After the great discussion here last week about what will probably be an interesting race in the 50th Ward, I figured, in my foresight, now would be a good time to go through the city, ward by ward, and based on the latest filings look at the real competitors for the February 27th municipals.
With Mayor Daley announcing his bid for a sixth term on Monday, we're looking at a mayoral contest with a more-or-less decided outcome: Daley by lots n' lots. Some are making hay out of the fact that the Mayor turned in fewer nominating petition signatures than even Doc Walls, his severely under-funded opponent. More likely than not this was a feint by the Mayor — imagine if he'd turned in his usual 100,000 or whatever signatures. Every reporter in the city would be poring over those sheets and looking into the guys who gathered the sigs. Without Jesse Jackson Jr. or Luis Gutierrez in the race, there is no reason to hand the press a plum just as he's kicking off his campaign, which he wants to focus on advances in education and crime-fighting.
So, off we go, with a general survey of the electoral scene — today we'll look at the first tier races.
2nd Ward - South Loop
Madeline L. Haithcock, the incumbent, faces likely tough challenges from David Askew, who works in the Attorney General's office, and Bob Fioretti, a civil rights attorney. Bobby Rush's sister Geraldine Laury is also a possible candidate — Bobby Rush and Haithcock do not get along and Rush is the ward's Democratic Committeeman. Haithcock is not especially popular in the 2nd and the ward is changing as rapidly as any in the city — the lakeshore area has gentrified and added thousands of new residents, the area just south of Roosevelt along State and Clark, once reliable, has changed very dramatically in terms of racial and income make-up and could be fertile ground for a challenger to establish a base.
3rd Ward - Bronzeville
Dorothy "the Hat" Tillman is likely going to be a Chicago Federation of Labor, Service Employees (SEIU) target, and she has two capable opponents — Pat Dowell, who got over 30 percent of the vote in 2003, and businessman Mell Monroe. Tillman is pretty polarizing in her ward — which Alderman Burt Natarus once referred to as an "empty lot" — and plenty of residents have serious problems with how she manages the ward's services budget (infamously spending a significant amount of it on statues, for example). On the other hand, Tillman has resisted some serious challenges and if labor is not careful they can spark a rally effect — one thing about folks in the 3rd is they don't like the idea of outsiders telling them who to vote for.
7th Ward - Chatham
Darcel Beavers, daughter of new Cook County Commissioner William Beavers, is the prohibitive favorite but will face Sandi Jackson, an attorney and wife of Jesse Jackson Jr. Beavers is a strong ally of the Mayor, so the run may have just been a power play between Jackson and Daley. To date, Sandi Jackson has not filed to run, and Beavers faces only token competition.
15th Ward - Englewood
At my senior prom, I went off and danced with a bunch of different girls, all of whom had asked me to promise them a dance. I lingered with one and ended up missing the garter-taking-off thing, and when I finally found my date, she threw it in my face. That's kinda the definition of "dance with the one that brung ya," and incumbent alderman Ted Thomas may be getting more than a garter thrown in his face. Ald. Thomas was a president of Chicago ACORN but has drifted closer and closer to the Mayor, which, if you know anything about Chicago ACORN, is not good. There has been talking of a current ACORN member taking on Thomas for at least a couple cycles, and that candidate has filed — Toni Foulkes, also a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers and a dynamic organizer who led the fight against Wal-Mart, is going to try to retire Thomas. And given ACORN's close relationship with SEIU and the CFL, there is a good chance Ald. Thomas is retired. Besides Foulkes and Thomas, there are four other candidates in the race, which will work to Thomas' detriment.
18th Ward - Auburn-Gresham, Ashburn, Scottsdale
When Ald. Thomas W. Murphy became a judge on Nov. 7, the City Council lost one of its great stories and a much-beloved alderman. The 18th, once predominately white, was remapped and rendered an 80 percent African-American ward; Murphy adapted, making a sincere effort to get to know his constituents, and began to regularly trounce African-American opposition. Now he's gone, and Paul Stewart, Joseph Ziegler, Jr. and Mazonne Jackson, all African-American, lead the pack in a crowded field that should make for a very wild race in a pretty wild district.
42nd Ward - Near North Side, Loop
Burton Natarus faces Brendan Reilly, a well-connected, young Democratic Party operative who was battle-hardened in the 2002 Democratic gubernatorial primary. Natarus is old and sometimes seemingly not all with it. Natarus is also a stalwart in his support of both the Mayor and business, which will make Reilly an attractive candidate both for good government reform-minded voters and labor. In an increasingly non-Democratic ward, Natarus has been squeaking past Republican challengers — this election, GOP Committeeman Rich Gordon will likely face him again, although he hasn't filed — and with a viable Democratic alternative in Reilly, even in a non-partisan primary, Natarus may find himself in the uncomfortable position of having to campaign through a run-off. The more Natarus has to campaign publicly, the worse off he is.
50th Ward – West Rogers Park (West Ridge)
See last week's column for a run-down on what promises to be a highly entertaining race, where threats, innuendos and good old-school Chicago "electioneering" are already taking place.