Selection committee recommends two 11th Ward finalists to replace Patrick Daley Thompson, but mayor delays appointment

Mayor Lori Lightfoot had wanted a replacement seated in time for Wednesday’s City Council meeting. The Rules Committee was to meet Tuesday to confirm the mayor’s choice, but the meeting was canceled at Lightfoot’s behest.

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Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th) gives a thumbs-up as he walks with family members and supporters into the Dirksen Federal Courthouse during his trial.

Patrick Daley Thompson gives a thumbs-up as he walks with family members and supporters into the Dirksen Federal Courthouse during his trial. After his conviction, Thompson resigned from the Chicago City Council. A replacement was to be in place by this week, but now Mayor Lori Lightfoot has altered her original timeline for making a selection.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

A four-member selection committee has recommended two finalists to replace convicted 11th Ward Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson — one Asian American, one not — but Mayor Lori Lightfoot has delayed making her choice.

Ever since Daley Thompson’s conviction and resignation last month, Lightfoot has been saying she was determined to choose his replacement and have that person sworn in and seated in time to participate at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

That’s why the council’s Rules Committee was to meet at 2 p.m. Tuesday to confirm the mayor’s choice.

But Monday night, Rules Committee Chair Michelle Harris (8th), who doubles as the mayor’s floor leader, abruptly canceled the meeting at Lightfoot’s behest.

The mayor’s office did not explain the delay, except to say a “bit more time is needed to ensure” 11th Ward residents “have the best representation possible.”

Harris served as ex-officio chair of the four-member selection committee that chose two finalists from among 27 applicants for the 11th Ward vacancy.

She refused to identify the finalists. Other sources said only one of the finalists is Asian American. Both intend to seek the permanent job in the February 2023 election.

Explaining the mayor’s abrupt decision to wait, Harris said: “She felt rushed and pressured. Interviews two days before City Council. So she just wanted to take a breather and make sure she’s making the right decision … This being her first time making an [aldermanic] appointment.”

Both city ward maps headed for a June 28 referendum vote — one drawn for the Black Caucus and backed by 33 alderpersons, the other favored by the Hispanic Caucus — would turn the 11th Ward into the first Chicago ward in which a majority of the population is Asian American.

That reflects a 31% Asian American population gain (to 192,586) in the 2020 census.

As a result, Lightfoot has been under pressure to choose an Asian American replacement for Thompson, giving that person a running start in what is almost certain to be a crowded field.

Even so, the mayor has made no such commitment.

“I get that there is a lot of interest in picking someone who is Asian. I’m gonna pick who I believe is gonna serve that community the best. … There’s a number of things that are happening in that ward, particularly around economic development. So I want to choose someone who is ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work,” Lightfoot told reporters after the February City Council meeting.

“I want to choose the best person who presents themselves, somebody who has a great knowledge and passion for that community, which is very diverse. I want to make sure that we have someone who understands what it takes to be an alderman, which is a very hard job.”

Until last month, the Bridgeport neighborhood’s 11th Ward had been represented by Thompson, nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley and grandson of Daley’s father, the late Mayor Richard J. Daley. Thompson was forced to resign after he was convicted in U.S. District Court of lying to regulators and filing false income tax returns.

Under state law, there is a 60-day time limit to fill Thompson’s seat.

Lightfoot has maintained a surprisingly close relationship with Richard M. Daley, under whom she worked — first as head of the Chicago Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards and then as first deputy commissioner of Procurement Services.

If not for Daley Thompson’s conviction, Lightfoot may well have chosen his replacement from among candidates recommended by the Daley family.

If she wants to do the Daley family a favor without paying a political price for it, the mayor could choose a placeholder — that is, someone who has no intention of running for the job in the next election.

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