Elections | Politics

By a Hair

Four incumbents in tight contests barely scrape by without a runoff

Neil Miller

After last week’s citywide election, much was made of the fact that several City Council incumbents had been ousted—in some cases quite unceremoniously—from their posts. (Maria Hadden, for instance, defeated Joe Moore by twenty-seven percent in the northernmost 49th Ward.)  On the South Side, however, sitting aldermen fared a little better. Most of those who will go to a runoff, like Leslie Hairston (5th) and Raymond Lopez (15th), look as if they’ll win comfortably in the April follow-up election; in fact, only Toni Foulkes (16th) trailed a challenger in the initial round of voting. But despite relatively successful end results, even some long-time aldermen only scraped through to reelection by the skin of their teeth. Here, the Weekly analyzes four close races in which the incumbent prevailed.

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Think your vote doesn’t count? At press time, Alderman Roderick Sawyer was avoiding a runoff by just four votes. Sawyer lives in Park Manor, inside the Greater Grand Crossing community area, and his support among the forty-four percent of the ward’s voters that live in the area is currently keeping him with a slim ward-wide majority. Deborah Foster-Bonner, an accountant and block club president, and Richard Wooten, a Chicago police officer and pastor, both won their home precincts in Chatham, home to roughly thirty-seven percent of the ward’s voters. Roughly seventeen percent of votes in the February election came from precincts in Englewood or West Englewood, with smaller portions from Auburn Gresham and the southern tip of Woodlawn.

Roderick Sawyer: 5,020 votes, 50.02%
Deborah Foster-Bonner: 3,132 votes, 31.21%
Richard Wooten: 1,884 votes, 18.77%

Neil Miller

Neil Miller

As of writing, Alderman George Cardenas appears  to have avoided a runoff and won his fifth term: with late-arriving mail ballots and votes for write-in candidates still to be counted, Cardenas has thirty-eight more votes than his challengers combined. Cardenas won the most votes in all but one precinct. José Rico, an executive at United Way of Metro Chicago, received a plurality in one precinct in Little Village, his home neighborhood. Union organizer Pete DeMay finished second, with strong support in his McKinley Park neighborhood. Martha Rangel, an early childhood educator about whom little was known or expected, finished not far behind Rico. Roughly forty-one percent of voters in last week’s election live in McKinley Park, more than the quarter that live in the South Lawndale community area, which includes Little Village. A third of voters in the February election live in the Brighton Park section of the ward, where Cardenas averaged fifty-six percent support.

George Cardenas: 2,965 votes, 50.32%
Pete DeMay: 1,008 votes, 17.11%
José Rico: 1,000 votes, 16.97%
Martha Rangel: 919 votes, 15.60%

Despite being accused of pressuring a Burger King franchisee to hire his law firm to handle the restaurant’s property taxes, Alderman Ed Burke was re-elected last Tuesday in the 14th ward on Chicago’s Southwest Side. Burke won support from across the predominantly Latinx ward, as he got fewer votes than civil engineer Tanya Patiño in only four precincts. However, Burke’s success can likely be chalked up to his support in the Garfield Ridge tail: the five westernmost precincts had an average turnout of fifty-one percent, compared to thirty-four percent for the whole ward, and seventy percent of these voters supported Burke. The Garfield Ridge tail of the ward is also predominantly white; Patiño accused Burke of sending racist mailers to residents there in the week leading up to the election. Though Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García had endorsed Patiño, the low turnout in the east of the ward raises questions about García’s ability to draw supporters to the polls.

Edward Burke: 3,897 votes, 54.26%
Tanya Patiño: 2,109 votes, 29.37%
Jaime Guzmán: 1,176 votes, 16.37%

Neil Miller

Neil Miller

Carrie Austin has held this far South Side seat since 1994, and won another four years by defeating attorney Preston Brown Jr. Austin, an ally of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, is chair of the City Council’s Budget Committee. Her margin of victory has steadily declined since 2003, hitting a new low this year. West Pullman is the largest neighborhood in the ward, home to roughly thirty-two percent of voters in this election. Austin lives in Roseland, as do approximately a quarter of the ward’s voters. Morgan Park (twenty-two percent) and Washington Heights (twenty-one percent), where Brown lives, round out the ward.

Carrie Austin: 6,284 votes, 54.35%
Preston Brown Jr.: 5,278 votes, 45.65%

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Neil Miller is a statistician and social services researcher. He is currently living in Moscow. In his last piece for the Weekly, he last used election results from 2015 to analyze how aldermanic candidates could win in several key wards.

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