Chicago’s 40th Ward: Veteran O’Connor Appears Forced Into Runoff | WBEZ
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Chicago’s 40th Ward: Veteran O’Connor Appears Forced Into Runoff

In an embarrassing political setback, veteran Ald. Patrick O’Connor appeared headed for a runoff after falling to nab 50 percent of the votes in a crowded five-way field Tuesday.

The Associated Press had not called the 40th Ward aldermanic race as of 10:40 p.m. But with 100 percent of precincts reporting, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s City Council floor leader had gotten only 33 percent of the vote.

Andre Vasquez, a senior manager for a utility company, was poised to be his likely opponent in the April 2 runoff by garnering 20 percent of the vote and a probable second-place finish. Dianne Daleiden, Maggie O’Keefe and Ugo Okere were also candidates in the race.

O’Connor is Chicago’s second longest-serving alderman and has represented the 40th Ward since 1983. As Emanuel’s floor leader, his task has been to whip votes and push the mayor’s legislative agenda.

O’Connor made no public statement about the night’s results, opting for a private party. That’s a different setting from his last campaign in 2015, when he presided over a lively, public party at the Dank Haus.

O’Connor’s close ties to Emanuel didn’t didn’t help him at the polls. He took heat from challengers for his role in pushing a record property tax hike, new water and sewer fees, and a monthly garbage fee in the last term. All were needed to cover growing pension payments and largely fell on the backs of single-family homeowners, one of the largest constituencies in his ward.

Four politically active candidates fought O’Connor for the right to represent the 40th Ward, which includes parts of Andersonville, Lincoln Square and Edgewater.

O'Keefe helped newly elected Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi topple Joe Berrios, the former chair of the Cook County Democratic Party. Okere, a community activist, has worked in the city clerk’s office and for U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Chicago.

Daleiden is a Chicago Public Schools teacher who garnered nearly 42 percent of the vote against O’Connor in 2015. Daleiden was also unsuccessful in her 2016 run against O’Connor for 40th Ward Democratic committeeman.

O’Connor has been a savvy behind-the-scenes operator at City Hall for decades, though his profile recently got a boost thanks to a burgeoning corruption scandal. O’Connor was made the interim Finance Committee chair after Ald. Ed Burke, 14th Ward, resigned the long-held post in the wake of a federal complaint that alleged he tried to extort a local business.

O’Connor has survived political remaps, accusations of self-dealing involving his wife’s real estate business and an investigation by a former City Council watchdog. In fact, it was O’Connor who took the lead in eliminating the Legislative Inspector General’s office in 2014 after the former watchdog, Faisal Khan, made public an investigation into O’Connor’s office.

Two years later, when the City Council tried to put the job of investigating aldermen under the purview of Inspector General Joe Ferguson, O’Connor lead a working group that ultimately  watered down the legislation. At the behest of Ald. Ed Burke, 14th Ward, the working group removed a key provision that would have let Ferguson subpoena City Council records and audit Burke’s tightly controlled workman’s comp program.

O’Connor and Emanuel have been allies since Emanuel’s first election in 2011. When Emanuel took office, he created a new City Council committee — the Committee on Workforce Development — to take power away from Burke’s Finance Committee. O’Connor has been the chairman ever since. Most collective bargaining agreements with city unions, including the contract for all rank and file police officers, go before O’Connor’s panel.

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