Second-term Ald. Michele Smith appeared to grab the most votes in her crowded North Side re-election battle Tuesday, but her failure to come close to getting 50 percent of the overall count forced her into yet another runoff.
As of 11:30 p.m., The Associated Press had not called the outcome of the six-way 43rd Ward race. But assuming the order doesn’t change, Smith will likely face Derek Lindblom, a well-funded challenger who was in high spirits late Tuesday night.
With nearly 96 percent of precincts reporting Alderman Smith had about 39 percent of the vote. Lindblom had about 28 percent. Other candidates in the race included Leslie Fox, Jacob Ringer, Rebecca Janowitz and Steven McClellan, though none of them topped 14 percent of the vote.
“We’ve seen a lot of change tonight, and it is really exciting,”Lindblom told a large crowd at Salvatore’s Restaurant.
Socializing at her election night party just a half mile away, Smith was more subdued. But she said she was optimistic she would win now that a field of five candidates had been narrowed to two.
“When there are five candidates running it's really just a question of math,” Smith said. “We’re feeling very good.”
Energy around the controversial Lincoln Yards megadevelopment helped attract a crowded field of candidates to challenge Smith, who has served two terms in the City Council. The wealthy, rapidly growing ward — which encompasses parts of Lincoln Park, Old Town and the Gold Coast — is one of the most politically active in the city, traditionally home base to so-called lakefront liberals.
Smith came into election night with a war-chest of more than $350,000, but she faced memories of a hard-fought 2015 runoff. In that race, she prevailed by less than 100 votes.
Smith campaigned on her record of improving ward infrastructure, championing schools and bringing more police into the area. She consistently supported outgoing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, but styled herself as an advocate for ethics reform in the City Council.
Lindblom’s fundraising almost kept pace with Smith: He raised more than $328,000. Lindblom is a former top economic aide to Emanuel and has endorsements from Deputy Mayors Steve Koch and Mark Angelson. He campaigned on cutting red tape and using technology to make city government run more effectively.
The proposed $5 billion, 50-acre Lincoln Yards megadevelopment dominated the race for alderman in the 43rd Ward. While the planned project does not actually lie in the ward’s boundaries, its sheer size and potential effect on quality of life and affordability made it impossible to ignore.
Smith has been outspoken in calling for the project to be slowed down. She has also been pushing for the development to include a major new park. Most candidates running against Smith have taken a similar line in calling for the development to be slowed down and demanding more green space.
Despite pushback from area residents and other groups, Lincoln Yards breezed through the Chicago Plan Commission last month. The city’s Community Development Commission also unanimously approved a plan for a $900 million taxpayer subsidy for the developer to build new infrastructure around the project. That subsidy will now be taken up by the City Council's Finance Committee.
Smith said she expects her advocacy on Lincoln Yards will help her distinguish herself from Lindblom in the expected run-off.
“He does not stand exactly where I stand,” she said. “He really hasn’t identified where he stands on Lincoln Yards, and we would like to know it.”