18-year-old aldermanic candidate gets no respect from incumbent
Politicians around the city are making their final push for votes in Chicago's mayoral and aldermanic races. The 26th ward on the city's west side is home to something of a David and Goliath story with an 18-year-old going up against an experienced politician. Though this David is unlikely to beat Goliath.
It's Saturday afternoon just a couple days before the election and 2548 W. Division is all closed up. There are rolling shutters over the windows as well as the door. This is Alderman Roberto Maldonado's campaign office and it's not exactly a beehive of activity right now though Maldonado doesn't have much of a political challenge in this race.
REID: My name is Devon Reid. I'm running for alderman in the 26th ward. I'm 18, I'm at Wright College. I'm studying to be a high school history teacher.
Reid is standing in the community room of the public library in Humboldt Park where he's set out some literature.
He hands me a flyer and says he knows there's a mistake.
His bullet point on using Tax Increment Financing to support schools. It's listed twice.
But Reid doesn't want to waste all the copies he's made so all the flyers will be put in mailboxes.
He stands at the front of the room ready to make his pitch to voters but no one shows up.
It doesn't seem to phase him though because of the time he's spent out in the ward.
REID: I always get a very positive response. A lot of people are tired of the way things are going here in Chicago and in the ward.
Reid looks down at a map of the ward and shows me where he's been focussing his time.
REID: In areas like the 19th precinct, that's a very progressive area. There's a green party candidate that ran for state senator in 2010 and he got 40 percent of the vote in the 19th precinct, the 34th, the 51st, and those all have very high voter turnout. Those are some of the highest in the ward and they're very progressive apparently if they're voting for a green party candidate.
Reid is hoping some of those voters will be more inclined to vote for him rather than a well-established politician like Maldonado.
Maldonado was a Cook County commissioner for 15 years before being appointed to the City Council by Mayor Richard Daley in 2009.
Maldonado has $200,000 to spend while Reid has a little more than $3,000 in cash and in kind contributions.
Reid says most of his financial support actually comes from the foster family that he's lived with for the last 5 years after his grandmother died.
Despite Maldonado's huge advantage in the race, perhaps because of it, he's been unwilling to engage Reid.
For example, at a candidate's forum in January sponsored by the Organization of Palmer Square, Maldonado told organizers he wouldn't speak to the crowd with Reid in the room.
REID: And so he asked them to make me leave for him to speak and they politely brought me over to the side and told me that they did want him to speak and if I'd just step outside of the room and then I can come back in after he's done talking. I didn't want to cause a huge scene and I didn't want to seem unprofessional so I went ahead and walked out of the room. Maldonado stepped to the front and then they closed the door because I couldn't even see him speak.
Maldonado did not return calls for this story and in fact, things got a little weird as I sought an interview.
A woman who answered the phone at his campaign office even hung up on me, twice.
When I stopped by the office, another volunteer, Chris Johnson, who had taken a message by phone earlier in the day, said he'd pass another message on to Maldonado, but said they were pretty busy and he wasn't sure the message would get through.
And he insisted there was no one else I should talk to about getting an interview.
BARNES: My name is Bruce Barnes and I have stumbled into the position of being Devon Reid's campaign manager.
Barnes met Reid when Reid was going door to door around the neighborhood collecting petitions to get on the ballot.
Barnes says he was immediately impressed and he's been helping ever since and he says whatever happens on Tuesday, the campaign has already had an impact.
BARNES: We had an alderman that was appointed by the mayor that we hadn't heard from the entire time he had been an alderman and as soon as he got word that Devon was on the ballot, in a one month period we got four or five different flyers in the mail and we had people knocking on our doors and his signs went up all over the neighborhood.
Back at the library, standing in an empty room Reid says there probably is a correlation between how many people showed up for his forum and how many will vote for him.
But he says win or lose, this won't be his last time running for office.
He gathers up his flyers, errors and all, and heads out to a carefully chosen precinct to talk to some more voters.