(MCT) Democratic leaders on Monday picked a top aide to former Ald. Richard Mell to replace his daughter in the Illinois House of Representatives after she stepped down last month to take over her father's spot at City Hall.
The appointment of Jaime Andrade to the House seat vacated by Deb Mell completes a chain of succession the elder Mell first laid out shortly after announcing his plans to retire the seat he held for almost 40 years.
Andrade, 40, was Mell's top aldermanic assistant for more than 15 years. He also works as assistant sergeant of arms for the City Council, earning more than $89,900 a year. Andrade said he will resign that post in order to fully focus on his new job.
Andrade was one of three candidates vying for the position, which was filled by a group of Democratic committeemen chaired by Richard Mell, who had nearly 44 percent of the weighted vote. Andrade received almost 75 percent of the vote following brief closed-door deliberations.
Other applicants included Chicago Public Schools librarian Mel Ferrand and attorney Audrey Cosgrove.
Ferrand touted her experience as an educator and noted her diversity in being both a Latina and a lesbian. Cosgrove highlighted her law experience and working-class background before challenging the panel to pick an outsider.
"There's nothing improper about Jaime," Cosgrove said. "But it doesn't look good."
Mell defended the selection of Andrade, saying he is a hard worker who will listen to the needs of his constituents in the 40th District. Mell said that those unhappy with his daughter's appointment to represent the 33rd Ward or Andrade's selection to replace her should let it be known at the ballot box.
"It will be up to the people to decide," Richard Mell said. "That's the ultimate goal for Deborah and (Andrade)."
Picking a Latino for the seat was viewed as an important decision for the district which, based on the 2010 federal census, is 49 percent Hispanic, 37 percent white, 9 percent Asian and 4 percent African-American.
Andrade said his heritage will help him connect with non-English-speaking members of the community but said voters in the district are highly informed and will support a candidate based on qualifications, not race.
Andrade said he was prepared to take on possible challengers in the March primary election. He said he will focus on housing and education issues but noted he is also prepared to vote in favor of gay marriage should the bill be called for a vote.
On pension reform, Andrade said he was waiting to see what proposal will be put forth by a special committee that's working to strike a deal on the contentious issue before supporting a particular overhaul plan.
Tribune reporter Rick Pearson contributed.
©2013 the Chicago Tribune
Distributed by MCT Information Services