By Mark Wachtler
April 8, 2015. Chicago. (ONN) While the country talks about Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Democratic Machine’s victory in the municipal run-off Election yesterday, the big news was in the City Council. Pro-reform, anti-Machine challengers pummeled their pro-Machine incumbent opponents on a historic level. Best of all, 4 of the 5 citizen-candidates we at the Illinois Herald endorsed shocked the city and beat their powerful incumbent opponents. In most cases, we were the only news outlet to endorse them.
Newly elected Chicago City Council members Greg Mitchell, Milly Santiago and Anthony Napolitano.
The Emanuel Machine super majority in the Chicago City Council, popularly called ‘rubber stamps’ thanks to a recent UIC report, has just seen its 44-6 block decimated by reform challengers made up of first-time, corruption-busting citizen candidates. The new Machine majority will be just 34-16 for the next four years. They were outspent ten to one by their incumbent opponents. They were ignored by the Chicago media, which in most cases endorsed their Machine-backed opponents. But somehow, they won.
3 races still missing precincts, too close to call
For the record, this is being written the day after the Chicago municipal run-off Election, a full 20 hours after the polls closed. And of the 18 Aldermanic run-off races, 3 are still too close to call and have one or two outstanding precincts waiting to report their vote totals. The above Machine vs. Reformer numbers assume the three outstanding races will conclude with the candidate currently ahead holding onto their leads.
Two of the three still outstanding races feature a reformer leading their Machine opponent. All vote totals referenced here are courtesy of the Chicago Board of Elections. In the 10th Ward, challenger Susan Sadlowski Garza leads incumbent John Pope and his 100% rubber stamp rating by 7 votes with 1 precinct remaining to report. In the 16th Ward, Toni Foulkes - a reform incumbent who was mapped out of her own Ward by the City Council - is leading by 138 votes with 1 precinct outstanding. In the 43rd Ward, grassroots lawyer Caroline Vickrey is trailing her Machine incumbent opponent by 98 votes with 2 precincts still missing.
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Winners and losers
With the 18 City Council run-off races just about complete, it’s worth reporting that of the full 50 council seats, incumbents won 36 races. That includes all 6 or 7 reform Aldermen, depending on how you want to define ‘reform’. The only anti-Machine member of the City Council that won’t be returning is former 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti. After being mapped out of his own Ward, Fioretti challenged Emanuel for Mayor, only to endorse him once he failed to make the run-off after the February first-round Election.
It’s also refreshing to note that of the 50 Aldermanic endorsements we made here at the Illinois Herald, 14 of them were victorious. Considering we’re an independent news outlet catering to independent thinkers and independent voters, our endorsed candidates rarely win. They’re typically naïve, first-time, citizen-candidates. For the first time in memory however, they’re actually winning. In fact, of the Chicago City Council’s new 16-member ‘reform’ block, the Illinois Herald endorsed 14 of them. Neither the Chicago Tribune nor the Chicago Sun Times can make that claim.
Mitchell, Santiago and Napolitano - our heroes
Out of the Illinois Herald’s full list of endorsements for all 50 Chicago City Council races, there were 5 that we were extra passionate about. All five are honest, pro-reform, non-politician, citizen-candidates. All five were given no chance by the local media and even fewer endorsements. Of the five, the Illinois Herald was the only news outlet in Chicago to endorse three of them. And still, two of those three won. Read our editorial, ‘5 Aldermanic Reformers worthy of your run-off Vote’.
7th Ward - Greg Mitchell
This author knows Greg Mitchell, not personally, but because we covered his campaign for 7th Ward Alderman in 2011. He was the best candidate then, even among a crowded field that included the tainted Beavers and Jackson dynasties. He was also the best candidate in 2013, and had our endorsement via our Chicago Independent Examiner column, when Alderwoman Sandi Jackson was convicted of corruption and a replacement needed to be appointed. But instead of selecting the next runner-up as chosen by the voters, Mayor Emanuel appointed his own hand-picked candidate Natasha Holmes.
‘Lifelong 7th Ward resident Greg Mitchell may be a political outsider and a long shot to replace Sandi Jackson, but he’s demonstrated he’s sincere about his desire to represent the citizens of the Ward in the city council,’ this author wrote in 2013, with Mitchell explaining, “I am excited at the possibility of becoming the next Alderman of the 7th Ward and representing my community of over 40 years and I am equally excited at the possibility of working with a new Mayor.” But it wasn’t meant to be. Mayor Emanuel appointed Holmes instead. But yesterday, voters of the 7th Ward took back their City Council seat and elected Greg Mitchell Alderman.
16 candidates filed to run against the Emanuel-appointed Natasha Holmes. 5 candidates were removed from the ballot, leaving a crowded 11-person field in the February 2015 Election. While the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun Times endorsed other candidates, only the Illinois Herald stood by the voters’ choice, passionately and energetically endorsing Gregory Mitchell once again.
For yesterday’s run-off, both the Sun Times and Tribune went on to change their endorsements, now backing Greg Mitchell over the incumbent Holmes. When the final votes were tabulated last night, Mitchell defeated Holmes by 1,600 votes, capturing 58% of the total. We at the Illinois Herald are proud to congratulate Greg Mitchell on his long-fought, well deserved victory.
