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