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Election Blog: Lightfoot, Preckwinkle head to runoff

Supporters at Lori Lightfoot's election party cheer as she leads the polls, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019, in Chicago. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

10:25 p.m. Preckwinkle takes podium, takes shot at Lightfoot

Toni Preckwinkle took to the podium shortly after 10 p.m., acknowledging the moment.

“We may not be at the finish line. But, we should acknowledge that history is being made,” she said.

Taking a shot at Lightfoot’s lack of executive experience, Preckwinkle said, “It’s not enough to stand at a podium and talk about what you want to see happen. You have to come to this job with the capacity and the capability to make your vision a reality.”

Mayoral candidate Toni Preckwinkle speaks at her election night event at Lake Shore Cafe, 4900 S. Lake Shore Dr., Tuesday night, Feb. 26, 2019. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

— Fran Spielman 

9:54 p.m. Is Chicago ready for reform? Lightfoot, Preckwinkle poised for mayoral runoff

Lori Lightfoot was poised to face off in the April 2 runoff against Toni Preckwinkle, the party boss she once accused of trying to “bully” her out of the race of mayor.

Riding a wave of voter discontent, Lightfoot punched punch her ticket by finishing first, with 17.5 percent of the vote with 90.3 percent of the precincts reporting. Preckwinkle was second with 16 percent to Bill Daley’s 14.6 percent. Although 31,000 mail-in ballots were still outstanding, Daley conceded the race shortly before 10 p.m.

The runoff battle between Lightfoot and Preckwinkle promises to be a donnybrook, pitting a new reformer against an old one who has since become a party boss. Whatever happens, assuming the two indeed face each other in a runoff, Chicago will have its first African American woman as mayor.

— Fran Spielman 

9:29 p.m. City treasurer’s race headed toward Conyears-Ervin, Pawar runoff

The battle to become Chicago’s next treasurer appeared to be headed for a runoff late Tuesday as State Rep. Melissa Conyears-Ervin, D-Chicago, held a slim lead over Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th).

The election — the first contested treasurer race since 1999 — pitted Pawar, Conyears-Ervin, who is married to Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), and an accountant against each other for the job of the city’s banker.

With 78.4 percent of 2,069 precincts reporting late Tuesday, Conyears-Ervin held 44.3 percent of the vote with Pawar in second at 41.6 percent. Accountant Peter Gariepy sat well behind at 14.2 percent.

With none of the three candidates reaching the required 50 percent for a victory, an April runoff appeared likely for either Conyears-Ervin or Pawar to take the place of outgoing Treasurer Kurt Summers, who announced in October he would not seek re-election.

— Nader Issa

9:20 p.m. Ald. Ed Burke appears headed to victory despite criminal charges

In the end, a federal extortion case doesn’t appear to have been enough to expel Ald. Ed Burke from his 50-year reign in the City Council.

Burke, 75, was poised to easily fend off two political newcomers, despite charges that could send him to prison for a maximum of 20 years.

With 81 percent of precincts reporting, Burke was ahead, with 56 percent of the vote. Tanya Patino had about 28 percent and Jaime Guzman was at 16 percent. There are still a few hundred mail ballots still out, however.

But low turnout typically favors the incumbent, and Burke’s decades as alderman no doubt played a role in 14th Ward voters punching his name. Burke has dodged dozens of federal investigations over five decades in Chicago politics.

— Tina Sfondeles & Matthew Hendrickson


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9:13 p.m. Aldermen Moreno, Arena poised to lose their seats on Northwest Side

Two veteran Northwest Side aldermen — one dogged by scandal — appeared likely to lose their seats on the City Council Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, three of their peers on the Northwest Side will likely find themselves in run-off elections once the votes in Chicago’s historic city election are tallied.

In the 1st Ward, Daniel La Spata held a commanding early lead against Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno. La Spata had 60 percent of the vote with 61 percent of precincts reporting.

Meanwhile, in the 45th Ward Jim Gardiner led Ald. John Arena. Gardiner had 52.8 percent of the vote with 89 percent of precincts reporting.

— Alice Yin & Jon Seidel 

9:01 p.m. North Side challengers poised to oust Moore in 49th, force O’Connor into runoff

Progressive challengers were poised to oust one longtime North Side alderman from his seat on Tuesday and force another — one of the most powerful in City Hall — into a run-off race.

