by Nick Mastro
DuPage County Board Member Pete DiCianni, a Republican who represents District 2, ignited a huge controversy on social media following the events of a “Back the Blue” protest he attended in Elmhurst on June 27th.
Videos shared on Facebook showed DiCianni, not wearing a mask, holding a handmade sign labeled “We Back Police” and confronting multiple people participating in a counter-protest to the event, which occurred in front of the Elmhurst Police Station. DiCianni got very close to protesters in several altercations, and in several videos it appears that police were trying to keep him away from other people.
After the protest, many local activists were disappointed in DiCianni and made posts on Facebook expressing their opposition to the implications of him attending a ¨Back the Blue¨ protest. Several people pointed out the hypocrisy of DiCianni, who is the Chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee, not wearing a mask and getting close to other people. Masks primarily prevent the spread of COVID-19 and thus only are effective if everyone wears them.
DiCianni´s behavior at the protest wasn´t as controversial as his response to a constituent who emailed him expressing that he played ¨the part of a politician instead of a human¨ and that he made the constituent feel that he is ¨a terrible representation of the place the place I call home.¨ The email also demanded for DiCianni´s resignation. His shocking response was: ¨Go stick you vote in your ass! I stood up for my cops today.¨ His dismissive response and use of profanity sparked a mostly negative reaction from the public. An online petition asking DiCianni to resign has nearly 1500 signatures.
So, what’s next for Pete DiCianni following his apparent political misstep?
Well, District 2 Democratic colleague Liz Chaplin is asking the county board to censure DiCianni, and other Democratic Board Members joined her. According to the Daily Herald, Republican Board Chairman Dan Cronin expressed that the board was trying to find a course of action.
Regardless of the disagreement with DiCianni´s opinions about police, his response to a constituent seemed unprofessional and not normally how board members act towards people who disagree with their political views. The third District 2 board member, Sean Noonan (who is also a Bloomingdale police officer), recently came under heavy criticism for liking Facebook comments expressing violence as the solution to ending recent protests. The Bloomingdale Police Department expressed their concern- DuPage resident Edgar Pal told me that he found Noonan´s punishment via FOIA; a 20 hour suspension from his job.
DiCianni hasn’t shown much remorse for his actions, so he is unlikely to resign. But his political future and ambitions may be negatively impacted. His county board seat is next up for election in November 2022. Winning re-election was already quite a challenge before this controversy. Joe Biden is very likely to carry District 2 by a healthy margin, and ticket splitting is becoming very rare in recent years, usually occurring for moderates with strong personal brands (which it isn´t clear that DiCianni fits the description of). DiCianni may have even lost in 2018 if Democrats had fielded a 2nd candidate in the ¨vote for two¨ election in addition to incumbent Liz Chaplin. His Republican colleague Sean Noonan faces a challenge this year from Paula Deacon Garcia, a Democrat with experience in local government.
DiCianni has a history of being politically ambitious. He was elected Mayor of Elmhurst in a four person race in 2009 and still seems pretty proud of it- he is sometimes mentioned as a ¨mayor¨ by Elmhurst residents and referred to EPD as ¨my¨ police (although it is pretty clear that his actions did not end up helping the public image of the local police). But he didn’t seem very committed to the job; in 2012, still in his firm term in office, he resigned as Mayor to be appointed to his current County Board seat. This could have been due to the salary; board members make about $50,000 plus potential benefits and the mayor makes far less ($8700).
In 2016, DiCianni was the Republican nominee for Illinois´ 8th Congressional District, an open seat after Tammy Duckworth filed to run for Senate. He lost in the election to Democratic nominee Raja Krishnamoorthi by a 58%-42% margin. Strangely, DiCianni did not live in IL-8; he was elected as committeeman in a precinct in the 5th District, represented by Congressman Mike Quigley. The 8th District, where he ran, contains almost none of Elmhurst.
On the final day of candidate filing for the 2020 primary, Natalie DiCianni (his daughter) filed to run for Forest Preserve Commissioner- as a Democrat. Due to a major paperwork error, DiCianni was disqualified from the ballot. What this says about Pete DiCianni´s political career is uncertain, but his recent actions do not bode well for his reputation among Democrats in particular.
The very damaged political career of Pete DiCianni truly showcases an important aspect of DuPage County Politics. If Republicans want to survive, they will have to adapt to the times and distance themselves from the type of behavior displayed by President Trump. DuPage is getting much more difficult for Republicans to win, and even the reddest county board district was won by Hillary Clinton in 2016- and likely to go for Biden by a larger margin with a smaller downballot lag for Democrats, who are becoming quickly much more powerful than at any point in our county´s history.