According to a breakdown of State Board of Election data by Illinois Sunshine — a political watchdog website maintained by the nonpartisan advocacy organization Reform for Illinois — the major fundraising war in the race for three open seats on the Proviso Township High Schools District 209 school board isn't between the only two slates in the race.
Based on quarterly financial reports filed in December 2018, Proviso Together — the slate that comprises the three D209 school board incumbents Claudia Medina, Nathan "Ned" Wagner and Theresa Kelly — had around $10,000 in funds available as of late last year.
That was about on par with the $10,000 in available funds raised at the time by Sandy Aguirre, a Melrose Park resident who is running without a slate.
As of December 2018, Proviso United — the slate that comprises challengers Laighton Scott, Denard Wade and Beverly Robertson — had around $3,500 in funds available.
And while most donations made to Proviso Together and Proviso United came from individuals, including the candidates themselves, and small businesses, Aguirre's $10,000 comes from just two sources connected to Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico.
Aguirre reported a $5,000 contribution from Citizens to Elect Ronald M. Serpico on Feb. 13 and another $5,000 contribution from the Melrose Park Civic Committee on Feb. 6. Both committees have the same address and treasurer.
The two campaign contributions have raised alarm among some observers of the race, particularly Proviso Together supporters, who have pointed to state election data showing that Restore Construction and the Del Galdo Law Group — two companies that did business with District 209 before the current board majority took over — have recently contributed money to Citizens for Serpico.
Del Galdo contributed $2,000 to the committee in December 2018 while Restore contributed $1,000 this January, according to state election data.
Throughout her campaign, Aguirre — who noted that she once ran against Serpico's opponents in prior elections and was a former supporter of Proviso Together — has stated that her connection to the Melrose Park mayor is based on common education goals. She's also said that she has reached out to other mayors and elected officials in Proviso Township asking for support.
During a Village Free Press candidate forum on March 2, Aguirre responded to whether or not the money from Serpico would affect her independence as a school board member.
"I ran against Serpico in the past twice myself," she said. "I also helped my friends run in Melrose Park against Serpico. I also helped Proviso Together canvass and won and because of me, helping along with my colleagues, we won districts in Stone Park and Melrose Park."
Aguirre said that she approached Serpico and told him her reasons for running for District 209. So far, he's been the only elected official to give her financial support.
"This is about building bridges," she said.