No shortage of potential Arena challengers in 45th Ward
Two-term 45th Ward Alderman John Arena faces the prospect of a multi-headed monster in his planned run for re-election in 2019.
Arena faces one confirmed rival and at least five other potential opponents, all of whom have been rated to offer varying levels of competition to his seven-year reign.
Andrew Meindl, a 29-year-old progressive Democrat and community organizer from the 6th Precinct, has confirmed his candidacy and is thought to be a threat to Arena’s sizable liberal base.
“My goal is to bring power back to the people,” Meindl vows on his website.
Meindl, who works as a project manager for the Environmental Protection Agency, lists the community’s well-being, city budget, political accountability and the environment as the four initiatives he thinks are most critical to improving the neighborhood.
Former Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association President Bob Bank could also prove to be a major thorn in Arena’s side. Hailed as a moderate Democrat, Bank has long been a harsh critic of the alderman but has yet to officially launch a run against him.
Residing in the 37th Precinct, the 59-year-old Bank works for AT&T.
Chicago firefighter and Gladstone Park area resident Jim Gardiner could prove to be yet another formidable adversary to Arena given his groundswell of support from colleagues and a potential war chest of at least $50,000.
The 42-year-old Gardiner considers himself an independent.
Another potential foe is 59-year-old Old Irving Park resident Bart Goldberg, who would enter the race with more name recognition than most of his potential rivals given his recent Democratic run for the state Senate.
An attorney by trade, Goldberg poses the greatest threat to Arena’s base in the southeast portion of the ward.
John Garrido would present Arena with perhaps his stiffest challenge. The two have previously tangled twice before in aldermanic showdowns and the 50-year-old Garrido, a Chicago Police Department lieutenant, remains one of the community’s most high-profile community leaders.
Moderate Republican Ammie Kessem, 42, is another potential challenger.
Kessem, a Chicago Police sergeant who lives in Norwood Park, is running against state Rep. Robert Martwick (D-Chicago) in the 19th House District. If her bid falls short in November, she could still launch a campaign against Arena.
The base of Kessem’s support figures to come from those opposed to proposed high-rises now being debated for the neighborhood.
Arena hasn’t exactly endeared himself to many voters in his ward.
Chicago City Wire previously reported a group of Jefferson Park residents forming the Citizens Against John Arena political action committee after becoming angry over his support of a subsidized housing plan pegged for the neighborhood that would double the number of Section 8 dwellers in the community.
“We want to do something that goes beyond just protesting,” Matt Podgorski, one of the PAC’s leaders, told the Chicago City Wire. “We want to send the alderman a message and at the same time set up a candidate to run against him in 2019.”
Soon after publicly endorsing the seven-story, 100-unit, low-income subsidized housing project planned for the corner of Northwest Highway and Milwaukee Avenue, Arena experienced growing opposition and saw crowds of protesters outside his ward office grow in size.
Like Podgorski, many of the protesters have expressed fears that crime will increase and property values will suffer as a result of the influx of low-income residents into the neighborhood.