6th Ward runoff pits incumbent against late mayor’s son

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The 6th Ward on the South Side is up for grabs with incumbent Ald. Freddrenna Lyle on the defense after two high profile murders took place there last year.

The 6th Ward on the South Side is up for grabs with incumbent Ald. Freddrenna Lyle on the defense after two high profile murders took place there last year.

The murders of two Chicago police officers last year left voters in the ward undecided about who to support, forcing Lyle into an April 5 runoff to keep her post, she said.

“These two high-profile murders and a series of other incidents has put safety at the forefront of this election and now residents are worried if it is safe to live in the 6th Ward,” Lyle explained. “There were also too many candidates running for one person to win. And for these reasons I fell short of winning re-election last month.”

Lyle squared off against five challengers and received 44 percent of the 15,045 votes cast in the ward followed by her opponent, Chicago attorney Roderick Sawyer, who received 25 percent. She needed fifty percent plus one to avoid a runoff.

But the alderman said she is confident that voters will side with her in part because she has a vision to improve the area.

“In the end I think voters who know where I stand on the issues and know my vision will support me,” Lyle told the Defender.

Running for political office means fundraising, something Lyle said is a challenge.

“We raised about $70,000 for the February election and had a little leftover for the runoff, which I estimate will cost $50,000,” she said.

Her campaign donations are largely in-kind services where instead of receiving cash services are paid for by others. Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel is among those providing in-kind support.

“I have a young lady working with my campaign and Emanuel’s camp is paying her salary,” Lyle said.

Her vision for the ward is simple and to the point: more jobs and better education.

“When there are more employment opportunities then crime will go down. And when there are more educational opportunities, whether through traditional class work or vocational training, crime will go down,” Lyle, 59, added. “But as long as a community lack these two things crime and other problems will remain.”

She also plans to continue working to improve the ward’s two public high schools, Robeson and Harlan Academy, which are currently on academic probation.

Walmart Stores Inc. plans to open a store in the neighboring 21st Ward this summer at 83rd Street and Stewart Avenue. But Lyle predicts a Walmart store would hurt small businesses in her ward and she is working with those businesses to help them remain competitive and open.

Her re-election depends largely on what voters think of her challenger Sawyer, who is also an attorney and son of the late Mayor Eugene Sawyer.

“I have nothing against Ald. Lyle and this race is not about her but change needed in the 6th Ward,” Sawyer said. “I have known Ald. Lyle for years and I consider her a friend but I also think it is time to let someone else lead the 6th Ward in the City Council.”

Sawyer said voters have been receiving calls from an out-of-state pollster company attacking the credibility of his late father.

“First of all, let me say that I do not believe Ald. Lyle is behind this. I think someone who supports her is the culprit here,” he said. “Whoever is behind this smear campaign thinking they are helping Ald. Lyle in reality is hurting her and I urge them to stop.”

Lyle has denied having anything to do with the allege pollster and said she has nothing but respect for Mayor Sawyer and his legacy.

As alderman, Sawyer said he would help cut what he calls “red tape” that is keeping new businesses from opening in the ward. Particularly, he wants to see more economic development along the Chicago Transit Authority Red Line stops from 69th Street to 95th Street, which are all located in the ward.

“There are no parking lots by these train stations, which would make it more convenient for people to take public transportation opposed to driving downtown. There are no food shops either,” he said. “I was at the train station at 69th Street and I could not buy a newspaper because there are no newsstands or stores nearby that sell newspapers. That just cannot continue.”

Sawyer said the money in his campaign coffers come from the generosity of his supporters.

“I have raised about $50,000. It is humility to sit here and call people to ask for money. This is new to me but I am adjusting and getting better at it,” he said. “We are not supported by big unions and corporations but by everyday people.”

The 47-year-old added that fresh ideas come with fresh leadership and it is important to always allow the next generation of leaders the opportunity to take the helm.

“If elected I do not plan on being alderman forever because that would prevent new leaders from growing,” Sawyer, a husband and father of two, said. “But if I do not win I plan to continue practicing law and working with other elected officials behind the scenes.”

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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