Tuesday’s election promised significant change for Chicago’s City Council, and not just because 16 members who were around four years ago resigned over the last year or opted to not run again.
All told, there were 40 contested Council races Tuesday — 29 featuring incumbents and 11 with all new candidates — with many of those on the ballot poised to push the Council further to the left and corporate donors doing what they can to prevent that from happening.
Along with 10 Council candidates with no opposition, they will be governing over a different terrain, literally, as the longtime boundaries of the city’s 50 wards have changed.
Long after the polls closed at 7 p.m., though, it still wasn’t clear who among more than 170 would-be alderpersons would win — thanks to relatively tight vote margins in certain races and thousands of outstanding, or uncounted, mail-in ballots citywide.
Here’s what is known:
• Based on early returns, at least 10 of the 40 contested races could be headed for a runoff, which occurs when there are more than two candidates in a race and nobody secures more than 50% of the total. In such cases, the top two vote-getters go head-to-head in a winner-take-all election April 4.
The 11th Ward, longtime power center of the Daley family, is one place a runoff is looking possible, with incumbent Ald. Nicole Lee in a tight race with Anthony Ciaravino.
Lee was appointed in 2022 after Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson, nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, was convicted on tax crimes and had to resign.
Ciaravino, whose website describes him as a Chicago Police Department instructor, received donations from the Fraternal Order of Police lodge for Chicago cops, as well as from companies affiliated with Daley pal Fred B. Barbara.
With 96% of precincts reporting, Lee and Ciaravino each had captured just over 30% of the vote — with more than 1,000 uncounted mail-in ballots in the ward, officials say.
There were 15 City Council runoffs in 2019 and 18 in 2015.
• In the Southwest Side’s 14th Ward, a stunner could be the works as a candidate backed by retiring Ald. Edward M. Burke, Raul Reyes, trailed Jeylu Gutierrez, a candidate backed by U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, an unsuccessful candidate for mayor Tuesday.
With all precincts reporting, Gutierrez had 65% of the vote to Reyes’ 35%
There are more than 500 uncounted mail-in ballots in that ward, which includes parts of the Gage Park and Brighton Park neighborhoods.
• In the nearby 13th Ward that includes Midway Airport, Ald. Marty Quinn, an acolyte of ex-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, appears to be safe from a challenge by Paul Bruton, a stay-at-home dad and former analyst with the Chicago inspector general’s office.
With 95% of precincts reporting, Quinn had about 88% of the vote.
City records show there are more than 1,000 mail-in ballots that still haven’t been counted.
Quinn’s success came even with a dark cloud of Madigan’s corruption indictment hanging over the race — charges that accuse Madigan of using his powerful office to illegally enrich himself and various cronies.
• In the 1st Ward, incumbent Ald. Daniel La Spata was the top vote-getter among a field of four in a hard-fought race for an area that includes Wicker Park and Logan Square, but it wasn’t immediately clear whether he’d have enough votes to avoid a runoff.
With 96% of precincts reporting, La Spata had roughly 49% of the vote, followed by Sam Royko, son of late newspaper columnist Mike Royko, with about 24%.
Proco “Joe” Moreno, the former alderman trying to make a political comeback, was just under 8%. He lost in 2019 after a series of embarrassing incidents involving drinking, a car crash and a girlfriend.
Several thousand mail-in ballots also are not yet counted in that ward.
• While Mayor Lori Lightfoot had a bad day at the polls, some Council allies fared better, among them 28th Ward Ald. Jason Ervin, who led his sole opponent with more than 75% of the vote, with 96% of precincts reporting.
Lightfoot’s floor leader, Ald. Michelle Harris, captured 71% of the vote against two opponents with 87% of the precincts reporting.
Two political groups battled heavily to try to influence Tuesday’s election.
United Working Families, a progressive group closely aligned with the Chicago Teachers Union, endorsed 19 Council candidates — seven incumbents and 12 challengers. The group, which backed Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson for mayor, spent about $300,000 on political activities since the beginning of last year.
Based on incomplete returns, it looks like seven of those Council candidates won their races — including two who were uncontested — while six may face runoffs.
A political group called Get Stuff Done PAC, run by a former aide to ex-Mayor Rahm Emanuel, raised close to $2 million in just the last few months, and helped 15 Council candidates and tried to knock out two others.
The group’s mission statement — “To elect pragmatic candidates to the Chicago City Council” — is seen as a way to counter the left-leaning agenda of many people running for the Council.
Among the big donors: Emanuel ally Michael Sacks, who donated $1 million since Dec. 20.
Ten of the candidates the group supported appear headed to victory, based on early returns.