Next week voters will elect 19 mayors or village presidents in suburban Cook County. Early voting has been especially high for the race in south suburban Chicago Heights.
Alex Lopez became the first minority mayor of Chicago Heights when he was appointed in 2009. But his time in office was cut short last August when he died at just 44 years of age. Two candidates are now vying for the job, including David Gonzalez, who was a supporter of the late mayor.
"With the unfortunate circumstances that happened with his untimely death, I picked up the torch that he was carrying and now I'm moving forward with it," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez is a CPA who focuses on municipal finances. His opponent is Ald. Joseph Faso, who owns an excavating company.
"I run my own business. I have a certified public accountant on my staff, and I would never let my certified public accountant run my day-to-day operation," Faso said. "I think a businessman should run Chicago Heights, because it is a business."
Whoever wins will - on paper - be a weaker mayor than past ones. To settle a long-running civil rights lawsuit, Chicago Heights last year voted to take away some of the mayor's powers.
The current mayor, Vincent Zaranti, has held the interim job since Lopez's death. He is not seeking a full term, instead running again for alderman.
Other suburbs fully or partially within Cook County that have contested mayor's races are Country Club Hills, Countryside, Elgin, Forest Park, Harvey, Park Forest, Prospect Heights, Rolling Meadows, Schaumburg and University Park. Oak Brook has a contested race for village president.