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Ald. Suarez, challenger Santiago in nail-biter in 31st Ward

Despite the endorsement of Cook County Democratic Party Chairman Joseph Berrios, the fight to keep longtime Northwest Side Ald. Ray Suarez (31st) in his seat became a nail-biter Tuesday night.

With all precincts reporting, challenger Milagros “Milly” Santiago, a former reporter and chief of staff to former Ald. Billy Ocasio, led Suarez by 131 votes — 50.8 percent to 49.2 percent.

But Suarez, Chicago’s vice mayor and six-term incumbent, had no plans to concede Tuesday night, even as Santiago gave her victory speech surrounded by supporters at the Logan Square Auditorium.

Berrios sat with Suarez while watching returns Tuesday night with his supporters at a Mexican restaurant.

Ald. Ray Suarez talks to reporters Tuesday night at Lazo's Tacos at Western and Armitage. | Jordan Owen/For the Sun-Times

Ald. Ray Suarez talks to reporters Tuesday night at Lazo’s Tacos at Western and Armitage. | Jordan Owen/For the Sun-Times

Berrios warned supporters that there would be a legal battle ahead: “Our attorneys will be involved. . . . This will not be decided tonight.”

Suarez received $2,965 from Chicago Forward, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s super PAC before the Feb. 24 election, but nothing for the runoff campaign, state records show.

Suarez told his supporters he felt “good” about the returns, despite trailing Santiago.

Suarez spokesman Manuel Galvan said the campaign believes there were issues with machines at six precincts and will go to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners on Wednesday to request the monitoring of counts. They also think absentee ballots may go in their favor.

Santiago, who has lived in the ward for decades, ran on a pledge to create a safer ward with more economic development and help find solutions to overcrowded classrooms. She also said she would say no to increasing property taxes unless that was necessary.

“I’m kind of in shock,” Santiago said at her election party. “I think I had a very aggressive campaign, a campaign based on the issues, a campaign focused on the changes that I envision for the 31st Ward. I think that’s what made the difference.”

She said she knew the race would be close: “He is the man that people are used to for such a long time. He had all the money in the world, and for the first time, I made him spend quite a bit of money.”

Santiago, who did not receive a concession call from Suarez, said she’s not surprised he plans to ask for a recount.

“I’m very confident that everything was done right and the results are there,” she said.

In Lincoln Park’s hotly contested 43rd Ward, just 98 votes separated the candidates. With nearly 96 percent of precincts reporting, incumbent Ald. Michele Smith was leading with 50.38 percent to 49.62 percent for former attorney Caroline Vickrey.

Smith said she’s confident she’ll keep her lead. “There’s two precincts out. We know there are absentee ballots and we’re very confident they are going our way. We’re letting the process take place,” Smith said.

Smith got $78,527.08 in support from Chicago Forward, while Emanuel’s campaign fund spent $10,000 on her behalf.

In the strangely reshaped 2nd Ward, which candidates call the “new 2nd Ward,” Brian Hopkins, who’s on leave from his job as chief of staff to Cook County Commissioner John Daley, took a heavy lead against Alyx Pattison, a former partner at Katten Muchin Rosenman and a former aide to U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowksy. With all precincts reporting, Hopkins led with 56.3 percent to 43.7 percent for Pattison.

“It was a hard-fought race. Alyx and I were side by side all day today at a precinct in Ukrainian Village, and I have nothing but respect for her and everything she has accomplished,” Hopkins said.

Watching the returns with his mother, wife and family at the Westin in downtown Chicago, Hopkins said although the race was tough at times, both candidates had respect for each other.

“We both understood that we’re in it for the right reasons,” Hopkins said.

Ald. James Cappleman (46th) led with 53.81 percent vs. 46.19 percent for challenger Amy Crawford with 97.5 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday night. | File photos

Ald. James Cappleman (46th) led with 53.81 percent vs. 46.19 percent for challenger Amy Crawford with 97.5 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday night. | File photos

On the North Side in Uptown, incumbent Ald. James Cappleman (46th) led the race with 53.81 percent vs. 46.19 percent for attorney Amy Crawford with 97.5 percent of precincts reporting.

Many saw Cappleman as a beacon of change four years ago, but Crawford ran her campaign claiming he hadn’t done enough.

The 46th Ward race was historic, though: Both candidates are openly gay.

Crawford, who works at Kirkland & Ellis, had called for curbing Uptown’s gang violence and reallocating police resources to work more effectively in the crime-ridden areas of the ward.