City government hopefuls, struggling to raise own campaign funds, bankroll one another

As some municipal candidates have struggled to build their campaign war chest, some have turned toward clout-driven political coalitions, state finance records reveal. But that support hasn't been mutually beneficial.

Campaign finance records reveal some of the clout-driven political coalitions that have emerged since 2019. HWH / Amethyst J. Davis
Campaign finance records reveal some of the clout-driven political coalitions that have emerged since 2019. HWH / Amethyst J. Davis

This report was fact-checked by Olivia Stovicek. Olivia's experience as an editor and fact-checker includes serving as a senior editor at South Side Weekly and as a team leader for City Bureau's Civic Reporting Fellowship in 2021.

Aside from the mayoral race, there’s not a lot of big money driving Harvey’s campaign season, state records suggest.

Instead, as many struggle with empty pockets, some are pumping what funds they do have into one another’s campaigns. A confluence of campaign signs around Harvey and spending reveal the varying political coalitions that have formed in recent years.

But that generous spending hasn’t gone both ways, in many cases, according to an HWH analysis of campaign dollars.

Here’s a look at the financial web woven throughout Harvey’s municipal races.

Clark-Arambula-Drewenski-Clay II

In the 1st Ward, large signs dot the bustling Halsted corridor. Alderwoman Drewenski’s name joins Clerk Rosa Arambula, Mayor Chris Clark, and City Treasurer candidate David Clay II. Without much fanfare, Clay left Clark’s mayoral team last summer. Clay’s now running for city treasurer in an effort to unseat incumbent Aisha Pickett.

Clay and Arambula have each tossed at least $4,000 to Clark’s campaign bid. Arambula and a relative named David donated a combined $5,550 to Clark’s campaign. Drewenski, however, has no reported contributions to Clark’s campaign, according to recent state records.

But this spending hasn’t been mutually beneficial. State records don't include any donations from Clark to the political campaigns of any Harvey municipal hopefuls. Drewenski, Clay, and Arambula's campaigns have not filed any financial disclosures, indicating they have taken in under $5,000 in the past year, so it's unclear if Clark has donated to them. However, he’s pumped $11,600 into his own campaign.

Clark currently has $11,600 in cash on hand, according to an HWH analysis of his campaign war chest.


Alderman Tyrone Rogers (6th) and Alderman Tracy Key (4th) have endorsed Alderman Marshun Tolbert (2nd) for mayor. Rogers’ campaign signs sit alongside several of Tolbert’s in pockets of the city. Last fall, Rogers donated $1,000 to Tolbert’s mayoral race. It’s unclear if Tolbert has returned the favor. Neither Rogers nor Key have reported the formation of a political committee or campaign contributions to the state.

Noteworthy aldermanic spending at a glance

Shirley Drewenski (1st)

State records show that Shirley Drewenski (1st), running for reelection, hasn’t made a reported donation to a political committee representing a Harvey hopeful, be it for a mayoral or City Council seat.

Drewenski’s dollar has favored township politics, namely that of deceased Thornton Township Supervisor Frank Zuccarelli. As early as 1999, Drewenski sprinkled between $20 and $500 to Zuccarelli’s reelection bids. He passed away in January 2022. Zuccarelli led the township for 28 years.

Most recently, Drewenski donated to Phoenix Mayor Terry Wells’ failed election for Thornton Democratic committeeman. Illinois State Senator Napoleon B. Harris III (15th) won that seat.

Telanee Smith (3rd)

Appointed by the mayor following the resignation of former alderman Quinton Crudup, Smith has pumped thousands into Clark’s mayoral bids.

In the year leading up to the 2019 primary, Smith, employed as a public service administrator for the state Department of Children and Family Services, donated $2,350.75 to Clark’s campaign. Her state contribution records show an influx of $8,000 to Clark’s campaign since September 2022.

Sign up for The Renaissance Letter, our free email newsletter

Get the latest headlines from the Harvey World Herald right in your inbox.

Read past editions

More in Politics from The Harvey World Herald