Like the seasoned pro he is, Ald. Richard Mell today floated a straightforward political solution to his upcoming retirement: Appoint his daughter, state Rep. Deb Mell, to his 33rd Ward seat and then install his aldermanic aide Jaime Andrade to take her state House seat.
Mell’s notion acknowledged two political realities. As Democratic committeeman, he controls much of the vote needed to pick a House replacement if Mayor Rahm Emanuel chooses Deb Mell for the council seat, but Latinos expect to have a say in any political succession because they now make up a large voting bloc in the Northwest Side ward.
Deb Mell has not returned calls about whether she is pursuing the seat; Emanuel is accepting applications for the job and wants to name a replacement by the July 24 City Council meeting that will mark the 75-year-old Mell’s departure as alderman.
“That’s her decision, she’s gonna have to apply if she wants to,” Mell said of his daughter. “I think if I had a choice, and she really wanted it, I certainly would favor her over somebody else.”
“I think she’s still got some mixed emotions, but I think she would like it,” he added. “I think she would do well.”
Andrade, he said, “probably would” make a good state representative. “I don’t know if that’s going to be the ultimate goal there.” Andrade declined to comment.
Ald. Rey Colon, 35th, said Wednesday when word of Mell’s retirement broke that Latinos have been focused on making sure a Hispanic gets a shot at replacing Deb Mell as state representative. But there are other potential aldermanic contenders as well, including state Sen. Iris Martinez.
Martinez, D-Chicago, said today she is still considering whether to apply for the soon-to-be open aldermanic seat. She said she believes she will get a fair shake via the open process Emanuel has pledged to honor.
"I have served the 33rd Ward as part of my district. I know the people and I know the issues," Martinez said. "So I know (Richard Mell) knows I have served the area well."
Martinez said she is likely to decide next week whether to throw her hat in the ring.
As 33rd Ward committeeman, a post Mell intends to keep, he would command nearly half the votes needed to determine who gets appointed to replace his daughter in Springfield should Emanuel appoint her to her father’s current post.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Tribune, and later at a long City Hall news conference, Mell waxed nostalgic for the old days of political patronage and talked of spending more time with his family, especially daughter Patti Blagojevich and her two children.
He said there were only two things that prevent him from “saying I was the luckiest guy in the world.” One was the difficult death of his wife, Margaret, in 2006 from progressive supranuclear palsy, a degenerative brain disease, and the other was the ascension and downfall of his son-in-law, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
“I don’t really want to hang anything on him now, he’s got enough problems as it is,” Mell said of the imprisoned Blagojevich, who is serving 14 years for corruption. “It was a shame, the promise that was there that was not able to be fulfilled.”
Mell launched Blagojevich into the state House and Congress and helped make him Illinois’ first Democratic governor in a quarter century. He said if he could do it different, Blagojevich “He would never have got out of state rep. He would never have went to Congress. He would have been state rep until he decided to quit and be a lawyer or whatever."