Chicago’s City Council could be in line for an unusual amount of upheaval this election, as a bunch of aldermen walk away and plenty of incumbents in the 50-member body find themselves in tough reelection fights.
A dozen aldermen with around 200 years of cumulative experience are stepping down at the end of this term. And Mayor Lori Lightfoot has already replaced four others over the past 11 months who either took other gigs or got convicted of federal crimes and had to resign.
Citywide, 210 candidates are running for four-year terms and the $142,000 salaries that come with the responsibility of being perhaps the elected officials Chicagoans complain to the most.
This is also the first council election to be held using new ward boundaries determined through the once-a-decade remapping that’s done after each U.S. census.
With so many people running, many of the crowded races won’t get decided Tuesday. Instead, the top two vote-getters will meet in head-to-head runoff elections on April 4. Here’s a look at some of the more prominent contests.
In the Northwest Side 1st Ward, progressive first-term incumbent Ald. Daniel La Spata faces a stiff challenge from a slate of well-financed and well-known challengers to the seat that represents parts of Wicker Park, the Ukrainian Village, West Town and Logan Square.
Former Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno, attempting a political comeback following a series of scandals, is running for the seat he held for nearly a decade in the 2010s but lost in 2019 to La Spata.
Attorney Sam Royko is the son of Chicago newspaper legend Mike Royko. And community organizer Stephen “Andy” Schneider has long led influential historic preservation and development efforts in the area.
Fourth Ward Ald. Sophia King is on the mayoral ballot, leaving five hopefuls vying to succeed her in the ward that runs along the lakefront from the South Loop to Kenwood.
King chairs the council’s Progressive Caucus, and the ward has a history of electing independent-minded aldermen.
The incumbent has endorsed her chief of staff, Prentice C. Butler. Also on the ballot are Ebony Lucas, who unsuccessfully ran against King in a 2017 special election and again in 2019; state Rep. Lamont Robinson; former Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago administrator Matthew “Khari” Humphries; and retired Lucent Technologies executive Helen West.
Veteran Ald. Leslie Hairston’s announcement of her City Council retirement opened the floodgates for candidates who want to represent the 5th Ward, which covers most of Hyde Park, South Shore and part of the Greater Grand Crossing community.
With 11 political neophytes on the 5th Ward ballot, voters in the traditionally liberal, independent ward have plenty of options and seem likely to be headed for an April 4 runoff if nobody gets over 50% of the vote Tuesday.
With veteran 6th Ward Ald. Roderick Sawyer running for mayor, the race to replace him includes 11 candidates ranging from schoolteachers and church pastors to current and former law enforcement officers and small business owners.
They’re all vying to represent a ward centered around the Chatham neighborhood, long a center of Black political and cultural strength on the South Side that has recently struggled with high crime.
Public safety and environmental concerns are top of mind for many voters in the far Southeast Side 10th Ward, which stretches from the South Chicago neighborhood to Hegewisch and the Indiana border.
To follow her on the council, outgoing Ald. Sue Sadlowski Garza has endorsed Ana Guajardo, a founding member of the United Workers’ Center group that works to protect the rights of immigrants and low-wage workers.
Two Chicago police officers are on the ballot. Peter Chico is an officer in the South Chicago district and the grandson of a South Chicago steelworker. Jessica Venegas is a CPD officer and practicing attorney.
Rounding out the contest are activist Oscar Sanchez, an urban planner who helped organize a hunger strike to oppose the building of an industrial shredder on Hegewisch land near two schools; and Yessenia Carreón, a former health and response coordinator with Calumet Area Industrial Commission, who also works as a social media content creator with several acting credits to her resume.
The 11th Ward presents voters in parts of Bridgeport, Chinatown and McKinley Park an interesting fulcrum between the politically old and the new. Ald. Nicole Lee took office in March as Chicago’s first Chinese American member of the City Council, and is now on the ballot in the city’s first ever majority-Asian ward.
But she got her seat “the old-fashioned way” when Lightfoot appointed her to replace Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson after he was convicted of federal tax charges. And Lee has since embraced the support of the Daleys, emblems of old Irish political power emanating from Bridgeport, with former Mayor Richard M. Daley and Cook County Commissioner John Daley recently cohosting a fundraiser for her.
Saying they haven’t seen much evidence the change she promised is going to come, six challengers are taking on Lee: Anthony “Tony” Ciaravino, Steve Demitro, Don Don, Elvira “Vida” Jimenez, Froylan “Froy” Jimenez and Ambria Taylor.
Another Lightfoot appointee, 12th Ward Ald. Anabel Abarca, was in trouble. With 82% of precincts reporting, she had 44% of the vote to 56% for community activist Julia Ramirez.
