With slim lead, over 800 mail-in ballots yet to be counted In 5th Ward

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Crusader Staff Report

The bitter aldermanic race for the 5th Ward has gone into overtime.

Election officials are still counting hundreds of mail-in ballots that may determine the narrow race between sixth term incumbent Leslie Hairston and activist William Calloway.

Hairston’s lead is slipping in her fight for a seventh term. Her ward is poised for change with the impending construction of the Obama Presidential Center and Library.

She was among five Black incumbent aldermen involved in a close race in the April 2 runoff elections. Of those races, the race in the 5th Ward remains the closest. Long after the polls have closed, the race remains uncertain and both candidates now must wait at least two weeks to learn the winner.

Early Wednesday, Hairston had 50.81 percent of the vote to Calloway’s 49.19 percent. After the last of 49 precincts was finally counted, Hairston’s lead dipped to 50.57 percent while Calloway’s lead increased to 49.43 percent of 13,238 votes cast, according to the latest information provided by the Chicago Board of Elections. Hairston led by just 152 votes.

Spokesperson Jim Allen told the Crusader that some 846 mail-in ballots had yet to be counted. Allen said voters in the 5th Ward requested some 1,300 mail-in ballots.

Allen said ballots postmarked by April 2 will be counted. By law, election officials must count mail-in ballots within two weeks after the election has been held, which is April 16. That’s when voters will know who the winner is in the 5th Ward aldermanic race.

The 5th Ward race has been filled with negative campaigning. Hairston’s campaign attempted to portray Calloway as an irresponsible individual who owes $15,000 in back rent while racking up piles of unpaid traffic tickets in Chicago. Calloway is also accused of making homophobic statements after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2015.

Calloway’s campaign accused Hairston of  reversing her position to support the $95 million police academy and a community benefits agreement with the Obama Presidential Center and Library. They also accused Hairston of using the media to run a smear campaign against Calloway, an activist. Calloway, who was endorsed by the Chicago Tribune and the Crusader, received support from former opponent, Gabriele Piemonte, who once served as the editor of the Hyde Park Herald.

But the real issues affecting the 5th Ward are gentrification and rent control. Residents are deeply concerned about their future, with the impending construction of the Obama Presidential Center and Library.

The Crusader on Saturday, March 30, reported that Hairston took over $30,000 from two prominent groups that oppose rent control. Days before her runoff election against William Calloway, Hairston on March 28, accepted $17,350 in campaign donations from the Chicago Association of Realtors, according to information from the Illinois State Board of Elections.

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