The last time Rep. Dan Burke (D-Chicago) had a serious primary opponent in 2010, the longtime Southwest Side legislator won by just 579 votes over activist Rudy Lozano. And it could've been a closer race had two Latino "candidates" not been put on the ballot to siphon away almost 400 votes from the progressive activist Lozano.
At the moment, the age-old Chicago machine practice of running fake primary candidates designed to draw votes away from opponents is on hold while a federal judge takes a look at a lawsuit filed by Speaker Michael Madigan's vanquished 2016 primary opponent.
Madigan is alleged to have put two do-nothing candidates with Latino surnames on the ballot to draw votes away from Jason Gonzales. That never used to be considered a crime. Unfair and maybe unethical, but not illegal. Whatever it is, it's now under judicial scrutiny.
This time around, Rep. Burke is going one-on-one with Aaron Ortiz, a teacher and head soccer coach at Back of the Yards High School.
What makes this race one to watch is that Ortiz has been endorsed by Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, a 2015 Chicago mayoral candidate and Bernie Sanders' top guy in the city in 2016 who is now running for Congress with the support of the retiring incumbent, congressman Luis Gutierrez.
Rep. Burke is a member of Speaker Madigan's leadership team and his brother, Ed, is a powerful Chicago alderman. Those guys take care of their own. If Rep. Burke is willing to wage an all-out street fight, then that's what will happen.
So, two rival Chicago political factions -- the regulars and the progressives -- are gearing up for battle on several fronts while some are attempting to cut a deal that clears a path for people on both sides.
Commissioner Garcia and his allies are supporting Alma Anaya for Garcia's county board seat. Anaya has run Garcia's district office. Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago) is supporting his daughter, Angeles Sandoval, for that same county board spot. Sen. Sandoval, who has one of the strongest remaining political organizations in the city, and Sen. Tony Muņoz (D-Chicago) have each contributed $55,000 to Angeles Sandoval's campaign.
Sen. Muņoz is a top contender for Illinois Senate President whenever incumbent John Cullerton decides to retire. Ms. Sandoval should therefore have little trouble raising money from special interests.
Sens. Sandoval and Muņoz and Rep. Burke and their allies want Chuy Garcia to pull his support from Ortiz and Anaya, clearing the path for Rep. Burke and Ms. Sandoval.
In exchange, the "regular Democrats" will stay out of the Garcia's "progressive" campaign for Congress. If not, they may back someone like Sol Flores, the only woman in the race to replace congressman Gutierrez. Flores was just endorsed by EMILY's List.
So, that may be why a Public Policy Polling survey was released last week showing Garcia getting 53 percent in the Democratic primary. Everybody else was in single digits, including Flores who was at 3 percent. Garcia could wind up cruising to victory, so why not stick to his guns on the other campaigns?
Well, few people like to work more than they absolutely have to, and nothing is ever a 100 percent bet in politics. So, we'll see where this one goes. A lot of maneuvering appears to be ahead.
• Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.