Abarca got the job in December after outgoing Ald. George Cardenas endorsed her in the Southwest Side ward that includes much of Brighton Park and McKinley Park. Cardenas left the council to take a seat on the Cook County Board of Tax Review.
Ramirez said she opted not to seek Lightfoot’s appointment to the seat because “the mayor is deeply unpopular here in the area” and she didn’t want the political baggage of the endorsement. Abarca, a former Cardenas chief of staff, said she felt compelled to seek the appointment because she wanted the seat.
In the Southwest Side 14th Ward, the two candidates on the ballot are far less well-known than their political backers.
Jeylu Gutierrez, district director for Cook County Commissioner Alma Anaya, runs with the support of mayoral candidate and U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García. Outgoing Ald. Edward Burke has ties to the other aldermanic candidate, Raúl Reyes.
One way or the other, the ward will see its first new alderman since Burke was elected in 1969. Facing federal corruption charges, he declined in November to file petitions to get his name on the ballot for reelection.
Ald. Matt O’Shea, 19th, is looking for a fourth term representing the Far Southwest Side neighborhoods of Beverly, Mount Greenwood and Morgan Park.
He’s flanked politically on the ballot by Fraternal Order of Police-backed former Chicago police Sgt. Mike Cummings on the right and computer consultant Tim Noonan on the left.
All three say public safety is the top issue in the election, but Cummings argues O’Shea doesn’t do enough to support police, while Noonan says the ward is far more diverse than its reputation as a haven for police and firefighters makes it seem. O’Shea insists his middle path is best for representing the wishes both of first responders and the many others who live in the ward.
With Ald. Howard Brookins Jr. stepping down after 20 years representing the 21st Ward following an unsuccessful run for Cook County judge, seven candidates are hoping to lead the district stretching from Auburn Gresham to the border of Calumet Park.
The ward has been hobbled by downturns in population and its shopping districts, as well as rising gang crime and the havoc brought by the 2008 foreclosure crisis.
Brookins has endorsed Ronnie Mosley, who has worked in government under 8th Ward Ald. Michelle Harris and others.
Also on the ballot are Chicago police officer Daliah Goree; Kweli Kwaza, who led Club 21, a network of block clubs in the ward; attorney Larry “Jay” Lloyd; retired firefighter Cornell Dantzler; Ayana Clark, a community advocate for former U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush; and attorney Preston Brown Jr., Democratic committeeman of the Far South Side 34th Ward that will no longer exist in its current form when the new council takes over.
The head-to-head 23rd Ward election fight features incumbent Ald. Silvana Tabares — once an ally of former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan who has had a falling-out with him — versus community activist Eddie Guillen, who worked for Madigan’s political operation briefly but said Madigan isn’t backing his run against Tabares.
Instead, Guillen said he ran because Tabares has failed Latino voters in the ward, which includes parts of West Lawn and West Elsdon, hooking west through Garfield Ridge north of Midway Airport.
For her part, Tabares said she wants to focus on her record of getting things done and on being a strong independent voice for a ward that “has traditionally been seen as being politically dependent on neighboring wards.”
Lightfoot appointed 24th Ward Ald. Monique Scott in June to succeed her brother, Michael Scott Jr., after he stepped down from the West Side seat.
Monique Scott is now facing off against Creative Scott, Drewone Goldsmith, Edward Ward, Larry Nelson, Luther Woodruff Jr., Traci Treasure Johnson and Vetress Boyce in a ward centered around Lawndale.
In the 25th Ward, which now includes Pilsen and some of Little Village, one-term progressive incumbent Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez faces a tough head-to-head challenge from Aida Flores, an assistant principal at Darwin Elementary School who also ran in 2019.
Flores wants to reduce crime through better community engagement, and to find better ways to fight the gentrification that has long threatened working-class Pilsen residents.
Sigcho-Lopez has been a staunch critic of Lightfoot and an outspoken member of City Council’s socialist caucus and is endorsed by the Chicago Teachers Union. The pro-business Get Stuff Done political action committee has spent has spent more than $62,000 opposing his candidacy, and has spent nearly $100,000 on media and mailers supporting Flores.
The 33rd Ward features a competitive race between incumbent Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez, Samie Martinez, a Chicago planning department project coordinator, and finance professional and affordable housing developer Laith Shaaban.
Four years ago, Rodriguez Sanchez upended the reign of the longtime Mell family in the ward, beating Deb Mell, who had taken the seat after her father, Richard Mell, retired after nearly 40 years on the council. The ward now includes much of Albany Park and has since been one of the vocal members of the city council’s caucus of Democratic Socialists.
The brand-new 34th Ward, which encompasses most of the western half the Loop and stretches into Greektown and Fulton Market, is home to a two-way race.