31st Ward - Milly Santiago
If there was one race where we weren’t alone in our support for the anti-Machine reform candidate, it was in the 31st Ward. And challenger Milly Santiago needed all the help she could get. The former Telemundo reporter and current north side community activist was facing Chicago’s Vice Mayor and 24-year, six-term incumbent Alderman Ray Suarez.
Suarez had not only the help and endorsement of the Cook County Democratic Party and all its leaders, but also help from the pro-Emanuel Super PAC Chicago Forward. But Milly Santiago had the endorsements of the Illinois Herald, Chicago Sun Times, Chicago Tribune and nearly every reform-minded social and political activist in the 31st Ward. And in one of the closest and most exciting races of the day, Santiago declared victory last night while the incumbent Suarez refused to concede and pledged the race wasn’t over yet.
With 100% of the precincts reporting, Milly Santiago won by 131 votes and a razor-thin margin at 50.8%. Echoing a common reaction by most of the surprisingly victorious first-time candidates, Santiago told the Sun Times at her victory party last night, “I’m kind of in shock. I think I had a very aggressive campaign, a campaign based on the issues, a campaign focused on the changes that I envision for the 31st Ward. I think that’s what made the difference.” We at the Illinois Herald proudly congratulate Milly Santiago on her exciting victory.
41st Ward - Anthony Napolitano
In the city’s northwest side 41st Ward, long shot challenger Anthony Napolitano faced-off against Machine incumbent Mary O’Connor. In possibly the biggest twist of the night, Mayor Emanuel captured over 70% of the 41st Ward vote last night. But his administration-backed and PAC-backed incumbent O’Connor lost to the reformer Napolitano by almost 700 votes with the Chicago fireman capturing 51.96% of the vote.
This is another race where only the Illinois Herald endorsed little-known challenger Anthony Napolitano. Both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun Times endorsed the incumbent labeled as a ‘rubber stamp’ in the widely touted UIC survey. The Emanuel administration and the city’s media outlets not only endorsed O’Connor in the initial February race, but in yesterday’s run-off as well.
In one of our articles touting Napolitano’s campaign, we wrote, ‘The far northwest side 41st Ward is the scene where we predict the anti-corruption reformers will score their biggest upset victory. Not only do we predict it, but the Illinois Herald enthusiastically endorsed the lifelong Ward resident that will pull it off - Anthony Napolitano. Another corruption-busting citizen-candidate, Napolitano brings with him the toughness and courage of a five-year Chicago policeman and the selfless compassion of a ten-year Chicago fireman.’
Like the other victorious long shot reform challengers, Napolitano was still in shock over his surprise victory. As detailed by DNA Info at last night’s victory celebration, the new 41st Ward Alderman-elect said, “Not for one second did I think we could knock off an incumbent Alderman. I’m beside myself. I’m excited.” Anthony Napolitano may not have thought he could do it. But we at the Illinois Herald did. And we’re proud and excited to congratulate the new 41st Ward Alderman on his victory.
11th and 43rd - Brian Kozlar and Caroline Vickrey
Of the five reform-minded citizen-candidates the Illinois Herald endorsed the heck out of, three of them were winners last night - Mitchell, Santiago and Napolitano. The fourth, Brian Kozlar in Bridgeport’s 11th Ward, had the greatest David vs. Goliath race. The 26-year-old faced the heir-apparent to the Daley empire - Patrick Daley Thompson. Kozlar lost, but ran a great campaign and finished with a respectable 42% of the vote in the Machine’s biggest stronghold.
The final candidate of the ‘Illinois Herald Five’, grassroots attorney and long shot Caroline Vickrey, hasn’t won or lost yet. With two precincts still outstanding, Vickrey trails the Machine incumbent Michele Smith by 98 votes. While 98 votes is a large number to cover with just two remaining precincts, anything’s possible and Caroline Vickrey could still pull out a surprise win. We wish her all the luck in the world. **Update 4/8/15 9:39pm - Chicago Board of Elections lists Caroline Vickrey the winner with 100% of the precincts reporting. She won by 6 votes.
While the local and national media concentrate their attention on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s surprisingly easy victory yesterday, the real news was in the Wards. With the Mayor’s super majority of 44-6 shrinking to 34-16, that’s historic news in itself. And we at the Illinois Herald are sincerely proud and humbled to know we played a small but important role.
If there’s one request we can make of Greg Mitchell, Milly Santiago and Anthony Napolitano before they take their City Council seats, it’s this - please continue being the independent-leaning, independent-thinking individuals that you were before you were elected. We also couldn’t help making an observation - independent voters helped elect three independent-leaning City Councilmen yesterday, one black, one brown, one white.
Would the idea of an ‘independent caucus’ or a ‘reform caucus’ in the Chicago City Council be out of the question to ask? The Council has its ‘progressive caucus’, but not all progressives are reformers and not all reformers are progressives. Just a thought. Once again, congratulations to the 16 victorious reform Aldermanic candidates yesterday, especially three of our favorites - Greg Mitchell, Milly Santiago and Anthony Napolitano.
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