Some Black aldermen with ties to mayor face tough rematches
Crusader Staff Report
A record 11 Black candidates have filed to run in Chicago’s mayoral race, kicking off an intense campaign season where some Black aldermen with ties to outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel are fighting to keep their seats.
The aldermen face challenges from political rivals who have emerged on the unofficial list of candidates after the filing deadline for next year’s city elections expired Monday, November 26. After a week of hauling thousands of petitions to the basement of City Hall, there are now some 21 candidates for mayor of Chicago, according to the Chicago Board of Elections. They include newly elected Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, former Chicago Public Schools’ CEO Paul Vallas, Atty. Bill Daley, Atty. Gery Chico, and former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.
With 11 Black mayoral candidates, there is concern that a split Black vote will lead to election of a white or Hispanic candidate.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is among 11 Black candidates who filed to get their names on the ballot. On Tuesday, November 27, Preckwinkle held a press conference at the Lake Shore Café in Hyde Park, where she was endorsed by a handful of Chicago’s Black clergy.
Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown is also courting the city’s Black clergy as she campaigns heavily in their churches.
Other Black mayoral candidates include Atty. Amara Enyia, State Rep. LaShawn Ford, businessman Neal Sales-Griffin, former Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot, activist Ja’mal Green and activist Roger L. Washington.
The list also includes Conrien Hykes Clark and Sandra Mallory, two Black female candidates who had not publicly announced their mayoral campaigns before they filed their petitions.
Two other Black mayoral candidates, William “Dock” Walls and Chicago Principals Association President Troy LaRaviere are no longer on the list of mayoral candidates. On November 13, LaRaviere announced his withdrawal from the race, saying he did not have the minimum 12,500 signatures to file for the race.
Other Black candidates were more successful. Preckwinkle had more than 60,000 signatures. Ford had 40,000 signatures. Enyia, whose profile was boosted by the support of Chance the Rapper and Kanye West, brought in 62,000 signatures. According to the Chicago Board of Elections, they all arrived at 9 a.m. to file their petitions.
Brown filed with 25,000, raising concerns that they may not be enough to sustain a challenge from opponents. Candidates obtained double or triple the amount of the required 12,500 signatures just in case some are ruled invalid during the certification process.
Preckwinkle and businessman Willie Wilson are among five candidates who will enter a lottery on December 5 that will determine which candidate gets the coveted first slot on the ballot.
Green, Sales-Griffin and Lightfoot are among five candidates who will vie for the bottom spot during the lottery.
The mayoral and aldermanic elections are on February 26, 2019. In September, Emanuel announced that he will not seek a third term, opening a floodgate of candidates for the city’s highest office.
Emanuel’s impending exit has left a handful of vulnerable Black aldermen whose ties to the mayor has made them targets of activists who are determined to have an independent voice at City Hall. Some face a rematch from challengers in past elections.
In the 20th Ward, incumbent Willie Cochran did not file for a fourth term, leaving 15 candidates vying to replace him. They include past candidates Kevin Bailey and Andre Smith—both of whom lost to Cochran in the aldermanic election in 2015.
The race for 20th Ward alderman is the second most crowded race behind the mayoral race.
With property values rising and housing developments going up before the Obama Presidential Center and Library is built, there is concern that Woodlawn, and parts of the 20th Ward, are gentrifying.
Perhaps the biggest concern for some Black aldermen is their ties and unswerving support for Emanuel. Black aldermen were largely silent as the mayor was accused of suppressing a police video that shows the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald while the mayor courted the Black vote to win a second term. The accusation has fueled the campaigns of activists who have grown disillusioned with Black leadership at City Hall.
The Crusader in October reported that Aldermen Pat Dowell (3rd), Leslie Hairston (5th), Michelle Harris (8th), Anthony Beale (9th), Howard Brookins, Jr. (21st), Carrie Austin (34th) and Emma Mitts (37th) accepted tens of thousands of dollars from the mayor weeks before they approved a $5 million settlement to the estate of Laquan McDonald.
With a tougher political climate, there is a possibility that many candidates will be forced into a runoff. Candidates must win 50 percent of the vote to win their race outright.
In the 5th Ward, Hairston faces three opponents, including activist William Calloway, who helped force the release of the police video of the McDonald shooting.
In the 6th Ward, incumbent Roderick Sawyer faces a rematch with Richard Wooten. Sawyer defeated him in the 2015 election by taking more than 56 percent of the vote.
In the 8th Ward, Harris faces a rematch against Faheem Shabazz, whom she crushed in 2015 by taking nearly 69 percent of the vote. But Harris also faces activist Linda Hudson, who in May, led a protest against Harris’ plans to build a senior housing living facility. The Crusader reported that the developer of that proposed building, Montclare Senior Residences of Calumet Heights, gave Harris $10,800 two weeks before she was re-elected in 2015.
Brookins, Jr. will square off against Marvin McNeil and Joseph Ziegler Jr.—two challengers from the aldermanic election in 2015. McNeil pushed Brookins to a runoff, where he lost a tight race, taking 49 percent of the vote to Brookins’ 51 percent.
Another rematch will happen in the 37th Ward where Mitts will square off against Tara Stamps, who pushed her opponent to a runoff. In that election, Mitts had a narrow victory, winning 53 percent of the vote to Stamps’ 47 percent.