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Three aldermen knocked out, others could be on the ropes

Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) and Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st) during a Chicago City Council meeting. | Sun-Times files

Despite a low turnout, voters showed three aldermen the door in Tuesday’s election, and, if history’s any guide, another five or so may be out of a job after the April 2 election.

Aldermen Joe Moore (49th), Proco “Joe” Moreno (1st) and John Arena (45th) were ousted outright. Moore received just 36.8 percent of the vote, Moreno 39 percent and Arena 35 percent.

And for the 10 incumbents facing runoffs — there are 14 secondary battles total — their odds of winning are a little worse than 50-50.

Of the 131 sitting aldermen who were forced into runoff elections from 1947 through 2015, 66 — one more than half, or just under 50.4 percent — lost their seats.

Assuming that 72-year losing average continues, 50.38 percent of the ten incumbents forced into runoffs this year will lose. That’s five and nearly two fifths of an alderman.

Ald. Joe Moore concedes at a Rogers Park restaurant. | Maddie Burakoff/For the Sun-Times
Ald. Joe Moore concedes at a Rogers Park restaurant. | Maddie Burakoff/For the Sun-Times

Runoffs are required when no candidate wins a majority in the first round, pitting the top two votegetters in an April grudge match.

This year’s runoffs will be scattered across the South, North and Northwest Sides, hitting veteran and rookie City Council members alike.

In the 30th Ward, 16-year incumbent Ald. Ariel Reboyras received 48 percent of the vote with about 97 percent of precincts reporting, according to an unofficial summary report from the Chicago Board of Elections. Jessica Gutierrez, daughter of former U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, drew 47 percent of the vote.

Jessica Gutierrez, 31, said the narrow margin shows residents “want a new alderman … and we’re going to give the people what they want.”

And she couldn’t resist giving a little back to Reboyras.

“I can’t tell you how many times I was called a little girl by people from [Reboyras’] campaign,” she said. “This little girl just pushed him into a runoff.”

Jessica Gutierrez is challenging incumbent Ald. Ariel Reboyres in the 30th Ward. File photo by Alexandra Arriaga.
Jessica Gutierrez is challenging incumbent Ald. Ariel Reboyres in the 30th Ward. File photo by Alexandra Arriaga.

To win in April, Gutierrez said she and her team are “going to be fierce” and will get out and mobilize younger voters who didn’t vote on Tuesday.

Reboyras did not respond to requests for comment.

Ald. Deb Mell (33rd), who has been in the Council five years, is trailing Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez, 41 percent to 42 percent with all precincts reporting.

Mell narrowly avoided a runoff in 2015, and she connects this runoff to that close race four years ago. Rodriguez-Sanchez worked on the campaign of the candidate who nearly denied Mell a majority in 2015.

“I don’t believe they ever stopped running over the last four years,” Mell said. “It’s the result of that, plus there was a low turnout, and it was just an interesting election all around.”

Signs for 33rd Ward aldermanic rivals Deb Mell and Rossana Rodriguez are seen side by side in Horner Park on February 26, 2019. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times
Signs for 33rd Ward aldermanic rivals Deb Mell and Rossana Rodriguez are seen side by side in Horner Park on February 26, 2019. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

Rodriguez-Sanchez said Tuesday’s election results “showed what happened when you have a group of incredibly organized people that are very committed to a goal.”

“In the last year, the last 10 months or so, we’ve been putting together a well-oiled machine that has been delivering,” Rodriguez-Sanchez said. “We’ve been knocking doors, making phone calls, making as much contact with voters to get our message out there … I think our message has been very clear, and we’re resonating with people.”

In the North Side’s 40th Ward, Ald. Patrick O’Connor — second in Council tenure only to Ald. Ed Burke — was forced into a runoff by a candidate who was just three years old when O’Connor was first elected.

It’s O’Connor’s first runoff since the one that made him alderman in 1983. He ran against Ivan Rittenberg in that contest and got 49.8 percent of the vote, said Jim Allen, spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

Andre Vasquez isn’t kidding himself that this is only the first step in ousting O’Connor, who succeeded Burke as chairman of the Finance Committee last month.

Former Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), longtime chairman of the City Council’s Education Committee. | Brian Jackson/Sun-Times
Ald. Pat O’Connor. | Brian Jackson / Sun-Times
Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

“What we need is for everybody to volunteer and donate because we know what we’re up against,” Vasquez said. “We understand we’re the underdogs in this fight, and we need all the help we can get to move this forward.”

The number of runoffs could change. Complicating the results are the large number of mail-in ballots that still have not been counted but could determine who’s in a runoff and who’s not.

40th Ward aldermanic candidate Andre Vasquez addresses the Sun-Times Editorial Board in December. File Photo. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times
40th Ward aldermanic candidate Andre Vasquez addresses the Sun-Times Editorial Board in December. File Photo. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

South Side incumbents Leslie Hairston, a 20-year veteran in the 5th Ward; and Ray Lopez, who was first elected in the 15th Ward four years ago, are each just shy of a majority. They each garnered a little over 49 percent of the vote with all precincts reporting.

While 14 might seem like a lot of runoffs, it’s less than the 18 four years ago. That was the most since 1947, when 19 runoffs were held.

Allen said the number of runoffs this election cycle is “like Goldilocks’ porridge — just right.”

“We’ve had elections with runoffs as few as nine or 12 and as many as 19,” Allen said. “I don’t think we should have any number — it’s not like six is right, and 25 is wrong. … It’s based on the contests, and where voters were in those contests and 14 falls within the spectrum we’ve seen over the years.”

The number could grow.

Three aldermen — Roderick Sawyer (6th), George Cardenas (12th) and Roberto Maldonado (26th) — barely escaped runoffs. But Allen would only say “we’ll see” when asked about the effect vote-by-mail ballots could have in close races like those.

Sawyer’s majority rests on just 17 votes. Cardenas is 37 votes above his three opponents. Maldonado is resting on a 115-vote cushion.

The precinct tallies are complete in all three wards, but it’s not clear how many mail-in ballots are outstanding.

As long as the ballots were postmarked by Tuesday, the board is required to count any that arrive right up until March 12.

Other aldermen who appear headed for runoffs include Ald. Toni Foulkes (16th), Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), Ald. Milagros Santiago (31st), Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) and Ald. James Cappleman (46th). There are also runoffs scheduled for open seats in the 20th, 25th, 39th and 47th wards.