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But Who's Gonna Win???

By Kevin Robinson in News on Feb 13, 2007 2:50PM

2007_2_win.jpgWe here at Chicagoist aren't much in the business of prognosticating. We get questions from people all the time: "Who's gonna win the World Series?" "What are the winning lottery numbers?" "Who's gonna win my ward?" Since we have neither a magic eight-ball nor chicken bones, we aren't too keen on making actual predictions, except for where our political instincts tell us it's a given.

Running an outsider's campaign against a sitting alderman, especially a powerful one, isn't necessarily the political kiss of death in this town. Many times outsiders are pulled back in by the winning incumbent, given responsibility, and groomed to take on positions of their own later on. Sometimes standing up to Goliath doesn't equal a victorious David, but showing you've got moxie and street smarts carries some currency in Chicago's political landscape.

Not always, though. Sometimes the people that run against the powers that be are out for their own gain, have a bone to pick with the politician they take on, or just plain aren't smart enough to challenge the incumbent smartly or successfully. This year is no exception, with a group of challengers largely in out-of-the-way wards, trying to run races in their own neighborhoods. Some of them are smart enough to put together a real campaign and start to build a base for future runs. Others are running just to run. And some are backed by other power brokers that have their own axes to grind. Among the many aldermanic hopefuls this year, and the incumbents that are trying to hold onto their seats, there is a select group that have one thing in common: they are running unopposed. Through a combination of legal moves, technical disqualifications, and political luck, ten Aldermen have no legal challenger this year. Here's a quick rundown of who's who among the first five, and what happened to grant them such political luck.

2007_2_flores.jpgStarting in the 1st Ward, we have Alderman Manny Flores, who not only is running unopposed, had no opposition from the get-go. A proponent of progressive public policy, Flores is popular around the ward for making inroads on a variety of issues that matter to both long-time residents and newcomers alike, and we're not surprised that he's going to stride into another term. He has sponsored and gotten passed ordinances regarding consumer protection, land use and development, banking, health care, graffiti, and better government management. He put the brakes on the hyper-development that threatened the area under his predecessor, Jesse Granato, and has worked with programs in the city (most notably CPAN) to help maintain some semblance of economic diversity in the ward. Besides the perennial Chicago issue of gentrification, he has also worked to soften the economic blow to displaced workers in industries such as candy-making, lamp manufacturing, and hospitality. Most recently he was able to get his ward included in the City's new sort-separated recycling pilot program.

Turning southwest, we head to the 13th Ward, where Alderman Frank Olivio also has no challengers. Not much seems to be going on down there (and if you know South Siders, you know that's how they like it). We have to admit that we're not very familiar with the 13th Ward or its politics, so we can only speculate. Either the residents are insanely happy with the guy, or he rules the ward so well that none dare challenge him.

Staying south is Chicago classic Ed Burke in the 14th Ward. Unlike Flores and Olivio, Burke actually has a challenger — she's just not on the ballot. Generally acknowledged as one of the most powerful alderman on the council, he has managed, through procedural moves and now legal maneuvering, to take Chicago Public School teacher and mother of four Paloma Andrade off the ballot. Not satisfied with that, though, she has charged him with using intimidation and scare tactics to run off her supporters. She remains undaunted, however, vowing to continue her campaign. Her name will remain on the ballot, but voters will be informed that she is no longer a candidate. At least at this point, a vote for Andrade is a protest to register discontent. If nothing else comes of this race, it will be interesting to see what kinds of numbers she can draw on election day.

2007_2_davis.jpgIn the 29th Ward, Alderman Issac Carothers will hold his west side seat for another term. Originally a longtime aide to Congressman Danny Davis, Tumia Romero, was to be a challenger, but she has since withdrawn her candidacy, having committed what she termed the "fatal flaw" in election law of failing to file the receipt for the statement of economic interest along with her ballot petitions. It's too bad, really, in this ward, because we think Romero, with the backing of Davis and maybe the labor movement, could have had a credible shot at taking Carothers out of office.

Finally we look to the 27th Ward, where Alderman Walter Burnett has successfully taken CTA bus driver and community activist Victor Rowans off the ballot for a second time. Rowans was disqualified in 2003 on a technicality (failing to number his petitions correctly), and it seems that bad luck has struck twice. Even though all the paperwork was in order this time around, Burnett was able to disqualify his annual challenger by claiming that the number of valid signatures he collected was insufficient to appear on the ballot. Unfortunately for Rowans, he's up against a master of ballot access regulations, and this late in the game, it doesn't look good for him. One of the issues in the 27th Ward is the "whitening of Chicago." As whites move back into the city, and Latinos displace African Americans in traditionally black parts of the city, residents find themselves trying to figure out where they fit in in their own neighborhoods. Burnett admits that he still has lots to do to improve the 27th Ward. It doesn't look good for Rowans, so Burnett will probably get at least another term to fix those problems.

Tomorrow, we'll look at the last five.