Thomas M. Tunney ( pictured ) is celebrated by Chicago's LGBT community as the first and only openly gay member of the Chicago City Council after being elected in February 2003. As the current alderman and committeeman of the 44th Ward ( which includes hotspots such as Wrigley Field and Boystown ) , Tunney's presence in the city's political arena has given a respected voice to the growing numbers of gays and lesbians in Chicago.
'I have a role not only to represent the 44th ward, but also gay and lesbian views citywide,' said the alderman, who was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 1995. 'During the last police hearings for the new superintendent, there were no discussions of sexual orientation until I brought it up.'
But being open about his sexual orientation is not the only thing the Lakeview community boasts of its alderman. Tunney's entrepreneurial success has placed small businesses into the picture painted by the Chicago City Council and has helped make Chicago a more business-friendly environment.
Tunney will be running for two slots on the ballot during the primaries on Feb. 5:
—9th Congressional District delegate for 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama ( during which the delegate attends the National Democratic Convention in Denver this August to officiate the Democratic presidential nominee ) ; and
—44th Ward committeeman.
Though unopposed during the Democratic primary for the committeeman position, Tunney will face Jim Fuchs, who—also unopposed during the Feb. 5 primary—safely holds the Republican nomination.
However quaint the election for a committeeman may seem, voters should note the importance of the role a committeeman plays in the City of Chicago.
Each committeeman represents the major political party in its precinct and, in turn, is a voting member in his or her party's organization in Cook County—giving a committeeman an important role in the nominating process.
However the unpaid position is not just about the political pull. A committeeman works towards organizing a smooth precinct operation and, most notably, encourages voters to exercise their freedom by voting.
Tunney looks at his role as committeeman as a challenge to encourage residents in the 44th Ward to vote. 'I am just astonished at the low voter participation in the past,' Tunney explained, 'Only about 1 in 4 people come to do their civic duty.'
Perhaps the heat of the 2008 presidential primaries will pull voters to the polls this February and give them an opportunity to speak for themselves. Luckily for Chicagoans, the Board of Elections is giving residents one last chance to register to vote in time for the Feb. 5 primaries.
Tunney looks towards what appears to be a bright future for the Lakeview community, whose neighborhood is packed with younger residents, many of whom are new to Chicago. As current alderman and committeeman for the 44th Ward, Tom Tunney will work towards engaging the young residents in Lakeview to make a difference by casting their votes.