City Council poised for big changes with multiple races up for grabs

At least 10 races for alderperson appear headed for runoffs in April — but uncounted mail-in ballots remain a wild card in many of the contests.

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Ald. Nicole Lee (11th) hands a piece of paper to an election judge while voting at Long Life Apartments in the Chinatown neighborhood on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023.

Ald. Nicole Lee (11th) hands a piece of paper to an election judge while voting at Long Life Apartments in Chinatown Tuesday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Complete coverage of the local and national primary and general election, including results, analysis and voter resources to keep Chicago voters informed.

Tuesday’s election promised significant change for Chicago’s City Council, and not just because 16 members who were around four years ago resigned over the last year or opted to not run again.

All told, there were 40 contested Council races Tuesday — 29 featuring incumbents and 11 with all new candidates — with many of those on the ballot poised to push the Council further to the left, and corporate donors doing what they could to prevent that from happening.

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Along with 10 Council candidates with no opposition, they will be governing a different terrain, literally, as the boundaries of the city’s 50 wards have changed.

Long after the polls closed at 7 p.m., though, results still weren’t clear for many of the more than 170 would-be alderpersons — thanks to relatively tight vote margins in certain races and thousands of outstanding, or uncounted, mail-in ballots citywide.

Here’s what is known:

• Based on early returns, at least 10 of the 40 contested races could be headed for a runoff, which occurs when there are more than two candidates in a race and nobody secures more than 50% of the total. In such cases, the top two vote-getters go head-to-head in a winner-take-all election April 4.

Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), who ran unopposed Tuesday, said by his reckoning there could be 14 runoffs.

That’s “a pretty significant number,” he said. “It’s fair to say the control of the City Council is still up for grabs.”

The 11th Ward, longtime power center of the Daley family, is one place a runoff looks likely, with incumbent Ald. Nicole Lee in a tight race with Anthony Ciaravino.

Lee was appointed in 2022 after Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson, nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, was convicted on tax crimes and had to resign.

Ciaravino, whose website describes him as a Chicago Police Department instructor, received donations from the Fraternal Order of Police, as well as from companies affiliated with Daley pal Fred B. Barbara.

With all precincts reporting, Lee and Ciaravino each captured about 30% of the vote.

Lee said Tuesday night: “I’ve always known, with a seven-person race, a runoff was likely. ... You hope for the best, but you plan for contingencies.”

There were 15 Council runoffs in 2019.

• In the Southwest Side’s 14th Ward, a stunner was brewing, as a candidate backed by retiring Ald. Edward M. Burke, Raul Reyes, trailed Jeylu Gutierrez, a candidate backed by U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, an unsuccessful candidate for mayor Tuesday.

With all precincts reporting, Gutierrez had 65% of the vote to Reyes’ 35%.

There are more than 500 uncounted mail-in ballots in that ward, which includes parts of the Gage Park and Brighton Park neighborhoods.

Jeylu Gutierrez, joins Jesús “Chuy” García election night party at the Apollo’s 2000 Theatre. Gutierrez had a commanding lead in the race for the 14th Ward seat on the City Council.

Jeylu Gutierrez, joins Jesús “Chuy” García election night party at the Apollo’s 2000 Theatre. Gutierrez had a commanding lead in the race for the 14th Ward seat on the City Council.

Manuel Martínez/WBEZ

• In the nearby 13th Ward that includes Midway Airport, Ald. Marty Quinn, an acolyte of ex-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, appears to be safe from a challenge by Paul Bruton, a stay-at-home dad and former analyst with the Chicago inspector general’s office.

With 95% of precincts reporting, Quinn had about 88% of the vote.

City records show there are more than 1,000 mail-in ballots that still haven’t been counted.

Quinn’s success came even with a dark cloud of Madigan’s corruption indictment hanging over the race — charges that accuse Madigan of using his powerful office to illegally enrich himself and various cronies.

Ald. Marty Quinn (13th), running for re-election, walks along South Kilbourn Avenue in the West Lawn neighborhood as he campaigns and visits residents’ homes on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023.

Ald. Marty Quinn (13th), running for reelection, walks along South Kilbourn Avenue in the West Lawn neighborhood as he campaigns and visits residents’ homes Feb. 18.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

• In the 1st Ward, incumbent Ald. Daniel La Spata topped a field of four in a hard-fought race for an area that includes Wicker Park and Logan Square, but it wasn’t immediately clear whether he’d have enough votes to avoid a runoff.

With 96% of precincts reporting, La Spata had roughly 49% of the vote, followed by Sam Royko, son of late newspaper columnist Mike Royko, with about 24%.

Proco “Joe” Moreno, the former alderman trying to make a political comeback, was just under 8%. He lost in 2019 after a series of embarrassing incidents involving drinking, a car crash and a girlfriend.

Several thousand mail-in ballots also are not yet counted in that ward.

• While Mayor Lori Lightfoot had a bad day at the polls, some Council allies fared better, among them 28th Ward Ald. Jason Ervin, who led his sole opponent with more than 75% of the vote, with 96% of precincts reporting — though that opponent, Shawn Walker, was restored to the ballot only on Feb. 17.

Lightfoot’s floor leader, Ald. Michelle Harris, captured 71% of the vote against two opponents with 87% of the precincts reporting.

Two political groups battled heavily to try to influence Tuesday’s election.

United Working Families, a progressive group closely aligned with the Chicago Teachers Union, endorsed 19 Council candidates — seven incumbents and 12 challengers. The group, which backed Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson for mayor, spent about $300,000 on political activities since the beginning of last year.

Based on incomplete returns, it looks like seven of those Council candidates won their races — including two who were uncontested — while six may face runoffs.

A political group called Get Stuff Done PAC, run by a former aide to ex-Mayor Rahm Emanuel, raised close to $2 million in just the last few months, helped 15 Council candidates and tried to knock out two others.

The group’s mission statement — “To elect pragmatic candidates to the Chicago City Council” — is seen as a way to counter the left-leaning agenda of many people running for the Council.

Among the big donors: Emanuel ally Michael Sacks, who donated $1 million since Dec. 20.

Ten of the candidates the group supported appear headed to victory, based on early returns.

James Kenniff, 21, votes at Canter Middle School in the Kenwood neighborhood on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023.

James Kenniff, 21, votes at Canter Middle School in the Kenwood neighborhood on Tuesday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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