Dupage Policy Journal

Dupage Policy Journal

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Powerful Chicago Democrat alderman backs Zito’s west suburban GOP Statehouse bid


By W.J. Kennedy | Nov 30, 2017

Chicago Alderman Ed Burke | Kate Gardiner / Wikimedia Commons

Straddling the border of DuPage and Kane counties, Illinois’ 49th House District is more than 50 miles from Chicago’s 14th Ward on the city’s Southwest Side.

That doesn’t mean it can't fall within the realm of powerful Chicago Alderman Ed Burke’s political ambition.

Burke, whose 14th Ward Organization is among the Chicago Machine’s strongest, is backing 28-year-old Republican Nic Zito to fill the open seat for the 49th, which includes parts of St. Charles, West Chicago, Aurora, South Elgin, Bartlett and Batavia. 

Nic Zito

Zito faces Tonia Khouri, an Aurora small business owner, in the Republican primary in March.

One of Burke’s political funds, the Burnham Committee, gave Zito $1,000 in October.

Other Burnham Committee beneficiaries this political cycle: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Matteson), Democratic Cook County Board of Review Member Michael Cabonargi, Democratic Cook County Commissioner and top aide to House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) Ed Moody and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Burke was a prominent supporter of Preckwinkle’s controversial Cook County sugar tax.

Zito is a rare GOP recipient of Burke’s largesse. But he’s not the only one.

House GOP Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs), a Zito supporter who is facing a primary challenge from Burr Ridge Mayor Mickey Straub, received $1,000 from the Burnham Committee in August.

Durkin and Zito are the only two GOP candidates who have received financial support from Burke this year.

Durkin has been under fire from Republicans for accepting donations from Democrats and traditionally Democrat-leaning interest groups.

Zito did not return a call from DuPage Policy Journal seeking comment.

Ban on walking while talking?

Burke, one of the City Council’s most left-leaning members, is often criticized for proposing “nanny state” initiatives.

He recently suggested the city should raise revenue by fining pedestrians who are walking while using their cell phones up to $500.

Burke said it would “increase safety by eliminating distractions for pedestrians.”

He’s also proposed a blanket city ban on energy drinks, a ban on major league baseball players chewing tobacco when in town for games against the Chicago Cubs and White Sox, a city ban on cooking oil that includes trans fats and a dress code for Chicago taxicab drivers.

Burke proposed forbidding the drivers from wearing tank tops, shorts or sandals while on the job.

Zito’s opponent in the Republican primary, Khouri, is a DuPage County Board member. 

On her campaign website, she lists herself as a free-market conservative and as pro-life, pro-family and pro-Second Amendment

Khouri, 47, told the Aurora Beacon-News in August, when she announced her candidacy, that DuPage County was a model for how to balance a budget.

"In DuPage County, we have cut our budget by $36.5 million and saved taxpayers an estimated $110 million through shared services, joint procurement and consolidation," Khouri said. "That's exactly what we need in Springfield. That's how you balance a budget."

The 49th District seat became an open seat with incumbent Republican Mike Fortner’s announcement in August that he would not seek re-election.

Fortner voted in July along with the Democratic majority to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of the budget that included increases in personal and business income taxes.

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Organizations in this Story

The Burnham CommitteeCitizens to Elect Tonia Khouri14th Ward Regular Democratic OrgCampaign Committee of Nic ZitoIllinois House Minority Leader Jim Durkin

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