Crusader Staff Report
With days left before voters go to the polls, candidates seeking the 4th Ward aldermanic seat are stepping up their campaigns to represent one of Chicago’s most diverse and affluent districts. The 4th Ward, which runs along Lake Shore Drive, includes parts of the South Loop around Grant Park, Bronzeville, Hyde Park, and Kenwood.
In 2016, former 4th Ward Ald. Will Burns abruptly resigned after accepting an executive position with the travel accommodations company, Airbnb. Now, five candidates seek to serve out Burns’ remaining two years. They include incumbent Ald. Sophia King, Gregory Livingston, Gerald Scott McCarthy, Marcellus Moore, Jr. and Attorney Ebony Lucas.
The road to City Hall goes through King, who was appointed 4th Ward alderman in April 2016 by Mayor Rahm Emanuel—one month after Burns’ resignation. Since then, King has boosted her profile with several big endorsements from organizations and individuals, including former President Barack Obama, whose home is in the 4th Ward.
What started as a relatively quiet election race with six candidates turned into a political circus. Challenger Jack Taylor dropped out last December. Gregory Livingston, Marcellus Moore, Jr. and Gerald Scott McCarthy faced claims that their nominating petitions were not valid and they should not appear on the ballot. They were all cleared later.
As the political race heads into its final stretch, election workers set up touch screens and paper ballot machines preparing for a large voter turnout.
With voters voicing discontent with establishment politics at City Hall, the race for the 4th Ward includes four candidates who have no ties to Emanuel or his political machine. One qualified candidate, McCarthy, aims to bring real change to neighborhoods by challenging Emanuel’s appointed alderman, King.
Meanwhile, candidates are hitting neighborhoods and community forums hoping to win last-minute votes before the special election on Feb. 28. If necessary, a run-off will be held April 4 if no candidate captures at least 51 percent of the vote.
Due to political ties, some at City Hall won’t publicly support McCarthy out of loyalty to Emanuel, but in an interview with the Crusader, McCarthy appeared determined to represent the 4th Ward.
He said Chicago has to get its finances in order and that the city cannot afford to operate with a junk bond status. Transparency and putting people first was his top priority as a candidate. “We can’t afford to keep running a city that’s broke. It’s time for a change.”
Of the five candidates, King is far ahead of the competition, leading in campaign contributions, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections. A billboard with her campaign advertisement sits at the intersection of South King Drive and 35th Street.
Many politicians, including Emanuel, have thrown their weight behind her believing she is best suited to serve a ward that includes neighborhoods that are growing fast in population and development.
However, there is concern among King’s opponents that she will cater to big developers and affluent residents while shutting out the ward’s Black voters and lower-income residents.
“This election will be fought, not bought,” said Livingston at his campaign headquarters across the street from the Martin Luther King Community Center in Bronzeville.
Livingston said he plans to operate a grassroots effort in the final days of his campaign.
In a sit-down interview with the Crusader, the incumbent King said she would like to see real changes in the “structure of wealth” when it comes to Blacks in Chicago. She added that she aims to bring more affordable housing in the South Loop.
In response to criticism that she needs big-name endorsements to boost her credibility among voters, King told the Crusader, “I don’t need people to validate me.” She went on to say, “I am humble and want to grow as a person.”
Two of King’s opponents, Lucas and Moore, are more vocal. They voiced their concerns at a forum on Feb. 16 at Sixth Grace Presbyterian Church in Bronzeville. King and Livingston did not attend the forum.
At the forum, Lucas questioned whether there is a disparity when it comes to the Chicago Public School system providing resources to schools in low-income communities versus affluent neighborhoods in the ward.
Both Lucas and Moore expressed support for a lawsuit against Chicago’s red light camera program saying the city needs to seek more public involvement.
Two additional candidate forums were held in Hyde Park and Kenwood on Feb. 20 and 21st, respectively.