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.
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.
Chicago is considered the birthplace of the environmental justice movement—but mayoral candidates have never really been grilled about how they would address the issue.
In 1971, civil rights lawyer Anna Langford became the first Black woman to serve in Chicago’s City Council. An independent, she was elected to represent the 16th Ward, which at the time encompassed much of Englewood, roughly spanning from Stewart over to Ashland, and Garfield down to Marquette. Langford frequently clashed with Mayor Richard J. Daley and became known as a thorn in the side of the machine.
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.
The December meeting of the community group Bridgeport Alliance ended with a standard group picture. Except instead of saying “Cheese,” members said “Fuck Starbucks!”
The evening of January 28 was cold and snowy, but around 150 people made their way up four flights of stairs to the grand auditorium in the Pui Tak Center in Chinatown for a 25th Ward aldermanic forum. The center serves as one of the hubs of the community, hosting English and computer classes, services for new immigrants, and a Christian school. With its terra cotta facade and handsome, finely detailed interiors, the building is listed on the register of Chicago Landmarks and in 2007 placed first among twenty-five sites across Chicagoland to win a $110,000 preservation grant through wide community support.