Alderman Pat Dowell was successful in her re-election campaign for City Council. In 2007, she replaced long-time Ald. Dorothy Tillman. Tillman’s daughter Ebony tried to best Dowell this year. Many in the ward saw the contest between Dowell and the younger Tillman as a revenge race. In 2007 Dowell, who is a former urban planner, had the support of many young professionals in the ward who are eager for development in the historic Bronzeville neighborhood. But the economy plummeted during Dowell’s term and development stalled. In this election season, she landed endorsements from the Service Employees International Union, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and For A Better Chicago PAC. Ebony Tillman did not return phone calls from WBEZ about her candidacy. Her website said she wants to bring big box retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target to the ward.
Illinois State Rep. Will Burns won this seat with 65 percent of the vote. The ward was formerly led by Toni Preckwinkle, who relinquished her seat after winning the presidency of the Cook County Board of Commissioners. Burns was the likely heir apparent to Preckwinkle’s former seat, and he scored her endorsement early in the race. The SEIU, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and For A Better Chicago PAC also endorsed Burns. Burns has an extensive public policy background that resonated with residents in the ward. He campaigned on bringing more retail shopping options to the area. The 4th Ward includes the neighborhood of Hyde Park – a progressive, politically independent part of the city.
Roderick Sawyer was successful in forcing a runoff with incumbent Freddrenna Lyle. Sawyer is the son of the late Eugene Sawyer, former 6th Ward alderman and mayor of Chicago. Sawyer argued the ward was neglected and blighted. He benefitted from deep community connections and name recognition. The SEIU-backed Lyle struck a chord with seniors. The 6th Ward covers Chatham and Park Manor – black middle-class neighborhoods that tend to be politically mobilized. Chatham has seen an uptick in crime, which has made residents nervous.
The race for 7th Ward alderman featured two women with deep political ties. Ald. Sandi Jackson, wife of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., won with 53% of the vote. She took this South Side ward four years ago by beating Darcel Beavers, who was appointed to finish the term of her father, William Beavers. He left the office in 2006, after serving as alderman for 23 years.
Sandi Jackson ran on a platform of economic revitalization. Specifics included development of a large retail and housing complex on the site of a former steel plant.
The 10th ward comprises portions of several Southeast Side neighborhoods: South Chicago, South Deering, the East Side and Hegewisch. The area was once an industrial powerhouse but as manufacturers left, the ward has struggled with crime, unemployment and the question of how to make use of large tracts of former factory space.
The two front runners differed in how they approached economic development. The incumbent, John Pope, ran on a platform that included attracting clean industrial jobs. Richard Martinez campaigned on moving the ward away from reliance on heavy industry. Pope won the race with 59% of the vote.
The aldermanic race in this Southwest Side ward began when Ald. Virginia Rugai announced she would retire. Top campaign issues included how best to revitalize retail strips along 95th Street and Western Avenue. The five candidates that vied for her seat included Rugai’s longtime aid and ward committeeman Matt O’Shea. His opponents included Ray Coronado, George Newell, Anne Schaible, Phil Sherlock and Diane Phillips. O’Shea and Schaible dominated the race during the campaign and O’Shea pulled ahead for the win with 61% of the vote.
Grammy-winning hip-hopper Che “Rhymefest” Smith challenged first-term Ald. Willie Cochran and the two are headed for a runoff. Cochran received 46 percent of the vote – not enough to declare victory. Smith came in second with 20 percent.
During the campaign, Smith enlisted help from fellow hip-hoppers and intellectuals, including Dr. Cornel West. Smith brought energy and youthfulness - and of course, celebrity – to the race. Cochran is regarded relatively well in the ward for bringing some affordable housing and commercial development. Since the last aldermanic election, the ward’s taken a hit from foreclosures and stalled economic options.
Speaking about the campaign, Smith said, “People were trying to build a narrative around me that I think was unfair. There were saying ‘Oh, he’s a hip-hop artist’ or ‘he’s a local rap artist, that’s cute.’ But they were ignoring everything I’ve done as far as initiatives.”
Natalie Moore and Michael Puente contributed to this story.