By Erick Johnson, Chicago Crusader
Riding a wave of big endorsements and political contributions, Sophia King cruised to victory in the 4th Ward aldermanic race on Tuesday, February 28, defying critics who doubted her chances because of her ties to Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
With nearly 63 percent of the vote, King swept the polls in an election where turnout was small in the 4th Ward. King’s big win easily averted a runoff that would have been held if she didn’t grab more than 50 percent of the vote from a crowded field of five candidates, whose strong appeal to low-income residents and Black voters were King’s weakness.
Low voter turnout continues to be a big problem in special elections. Out of nearly 36,588 registered voters, only 6,729 or 18 percent went to the polls. While King won the majority of votes, Attorney Ebony Lucas—dogged by allegations of legal misconduct—came in a distant second with 18 percent of the vote. Gregory Livingston, Marcellus Moore and Gerald Scott McCarthy received just below 7 percent of the vote.
King kept her throne after receiving an unprecedented endorsement from former President Barack Obama, in addition to support from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Emanuel.
In January, political donations began pouring in after Obama threw his weight behind King, whose ward includes Obama’s mansion. The donations put her campaign war chest over the top with $250,000, far ahead of her opponents.
“I have to take a small moment to thank President Obama,” King said at the Little Black Pearl Workshop in Kenwood. “History will tell, but I think he’ll go down as the one of the best presidents ever. I’m just happy to have known him that way.”
King’s endorsement from Obama was viewed as a game changer that was badly needed because of perceptions that she was too close to the mayor, who is still trying to repair his image in the Black community after the Laquan McDonald scandal. A report by the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) said King voted in favor of Emanuel’s policies 85 percent of the time.
A relative rookie at City Hall, the special election was the first real test of King’s electability after the mayor appointed her in 2016 to replace former 4th Ward Alderman Will Burns, who resigned abruptly to work for the travel accommodations company, Airbnb. She will serve out Burns’ remaining two years.
The future remains challenging for King, whose ward is experiencing explosive growth in the South Loop, where population increases and planned skyscrapers are challenging the status quo. With a ward that includes poor and affluent neighborhoods, like Hyde Park and Kenwood, King has a daunting task of balancing constituents’ needs while serving one of the most diverse wards in the city. In some parts of King’s ward, gentrification remains a big concern.
“Friends, our city and neighborhoods are facing a lot of challenges,” she said. “We can’t stop working until every corner of this ward and this city can be traveled safely by our children. We have to take a hard look at ourselves and really ask how we got here.”
To reach less affluent voters in the final days leading up to the special election, King attended several high-profile events, including the dedication of a Great Migration plaque at the foot of a new bridge off Lake Shore Drive and 31st Street. She also erected a massive billboard at 35th and King Drive.
On Election Day, she scheduled a number of appearances at various businesses that are popular with Blacks. However, she did not show up at a scheduled 10 a.m. appearance at Valois Restaurant in Hyde Park, one of Obama’s favorite Chicago eateries. Her campaign did not respond to a text message sent by a Crusader reporter seeking an explanation for her absence.