Updated 12:36 a.m.
Separated by only a few dozen votes, a veteran Chicago alderman and the daughter of a former congressman appear poised to face off in a runoff election to represent the 30th Ward in the City Council.
With almost 94 percent of precincts reporting, Ald. Ariel Reboyras held a narrow lead over Jessica Washington Gutierrez, the daughter of retired U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez. Reboyras had 48 percent of the vote while Washington Gutierrez got 47 percent.
The third candidate, Edgar “Edek” Esparza, 23, trailed with 4 percent of the vote.
The Associated Press had not called the race as of 10:50 p.m. But if neither Reboyras nor Washington Gutierrez reach 50 percent of the vote, they will face off against one another in an April 2 runoff.
Reboyras, reached by phone Tuesday night, denied that his failure to win in the first round might owe to sagging voter support for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“I don’t think it had anything to do with (my) association with Rahm Emanuel or anything that I’ve done to make my candidacy weak,” Reboyras said. “I think it had to do with the fact that we had 14 candidates running for mayor.”
Reboyras said the large mayoral field left some of his supporters wondering whether it made sense to vote when it looked like there was going to be a mayoral runoff.
“Generally when there’s a low turnout it favors the incumbent,” Reboyras acknowledged.
His main rival attributed the support she got in her bid to unseat the veteran alderman as proof the ward hungered for new leadership.
“One thing we learned tonight is that the 30th Ward has asked for a new alderman,” Washington Gutierrez yelled to dozens of supporters gathered at La Peña, an Ecuadorian night spot in the Old Irving Park neighborhood. “This is not a time to feel sad or to feel tired or to feel down. Tomorrow we’re going to regroup because we’re going into a runoff.”
The aldermanic race in the 30th Ward, which covers parts of the Belmont Cragin, Portage Park and Old Irving Park neighborhoods, highlighted tensions between old guard politicians and young self-styled progressives seeking to expand the job of alderman to focus more on citywide policy, instead of just ward-centric constituent services.
Reboyras, 65, has been alderman of the 30th Ward since 2003, when he emerged from a patronage machine of Mayor Richard M. Daley.
When Rahm Emanuel took Daley’s place in 2011, Reboyras aligned with the new mayor, who tapped him to chair the council’s Public Safety Committee. Reboyras became one of Emanuel’s most loyal supporters among aldermen, no small thing after the Laquan McDonald shooting sent the mayor into a political crisis and pushed Chicago into a federal court-enforced agreement to overhaul the city’s policing.
On the campaign trail, Reboyras touted his almost 40 years in city government and the institutional knowledge that allows him to get things done for residents.
Reboyras raised more than a quarter-million dollars for his reelection bid, according to data from Reform for Illinois, a group that compiles campaign finance reports. That sum included $34,980 from one of Emanuel’s campaign funds.
The elder Gutierrez, a Democrat, represented a district that includes the ward. He is well-known for his advocacy of immigrant and Puerto Rican causes. He was also his daughter’s key campaign donor.
Altogether, Washington Gutierrez has raised nearly $340,000 since launching her campaign less than a year ago — a staggering sum, considering her age and short political résumé
Washington Gutierrez, 31, also ran with the backing of her father’s congressional replacement, Democrat Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who endorsed a slate of young Latino aldermanic candidates across the city. Nearly half of all Latino candidates running this year were under the age of 40.
But Washington Gutierrez’s last name has been a double-edged sword. It’s a time-honored Chicago tradition for the sons and daughters of powerful politicians to get seats handed down to them.But it can also invite criticism.
During the campaign, Washington Gutierrez insisted she would be an independent voice, including from her own father. The elder Gutierrez has been something of a chameleon during his decades in Chicago politics. At times, he has aligned with progressive independents such as Garcia and Harold Washington, the late mayor. At other points, he has embraced Daley and Emanuel.
Besides the donations for his daughter, the former congressman boosted her campaign by knocking on doors almost daily.
The contest’s third candidate, Esparza, mounted a challenge to Reboyras in 2015 at age 19, but was removed from the ballot before Election Day. Esparza is finishing his undergraduate degree at Columbia University in New York City.
Despite that, he decided to run and aligned himself with mayoral candidate Willie Wilson. He said throughout the campaign that he was the only true independent.
The 30th Ward is majority Latino, but has some white residents moving in. This election guaranteed Latino representation in City Hall. But the gerrymandered boundaries could change after the 2020 census.