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ELECTIONS 2019 Tunney supporters celebrate alderman's achievements at fundraiser
by Jake Wittich
2018-10-31

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Supporters of Chicago Ald. Tom Tunney ( 44th Ward ) warned of "dark money groups" targeting the first openly gay alderman during an Oct. 24 fundraiser at the Boystown nightspot Sidetrack, supporting his run for re-election in 2019.

"Dark money is flowing into our ward at an unprecedented pace," Sidetrack co-owner Art Johnston said while introducing Tunney. "Why would someone put that much money into an aldermanic race? Because there's more money to be made in this ward if you find a candidate who's willing to put the interests of the money above the interests of the neighborhood."

Tunney's bid for reelection has been met with opposition from the Ricketts family, which has—according to an Aug. 10 report from Crain's Chicago Business—put dark money toward a group distributing anti-Tunney flyers throughout the ward.

"People have asked me, 'Haven't they gotten everything they wanted already?' and the answer is 'no,' because they want to own their alderman, but I've been here since before lights, and you'll have to put my lights out because I'm not leaving," Tunney said.

About 200 people—including elected officials, small-business owners and 44th Ward residents—showed up to support Tunney. Among those in attendance were mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot; Illinois state reps Greg Harris and Sara Feigenholtz; and Ald. Joe Moreno ( 1st Ward ) and Raymond Lopez ( 15th ).

The focus of the fundraiser was Tunney's "lifetime commitment to equality." The bar's TV screens alternated through slides highlighting the alderman's achievements and contributions to Chicago's LGBTQ community, such as opening his restaurant, Ann Sather, as a meeting place for LGBT people in the '80s and '90s. Tunney's restaurant also helped prepare and distribute meals to patients with AIDS as part of the Open Hand program.

Feigenholtz, whose district encompasses the 44th Ward, reflected on getting to know Tunney as one of the first volunteers for Open Hand Chicago, a program that delivered hot meals to patients with AIDS. Tunney had opened his restaurant to help with the preparation of those meals.

"This was before 1995, so AZT was the only drug on the market and we were losing our community person by person, … but [Open Hand Chicago] showed that our community can come together despite the dark moments," she said. "Tom has always had our back, and I know for sure that he's standing up for us."

Tunney said he was proud to see how the neighborhood has grown since then to now having the Center on Halsted and other official services for the LGBTQ community, such as the affordable LGBT senior housing at Town Hall.

"What we want to do for the next term is continue that work and the infrastructure that we built in Lake View all over the city," Tunney said. "We need to be on the West and South sides. We need to continue the healthcare facilities and community centers that show this is how it's done."

The Crain's Chicago Business report is at www.chicagobusiness.com/greg-hinz-politics/ricketts-family-targets-wrigleyville-alderman-tunney-why .


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