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Firefighter Napolitano bests incumbent Ald. O’Connor in 41st Ward

Ald. Mary O’Connor, a staunch supporter of Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the City Council, failed to keep her 41st Ward seat Tuesday night, while Progressive Caucus member Ald. John Arena — targeted for defeat by the pro-Emanuel super PAC — easily won re-election in the 45th Ward.

Elsewhere on the Northwest Side, in the wide open 36th Ward, Gilbert Villegas, who was endorsed by Cook County Commissioner and failed mayoral candidate Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, defeated Omar Aquino, a onetime outreach coordinator for U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.

O’Connor — who got $38,710 in support from the pro-Emanuel “Chicago Forward” Super PAC in the February election and subsequent runoff — conceded her race to Chicago firefighter and political newbie Anthony Napolitano, who was backed by the powerful Service Employees International Union.

Napolitano led O’Connor 52 percent to 48 percent with 98 percent of precincts reporting. The 41st Ward includes Norwood Park, Edgebrook, Edison Park, Oriole Park and O’Hare Airport.

The alderman called Napolitano to concede, according to a campaign spokesman, but declined to comment to the Sun-Times by telephone Tuesday night.

Napolitano said he was surprised by the victory and still “kind of beside myself. It’s hard to believe we started with such a small group of people and turned it into this.”

He blamed O’Connor’s brand of “customer service” for her loss, saying the job of alderman is “for someone to report to the city and say, ‘This is what the 41st ward needs,’ not the city reporting to the 41st Ward.”

Arena, who’s been a thorn in the mayor’s side since taking office in his Northwest Side Ward in 2011, easily defeated Chicago Police lieutenant and attorney John Garrido, who ran in 2010 as a Republican for Cook County Board president.

With all precincts reporting, Arena defeated Garrido 54 percent to 46 percent. The 45th Ward includes Jefferson Park, Forest Glen, Gladstone Park, Portage Park and Old Irving Park.

In 2011, Arena had bested Garrido by just 30 votes. That made losing Tuesday more palatable, Garrido said from his election-night party at the Copernicus Center.

“I don’t have to think about doing this again,” he explained. “If it’s too close, it’s always in the back of your mind. The voters have spoken. They want Ald. Arena. I hope by us bringing him to a runoff like this, it lets him know he has some work to do to connect a little bit better with the community.”

Villegas, a government affairs and business consultant backed by state Rep. Luis Arroyo, D-Chicago, and endorsed by Chuy Garcia, was leading Aquino 56 percent to 44 percent with 97 percent of precincts reporting. Aquino was backed by Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios and conceded by telephone, Villegas said.

“I really knocked on a ton of doors and was able to tell voters of the 36th ward about my experience as a small business owner and an executive in state government,” Villegas said. With the city’s current financial crisis, “it’s not time for on-the-job training.”

The 36th Ward seat opened up after Chicago’s wards were remapped, and incumbent Ald. Nick Sposato ran and won outright in February in the neighboring 38th Ward. The 36th Ward encompasses Galewood, Montclare, Schorsch Village, Belmont Heights, Belmont Terrace and Schorsch Forest View.