In the end, a federal extortion case wasn’t enough to oust Ald. Ed Burke from his 50-year reign in the City Council.
Burke, 75, easily fended off two political newcomers, despite charges that could send him to prison for a maximum of 20 years.
Stepping into an election night party at the Red Barrel on the Southwest Side, as supporters shouted “four more years,” Burke declared: “It’s a great day.”
With all precincts reporting, Burke had nearly 54 percent of the vote. Tanya Patino had nearly 30 percent and Jaime Guzman was at 16 percent. There were a few hundred mail ballots still out.
“I’m grateful for the support of the people that know me best, the people that I have been serving all these years,” Burke told the Sun-Times.
He said he’s happy the ward voters “have given me this vote of confidence.”
Burke, however, didn’t respond to a reporter’s question about whether he’d be serving a full four-year term, in light of the charges that he attempted to extort a Burger King owner in his ward — which he has denied.
Supporters, though, believe he’ll be cleared — Burke has dodged dozens of federal investigations over five decades in Chicago politics — and cast aspersions on those who call themselves “reform” politicians.
“All these do-gooder people in office, what do they do? Take money. They all take money,” said Rudy Acosta, a retired firefighter from Archer Heights who is a precinct captain for Burke.
“I can’t tell you the amount of people he’s helped,” Acosta said of Burke. “When he’s done, Camelot is gone. These new politicians will never accomplish what he has.”
Burke surprised many when he announced last month that despite the charges, he’d remain in the aldermanic campaign, even showing up to a candidate forum to quote King Henry VIII.
He was a study in contrasts with his younger opponents: Guzman, a 38-year-old lawyer, and Patino, a 28-year-old civil engineer who both have ties to U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia in a ward that is now 88 percent Latino. That demographic trend contributed to the Democratic primary loss last year of state Rep. Dan Burke, the alderman’s brother, by Aaron Ortiz.
Patino, a civil engineer who previously received the backing of U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, served as an area coordinator for Ortiz, who is also her boyfriend.
Patino said many in the ward didn’t know about the charges.
“People are just not engaged,” she said Tuesday night. “When I went door to door I still had to explain to people” about the charges.
“I think people are just afraid to go against him. The pressure, the intimidation tactics. I wasn’t afraid.”
Patino said Burke “has gotten complacent. I really think he’ll end up in jail. And the community will have no idea who represents them.”
Patino said she was proud of her showing.
“Regardless of the outcome, at least the community had another option this time,” she said.
Guzman also came up through Garcia’s 22nd Ward political operation and his Little Village community organization, later working as an aide to Garcia when he became a Cook County commissioner. Guzman’s campaign on Tuesday night said there were problems with the election machines at six precincts in the ward.
Although the charges weren’t enough to oust Burke, they played a big role in the mayoral race, as well, as candidates fought to distance themselves from Burke — despite their strong ties to him. Gery Chico, Toni Preckwinkle, Susana Mendoza and Bill Daley were dubbed the so-called “Burke Four” — and only Preckwinkle survived in a surprising race that saw reformer Lori Lightfoot finish first.
Still, the win could serve as a temporary triumph while he fights the federal charges. On the new City Council he’ll be one of 50 aldermen — with no prestigious title — after he was stripped of his powerful finance committee chairmanship.
Ald. Ed Burke’s fedora | Sun-Times/Matt Hendrickson