State Rep. Melissa Conyears-Ervin will become Chicago’s next city treasurer after trouncing outgoing Ald. Ameya Pawar in Tuesday’s runoff election.
The election was the first contested treasurer race since 1999 and saw Conyears-Ervin head into the runoff on the heels of a win in February’s first round of voting.
With 95.7 percent of 2,069 precincts reporting Tuesday night, Conyears-Ervin held 59.8 percent of the vote to Pawar’s 40.2 percent.
Conyears-Ervin gave her victory speech at the National Association of Letter Carriers on the South Side, thanking the unions that endorsed her, the black woman anchors of her family and her husband, Ald. Jason Ervin (28th).
“I plan as city treasurer to be the best city treasurer this city has seen,” said Conyears-Ervin as she held her young daughter in her arms. “And I want you to hold me accountable. I’m not beholden to anyone.”
Pawar called Conyears-Ervin around 8 p.m. to concede the race.
“You win some, you lose some,” Pawar told the Sun-Times. “Life goes on.”
Pawar said that despite his loss he felt he moved the needle on important issues and vowed to support Conyears-Ervin, saying he wants her to succeed.
Peter Gariepy, a former candidate in the race before he was knocked out in the first round of voting, said he was “incredibly happy” that Conyears-Ervin, who he endorsed, won the job.
“It was a hard-fought race,” Gariepy said.
Bernadine Bradford-Coleman, an aide in Ald. Ervin’s office, said she was proud that Conyears-Ervin would be one of three women of color holding citywide offices.
“She’s well deserving of this, and it keeps the family together so she’s not going back and forth to Springfield,” Bradford-Coleman said.
Conyears-Ervin said she would bring a watchdog mentality into the treasurer’s office. She proposed auditing city departments and becoming a one-stop shop for the city’s financial analysis. That would include moving the City Council Office of Financial Analysis under the treasurer’s control, she said.
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“Taxpayers’ dollars have to be more protected,” Conyears-Ervin told the Sun-Times three days before the election. “Right now, we have the fox watching the hen house. All of the financial analysis is being done through the office of the mayor or the City Council, which we know is ineffective.”
Conyears-Ervin, an Englewood native, said she knew best how to help low-income residents who need new investment in their neighborhoods because she’s been in their shoes.
Pawar, meanwhile, spent election night at home with his wife and daughter.
Pawar served two terms as alderman of the 47th Ward before he ran for treasurer on a progressive platform. Pawar decided not to run for re-election as alderman because of a self-imposed two-term limit.
As a candidate for treasurer, Pawar focused on several social and economic justice policies that, in his view, would reform decades of mismanagement in the treasurer’s office. Among Pawar’s bold proposals was the opening of a public-owned bank.
Conyears-Ervin, who also said she was a progressive candidate, had said she wasn’t opposed to Pawar’s ideas, yet she emphasized her priority to focus on policies that would have immediate effects, not long-term ideas.
“Residents need help as of yesterday,” Conyears-Ervin said before the election. “We have to be mindful to not just talk about concepts and talk about real action plans that we can do on day one.”