Your NPR news source
Nicole Lee walks with Paul Vallas

Ald. Nicole Lee, 11th Ward, walks with mayoral candidate Paul Vallas on Tuesday. While Vallas lost his run, Lee cruised to victory in her effort to keep her City Council seat.

Anthony Vazquez

Voters choose diversity for City Council, supporting Asian American women, electing record number of Latinos

This year’s election ushered in potentially historic gains in diverse representation on Chicago’s City Council, including a record number of Latino members.

After the last election cycle in 2019, there were 12 Hispanic Council members on the 50-member legislative body.

Now, there will be 14 taking office in May — including Jeylu Gutierrez, who is replacing indicted, and retiring, Ald. Edward M. Burke in the Southwest Side’s 14th Ward, which he represented for more than 50 years.

At the same time, the City Council’s first and only Asian American woman, Ald. Nicole Lee, held on in Tuesday’s election to the seat Mayor Lori Lightfoot appointed her to in March 2022, representing the 11th Ward, which includes the Daley family stronghold of Bridgeport on the South Side and Chinatown.

A second Asian American woman, Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth, secured about 52% of the vote over opponent Joe Dunne in the North Side’s 48th Ward with all precincts reporting — a lead of just over 600 votes.

As many as 2,854 mail-in ballots remain uncounted, however, in that contest to represent areas including Edgewater and Andersonville.

Black representation on the City Council looks like it will remain the same with 20 members — if Angela Clay’s vote tallies hold out in the election for the 46th Ward, which is adjacent to the 48th, against Kim Walz.

Clay, a community organizer, secured nearly 56% of the votes against Walz, a Walgreens executive, with all precincts reporting — a gap of more than 1,800 votes.

Walz conceded defeat to Clay, although there are as many as 3,481 uncounted mail-in ballots in the race.

After the 2019 election, there were 18 white members of the City Council; with Tuesday’s election, that number could drop to 14, the smallest number since the 50-ward system was adopted in 1923.

The number of women will increase from 15 to at least 17 and, depending on final results, could tie the record of 18 set back in 2007.

This is the second municipal election in a little over a month.

If no candidate secured more than 50% of the vote on Feb. 28, the top two vote-getters faced off Tuesday in a winner-take-all fight.

Of the 14 City Council runoff races on Tuesday’s ballot, six featured incumbents — including Lee and two others appointed by Lightfoot in 2022.

Ald. Monique Scott, who’s been representing the West Side’s 24th Ward since Lightfoot appointed her in June to replace her brother after he left for another job, declared victory over opponent Creative Scott, who is not related to her.

With 95% of precincts reporting, Scott secured nearly 67% of the vote compared to about 33% of the vote for her opponent — translating to a divide of more than 2,000 votes that can’t be overcome by uncounted mail-in ballots. There are no more than 687 of them, records show.

Things were tighter in the North Side’s 43rd Ward, which Ald. Timmy Knudsen has represented since Lightfoot appointed him to the seat in September after Michele Smith stepped down.

Knudsen, a former member of Chicago’s Zoning Board of Appeals, had under 52% of the vote to Brian Comer’s more than 48%, with all precincts reporting.

The two were more than 500 votes apart, but with as many as 3,380 mail-in ballots still not counted.

Three other incumbents also ran Tuesday to hold onto their positions: Ald. James Gardiner in the 45th Ward on the Northwest Side; Ald. Gilbert Villegas in the 36th Ward that was redrawn to include parts of Humboldt Park, among other areas; and Ald. Chris Taliaferro in the 29th Ward that includes Austin.

With all precincts reporting, Gardiner had more than 55% of the vote over opponent Megan Mathias, who was down more than 1,700 votes, though there are as many as 1,992 mail-in ballots still uncounted, records show.

Mathias conceded defeat Tuesday night.

With all precincts reporting, Villegas had about 58% of the vote compared to about 42% for Leonor Torres Whitt.

Villegas was up nearly 1,500 votes, with up to 1,764 mail-in ballots not counted, records show. He declared victory.

Taliaferro was the only incumbent in obvious trouble after polls closed.

With 95% of precincts reporting, under 200 votes separated him from opponent CB Johnson. Up to 1,114 mail-in votes remain uncounted.

Eight City Council races Tuesday featured all newcomers, including in the Northwest Side/s 30th Ward, where Jessica Gutiérrez, the daughter of former U.S. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, was 260 votes shy of opponent Ruth Cruz with all precincts reporting but up to 1,584 mail-in ballots not counted.

The Latest
It’s part of a critical voter outreach plan in place since President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign as Biden combats Donald Trump and his army of online supporters.
Domestic violence with a gun is a leading cause of death for children, NPR’s Nina Totenberg reports. More than half of all mass shootings are perpetrated by people with a record of domestic violence.
Nearly a decade has passed since an Illinois politician as significant as Burke faced sentencing at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse. The need to send a message to others is sure to be on the judge’s mind when she makes her decision.
Two measures to further protect transgender people are awaiting Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature. But advocates say the state can do more to help the LGBTQ+ community, including a push to require school districts to teach sex education.
County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is also trying to figure out which pandemic-funded programs to keep as the county spends down federal dollars.