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It was only a few weeks ago that Catherine Zaryczny was blasting 32nd Ward alderman Ted Matlak, calling him an unresponsive and unaccountable individual whose allegiance is to the ward organization that put him in power and to the special interests that keep him in power."
That was when she was one of two candidates running against Matlak in the February 27 election for alderman. Today she pulled a surprising 180 degree turn, endorsing Matlak in the April 27 runoff against Scott Waguespack.
"Are you kidding me?" Waguespack said, when I called him for a comment. "That's the first I've heard of it."
He then jokingly asked for a few minutes to compose himself. "I have to hold on to something to keep myself from falling down from laughter," he said.
During the first round of campaigning Zaryczny routinely criticized Matlak for approving upzoning that allowed developers to overdevelop the ward. "The 32nd Ward is infamous for the present alderman's failure to meaningfully address local citizens', community groups', and businesses' concerns about development," she wrote in her response to the IVI-IPO's aldermanic questionnaire. "Development currently takes place on an ad hoc basis with no consideration for underlying transportation, congestion, and other basic concerns."
She also called reporters--myself included--to point out that Donald Tomczak, the former deputy water commissioner, had assigned patronage workers to help Matlak's 2003 campaign. Tomczak received a four-year prison sentence for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in connection with the hired truck scandal.
So why the change of heart? Zaryczny did not return calls for comment. But in a press release distributed by Matlak's campaign she said: "We cannot deny Alderman Matlak's overall record of accomplishment. The simple truth is that our ward is one of the most desirable places to live, work and raise a family."
Zaryczny pulled roughly roughly 14 percent of the vote. If every single one of her 1,122 voters follows her endorsement and votes for Matlak, he'll win. But Wauguespack says that's not going to happen.
"I think that many of the people who voted for her because of her reform rhetoric will be even more shocked that I am to hear this news," he said.