Chicago Elections 2019: The Day After
[This article was written for the People’s Tribune Chicago Area Facebook Page.
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If the November midterm elections were a wave of resistance, how to describe the Chicago general election of February 26, 2019? With sub-freezing weather coupled with a lackluster bevy of 14 mayoral candidates, turnout rose only slightly above record low numbers. One thing was consistent throughout: the electorate is showing how fed up they are with the officials who ignore them or actively work against them. The people are taking their fight for housing, healthcare, schools and a safe community to the polls, and candidates are stepping up to respond.
Here is a brief list of what the people of the city of Chicago accomplished yesterday:
- 1st. Ward: Voted overwhelmingly against corrupt incumbent Proco Joe Moreno, electing in his place Daniel LaSpata
- 5th Ward: William Calloway, perhaps best known for fighting to have the video of the murder of Laquant McDonald released, appears to have forced Leslie Hairston into a runoff.
- 10th Ward: Sue Sadlowski Garza won re-election in a deindustrialized South side ward, once a center of steel production in the midwest.
- 14th Ward: Ed Burke, longest sitting alderman in Chicago history, now under indictment for extortion, retained his seat by an unexpectedly slim margin. Tanya Patino captured almost a third of the vote in her challenge to Burke.
- 15th Ward: Rafa Yanez forced incumbent Raymond Lopez into a runoff.
- 20th Ward: Jeannette Taylor, long time community activist and leader in the Dyett School hunger strike is the leading candidate in a runoff in a ward without an incumbent running.
- 25th Ward: Byron Sigcho-Lopez, an activist in the Pilsen Alliance and in struggles around education, won nearly 30% of the vote to force a runoff in the ward formerly represented by the corrupt former chair of the zoning committee, Danny Solis.
- 33rd Ward: Rosanna Rodriguez-Sanchez actually leads incumbent Deb Mell in the vote tally. Both are polling a little above 40%, in a ward that will see a runoff in April.
- 35th Ward: Democratic Socialist Carlos Ramirez-Rosa was reelected.
- 40th Ward: Andre Vasquez will face incumbent Pat O’Connor in a runoff. The main issue in this ward, says Vasquez, is affordable housing. O’Connor has been Emanuel’s floor leader in the City Council, was tapped to head the finance committee when Burke was stripped of his chairmanship of that committee. One of the most powerful of the City Council, O’Connor only got a third of the votes.
- 45th Ward: We missed this one in the original article. Jim Gardiner defeated incumbent John Arena in a close race, capturing 51% of the votes. Arena was elected in 2011 and in 2012 was one of very few alderman willing to walk a Chicago Teachers Union picket line. He was reelected in 2015 by only 30 votes. In the last years he has taken heat for supporting affordable housing in his ward, assailed by critics who accused him of bringing “Cabrini Green” to his ward — a naked racist slur referencing the now-demolished near north housing project. Kathy Powers writes us: “You missed the 45th ward (Jefferson Park) .We lost the very special John Arena who actually fought and won a NEW building for accessible, affordable housing on Northwest Highway. I protested there a couple of times. The racist SOBs in JP didn’t like it.”
- 46th Ward: With 3 precincts left to be counted, three challengers are separated by 300 votes in their bid to unseat gentrifier-in-chief James Cappleman. Maryann Lalonde seems most likely to wind up in the runoff, followed closely by Erika Wozniak Francis and Angela Clay. The challengers have promised to support whoever gets into the runoff against Cappelman, whom Emanuel has tapped to lead the Zoning committee instead of disgraced Danny Solis.
- 49th Ward: Maria Hadden trounced 28 year incumbent Joe Moore, winning nearly
2/3 of the votes against her opponent. Hadden announced in her victory speech that the next step would be to mobilize to help other similar candidates in other wards. This could have important consequences for runoff campaigns, especially the 40th and 46th Wards, where entrenched, reactionary aldermen are vulnerable.
- Furthermore — incumbents were forced into runoffs in the 16th, 21st, 30th, 31st and 43rd, Wards. It’s noteworthy that incumbent John Arena lost to James Gardiner in the 45th Ward. It’s also worth mentioning that Ariel Reboyras, the incumbent in the 30th Ward, distinguished himself in the last year by bringing to City Council two police oversight proposals intended to undercut the CPAC (Chicago Police Accountability Commission) proposal, an outgrowth of community, grassroots agitation.
And then there is the mayoral election itself. While there were some very fervently held opinions about the candidates, the most consistent at the grass roots was against Bill Daley, scion of the Daley dynasty. There was very little enthusiasm for anyone. People often modified their arguments for any candidate by the proviso, “She’s not perfect, but . . .” All of the top four candidates, who together garnered about 60% of the votes, had ties to the “Chicago Machine.” Lori Lightfoot, who had never won elected office but had been appointed to various positions in city administration, was the “outsider” and won the most votes. Daley, who served in the Obama and Clinton administrations , received $2 million from hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin. Toni Preckwinkle is Chair of the Cook County Democratic Party. She occupies a power base in the Party tactically in opposition to Emanuel, but strategically going in the same direction. Susana Mendoza, on the other hand, has distinct connections to Emanuel. The indictment of Ed Burke ensnared both Mendoza and Preckwinkle in a web of corruption that they can’t entirely shake. The runoff between Lightfoot and Preckwinkle will yield the first African American woman mayor of the city. It will not yield a mayor friendly to the interests of the working class, whatever it’s color.
The tremendous advances that we’ve seen in this election should only whet our appetite, not satisfy us or make us complacent. In fact, for all that was accomplished, here are a couple of sobering thoughts.
First of all, the election turnout. What do the majority of Chicagoans think about these candidates? Does the electorate think that voting makes a difference? Even in wards like the 49th, the turnout was 40% and rarely in the city exceeded 45%. In some wards, the cynicism was rife. But how can you blame people whose votes are taken for granted and whose elected representatives don’t bother to represent? The signs are there that a sleeping giant is awakening, how quickly we don’t know, but direction is more important than speed.
Second, even if we can toss O’Connor and Cappleman overboard onto the trash heap of history, even if in Wards 5, 15, 20, 25, and 33 the winners are ready to fight for a program of the working class, that still leaves a large number of politicians in place that graze in the pastures of wealth. It will be an uphill battle for the working class, and we’d best remember that the victory is less in the seats captured than in forming ourselves into a battle-ready contingent for future encounters.
We won a lot in this election cycle, which continues now until April 2 and the runoff. No matter what happens in the runoffs, we have a potential network of grass roots activists developing across this city. We especially won the right and responsibility to up our game and keep fighting together for that which did energize the electorate: the right to housing, education, police accountability and an end to violence, and all the basic needs of the people.
[See also “The Four Aldermen of the Apocalypse” on this blog.]