Chicago Aldermanic Races Headed to April Runoffs

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It’s over and off to the Face -Off         Photo: Richard A. Chapman

Can we blame it on the weather? It’s been colder. Most people showed up for work so what really happened? Are Chicago voters apathetic?  Somethings going on when more than a third of the aldermanic races are head for a runoff in six weeks, not to mention the run off between the incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Jesus Chuy Garcia and it’s not good.

The Mayor won the majority of the votes but not enough to end the campaigning  and to avoid the inevitable run off he now faces. We have to wonder what exactly stopped the people from going to the polls on Tuesday and to whose advantage will it benefit.

Then there’s the  dozen  aldermen backed by a political action committee aligned with Mayor Rahm Emanuel  that couldn’t get the majority vote they needed to avoid the April 7 one on one races, with more than 90 percent of the vote counted in all races, according to the Chicago Board of Elections.  Included in the run off is Patrick Daley Thompson, grandson of Chicago’s first Mayor Daley  who fell short of an outright victory Tuesday in his bid to represent the family stronghold on the City Council.  That is surprising given the history of the Daley’s whose  footsteps he follows. It’s very possible that this is an indication that the era of the classic Chicago Democratic Machine is coming to an end.   The Daley heir,a real estate attorney and Cook County Water Reclamation District commissioner,  had 48 percent to 36 percent for Little League official John Kozlar and 16 percent for community activist Maureen Sullivan, with 95 percent of the vote counted. He  is the only third-generation Daley to hold public office and  has not   dismissed a potential run for mayor one day. Thompson was endorsed by Emanuel and the Chicago Forward super PAC backing the mayor and his policies spent nearly $27,000 to promote Thompson’s candidacy.

Thompson’s loyalty and knowledge of politics shut down  dismissed suggestions that he was hurt by his association with t Emanuel. “It’s a difficult race anytime you have a three-way race,” Thompson told reporters at his campaign headquarters.

Change is certainly afoot  given that one alderman backed by Chicago Forward, the Emanuel-aligned super PAC, was headed to outright defeat. Ald. Rey Colon, 35th, had 33 percent to 67 percent for challenger Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, with 100 percent of precincts reporting unofficial results.

Chicago Forward, bolstered with millions of dollars from Emanuel supporters, also backed more than a dozen aldermen who won re-election outright. In fact, there were 43 contested races for alderman, including eight open seats, in the first test of new ward boundaries.  Six aldermen were running without opposition, and one faced a write-in candidate. Following the 2011 city elections, the council redrew the political maps to adjust for population shifts documented in the 2010 census, with many of the wards redrawn to protect pro-Emanuel incumbent.

To win Tuesday, candidates needed to get just over 50 percent of the vote. Anything below that  put them in a face-off between the top two finishers will face off in the April 7 runoff election.

Two aldermen appointed by Emanuel and backed by the pro-Emanuel PAC were facing voters in their wards for the first time.   Natashia Holmes who was  appointed by the Mayor to replace Sandi Jackson in 2013  and Deb Mell in her family stronghold, the 33rd Ward. Holmes had 25 percent of the vote in an eight-person contest, information technology manager Gregory Mitchell had 20 percent and Keiana Barrett, who was former Ald. Sandi Jackson’s chief of staff, had 19 percent. In the 33rd Ward, Mell was a state representative when she was appointed in mid-2013 to replace her father, Dick Mell, a longtime council power broker and unabashed defender of political patronage who is now a City Hall lobbyist. Mell fell just short of winning the election outright with 49.7 percent, to 35 percent for high school teacher Tim Meegan and 16 percent for nonprofit consultant Annisa Wanat, with all28 precincts reporting.