Bill Conway — a former assistant Cook County state’s attorney, Navy veteran, and son of the billionaire co-founder of the private equity firm The Carlyle Group — unsuccessfully ran for Cook County state’s attorney in 2020. He faces Ascot Realty CEO James Ascot, the past president of the Chicago Association of Realtors.
Lincoln Park’s incumbent alderman and attorney Timmy Knudsen, who was appointed by Lightfoot, faces five opponents.
The ward’s recently retired alderman, Michele Smith, is backing marketing and PR professional Wendi Taylor-Nations. Also running are Rebecca Janowitz, an attorney who has worked on the county’s Justice Advisory Council and who has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into her own campaign; business consultant and Sheffield Neighborhood Association President Brian Comer; Steven McClellan, who owns a sales and food vending company for festivals; and Steve Botsford, who works with the real estate firm Laurel Canyon Holdings.
Ald. Jim Gardiner has been dogged by controversy since winning a close race to represent the Northwest Side Park in 2019. Those controversies range from a reported federal investigation into whether he sought to withhold ward services from some residents who opposed his agenda, to leaked profane texts about political colleagues and alleged remarks likening detractors to “rats.”
Challenging him are financial consultant Marija Tomic, car detailing business owner James Suh, architectural preservationist and neighborhood activist Susanna Ernst, attorney Megan Mathias, and activist Ana Santoyo.
The 46th Ward, which includes Uptown and part of Lakeview, is used to nail-biter elections. This year’s is wide open, thanks to the retirement of three-term Ald. James Cappleman. Six candidates are running to replace him, including two candidates who challenged him from the left in 2019: chemist Marianne Lalonde and political organizer Angela Clay, who is endorsed by the Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.
Kim Walz, who works in government affairs for Walgreens, has garnered the most support from established Democrats, including her former boss, U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley. Roushaunda Williams, a bartender at and a shop steward for Unite Here Local 1, has the support of several labor organizations, while Patrick Nagle, the chief administrative law judge with the federal Social Security Administration, has the support of several business owners in the ward. Real estate agent Michael Cortez is also running.
A crowded, 10-candidate field emerged after three-term Ald. Harry Osterman announced his retirement in the 48th Ward, which includes part of Uptown, as well as Edgewater and Andersonville.
Among the candidates are affordable housing developer Joe Dunne, university lecturer and police reform organizer Larry Svabek, artist and restaurant worker Nick Ward, real estate broker Andre Peloquin, resale business owner Brian Haag, Illinois Assistant Attorney General Isaac Freilich Jones, dance supply business owner and Indivisible Illinois organizer Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Deputy Director Roxanne Volkmann, restaurateur Andy Peters, and Nassir Faulkner, a communications manager for State Comptroller Susana Mendoza.
Dunne won Osterman’s endorsement and has been a top fundraiser. Ward, a member of the Chicago chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, is hoping young progressives push him to victory. Manaa-Hoppenworth is likewise leaning on her organizing bona fides and the potential to become the first queer woman of color to represent the ward.
Incumbent Ald. Deb Silverstein is seeking her fourth term on the City Council representing the ward that borders Evanston on the far northern end of the city, covering most of West Ridge and a little bit of North Park.
Her sole challenger, Mueze Bawany, a Chicago Public Schools high school teacher and the son of Pakistani immigrants, has campaigned as a progressive alternative, with support and large donations from the Chicago Teachers Union and other left-leaning groups. Bawany lost several endorsements when a series of his deleted past tweets resurfaced in which he used profanities against the state of Israel, for which he apologized. The ward has a significant Jewish population. Silverstein, who is a practicing Orthodox Jew, described the tweets as “hateful and obscene.”
Unopposed this election are incumbent Aldermen Brian Hopkins, 2nd, Pat Dowell, 3rd, Gregory Mitchell, 7th, David Moore, 17th, Walter Burnett, 27th, Scott Waguespack, 32nd, Carlos Ramirez Rosa, 35th, Brendan Reilly, 42nd, and Matt Martin, 47th. Bennett Lawson, the former chief of staff to retiring Ald. Tom Tunney, is also unopposed in his bid to lead the 44th Ward.
City Clerk Anna Valencia, who manages City Council records as well as the city’s vehicle stickers, parking permits, dog registration and municipal IDs, also ran unopposed. She has served in the role since 2017. Treasurer Melissa Conyears Ervin — who manages the city’s cash, and investments as well as pension funds for city employees and teachers — is also guaranteed another reelection. She was first elected in 2019.
Chicago Tribune’s Will Lee, Dan Petrella, Sarah Macaraeg, Jake Sheridan, Talia Soglin, Richard Requena and Hank Sanders contributed.