Scott Waguespack, Alderman of the 32nd Ward, lean and light skinned, is a careful man. With the demeanor of an actuary, Waguespack measures his speech, taking time to determine the right thing to say. He radiates intelligence.
John Fritchey, a Cook County Commissioner and the current 32nd Ward Democratic Committeeman, is a quick-spoken politico blessed with George Hamilton’s perpetual tan. He engages and is always engaging. Sometimes words come out of his mouth so fast that he tumbles over them. Charm is his deadliest weapon.
Both are self-styled reformers. But rather than combine to work like Batman and Robin, they hurl insults and fight like cats and dogs. Then on Monday, they both filed to run against each other for 32nd Ward Democratic Committeeman.
It is funny to remember that four years ago, this odd couple was hailed as an exciting progressive political duo. But after at least two years of occasional snipes and sneers, Waguespack decided it was time to run against Fritchey next March 20 for the 32nd Ward Democratic Committeeman spot, a position that has little actual power but plenty of bragging rights.
Back in 2007, when Waguespack, called “Wags” by his supporters, first ran for Alderman, he got a big boost of financial and political support from then-State Rep. John Fritchey. At the time, Fritchey was a relatively high-profile progressive state legislator who sponsored legislation to curb payday loans and reform campaign finance law.
Today Fritchey and Waguespack dispute over how much support Fritchey actually provided to Waguespack’s successful 2007 campaign. But there is no dispute over the fact that Waguespack, whose biggest political job until 2007 had been working for the Berwyn mayor, needed all the support he could get and Fritchey was the biggest elected officeholder on his team.
Waguespack cut the heart out of the once mighty 32nd Ward political machine when he won the 2007 aldermanic contest. So it was no surprise when Fritchey ran unopposed for the 32nd Ward Democratic Committeeman slot in 2008.
But then things began to get ugly. Their supporters (remember both sides come from the progressive world) began to toss mud at one another. Then, the two began to personally toss mud at each other. Then rumors began to float that Fritchey was going to support an Waguespack opponent in his 2011 reelection campaign. Fritchey says it never went that far.
For his part, Waguespack says his decision to run for Committeeman is just business. Fritchey says it’s personal. What is clear from listening to their individual takes is that they both feel disrespected by the other.
“I’m not running around being bitter about John and how things went,” said Waguespack. “Some of the demands that were being made,” by Fritchey were inappropriate, Waguespack says.
For instance, Waguespack said Fritchey, who is also a part-time zoning attorney, asked him to make some zoning changes in the 32nd Ward soon after he was first elected alderman. Exactly what changes, Waguespack declined to say.
“I’ve handled one zoning change [in the 32nd Ward] since Scott was elected,” responded a heated Fritchey. “That was a tear down of a single family home that was smaller–that project had the support of all the surrounding neighbors as well as Scott, otherwise it wouldn’t have gone through.”
Waguespack also says Fritchey came to his office and chewed out his aldermanic staff when he didn’t get something he wanted. A charge Fritchey also denies.
“Scott has constantly been trying to come up with answers for why he decided to stop speaking to me,” says Fritchey. “He knows that his decision to terminate our relationship was one based on his political relationships, not anything I did.”
Cool cucumber Waguespack says he isn’t having any part of Fritchey’s feud.
“I never really got into his banter about me being disrespectful to him. It was all stuff that was being created in his own wheelhouse. I didn’t have time to sit there and say I’m going to war with John. I never really had time for it.”
For his part, Fritchey isn’t having any part of Waguespack’s detached manner.
“Scott has chosen to define himself by having a protagonist. He did that well with [former mayor Richard M.] Daley. Now that he’s got a mayor with a 78% approval rating, he’s got to find a new way to define himself.” Fritchey thinks he’s supposed to be the new foil for Waguespack.
There’s still three and a half months until Election Day. Plenty of time for everyone to work it out.