By Ricardo Brum
Challengers rise to prominence as 12 incumbent aldermen step down in biggest City Council turnover in decades
With 12 aldermanic incumbents stepping down, including two who have already left office, over one-fifth of candidates elected in the 2019 Aldermanic races will not be pursuing reelection. This shift marks the biggest turnover in the City Council in decades, being dubbed as the Great Resignation, a parallel to the mass resignations seen in the U.S. economy in 2021.
Reasons for resignation vary, ranging from aldermen joining as contenders in the mayoral race, overall desire to spend more with family and even bribery indictments. That exodus could impact long-standing policies throughout the city.
Moving ahead, here are some key races to watch:
Six candidates are in the race to replace current Ald. James Cappleman in the ward that includes part of Lakeview and Uptown. Contenders include environmental research scientist Marianne Lalonde, activist and political organizer Angela Clay, community advocate and Walgreens’ liaison Kim Walz, social worker Roshaunda Williams, real estate broker Michael Cortez and chief administrative law judge Patrick Nagle.
Cappleman has faced criticism for his gentrification and pro-development policies in Uptown throughout his tenure, driving contenders Lalonde and Clay to oppose him in the 2019 aldermanic race. In that year, Cappleman secured reelection by only 25 votes in a runoff against Lalonde.
Affordability in Uptown has remained a hot-topic in the race, with Clay saying the area needs development without displacement, bringing attention to the reliance of families on affordable housing.
Walz has said the ward has not had sufficient short-term nor long-term plans, and that plans for affordability cannot ignore the amount of individuals without a home, mentioning the 20 percent to 30 percent decrease in shelter beds in the region through the pandemic. In a candidate forum, Lalonde said changes in affordable housing must come alongside wraparound services to increase social mobility.
Lalonde is being endorsed by congressman and mayoral candidate Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, and former Aldermen John Arena and Ameya Pawar. Clay is being backed by former Ald. Helen Shiller, the Chicago Teachers Union and the Democratic Socialists of America. Walz is being endorsed by Gov. JB Pritzker and the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board.
Ten candidates are on the ballot for the vacant seat following Ald. Harry Osterman’s retirement announcement. They include Osterman-endorsed affordable housing developer Joe Dunne, Assistant Illinois Attorney General Isaac Freilich Jones, University of Chicago lecturer Larry Svabek and Deputy Director of Housing and Urban Development Roxanne Volkmann.
Dunne has the endorsement of both former Osterman, as well as former Ald. Mary Ann Smith, both previous aldermen of the 48th ward. His competitors are tackling issues of public safety and affordable housing, which could bring potential challenges to Dunne’s bid if the race follows to a runoff.
The ward, which includes Lincoln Park and parts of the Near North Side, will see Ald. Timmy Knudsen’s first attempt at winning an election bid. He was appointed to fill the seat last year by Lori Lightfoot following Ald. Michele Smith’s retirement.
Knudsen will face five contenders, including real estate investor Steve Botsford, who was a former staffer for U.S. representative Tony Cardenas; and Brian Comer, a former renewable energy development and business executive, who has been endorsed by the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board.
Comer has stressed the region’s need for more policing, saying that Lightfoot is headed in the wrong direction and that she has attempted to control the 43rd ward by her aldermanic appointment.
Incumbent Daniel La Spata is being challenged by former 1st Ward Ald. Joe Moreno, who served from 2010 to 2019 before losing his reelection bid to La Spata.
While contenders Sam Royko and Stephen Schneider are also on the ballot, this race could potentially see the same La Spata-Moreno showdown in a runoff that the ward saw in 2019.
The ward covers Wicker Park, Bucktown, East Village, Ukrainian Village and Logan Square.
The retirement of incumbent Ald. Tom Tunney after 20 years came as potentially good news for the Ricketts family, considering Tunney’s policies did not grant public subsidies to the owners of the Cubs and the long-lasting feud between him and the family.
Following the removal of candidate Nathan Bean, the 44th ward, which includes Lakeviews Wrigleyville and North Halstead neighborhoods, will see an uncontested race led by Tunney’s chief of staff, Bennett Lawson. It brings into question whether the chief of staff’s policies will resemble the former alderman or potentially head in a new direction.
Other wards that will see incumbents stepping down and potentially challenging races include the 4th, 5th, 6th and 10th, all located on the city’s South Side, as well as the 12th, 15th, 21st and 34th wards.
Candidates in Chicago municipal elections require a candidate to win 50% of the vote or the top two candidates will proceed to a runoff on April 4.