If you can’t beat the father, then try beating the son.
That’s the challenge facing Anna Goral, a real estate broker from the Chicago Ridge neighborhood on city’s Southwest Side. Goral is challenging state Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-Riverside) in the March primary.
Earlier this year Goral ran against Zalewski’s father, also named Michael Zalewski, for the post of alderman in Chicago’s 23rd Ward. Goral lost, but picked up a credible 34 percent of the vote in a three-candidate race won by the longtime incumbent, Zalewski.
She knows it won’t be easy to knock off the alderman’s son, who is seeking reelection after serving two terms in the state legislature.
“It’s really hard to fight with the establishment, but I’ll do my very best to win,” Goral said.
Goral said it is only a coincidence that she is again running against a Zalewski.
“It is a coincidence that I’m running against the son, because he used to be a state rep in the 21st District,” Goral said. “Now with the remapping, he’s running from the 23rd District, and I originally planned on running from the 23rd District.”
Zalewski currently represents the 21st District, but under the decennial redistricting plan, he is running this time around in the 23rd District which, unlike his old district, is almost entirely a suburban one.
The new 23rd District covers much of Brookfield, but not the Hollywood section or the area bounded roughly by Grant, Madison, Shields and Custer avenues. The district also includes most of Riverside north of the railroad tracks.
Goral does not live in the district, but said that she would move into the district if she is elected.
“I do a lot of my work in the southwest suburbs,” said Goral who owns her own real estate agency. “I’m very close to the district and I’m familiar with it, but if I win then I’m probably going to move somewhere – Justice, Burbank, Bridgeview, any of the cities in my district.
Zalewski was first elected in 2008. He became the Democratic candidate in 2008 in a not-atypical Chicago political maneuver. Then state Rep. Bob Molaro stepped aside after the primary, allowing ward and township committeemen to name the junior Zalewski as his replacement on the November ballot that year.
Since then, Zalewski has proven to be an energetic state representative who has been responsive to local government officials.
“He has reached out to the communities in his district, understand their needs and what he can do for them and he has specifically done that for the village of Riverside,” said Riverside Village President Michael Gorman.
Goral criticized Zalewski for providing the key vote to raise the state income tax in the lame duck session of the legislature after the 2010 election. He previously said he would not support an increase in the income tax.
“He was the 60th vote that voted last January to increase our income tax from 3 to 5 percent,” Goral said. “This is the biggest issue I have with Michael Zalewski. I understand that the state needs revenue, that they are like $14 million in debt. I strongly believe our problem is not our budget, it’s our spending.”
Zalewski defends his vote to raise taxes, saying it was the right thing to do.
“In this job you go down to Springfield either to do something or to be somebody,” Zalewski said. “I don’t do this job with the understanding that I’m going to put my name in the paper or get on TV. I do it to do a good job, and we needed to fix the structural deficit in Illinois. … It was the right thing to do.”
Goral also criticized Zalewski for working for a law firm run by former Chicago mayoral candidate Gary Chico. The firm is a registered as a lobbyist in the state of Illinois.
“I want to make sure that when a legislator goes and votes they vote in the best interests of their constituents, not big business,” Goral said.
Zalewski does no lobbying for the firm and works part time, doing mostly what he described as general corporate maintenance work. Zalewski worked for the law firm Chico & Nunes before he was elected to the state legislature.
“The only things I can work on are things that don’t have anything to do with administrative, legislative or executive lobbying,” Zalewski said.
Zalewski said that he found it strange that a city resident would run for a suburban legislative seat in a district where she does not currently live.
“Not fewer than 10 months after she did everything she possibly could to be a Chicago alderman she’s now running to be a suburban state representative,” Zalewski said. “If that doesn’t smack of politics as usual I don’t know what does.”
No candidates filed in the Republican primary.