Around Rogers Park: Political Tsunami Washes Over Chicago / Rogers Park


 

Chicago municipal elections are always a two-act affair. The general elections come first. This year, they were held on Tuesday, February 26th. Any candidate with more than 50% of the general vote is declared the victor; if there is no outright victor, then the top two candidates with less than 50% of the vote must face each other in a final vote in the runoffs. This year, the runoffs were held Tuesday, April 2nd.

Both the generals and the runoffs were full of surprises, both for Rogers Park and for the city of Chicago. To say that this was a “change election” is an understatement. After recent revelations of yet more Aldermanic corruption scandals, this time centering around Ed Burke and Danny Soliz, the mood of the electorate was angry. Voters wanted change. Now that the dust has settled, it is clear that change is coming.

The biggest local story was the decisive victory of Maria Hadden over incumbent Joe Moore who had represented the 49th Ward for almost three decades. Ms. Hadden soundly defeated Alderman Moore in the general elections with over 63% of the vote (see related article on Maria Hadden). Almost as surprising, the general election reduced a field of fourteen mayoral candidates to just two – both African-American women, and not a Daley among them.

The runoff elections pitted political neophyte Lori Lightfoot against long-time politician and current Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Despite her years of experience, Preckwinkle saw no advantage in her argument that experience made her the stronger candidate for Mayor. Lightfoot trounced Preckwinkle in a stunning defeat, winning almost 74% of the popular vote. She will be the city’s first mayor to be both African-American and female. Chicago will also be the largest US city with an LGBTQ mayor. The gay, black and female trifecta would have been an impossibility in Chicago just a generation ago.

Joe Moore and Toni Preckwinkle were not the only “establishment” candidates who were defeated in the elections of 2019. A number of other Aldermen were voted out of office, or came perilously close. 40th Ward Alderman Pat O’Connor was the most prominent elected official to be thrown out. In all, six Democratic Socialists will now be on the City Council, up from just one currently. How the new mayor and the more left-leaning City Council will interact will not be known for at least a few more weeks. The new crop of elected officials will be sworn in on May 20th.