With Patrick Daley Thompson out, who will Mayor Lori Lightfoot appoint for coveted 11th ward opening?
The mayor is expected, by Wednesday’s Chicago City Council meeting, to reveal her choice amid pressure to name someone who is Asian American.
All 50 Chicago wards are created equal, on paper. But the Bridgeport-centered 11th ward — cradle of mayors, home base to the Daley family — occupies a special place in the city’s political hierarchy.
That’s just part of what makes Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s upcoming appointment of a replacement for convicted Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th) so intriguing.
Lightfoot is expected, by Wednesday’s Chicago City Council meeting, to reveal her choice to finish Thompson’s unexpired term amid pressure to name someone who is Asian American.
After a major push during the past year by Chinatown community leaders, the boundaries of the 11th ward are expected to be changed for the 2023 city elections to give it an Asian American-majority population, which would be a first for Chicago.
Two competing ward maps still under consideration by the council — and currently slated to go before the voters in a referendum — both would yield that result.
With Asian Americans now the fastest-growing racial demographic citywide, there are obvious political advantages were Lightfoot to recognize the group as she faces her own re-election bid.
Twenty-seven people have applied for the 11th ward council opening in response to the mayor’s open invitation, including eight of Asian American heritage.
Notably, another eight applicants have some connection to law enforcement, while five have run unsuccessfully for public office in the past. Judging by their resumes, several applicants appear to be unemployed.
A four-person search committee appointed by Lightfoot began interviewing candidates over the past week and is expected to recommend a group of finalists from which she will make her choice.
But before the committee began its work, a group of Chinese American leaders conducted its own selection process and recommended three candidates to the mayor’s office, which might make them the favorites. They are: Nicole Lee, a United Airlines executive; Donald Don, a Chicago firefighter who’s active with Local 2; and Christopher Javier, a Chicago Public Schools administrator at Steinmetz College Prep who’s involved in anti-violence efforts through the Chinese Christian Union Church.
A possible complication is that Gene Lee, Lee’s father, was a top aide to former Mayor Richard M. Daley and later was convicted in federal court of stealing thousands of dollars from two Chinatown charities.
Nicole Lee has established her own progressive political credentials and is active in the community, chairing a Local School Council. Still, the optics will be a consideration for Lightfoot given Thompson’s downfall.
Denise McBroom, who was Thompson’s last chief of staff and is a former teacher who long has been involved in the neighborhood’s community policing program, also applied for the opening.
So did at least two people who acknowledge their ties to Cook County Commissioner John P. Daley’s 11th Ward Democratic Organization: Wade Chan, who is community affairs liaison for the Chicago Park District, and Jeffrey Sadowski, executive director of the Neighborhood Boys and Girls Club.
Lightfoot has maintained a cordial working relationship with the Daley family as mayor, but, given the circumstances, it seems unlikely she would pick someone from the ward organization.
The large number of candidates with law enforcement backgrounds is a reminder that the 11th ward, as currently constituted, can be a fairly conservative place, which Lightfoot also must take into account.
They include four current or former Chicago police officers: Anthony G. Ciaravino, Anthony Regalado, James J. Brinkley and Patrick J. Murray, along with Maria D. Acosta, the department’s Freedom of Information Act officer.
Three others are current or former employees of the Cook County sheriff’s office: Bobby Martinez Olson, Greg Shields and Jack Pan.
Also seeking the job are: Abraham Matthew, a personal injury lawyer who ran for Congress in 2020 before dropping out; Meanith Huon, an attorney for the U.S. Small Business Administration; Chi Hang Jonathan Tam, a civil engineer who formerly worked for Metra; Chris Kanich, a University of Illinois Chicago computer science professor; Elvira “Vida” Jimenez, who’s semi-retired; Francisco Rodriguez, a Chicago Park District supervisor who has run three losing races for state representative; Iesha Walker, who last worked as a census taker; Joe Azim, a sales manager for Technomic Inc.; John J. Tominello, a retired court reporter; Michael Cashman, assistant deputy director of the Cook County circuit court clerk’s office; Michael Ulreich, former project manager for Instituto del Progreso Latino; Carol F. Zigulich, a substitute teacher; and Vincent F. Palmeri, former admissions adviser with the Aviation Institute of Maintenance.
Though it’s generally expected that a mayoral appointee would have a leg up in the next council election, there are no guarantees, especially with the new ward boundaries.
Some people who are expected to run for the office in 2023 weren’t eligible for appointment because they don’t live within the ward’s current boundaries.