Former Democrat allies now rivals in 5th State Senate race

By Jean Lotus Staff reporter
2011 Illinois Senate District 5

2011 Illinois Senate District 5

Both State Sen. 5th District candidates Patricia Van Pelt and Bob Fioretti have run (unsuccessfully) for mayor of Chicago. Both have gained the respect of voters in the richest and poorest parts of the city.

They used to be friends: Fioretti backed Van Pelt when she ran for her second term as State Senator in 2014. But the friendship is strained and now the two are attacking each other with negative campaign messages. Fioretti claims Van Pelt is a do-nothing legislator whose involvement in multi-level marketing businesses is unethical. Van Pelt says Fioretti is too argumentative to be effective in politics.

Fioretti set his sights on Springfield after a career as a survivor in the Chicago City Council. As 2nd-Ward Alderman, Fioretti, now 62, defeated a 2013 re-map he said was designed specifically to unseat him.

“It was a 76-percent African-American ward, and people saw what I did and how I fought for them, bringing 8,500 jobs to the West Side,” Fioretti said.

In 2014 Fioretti threw in his hat for what he thought was a three-way mayoral election against incumbent Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis. But Lewis withdrew and Fioretti, leader of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus found himself outflanked in progressive clout by Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

As for Van Pelt, she overcame a tough childhood in the Cabrini Green housing project and an early adulthood of drug addiction. She went on to work as a steel worker, get a CPA degree from DePaul University, attain a doctorate and became a Pentecostal minister.

Van Pelt ran for Chicago mayor in 2011 and finished fifth out of six candidates.

Van Pelt said she’s proud of legislation proposed to keep police complaint records from being destroyed after several years and strengthening FOIA laws so police videos are made available to the public.

Fioretti said he supported Van Pelt when she ran against Annazette Collins in 2011. But he thinks she has not been effective in Springfield.

“She’s never around the district, she doesn’t really have an office here. She’s more concerned with her pocketbook than the people of the district.”

In December, the Better Government Association ran a story about Van Pelt’s “platinum” membership in a multi-level marketing company called 5Linx. In a 5Linx promotional video the Illinois state seal is displayed and Van Pelt boasts her home is “paid off” and she owns two luxury cars, a BMW and a Bentley. She calls herself “financially free.”

Van Pelt says she cut ties with 5Linx last July, giving up “$16,000 a month in residuals” and the Bentley. She said she started up with Utah-based Ariix, another multi-level group that sells supplements, superfoods, fruit juices and vitamins.

“It’s like Amway, Avon or Mary Kay,” Van Pelt said.

Fioretti said he thought a politician using personal and political connections to sell products is “unethical.”

Van Pelt has $71,480 cash-on-hand. Ariix donated more than $10,000 to her campaign last fall.

But Fioretti says he’s alarmed by more than $30,000 spent on mailers on Van Pelt’s behalf by Illinois GO SuperPAC.

“When [Gov. Bruce] Rauner’s helping her, let’s face facts, there’s a deal there. [Van Pelt’s] either cut a deal or she’s going to be cutting a deal. Everybody knows it, especially in Illinois politics.”

Van Pelt said she’s sending out several fliers and Illinois GO has sent out two.

Van Pelt said she did not support all of Rauner’s non-budget negotiating terms that are causing the Springfield impasse. But she said, “we do have room to do some reforms in workers’ compensation. There are two big manufacturers in this district and it’s a big issue for them.”

Van Pelt says Fioretti’s weakness as a lawmaker is that he doesn’t play well with others.

“All my legislation I’ve passed has been strongly bipartisan,” Van Pelt said.

“You gotta pick your fights and you gotta know which you can win, and which are gonna hurt yourself,” she said. “With Bob it seems like he just fights, fights, fights.”

Fioretti said he’s not running because he lost his job as Chicago alderman.

“I’m not running because I want to run. People called me up to run: Community groups, pastors and individuals.”

Fioretti’s campaign committee has $74,874.84 on hand. The candidate lent himself $50,000 in February.


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— Former Democrat allies now rivals in 5th State Senate race —