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It’s official: Voters to get another say in mayor, treasurer and 15 ward races

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) speaks with Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) during the Chicago City Council meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) speaks with Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) during the Chicago City Council meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Chicagoans will vote in 15 aldermanic runoffs next month, three less than four years ago, but more than any other Chicago municipal election in nearly a quarter of a century.

With all mail-in ballots for the Feb. 26 election counted, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners on Wednesday released the final tallies for the first round of voting for mayor, aldermen and other city offices.

Since no candidates received majorities in the races for mayor or city treasurer, voters will take .another crack at it on April 2.

In the end, Lori Lightfoot led the mayoral pack with 97,667 votes, or 17.54 percent, with Toni Preckwinkle coming in second with 89,343 votes, or 16.04 percent. That’s 8,324 votes apart or 1.5 percentage points.

Voter turnout was 35.45 percent, with 560,701 voting.

Mayoral candidates Lori Lightfoot, left, and Toni Preckwinkle, right, square off in the first TV debate of the runoff campaign. The NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago debate was held in partnership with the Union League Club of Chicago and the Chicago Urban League. From Twitter.

Mayoral candidates Lori Lightfoot, left, and Toni Preckwinkle, right, square off in the first TV debate of the runoff campaign. From Twitter.

The heavy-hitting aldermen forced into runoffs include Leslie Hairston (5th), Roderick Sawyer (6th), Deb Mell (33th) and Pat O’Connor (40th). Altogether, 11 incumbents are facing aldermanic runoffs, with candidates also squaring off in another four-open-seat contests.

The number of aldermanic runoffs has only exceeded 14 three other times in the past 72 years: 18 in both 2015 and 1991 and 19 in 1947.

Election officials issued a proclamation of the first-round results on Wednesday, while also reminding voters to file applications to vote by mail by March 20 to ensure their second round of votes are counted by April 2.

The only race that changed significantly during the mail-in counting period was the South Side’s 6th Ward aldermanic contest.

Sawyer, son of former Mayor Eugene Sawyer and chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, had a slight majority on Feb. 26, only to lose it with mail-in votes. He now faces a runoff against accountant Deborah Foster-Bonner, who finished second with 31.22 percent of the vote. Roderick Sawyer wound up 14 votes shy of hitting the 50-percent-plus one level required to avoid a runoff.

Deborah Foster Bonner aldermanic candidate 6th ward 2019 mayoral election

6th Ward aldermanic candidate Deborah A. Foster-Bonner. | Provided photo

Last fall, the alderman got rid of a surprise $20,000 contribution from Mayor Rahm Emanuel amid concern it might damage his chances of winning re-election in his South Side ward. Ald. Sawyer distributed the mayor’s check in $2,000 increments to ten community organizations and other groups in his ward that are working to stop the never-ending cycle of gang violence and train people for jobs. Roderick Sawyer was concerned about how the mayoral contribution would have been perceived by voters who haven’t forgiven Emanuel for his handling of the Laquan McDonald shooting video.

Hairston, a 20-year veteran in the neighboring 5th Ward, won just 48.5 percent in the first round, forcing her into a runoff against activist William Calloway, who helped force the release of the McDonald video.

William Calloway

Community activist William Calloway speaks to reporters at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in October. File Photo. | Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times

On the Northwest Side, Mell, who has been in office for five years, faces activist Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez, who finished first with 42.05 percent. Mell was 1,905 votes shy of avoiding a runoff. Mell narrowly avoided a runoff in 2015. Rodriguez-Sanchez worked on the campaign of the candidate who nearly denied Mell a majority in 2015.

And in the adjoining 40th Ward, O’Connor — second in Council tenure only to Ald. Ed Burke — will face Andre Vasquez. Vasquez, a manager for AT&T, finished second with 20.09 percent. O’Connor, who is 64, faced four other challengers and was a hefty 4,461 votes shy of avoiding a runoff.

Ald. Pat O'Connor, Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s City Council floor leader, Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th) chats with Emanuel during a City Council meeting. File Photo. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

It’s O’Connor’s first runoff since the one that made him alderman in 1983. He ran against Ivan Rittenberg in that contest and got 49.8 percent of the vote.

40th Ward aldermanic candidate Andre Vasquez addresses the Sun-Times Editorial Board in December. File Photo. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

40th Ward aldermanic candidate Andre Vasquez addresses the Sun-Times Editorial Board in December. File Photo. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

There are also runoff elections in the 15th, 16th, 20th, 21st, 25th, 30th, 31st, 39th, 43rd, 46th and 47th wards.

Candidates will appear on the April 2 ballot based on their final vote counts in the February election, meaning in the mayoral contest, Lightfoot’s name will appear above Preckwinkle’s despite their punch numbers.

In the city treasurer’s race, state Rep. Melissa Conyears-Ervin is facing outgoing Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th).

Officials have already processed more than 21,000 mail applications for the April 2 election, which is already about half of what the city received in mail applications in 2015, when 42,096 applications were received in the runoff contest, according to board spokesman Jim Allen. Voters who already applied for a mail ballot application will start to see them pop up in mailboxes this week.

And early voting begins Friday at the Loop Super Site, at 175 W. Washington, and on Monday at all 50 ward sites. The schedule this year between the Feb. 26 and April 2 election is seven days shorter than the schedule in 2015, which Allen called a “fluke in the calendar.” It’s the reason election officials issued the final proclamation of votes earlier than what was required to allow for more early voting days.