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Deja vote? 15th, 16th and 21st ward aldermanic faceoffs are all repeats of 2015

Top row, from left: Ald. Howard B. Brookins Jr. (21st), 21st Ward challenger Marvin McNeil, Ald. Toni Foulkes (16th); bottom from left: 16th Ward challenger Stephanie Coleman, Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) and 15th Ward challenger Rafael "Rafa" Yanez. | Rich Hein / Sun-Times

They’re called runoffs. But in three wards on the South Side and Southwest Side, they might well be called re-runoffs.

Three sitting aldermen face off April 2 against familiar foes — the same rivals who challenged them four years ago. The grudge rematches are in the 15th, 16th and 21st wards.

Retired zoning official Marvin McNeil is making another run at unseating Ald. Howard Brookins in the 21st, Rafael “Rafa” Yanez is again challenging Ald. Ray Lopez in the 15th, and Stephanie Coleman and Ald. Toni Foulkes again face off in the 16th.

Yanez, a Chicago police officer, says his campaign is “building on what we started four years ago” to reshape the South Side ward that includes parts of West Englewood, Brighton Park, Back of the Yards and Gage Park.


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15th Ward aldermanic candidate Rafael “Rafa” Yanez. | Rich Hein / Sun-Times
15th Ward aldermanic candidate Rafael “Rafa” Yanez. | Rich Hein / Sun-Times

“He’s contributing to an exodus and isn’t doing anything about it,“ Yanez said of Lopez. “His mother-in-law is a staffer, his partner is chief of staff. … We need to do better. … We need to invest in early childhood education, … affordable housing, helping first-time home-buyers.”

Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th). | James Foster / Sun-Times
Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th). | James Foster / Sun-Times

Lopez said he’s happy to see Yanez “getting active in the community after disappearing for four years after the last election” but challenges her view of the ward, saying, “Officer Yanez would be well served to check the facts.

“We have worked to try to stabilize West Englewood, particularly because of what’s gone on unchecked for decades — to lay blame on one individual reeks of desperation for someone who the black community completely rejected four years ago,” Lopez said.

After coming in 143 votes shy of beating Foulkes in 2015, Coleman told the Sun-Times editorial board, “I am the leader this ward needs. . . . The ward needs a fighter — a present alderman, not an absentee alderman.”

Toni Foulkes (left) and Stephanie Coleman. | Sun-Times files
Toni Foulkes (left) and Stephanie Coleman. | Sun-Times files

Foulkes, formerly the 15th Ward alderman, beat Ray Lopez in a 2011 runoff. After that ward was redrawn with a Hispanic majority, Foulkes jumped into the race to represent the 16th Ward, allowing Lopez to run for a then vacant seat.

Foulkes went on to win the 16th Ward race in 2015 after the incumbent JoAnn Thompson died a few weeks before the February election. Foulkes narrowly beat Coleman in the runoff. Thompson had won the seat in 2007 by defeating incumbent Ald. Shirley Coleman — Stephanie Coleman’s mother.

Foulkes said she thinks the younger Coleman’s goal “was always to run as alderman, even when JoAnn was here, but … she puts out that she has a right to be an elected official just because her mother was an elected official.”

“I’ve been here longer” than Coleman has been alive, Foulkes said. “I’m a 49-year resident. As a little girl, I moved here when the community was a booming place. … In my 12-year tenure, I’m very confident of where this community is moving.”

Farther south, in the 21st Ward, McNeil said the incumbent, who’s held the office for 16 years, has “gotten worse as he’s settled in.

“He’s attempted to get appointed to judge, to run for judge and to run for Congress,” McNeil said. “The ward is in worse shape than ever now. He’s been there 16 years, and, when I go door to door, I challenge people, I ask them, ‘Does your block look better now than it did 16 years ago?’ ”

McNeil said the streets are a mess, and he’s pushing to fix them. He also wants to start a chamber of commerce to support businesses and attract new ones.

“He wants to fix every sidewalk in the 21st Ward, but you’d need a significant capital bill to do that,” Brookins said. “He could start [a chamber of commerce] now; he could’ve started it four years ago.”

From left, 21st Ward aldermanic candidates Joseph C. Ziegler Jr. and Marvin McNeil and incumbent Ald. Howard B. Brookins Jr. | Rich Hein / Sun-Times
From left, 21st Ward aldermanic candidates Joseph C. Ziegler Jr. and Marvin McNeil and incumbent Ald. Howard B. Brookins Jr. | Rich Hein / Sun-Times

Brookins said he expects to win as he did four years ago: “The percentage and numbers of votes we received last time increased. I don’t know that there’s a different story about Mr. McNeil going forward.”