I tracked all 14 aldermanic runoff races closely most of the day and late into the evening on Tuesday. Sound boring? Not for me—not with a new mayor coming in and the possibility, slim as it might be, that aldermen under Mayor Emanuel may morph into something more lively than potted plants. Here, some lessons and thoughts I had along the way:
A return to the limelight, sort of, for Burris
In the 6th Ward, which includes Chatham and Englewood, the expectation was that 13-year incumbent Freddrenna Lyle would easily survive a challenge from Roderick Sawyer, son of the late Mayor Eugene Sawyer (who was also a former alderman in the 6th). Lyle had Rahm behind her, as well as Ed Burke, unions, business and big money ($24,726 in in-kind contributions from Rahm’s New Chicago Committee). So how did Sawyer eke out a narrow win? According to Sawyer, an endorsement from Roland Burris—a family friend and ward resident for more than 50 years—helped a lot. There was the former U.S. senator, smiling happily for the cameras at Sawyer’s emotional victory.
Why the low turnout?
In the 15th Ward, 3,512 people voted yesterday; in the 16th, 3,613. For comparison’s sake, the 36th Ward runoff brought out 10,007 voters; the 46th, just 9,924. (Wards have approximately 55,000 people). The overall voter turnout was 26.6 percent. Given how important the alderman is to the neighborhood, why did so few people vote? I, for one, have never been in my congressman’s office here, but I am often in my alderman’s—most recently to rant about rats in the alley.
Not exactly a kingmaker
Downtown 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly ran unopposed in February. He had lots of money in his campaign fund, so he decided to put it to use. If he hoped to be a kingmaker—or rather, queenmaker—he failed. His pick in the 24th Ward, incumbent Sharon Dixon, lost, as did his pick in the 46th Ward, Molly Phelan.
Chinatown lopsidedly for Solis
In the 25th Ward, which includes Pilsen and Chinatown, incumbent Danny Solis, who had the backing of Rahm, Ed Burke and the unions, ended up in an unexpectedly tough race against Cuahutémoc ‘Témoc’ Morfin. In the primary, Morfin, who made pollution in Pilsen a major issue, lost to Solis by 21 points; yesterday he lost by 8, coming within 595 votes. Until the Chinatown precincts reported, Morfin’s people thought he might pull an upset. “According to the numbers we have now,” a Morfin staffer told me, “the three Chinatown precincts produced 98 votes for Morfin and 716 for Solis.” The staffer says while those votes could have constituted Solis’s margin of victory, so could a number of other factors, such as the Service Employees International Union support for Solis and the money from Rahm’s PAC—more than $45,000. Morfin issued a written concession urging Solis, who took campaign contributions from two companies charged with polluting the air, “to protect the health of the residents of the 25th Ward ahead of his own campaign coffers.” but Morfin never called Solis. Morfin’s aide says the candidate plans to try again in four years.
Out from under the table in the 43rd
In the 43rd Ward, Lincoln Park, both candidates, Michelle Smith, who eked out a 200-vote victory, and her opponent, Tim Egan, told me that they talked to Rahm during the campaign, but that he was not going to endorse. The reason? His friendship/donor base was split between the two candidates. Smith had, among others, Marty Oberman, Bill Singer, Forrest Claypool, and David Hoffman. Egan’s supporters included Jesse White, Ron Gidwitz, and Jim Houlihan. So Rahm, in effect, did what he did during the primary battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton: he hid under the table. Now, with the new City Council set, Rahm is free to jump on top of the table if he wishes, and express himself however he wants. Should be interesting. (Am I the only one who will miss the old Rahm?)
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