Chicago City Council races: 14 runoffs — maybe more — likely in city's aldermanic contests
CHICAGO - Mayor Lori Lightfoot had an undeniably bad night Tuesday, as she was unceremoniously dumped by voters.
Things were only marginally better for the four City Council members Lightfoot appointed over the last year. Three of them apparently were unable to tally more than 50% of the vote and therefore are likely headed for two-person runoff elections in April.
The fourth? She lost her seat outright.
Perhaps the most intriguing of those runoffs will be in the 11th Ward, which includes the Daley family stronghold of Bridgeport as well as Chinatown. Incumbent Ald. Nicole Lee, appointed not quite a year ago, garnered only about 30% of the votes in a field of seven — virtually the same as opponent Anthony Ciaravino, a Chicago police instructor.
Lee, the first Asian American woman on the Council, was appointed by Lightfoot in 2022 after Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson, nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, was convicted on tax crimes and had to resign.
While the Daley family’s political operation has publicly shown support for Lee, whose father was once a top Daley aide, some of Ciaravino’s supporters have deep roots in the area and have deep ties to the Daleys — with companies run by longtime Daley pal Fred B. Barbara donating generously to CIaravino’s campaign.
The union representing rank-and-file Chicago cops also donated to his campaign fund.
One political observer familiar with the dynamics there described the runoff between them as "a proxy fight between the old guard of the 11th and the new," adding: "It’ll be a dog fight."
Ald. Timmy Knudsen also appears headed to a runoff. Though he led the most votes in a tough six-person race in the 43rd Ward, he fell significantly short of the threshold needed to avoid a runoff for an area that includes Lincoln Park.
An attorney and a former chairman of Chicago’s Zoning Board of Appeals, Knudsen was appointed by Lightfoot last year to replace 43rd Ald. Michele Smith, who announced her resignation in July.
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On Tuesday, he secured about 27% of the vote, with Brian Comer, a renewable energy executive, the second-largest vote-getter at around 24%.
Lightfoot became a campaign issue, with Comer’s website saying she "is leading Chicago in the wrong direction" and "using her power through the aldermanic appointment to control the 43rd."
With several thousand mail-in ballots still unreturned, it’s possible two of the other six candidates could still be in play for a runoff. That should be more clear in the next few days, city officials say.
Monique Scott, appointed by Lightfoot in June to replace her brother as representative of the West Side’s 24th Ward, seemed more firmly footed in a runoff.
She secured around 45% of the vote on Election Night, more than 2,000 votes higher than the next top vote-getter. About 650 unreturned mail-in ballots remain.
The fourth Lightfoot appointee, Ald. Anabel Abarca (12th), appears to have lost her seat outright, based on unofficial tallies.
A former chief of staff to 12th Ward Ald. George Cardenas, she was chosen in December to replace him when he stepped down to join the Cook County Board of Review.
Challenger Julia Ramirez, though, had 56.5% of the vote on Tuesday, leading Abarca by 725 votes, while around 700 mail-in ballots remain unreturned.
Asked whether Lightfoot’s unpopularity dragged down her candidacy, Abarca declined to comment Wednesday.
"I had nine weeks as an incumbent, and I’m proud of the campaign and the work that my staff has done and will finish doing," Abarca said.
Those mail-in votes remain a wild card in other races, making it tough to get a firm count of runoffs and winners.
But based on the available information Wednesday, it appears there could be 14 or 15 runoffs.
Abarca appears to be the only incumbent who lost outright on Tuesday.
But other incumbents — beyond Lightfoot’s appointees — are probably headed for runoffs and uncertain futures.
They include: 1st Ward Ald. Daniel La Spata, 36th Ward Ald. Gilbert Villegas and 45th Ward Ald. James Gardiner. Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) garnered just over 50% of the vote on Tuesday — the threshold needed to avoid a runoff — but with hundreds of outstanding mail-in ballots, he’s still on the bubble.
Other likely runoffs involving newcomers are in the 4th, 5th, 6th, 10th, 21st, 30th, 46th and 48th wards.
In the 25th Ward, incumbent Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez had the distinction of drawing campaign support from a progressive political group called United Working Families, which is closely aligned with the Chicago Teachers Union. He also was targeted by a business-oriented group called Get Stuff Done PAC.
The Election Night results show him leading by around 350 votes over his opponent, Aida Flores, and he declared victory. However, as of Wednesday, 1,300 or so unreturned mail-in ballots remained in that ward, which includes parts of Pilsen, Little Village and Little Italy.
Villegas said he was forced into a runoff because the redistricting process last year shifted the boundaries of much of his ward.
"It’s very simple: Over 50% of my ward is new… This was payback," said Villegas, who was an outspoken critic of the redistricting process.
Villegas was less than 200 votes short of surpassing the 50% he needs to avoid a runoff. And though the 1,800 unreturned mail-ballots in the ward could change that, Villegas is preparing for the second round.
"As you can see, we were very close to avoiding a runoff. The reality is, given our message and our progressive values, I feel good we’ll come out victorious April 4," Villegas said.