By Keith Chambers, Chicago Crusader
Alderman Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) is among the highest leaders who are generating hefty campaign donations for the 2019 mayoral and aldermanic election, according to the latest filings with the Illinois State Board of Elections.
The city’s 50 aldermen are up for reelection on February 26, 2019, where voters will also decide on whether to reelect Mayor Rahm Emanuel over a fresh crop of challengers seeking to replace him. That race is overshadowing the aldermanic race at City Hall, where incumbents are shoring up their campaign war chests.
Black aldermen have won praise for a number of development projects in their wards. But there are still concerns of Black neighborhoods becoming victims of gentrification. And with concerns about police reforms and the Laquan McDonald case, Black incumbents may face a tougher reelection campaign as voter distrust and anger in Chicago’s political establishment continues to grow.
According to the latest quarterly reports, Burnett has raised over $480,000 for his reelection campaign, the highest among Black aldermen. Alderman Michelle Harris is second with over $227,000 in campaign donations. Alderman Pat Dowell (3rd Ward) has over $143,000 in campaign donations so far. Roderick Sawyer (6th) and Leslie Hairston round out the top five Black aldermen with the highest campaign donations.
State records show Burnett has numerous donations from construction and manufacturing companies that range between $1,000 and $1,500. Several private citizens have contributed campaign donations of $7,500.
With a federal indictment accusing him of corruption and bribery, Alderman Willie Cochran (20th) is not seeking reelection after 10 years in office. Cochran leaves behind a period of uncertainty with concerns of gentrification growing, as Woodlawn experiences a rise in property values and new development projects before construction begins on the Obama Presidential Center in 2019.
Unlike the mayoral campaign, the aldermanic races have not produced as many challengers, but Black aldermen have faced public criticism in the past several years. Distrust in their leadership deepened after a video was released in 2015 showing Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times. There is also suspicion that many remain connected to and supportive of Mayor Emanuel, who is struggling to restore his reputation among Blacks as the city’s police department continues to drag its feet on implementing police reforms.
In the 5th Ward, Alderman Hairston is seeking reelection for a 6th term, but in the past year, residents in South Shore have expressed their disgust about the lack of quality businesses in the 71st street corridor. Many remain distrustful of the Chicago Park District’s plan to merge South Shore and Jackson Park golf courses with little transparency and public input. The plans has fueled concerns about gentrification in South Shore as the Obama Foundation moves forward on its plans for the Obama Presidential Center and Library.
Hairston, Alderman Sophia King and Emanuel have been silent on activists’ efforts to secure a community benefits agreement with Obama Presidential Library.
Overall, veteran alderman Ed Burke (14th) leads the entire pack with nearly $2.4 million in donations raised. Brendan is the second highest overall with over $748,000 donations, state records show.