able to run up bigger numbers in her base (the central part of the district) than Guzzardi was able to in his (the southeastern part) while holding the northwestern part of the district to about a draw.
Guzzardi has asked for a recount and has alleged some irregularities on election day. With electronic voting machines a recount seems unlikely to overturn a 125 vote margin strictly on the basic arithmetic of adding up votes.
A number of stories in the media have pointed out that Berrios’ father is the committeeman of the 31st ward where Berrios performed especially well (in the central part of the district). This shouldn’t come as a surprise, based on the demographics and past performance this is where Berrios would be expected to perform best. The map on the right shows the performance of Anita Alvarez in the 2008 primary for Cook County State’s Attorney. The comparison isn’t exactly the same, Alvarez ran against several candidates instead of just one and one of her opponents came from a base in the 38th ward which takes up the northwestern part of this district, but you can see the same type of vote intensity. Alvarez, the only hispanic woman in the race, performed very well in the central part of the district comparable to Berrios’ performance.
Perhaps there was some inappropriate or impermissible behavior that hasn’t yet come to light, but it seems more likely that the battleground to decide this race was in the northwestern part of the district where the vote was up for grabs and neither candidate was able make a strong claim to the vote there so Berrios prevailed because her base in the central part of the district was deeper than Guzzardi’s in the southeastern part.