That’s according to early returns from the Chicago Board of Elections, which put incumbent Ald. Joe Moore (49th) down with about 36 percent of the vote to challenger Maria Hadden’s 64 percent of the vote, with about three-quarters of precincts reporting.

And Ald. Pat O’Connor — Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s floor leader who is vying for his 10th term — led in the 40th Ward with just over 34 percent of the vote, with Andre Vasquez next with about 18 percent of the vote and about 80 percent of precincts reporting.

— Mitch Armentrout

8:59 p.m. State attorney general’s office investigating alleged vote-buying in 25th Ward

Authorities confirmed Tuesday evening they’re investigating allegations of vote-buying by a 25th Ward aldermanic candidate in the crowded Southwest Side race to replace embattled Ald. Danny Solis.

The Illinois attorney general’s office dispatched two attorneys to a polling place at 1354 S. Morgan St. late Tuesday to look into reports by the poll-watching Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights that supporters for Byron Sigcho-Lopez were offering gift cards to 25th Ward voters if they punched his ballot number.

— Lauren Fitzpatrick

8:38 p.m. Late voter surge at the polls spares Chicago from setting record low

A late surge in voting Tuesday saved the mayoral election from setting a record low in voter turnout.

As of the closing of the polls at 7 p.m., 540,885 votes — or 34.1 percent of the electorate — had been counted, including early votes and mail-in ballots that have arrived so far, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

About 130,000 of those votes were cast in person in the last three hours the polls were open Tuesday.

In total, there are about 1.5 million voters in Chicago.

— Mitch Dudek

8:28 p.m. Anna Valencia coasts to re-election as City Clerk after rivals tossed off ballot

Incumbent City Clerk Anna Valencia, once tagged by Rahm Emanuel as part of the “next generation of leadership,” came away unscathed — and unopposed — in the first election of her career in front of Chicago voters.

Seen as a rising star in political circles, Valencia won re-election for city clerk on Tuesday in perhaps the most uneventful and anticlimactic race of the night.

City Clerk Anna Valencia at Manny’s Deli, Feb. 26, 2019. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

— Nader Issa

8:19 p.m. Millennial voters fail to take their energy to the polls

By early Tuesday evening, the Chicago Board of Elections was reporting that the millennial vote was a lot lower than it was in the governor’s race.

“In the 25-34 age group last fall we had 189,000. We have more than 100,000 fewer than that. We are at 74,6095. In the 35-44 [age group], another key group, we had 163,000 last fall, and we only have 85,000 now. Those two groups account for the biggest declines,” said Jim Allen, a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election.

Here’s Mary Mitchell’s take on why that happened.

— Mary Mitchell

8:06 p.m. Lori Lightfoot takes early lead in wide-open mayoral race

In incomplete returns, Lori Lightfoot surged to an early lead in the race for a spot in the April 2 runoff, with Bill Daley and Toni Preckwinkle close behind in race that was too close to call.

With 66 percent of the precincts reporting, Lightfoot was leading with nearly 17.4 percent of the vote. Preckwinkle and Daley were locked in a battle to be Lightfoot’s opponent with 15.6 percent and 14.8 percent respectively.

“I’m trying to just stay in the moment,” Lightfoot told the Chicago Sun-Times. “I don’t want anything to jinx it.”

— Fran Spielman 

7:00 p.m. Polls close after evening surge

Every polling place closed at 7 p.m. except for precinct three of Ward 45, which will be open until 8 p.m. due to a late start. As results trickle in, stay up to date with our mayoral and alderman election results page.

Turnout was low throughout the day according to Jim Allen, a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, but surged in the evening.

6:04 p.m. WATCH LIVE: Election returns and analysis

Sun-Times journalists Robert Herguth and Jenniffer Weigel, joined by guests including candidates and analysts, break down the most contested races in today’s election as live results roll in. Watch here.

Reporters Bob Herguth and Jeniffer Weigel on election night, Tuesday, February 26, 2019. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

5:37 p.m. Grab a drink before these felonious deals end

Psst… Lizard’s Liquid lounge… GMan Tavern… Might want to revise these promos:

As the Field Museum found out last November, it’s illegal.

