In the rematch between State Rep. Toni Berrios (D-Chicago) and ex-Huffington Post/Chicago Associate Editor Will Guzzardi, the Chicago Teachers Union is making an early, aggressive move to push Guzzardi over the finish line.
In the 2012 campaign, the CTU support came late - March 13 - with a $3,000 contribution.
But in the 2014 iteration, the teachers union last week sent Guzzardi a $7,500 check and more cash may be on the way, according to a CTU source. In fact, the CTU has already sent $15,000 to the opponent of State Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago), Jay Travis.
In addition to the cash, the CTU source said that the union is expected to kick in direct mail and polling support. And CTU teachers are already canvassing precincts for Guzzardi. Simultaneously, the source says, "conversations are taking place" among other labor unions to boost Guzzardi's support.
The CTU said that their repeat backing of Guzzardi rested on the accumulation of bad votes - despite a recent turnaround - and the lack of vigorous advocacy by Berrios.
"She has taken quality votes that our members respect - recently," said the source. "But there is more than being present for a vote. The question is to what extent would she push issues forward."
Berrios' refusal to back an elected Chicago school board, support for charter school growth, and past support for pension reform legislation while Guzzardi swings the other way on those issues weighed heavily on CTU's decision making.
"Members liked what Toni brought to the table, but they liked Will's advocacy more," said the source. "We have considerable respect for Berrios; so, it was a tough decision."
Guzzardi attributed his community organizing on education issues as a key to the CTU endorsement.
"I've been organizing for several year around public education for an elected school board and against school closures," Guzzardi said. "So, local teachers were calling their union delegates and telling them to be for that Guzzardi guy."
Guzzardi says his organizing and his 2012 volunteer base are powering the 2014 run.
He said that at his first neighborhood canvass on September 19 there were 55 volunteers who hit the streets that day, and that 40 to 50 people - college students, public employees, retirees, Latinos, - turn up every Saturday for canvassing.
Guzzardi, who knocks on approximately 80 doors each week day and 120 on the weekend, estimates that his operation has already knocked on nearly 30,000 doors in the near-west side district.
And Guzzardi's ground game and bank account will soon expand further thanks to other key labor endorsements obtained last week: SEIU Healthcare Illinois-Indiana and the Fraternal Police Lodge Local 7.
"They are going to support us according to their capacity," Guzzardi said obliquely.
With SEIU that means lots of bodies and cash.
Guzzardi, who is expecting more labor support in the next couple weeks, attributes the SEIU endorsement to Berrios' embrace of "corporate interests."
"She has consistently taken the side of corporate interests," Guzzardi said. "My opponent has simply not been on the side of working people."
But Berrios did snag a powerful endorsement from the Illinois AFL-CIO a couple weeks ago, backing that will boost her "working people" credentials. Additionally, the gay rights PAC Equality Illinois endorsed Berrios last week, a step that will help her with the progressive, hipster voters that form Guzzardi's base. Add that to the endorsement by the powerful pro-choice group, Personal PAC, and Berrios gets a powerful boost with progressive women.
And then there is money.
Berrios and her powerful father, Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios, have a lot of money.
At the end of the fourth quarter, Toni Berrios had $156,778 in the bank. In his personal political committee Joe Berrios had $551,418 and his 31st Ward committeeman account, $513,558. Additionally, House Democrats have already started paying for direct mail, and Berrios is on Madigan's "critical list" being circulated to other House members soliciting cash for top targets.
In contrast, at the end of the fourth quarter, Guzzardi had just $40,307 in the bank.
But Guzzardi's shoe leather is something that money can't buy.