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Aldermanic Runoffs Full of Upsets
2007-05-01

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The labor unions have spoken—and, in the process, have ended the careers of some long-term aldermen.

Labor support contributed to the victories of at least four aldermanic candidates in the April 17 elections in Chicago—with probably the biggest upset involving Alderman Dorothy Tillman of the 3rd Ward, who, like some of the other upset victims, were backed by Mayor Richard Daley. However, Howard Brookins ( 21st Ward ) and Bernie Stone ( 50th Ward ) fought off challenges to reclaim their seats.

Another victor in the elections was Jesse Jackson, Jr., who actually supported Tillman's opponent, University of Chicago employee Pat Dowell. Jackson, who is married to newly-elected Alderman Sandi Jackson, also supported Bob Fioretti, who easily defeated long-term incumbent Madeline Haithcock in the 2nd Ward runoff election.

Labor unions decided to target all aldermen who supported Daley's veto of the so-called 'big-box' ordinance that would have increased wages and benefits at such retail stores as Wal-Mart and Target. In setting about to unseat said supporters, unions sent massive amounts of campaign workers and spent huge amounts of money for their chosen candidates.

Here's a rundown of how the runoffs went. Material is based on unofficial results from the Associated Press:

—2nd Ward: Civil rights attorney Bob Fioretti fought off incumbent Alderman Madeline Haithcock to secure 66 percent of the vote. Haithcock had held the 2nd Ward seat since 1993.

—3rd Ward: It seems that 23-year incumbent Alderman Dorothy Tillman—and her famed hats—will not frequent City Council chambers ( at least for the next four years ) after results showed that challenger Pat Dowell garnered 54 percent of the vote in the ward, which contains such neighborhoods as Englewood and Bronzeville. On the night of April 17, Dowell declared victory—although Tillman would not concede.

—15th Ward: Toni Foulkes, a union activist and Jewel bakery employee, won the seat with 60 percent of the vote over attorney Felicia Simmons-Stovall. Incumbent alderman Ted Thomas, citing health-related concerns, did not seek re-election.

—16th Ward: Incumbent Alderman Shirley Coleman, an ordained minister who focuses on crime and poverty issues, lost to Cook County correctional officer Joann Thompson, who supported the big-box ordinance and had the backing of organized labor. Thompson prevailed, 57 percent to 43 percent.

—18th Ward: In a race that was unusual in the sense that the incumbent won easily, Lona Lane ( who was appointed to replace Tom Murphy by Mayor Daley in December ) bested challenger Paul Stewart, 67 percent to 33 percent. At late as last month, though, Stewart had considered dropping out of the race.

—21st Ward: Incumbent Alderman Howard Brookins, Jr., defeated union-backed Leroy Jones, Jr., 61 percent to 39 percent. Brookins pushed to have a Wal-Mart in his South Side ward and failed; therefore, unions supported Jones.

—24th Ward: With about 95 percent of the votes counted ( as of early April 18 ) , community activist Sharon Dixon had a 52 percent-48 percent edge of incumbent Alderman Michael Chandler.

—32nd Ward: In a contentious race that featured reportedly featured name-calling and allegations of a candidate investigation ( see the April 11 online '32nd Ward Race Gets Ugly' article in Windy City Times ) , challenger Scott Waguespack held a 51 percent-49 percent edge, according to unofficial results. Among the neighborhoods in the ward are Bucktown, Lakeview and Wicker Park. Daley and several aldermen contributed to Matlak's campaign.

—35th Ward: Incumbent Alderman Rey Colón easily defeated former alderman Vilma Colom, securing 62 percent of the vote. Colón had been criticized for many things, including contributions he reportedly received from real estate developers. However, things turned particularly acrimonious when material alleging that Colón had a past criminal record—claiming that he had arrested for everything from drunk driving to drug possession—was mailed out.

—43rd Ward: On the North Side ( in the Lincoln Park area ) , Alderman Vi Daley ( who is not related to the mayor ) defeated former federal prosecutor Michele Smith 53 percent to 47 percent. Smith is a former prosecutor and businesswoman. Vi Daley has accused Smith of exchanging beer for votes by holding a party that featured drink specials for early voters with receipts. Smith contended that she stopped those trades from happening.

—49th Ward: In an extremely close race, incumbent Alderman Joe Moore received 51 percent of the vote while challenger Don Gordon got 49 percent, with about 98 percent of the vote counted as of early April 18. Moore, an activist who supports the big-box ordinance and who has even taken on foie gras, faced Gordon, who charged that Moore was not paying enough attention to issues such as crime and development.

—50th Ward: Incumbent Alderman Bernie Stone, who has served the area for more than three decades, turned back challenger Naisy Dolar 53 percent to 47 percent. Like some of the other races, the battle between Stone and Dolar became contentious; according to a press release, Dolar stormed out of a recent live radio debate with Stone.


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