4:38 p.m. Voter turnout by age group: Part 2

As 5 p.m. neared, the Chicago Board of Elections released fresh numbers on voter turnout showing voters aged 55-64 still hitting the polls in the greatest numbers, with 85,825 votes in that age group recorded by 4:20 p.m. Voters aged 25-34 had cast 51,400 ballots. In the fall, millennials outpaced baby boomers at the ballot box.

Voter turnout is still low, said Jim Allen, a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. As of 4:20 p.m., 419,448 votes had been tallied, a 26.3 percent turnout.

“We’re probably going to surpass 30 percent,” said Allen, but getting to 31 or 32 percent “remains to be seen.” To get to a 30 percent turn out, it would take “a healthy evening rush,” he said.

3:29 p.m. Spotted: Candidates cast votes, shake hands at local polling places

Candidates in Chicago’s ward and mayoral races have made appearances throughout the day at their polling places to cast their votes in the 2019 municipal election. Alexander “Alex” Acevedo, who’s running for the 25th ward aldermanic seat, brought his daughter Ava to the voting booth. Parents are allowed to bring young children with them to cast their votes.

Read the “Voters’ Bill of Rights” from the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

25th ward aldermanic candidate, Alexander “Alex” Acevedo with daughter, Ava, casts his ballot at Ruiz Elementary School. | Rick Majewski/For the Sun-Times

While it’s expected that candidates will be visible while they’re casting their own votes, there are strict rules governing what’s considered “campaigning” in the proximity of a polling place.

You’ll likely notice clusters of campaign signs as you walk towards your polling place that stop abruptly as you near the building entrance: the Election Board maintains a “campaign-free zone” that extends 100 feet from the entrance of every polling place. Campaign signs are permitted on polling-place properties so long as they are outside the “campaign-free zone.”

Candidates and their representatives are also prohibited from campaigning too close to a polling place. Early Tuesday morning, election judges chastised Ald. Deb Mell (33rd) for crossing the boundary marked by blue “no electioneering” cones outside the Horner Park Fieldhouse.

Ald. Deb Mell (33rd) stands behind the blue “no electioneering” cones outside the Horner Park Fieldhouse after being issued a warning by election judges for crossing the cones twice on February 26, 2019. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

If you see campaign signs within the “campaign-free zone” or candidates electioneering near the entrance to your polling place, you can report them to Election Central by calling 312-269-7870.

2:15 p.m. Chance the Rapper, outspoken Enyia supporter, votes at Loop Super Site

Chance the Rapper did his civic duty early Tuesday afternoon, casting his vote at the Loop Super Site trailed by media and a few onlookers.

The Grammy Award-winning Chatham native has been an outspoken supporter of mayoral candidate Amara Enyia, donating $400,000 to her campaign and hosting multiple fundraisers on her behalf.

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Chance regularly dabbles in politics in his hometown, taking strong positions on local issues ranging from community benefit negotiations for the Obama Presidential Center to the land sale for the new police and fire training academy on the West Side.

In December he starred in a video skewering Ald. Ed Burke.

1:38 p.m. Chicago Board of Election Commissioners reports few hiccups at the polls

Issues at polling places across the city were minimal as Chicagoans cast their vote in the municipal election Tuesday morning, according to Jim Allen, spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

A judge in the 35th Precinct of the 26th Ward was removed after “encouraging voters to support a specific aldermanic candidate,” Allen said.

In the 36th Precinct of the 34th Ward, another judge was removed after other judges complained of “some verbal abuse” and a “lack of cooperative behavior,” Allen said.

There was also a report of shots fired near the Eighth Precinct of the 12th Ward, although there was no indication that it was election-related.

— Stefano Esposito

1:16 p.m. City on pace for record low turnout in a municipal election

Jim Allen, spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, said on a conference call with reporters that unless there’s a significant uptick in voting, the city is on pace for a record low turnout for a municipal election. The record was set at 33.08 percent in 2007, Allen said.

About 8 percent of eligible voters cast ballots before election day, he said, and so far on Tuesday, just over 10 percent had voted, for a 19.2 percent turnout total as of 12:30.