Three wards drawn emerged with new Latino majorities were crowded races.  On the Northwest Side, the race for the new 36th Ward was a position fight of  between competing power bases. Gilbert Villegas was backed by state Rep. Luis Arroyo Sr. and his son, Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr., plus U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez. And Omar Aquino was backed by Joseph Berrios, the county assessor and county Democratic Party chairman. Also on the ballot were businessman Christopher Vittorio and community organizer Alonso Zaragoza. In the end Aquino had 36 percent to 33 percent for Villegas, 24 percent for Vittorio and 8 percent for Zaragoza, with all precincts reporting.

In the South Side’s 15th Ward, Democratic Party Committeeman Raymond Lopez faced five other candidates: Chicago police Officer Rafael Yanez, who was getting backing from some progressives, attorney Adolfo Mondragon, ward Streets and Sanitation Superintendent Eddie Daniels, city clerk employee Raul Reyes and Pastor Otis Davis Jr. Lopez had 47 percent to 23 percent for Yanez, with all precincts reporting.

And in the new majority Latino 23rd Ward on the Southwest Side, longtime Ald. Michael Zalewski claimed victory against first-time candidate Martin Arteaga and businesswoman Anna Goral. Zalewski had 67 percent to 19 percent for Arteaga and 14 percent for Goral.

In the 43rd Ward, first-term incumbent Michele Smith was under fire from three opponents for the way she has made decisions about development in tony Lincoln Park and the outside job she had as a consultant for a nonprofit arts foundation, which added $72,000 a year on top of her $108,000 annual salary as an alderman.

Smith had 42 percent to 36 percent for Caroline Vickrey, a local school council member and former assistant state attorney general, 17 percent for Jen Kramer, a Navy Pier special events director, and 6 percent for Jerry Quandt, owner of a business marketing agency, with 45 of 46 precincts reporting.

Six candidates raised more than $1 million to compete for an open seat in the newly drawn 2nd Ward, which cuts across 13 North Side neighborhoods but contains none of the turf from its previous location south and west of the Loop. The move displaced Ald. Bob Fioretti, who chose to run for mayor.

With 45 of 46 precincts reporting, Brian Hopkins, on leave as chief of staff to Cook County Commissioner John Daley, had 29 percent, and Alyx Pattison, an attorney and former aide to U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, had 24 percent.

On the West Side, Michael Scott Jr.  was positioned  to emerge from a 10-candidate field to claim the open 24th Ward seat.  Scott Jr., is a favorite son of the Democratic party.  His father  was  president of the Chicago Board of Education and a close friend of Richard M. Daley.  The younger Scott has drawn financial support in his campaign from several backers of the former mayor.With 39 of 41 precincts reporting, Scott had 30 percent, businesswoman Vetress Boyce had 17 percent and businessman Darren Tillis had 15 percent.

Another closely watched race was in the 38th Ward on the Northwest Side, where Ald. Nicholas Sposato, 36th, was running after the remap gave his current ward a Latino majority. Current Ald. Timothy Cullerton was not seeking re-election

Sposato, a firefighter who often votes against the mayor, was strongly leading seven candidates, including Heather Sattler, who runs a nonprofit and is endorsed by the Cullerton family that has controlled the ward for generations. Tom Caravette, a real estate agent who forced Cullerton into a runoff four years ago, was also running. With all precincts reporting, Sposato had 54 percent to 16 percent for Sattler, while Caravette was trailing.

Also running in a new ward after hers was remapped with a Latino majority was Toni Foulkes, who faced three opponents in the South Side’s 16th Ward. She initially faced incumbent JoAnn Thompson, who died of heart failure during the campaign and was removed from the ballot. With 33 of 36 precincts reporting, Foulkes had 42 percent to 36 percent for Stephanie Coleman, the daughter of former Ald. Shirley Coleman, and 15 percent for Jose Garcia.

Two citywide officials were unopposed on the ballot: Treasurer Kurt Summers, whom Emanuel appointed in late 2014, and Clerk Susana Mendoza, seeking her second term.

And its on folks, six more weeks of speeches, town hall meetings, debates, canvassing and it goes on as the candidates face off.

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