Several days after the February 26 election, as the last votes trickled in, it was revealed that financial advisor and Chatham community activist Deborah Foster-Bonner had forced two-term 6th Ward Alderman Roderick Sawyer, the son of former 6th Ward alderman and, briefly, mayor Eugene Sawyer, into a runoff. Running on a platform of community engagement, and assisted by, judging from precinct-level election data, widespread dissatisfaction with Sawyer’s tenure in the Chatham part of the ward (which is also made up of parts of Park Manor and Englewood), Foster-Bonner’s has been a small, mostly self-funded campaign—though she has picked up the endorsements of both the Sun-Times and the Tribune. It remains to be seen whether she can make inroads in the parts of the ward where Sawyer did well, but the act of forcing a family dynasty into a runoff in Chicago is no small feat in and of itself. This interview, conducted at Foster-Bonner’s Chatham campaign office before the February 26 election, has been edited for length and clarity.
Last month, Alex Acevedo came in second of the five candidates vying to replace disgraced 25th Ward Alderman Danny Solís. Providing a more conservative, homeowner-focused foil to his runoff companion Byron Sigcho-Lopez’s DSA-endorsed platform, Acevedo often reminds voters of his work as a nurse and with a neighborhood watch group.
Joseph Ziegler lives and owns an insurance business in the same neighborhood he grew up in, in the 21st Ward. The ward, which includes parts of Auburn Gresham, Brainerd, and Washington Heights, has been run by Alderman Howard Brookins Jr. since 2004. Ziegler once worked with the alderman but parted ways with him years ago. The times he’s spent outside of Chicago was when he was a student at Southern University in Louisiana.
Berto Aguayo, a twenty-four-year-old organizer from Back of the Yards, was the first of four challengers to 15th Ward Alderman Raymond Lopez to announce their candidacy, and is by far the youngest. All four candidates work in anti-violence—the group includes a CPD crime prevention specialist, a minister, and a violence interrupter—but Aguayo may have come to his profession the most directly. He is a former gang member who, after becoming involved with the Mikva Challenge youth civic engagement program, went on to graduate from Dominican University, intern for U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, co-found the Resurrection Project’s #IncreaseThePeace initiative, and serve as a national leadership trainer with the Obama Foundation.
The 3rd Ward—where Alexandria Willis hopes to be the next alderman—stretches from Washington Park, Fuller Park, and a small corner of Englewood through Bronzeville to the South Loop. Willis grew up in Chicago and moved to the 3rd Ward four years ago, to a spot in Bronzeville not too far from where her father grew up in the Robert Taylor Homes. A policy analyst with a background in public health, nursing, and advocating for nursing home safety, Willis has been excited to contribute to the community’s momentum as a resident and through work like serving on the board of nonprofit developer The Renaissance Collaborative and helping with the Englewood Quality of Life Plan.
Jaime Guzmán is one of three candidates vying for alderman in the 14th Ward, which covers parts of Gage Park, Archer Heights, Brighton Park, and Garfield Ridge. He’s up against Tanya Patiño, a civil engineer who started her campaign late in December but picked up the endorsement of U.S. Representative Jesús “Chuy” García and other progressive groups, and the notorious Ed Burke, who is seeking re-election despite facing federal extortion charges. Guzmán has spent ten years working in nonprofits, doing violence intervention work for Enlace Chicago and improving digital literacy at the Resurrection Project. He’s also worked as an aide to outgoing 22nd Ward Alderman Ricardo Muñoz and a legislative staffer for García during his time on the Cook County Board.
Raynetta Greenleaf was born and raised in Auburn Gresham and attended John W. Cook elementary school and Simeon Career Academy. She works as a patient care facilitator at Rush University Medical Center, and is the founder of an organization called Greenleaf Motivation Inc., geared towards engaging youth and preventing violence in her neighborhood.
I met up with Troy Hernandez at his house in Pilsen during the polar vortex in late January. He’s been rehabbing it for the past few years, and workers filed in and out as we sat near a wood burning stove in the living room.
Pete DeMay has spent the majority of his career as a labor organizer, having worked for a variety of unions including United Auto Workers, SEIU, and Actors’ Equity. He is also a founding member of both the 12th Ward Independent Political Organization and Neighbors for Environmental Justice.
I met with José Rico on the first floor of La Catedral Cafe & Restaurant in the heart of Little Village, where we discussed Rico’s long history as an educator and activist in Little Village, his vision for the 12th Ward, and the longtime incumbent, George Cardenas. Later, we heard that Cardenas himself was having a late breakfast just upstairs.