Carol Felsenthal
On politics

Garrido Decides Against Recount in the 45th, but Is ‘Contemplating’ Suing SEIU

After conferring with his lawyers, John Garrido told me in a telephone conversation this morning that he has decided against a recount in his razor-thin loss to John Arena in 45th Ward runoff. Although he says he suspects irregularities, Garrido has no proof yet—the Board of Elections has not yet released details—and the deadline for filing for a recount is…

John Garrido
John Garrido
After conferring with his lawyers, John Garrido told me in a telephone conversation this morning that he has decided against a recount in his razor-thin loss to John Arena in 45th Ward runoff.

Although he says he suspects irregularities, Garrido has no proof yet—the Board of Elections has not yet released details—and the deadline for filing for a recount is close of business today. He’d have to bear the cost of filing—as much as $25,000—himself, and the 43-year-old lawyer and police lieutenant doesn’t want to spend the money.

His lawyers witnessed a canvass at the Board of Elections this morning, and the numbers didn’t budge. Arena is still ahead by 28 votes in one of the bigger turnouts (just over 12,000 votes) of the April 5th election. 

Garrido says that while he wishes the best for the 45th Ward, he will not call or even email his opponent to concede—much less to offer him congratulations.

Arena told me in a telephone call this afternoon that he hopes Garrido “will give me the courtesy of a call to let me know that he has decided against a recount.” He added, “I look forward to working with him and hope he’ll stay engaged because we need good people to stay active in this community.”

Garrido, one of two Republicans in runoffs—both lost—told me that he and Arena, a 44-year-old business owner and community activist, had been friendly during the primary. They emerged on February 22nd as the runoff candidates among a field of seven; Garrido had about 32.7 percent and Arena about 22.5 percent. Garrido said he often joked with his opponent that the ward was lucky to be in a win-win situation; either would be good leaders for Northwest Side ward, which includes Jefferson Park and Portage Park. 

The day after the election, Garrido says, the two men talked on the telephone and agreed to “keep the campaign positive.” But then came the real race. Garrido accuses Arena of fighting dirty once his opponent “signed on with the Service Employees International Union.” (Arena received about $175,000 from SEIU.) Garrido mentions “contemplating” a defamation suit against SEIU for mailers that he says were “total lies”—mentioning in particular flyers that falsely claimed he had taken money from LAZ Parking, the company running the city’s unpopular parking meter system.

Arena disputes this claim. He said the mailer didn’t claim that Garrido took money from LAZ Parking—but rather from Juan Gaytan, Jr., the president and CEO of Monterrey Security, a LAZ Parking subcontractor.  

As for Rahm Emanuel, Garrido said the mayor-elect remained neutral in the race. Soon after the start of the runoff race, Garrido told me he was called to Emanuel’s downtown campaign office for a meeting. (Arena had been there the day before.) “I liked him; he was direct and honest, different than I anticipated. He really, truly seemed sincere about reforming city government.” They talked for 40 minutes, and, at the end, Rahm said he would stay neutral. And Garrido, who did not endorse a mayoral candidate during the primary, says Emanuel kept that promise. 

There has been some talk about Rahm being a “silent” endorser of Garrido during the runoff because, a week before the runoff, the candidate received $10,000 from For a Better Chicago, the organization run by Greg Goldner, the Emanuel ally who successfully ran Rahm’s first race for Congress in 2002. Garrido told me that Goldner himself called him to tell him about the contribution and endorsement; he heard nothing on the matter from Rahm.

I asked Garrido if it mattered that there will be no Republicans in the City Council. “I don’t think it matters, not like the Senate or the House,” he said. “The issues we’re voting on are not Democratic or Republican issues.” Garrido added that he has voted in Democratic primaries and doesn’t agree at all with what the Republicans in Wisconsin are doing about collective bargaining for public-sector employees.

Garrido, who took vacation days from the Chicago Police Department to run for alderman, says he’s going back to work this afternoon. And yes, he does savor the idea of running in four years against Arena. “Stay tuned.” says Garrido, who also lost to Roger Keats in the Republican primary for Cook County Board president. He says he doubts he’ll try to run for anything sooner than that—remembering what it was like to try to “drill holes in the lawns in the middle of January to place lawn signs.”

Calls for comment from a representative of SEIU were not returned by post time.

UPDATE: Ray Quintanilla, SEIU Illinois State Council’s communications director, called me after the story was posted. “The advertisement you referenced did not say the candidate accepted a contribution from LAZ,” he said.


Photograph: Chicago Tribune


3 years ago
Posted by 45th Ward Voter

SEIU contributed close to $250,000 in Arena, not $175,000. Garrido should be proud of how close those numbers were. On the flip side Arena' should be embarrassed to have won by that slim margin with a $250,000 investment in him. Shows the people really wanted Garrido as the next Alderman.

3 years ago
Posted by Adam

Great article, fuller than anything else out there, Carol. You might want to ask Ray Quintanilla or John Arena for a copy of the advertisement he refers to. I seem to remember it said nothing about Gaytan or LAZ. I think it said the "parking meter company" or something like that.

And the video ad for Arena displayed "Garrido took cash from parking meter company" -- the voice over was "Garrido even took cash from the corporation making millions from the parking meter deal."

3 years ago
Posted by crankbait

While Garrido didn't win the election, he did win the hearts and minds of the 45th ward. Every single neighbor that I have spoken to said that they voted for Garrido. So where are all these people that voted for Arena?!

Perhaps the wonderful people at SEIU that invested over a quarter of a million dollars know. I wonder if all that money being shoved around knocked some votes for Garrido into a garbage can. It wouldn't surprise me at all.

Garrido raised his own money and ran a positive issue based campaign, Arena made a "backroom deal" with SEIU and ran a typical Chicago style, rotten, smelly, name calling campaign.

If someone in your family had to work with one of those guys, who would you chose?

3 years ago
Posted by Acityworker

I still have a copy of the parking meter mailer that shows a kiosk receipt on a dashboard and says "LAZ Parking" right on it. That was no accident. By the way as Adam above states the ad said "Garrido took cash from the parking meter company" there another parking meter deal that we are not aware of? Garrido accepted a $500 personal donation from a classmate who works for a security company. That's it. SEIU spent $200,000 to spin that into a smear campaign. That tells me SEIU really needed to buy this council seat for some reason. I know I'll be watching every vote Arena casts to see how he will be repaying that debt to SEIU with my tax dollars.

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