Indicted Chicago Ald. Edward Burke will not run for re-election, ending the reign of City Hall’s longest-serving alderman as a federal corruption trial looms.
Burke did not file petitions by Monday’s 5 p.m. deadline for candidates hoping to run in the February municipal elections.
He offered no immediate comment about his decision to not seek reelection.
Burke was elected to represent the Southwest Side 14th Ward in 1969, succeeding his father. He’s held on to that office for nearly 54 years, accumulating a vast amount of power over the decades.
But that power at City Hall took a hit in 2019 after his offices were raided by the FBI and he was later charged with racketeering, bribery and attempted extortion for allegedly using his clout at City Hall to gain business for his private law practice, Klafter & Burke. He has pleaded not guilty. After years of delays, Burke is scheduled to stand trial in November 2023.
As details of the federal probe surfaced, Burke relinquished the chairmanship of the influential Finance Committee — a committee that can approve or block everything from police misconduct settlements to tax incentives for private businesses.
Despite his indictment and stepping down as Finance Committee chairman, Burke sailed to reelection in 2019. He beat back two challengers and earned 54% of the vote that year.
But in the past four years, court documents have revealed more details behind his federal indictment. Wiretapped phone calls and conversations paint a picture of Burke’s alleged abuses, which include trying to force the owners of a Burger King to hire his law firm to do property tax appeals and allegedly refusing to help developers of the Old Main Post Office building until his firm was hired.
“The cash register has not rung yet,” Burke allegedly told then-Ald. Danny Solis, who was working with the feds and secretly recording Burke, about the latter instance.
Burke’s work as a private attorney has long intersected with his taxpayer-funded job as an alderman.
A 2018 investigation by WBEZ and the Better Government Association found that in eight years Burke had recused himself from City Council votes 464 times — more than four times the other 49 aldermen had combined.
Questions swirled whether Burke’s retirement was imminent when his wife, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, announced earlier this year she would be retiring from the state’s highest court, which she’s served on since 2006. Her last day on the bench will be Nov. 30.
The couple’s high powered roles have at times ensnared them in an ethical conundrum. WBEZ previously found Anne Burke participated in 10 cases before the Illinois Supreme Court while her husband’s firm was being paid by parties in those cases to reduce their property tax bills.
Burke still has more than $2.1 million remaining in his campaign funds. Known for his political fundraising prowess, he’s been paying for his legal defense with that cash — a practice allowed by Illinois law.
Two candidates have filed to succeed Burke and represent the 14th Ward next year, which now has a voting-age population that is 87% Hispanic due to the redrawn ward map.
Jeylú Gutiérrez is Cook County Commissioner Alma Anaya’s district director and has been endorsed by Congressman and mayoral candidate Jesús “Chuy” García and state Rep. Aarón Ortíz — who defeated Burke’s brother Rep. Dan Burke in the Democratic primary in 2018.
Reacting Monday night to the news that Burke will not be running for a 15th term, Gutiérrez said she’s focused on her campaign and is “ready to serve my community.”
Raul Reyes is a long-time Burke precinct captain, according to Politico. Gutiérrez said she has not yet met Reyes and does not know if Burke will be throwing his support behind Reyes.
Tessa Weinberg covers Chicago politics for WBEZ. Follow her @tessa_weinberg.