“Later this afternoon, we might see something similar to what we saw in the November election and that was a lot of voters coming in in the final hours,” Allen said.

But “unless that changes between now and 7 p.m., we’re not even going to hit 30 percent.”

— Stefano Esposito & Troy Closson

12:11 p.m. ‘People simply haven’t made up their minds’

Voters from the 25th Ward in the voting booths at Ruiz Elementary School, 2410 S. Leavitt. | Rick Majewski/For the SunTimes

Jim Allen, spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, said, as of 11:30 a.m., that there had been no notable voting irregularities at polling sites across the city.

But Allen also noted the “exceptionally low participation.” Total turnout through 10 a.m. — including election day voting, early voting and vote by mail — was at about 16 percent, Allen said.

“Depending on the election, we might see closer to 20 percent, 25 percent turnout by now,” Allen said.

Allen said there was strong interest in the election, judging by the “very solid” early voting and applications to vote by mail.

“The mixed message we got in vote-by-mail ballots is we had a record number apply, and then we’ve only had about half of them returned so far,” Allen said. “That indicates that there is strong interest in this election, but people simply haven’t made up their minds or they might take a pass on this first round.”

— Stefano Esposito

11:10 Treasurer selection could shape more than city’s accounts

City Treasurer candidates, left to right, Peter Gariepy, Melissa Conyears-Ervin and Ameya Pawar. File Photos. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

City Treasurer candidates, left to right, Peter Gariepy, Melissa Conyears-Ervin and Ameya Pawar. File Photos. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Something to consider when you cast your vote for city treasurer: this election marks the first contested treasurer race since 1999.

The three hopefuls — state Rep. Melissa Conyears-Ervin, D-Chicago, accountant Peter Gariepy or Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) — have all floated ideas that envision more for the office.

Conyears-Ervin said she would undertake a watchdog role that would offer more transparency of city finances. Gariepy — who last year made an unsuccessful bid for county treasurer — would prioritize finding a solution to the city’s pension crisis while trying to keep the burden off taxpayers’ shoulders, he said. Pawar, meanwhile, said he would look to fight income inequality by launching a public bank that would offer low-interest loans to residents looking to start small-businesses, buy homes or refinance their student loans.

Read more about the treasurer’s race.

10:36 Voter turnout by age group

The Chicago Board of Elections released statistics on voter turnout as of 10 a.m. Tuesday which shows voters age 55-64 hitting the polls in the greatest numbers, with nearly 50,000 votes in that age group recorded, compared to just 6,248 voters reported Tuesday between the ages of 18 and 24.

9:08 a.m. Mail-in ballots could create ‘nightmare scenario’

Fran Spielman reports that as of Monday afternoon, only 31,000 of the 62,671 mail-in ballots requested by Chicago voters had been returned, which could mean counting votes to declare a winner — or a runoff — may stretch days and even include a possible recount.

Mail-in ballots can be counted later, so long as they are postmarked on Tuesday — or even Wednesday, if they were mailed on election day.

If the margin separating the top few finishers is smaller than the number of outstanding ballots, we may not know until days or even weeks after Tuesday’s election which candidates will advance to the April 2 runoff.

Read more: Election Board officials openly discuss nightmare scenario in mayoral race

7:40 a.m. See where mayoral candidates stand

Still undecided in the mayor’s race? See the Sun-Times Editorial Board’s coverage of where each candidate stands on six key issues facing Chicago:

• Pension crisis

• Sanctuary city ordinance

• Charter school expansion

• Sentencing for gun offenders

• Property tax spending

• Commuter tax

6:17 a.m. Voting sites open across Chicago

Maria Wallace casts her ballot early Tuesday at O’Keeffe Elementary School, 6940 S. Merrill. | Kevin Tanaka/for the Sun-Times

Polling places open at 6 a.m. across Chicago.

The Chicago Sun-Times Voting Guide features candidate profiles for every ward race as well as interviews with the 14 mayoral candidates and the Sun-Times Editorial Board’s endorsements.

It also includes a downloadable, printable palm card of our endorsements that you can bring with you into the voting booth.

Find your polling place using the Chicago Board of Elections search tool.