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Voters head to polls in Chicago’s first-ever mayoral runoff election

New voter Lucy Hebert didn’t cast a ballot in the Feb. 24 election, but her choice in Tuesday’s mayoral runoff was obvious, if perhaps fatalistic.

She voted for Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. But can he win?

“I don’t think so,” she said, then she hedged her bets with a “maybe he can.”

Regardless, she said, “I’m not going to vote for Rahm.”

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Hebert was among the voters getting an early start on Tuesday, casting her ballot just after 7 a.m. at North Shore Baptist Church, 5244 N. Lakewood Ave.

“I think that education is a big issue,” she said. “I think the parkland stuff is also suspect. I don’t agree with giving parkland over for the Obama library when there’s plenty of empty lots on the South Side.”

No major problems had been reported Langdon Neal, chairman of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, reported no major problems in voting across the city shortly before noon and he described turnout Tuesday morning as “very quiet.”

The Garcia campaign distributed this photo of what they said was a 13th Ward polling place. The Chicago Board of Elections said it was investigating and would have the figure with the "Vote for Rahm" sign deflated. | Provided

The Garcia campaign distributed this photo of what they said was a 13th Ward polling place. Chicago election officials are investigating and said the figure with the “Vote for Rahm” sign would be deflated. | Provided

In the 13th Ward, the board was on its way to investigate an inflatable figure outside a polling place urging voters to choose Emanuel.

“We have investigators on the way now to have that deflated and removed,” Neal said.

That polling place is in a private residence — a rare occurrence, Neal said, but necessary in neighborhoods with few public facilities.

One North Side voter who would give only his first name — “Jerry” — said he voted for Emanuel, even though he’s not crazy about him.

“Let’s face it — Rahm is an arrogant, miserable (expletive), but he seems to work OK,” said Jerry, who identified himself as a “senior citizen” who sells industrial cookie cutters.

Regardless of who wins, Jerry said, the victor will deliver the same bad news this week.

“Thursday, somebody is going to say, ‘Well, we’re going to have to raise property taxes,’” Jerry said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks at a campaign office on Tuesday. | M. Spencer Green/Associated Press

Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks at a campaign office on Tuesday. | M. Spencer Green/Associated Press

Lynne Brown, 60,voted Tuesday morning at Erie Elementary Charter School in Humboldt Park.

“This election is obviously important,” Brown said. “I think the voters sent a message to the mayor and it’ll be interesting to see the outcome.

“I think having a Hispanic candidate in a Hispanic neighborhood has given the population somebody to identify with and someone who has a voice for their interests and their concerns.”

Carlee Taggart, 27, voted at Humboldt Park Public Library:

“I’m glad it went to a runoff. I think it’s important that the candidates were forced to have conversations,” Taggart said. “There could be a change and that could be a good thing, and if not, at least we forced a conversation.”

Guadalupe Rodriguez was out Tuesday showing her support for incumbent Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  | Jonathan Gibby/Getty Images

Guadalupe Rodriguez was out Tuesday showing her support for incumbent Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. | Jonathan Gibby/Getty Images

Onur Ozturk, 36, was a Garcia convert.

“Honestly, I voted for Rahm in the first one, and I was really frustrated with how outside money was poured into our election,” Ozturk said after voting at Ebenezer Lutheran Church.

He thought that put Garcia in “an unfair situation … and I like his message,” said Ozturk, an art history lecturer at Columbia College Chicago.

“I was not super excited with some of the things Rahm did – espcially with his handling of the education situation, with the school closings.”

On the other hand, Ozturk had his reasons for supporting Emanuel in the first round.

“I actually like some of his plans for downtown, like his support for the Lucas Museum,” he said. “I think it will bring some tourism, some new jobs to the city. But I kind of felt like neighborhoods were a little bit ignored.”

Mayoral candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia greets commuters at the Merchandise Mart CTA station in a last-miinute campaign effort. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Mayoral candidate Jesus “Chuy” Garcia greets commuters at the Merchandise Mart CTA station in a last-miinute campaign effort. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

After greeting voters early Tuesday at the Blue Line’s Jefferson Park stop, Garcia headed to the Merchandise Mart, handing out fliers and shaking as many hands as he could grab.

“It’s a tight race and we think people who really want change in Chicago should definitely get out and vote today,” said Garcia, staying strictly on message.

A number of commuters stopped to snap pictures of Garcia, including some who’d voted — or planned to vote — for Emanuel.

Erin Donahue, 38, said she’s new to Chicago, and planned to vote for the incumbent.

“Chuy, I just don’t know enough about him,” said Donahue, who works in sales in the Mart.

Lindsey George, 27, described Garcia’s financial plan as “a little shaky.”

“It wasn’t quite fully developed,” George said. “And that makes it hard to make the jump.”

Contributing: Ashlee Rezin