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Across the Finish Line

By Kevin Robinson in News on Apr 18, 2007 1:50PM

2007_4_Near_the_finish_line.jpgThis election has been one of the most significant in recent memory. With seven new aldermen set to take office in May, including the wife of Jesse Jackson Jr. in the 7th Ward, the stage is set for a new power struggle in Chicago. This year, more than any other, saw the city's labor movement — especially the service-sector unions — flex their political muscle. The result? A record-low turnout in the mayoral vote, and 12 aldermen chased into runoffs. With this likely to be Daley's last term in office, a new set of players will be emerging to try and fill the power vacuum that will be left in Richard M.'s wake come 2011. Old political alliances will be tested, and new ones will be formed. The results that were made available last night will have an impact on the City by the Lake for the next four years, if not for the next decade.

Yesterday's vote was something unique — down and dirty street fighting, personal vendettas and outright power plays against some of Daley's staunchest allies on the council. This wasn't a vote about esoteric issues. This was a vote over the most basic functions of public servants, and the future of the communities they served.

The biggest races of the night, in the 2nd and 3rd Wards, saw the incumbents roundly defeated. Bob Fioretti pulled a significant number of votes out of a ward that has seen a lot of change recently. In spite of Madeline Haithcock's attempts to paint Fioretti as a creep, and her blatant pandering to big business interests and the cynical machinations of the Daley administration, she couldn't break 40%. In the 3rd Ward, Pat Dowell forced The Hat into retirement. While Dorothy Tillman turned her back on the values embraced by Harold Washington, Pat Dowell ran a campaign that energized the community and spoke to hope for people that felt they had lost their voice. In the 16th Ward Shirley Coleman's worst fears were realized, when she was defeated by Joann Thompson.

In the 35th Ward, Rey Colon beat back yet another challenge by Vilma Colom, who wants her seat back so badly she can taste it (but can't seem to get the vote out strong enough to actually win it). We have to wonder how long this feud will continue at the ballot box. Less surprising was the victory by Lona Lane, who held her seat against a challenger that ran a weak and disorganized campaign.

Up north, 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore seems to have beaten Don Gordon, who put up a remarkably strong challenge against an organized and well-funded incumbent. While his calculated moves to pander to the lakefront liberals in his ward backfired, the large turnout against him and the close margin that he won by sent a strong message of dissatisfaction with the direction of Rogers Park. In the 50th, Naisy Dolar also came close to unseating the increasingly arrogant and unpopular Bernie Stone. Her campaign was sophisticated, smart, and well funded, and she brought out a solid group in spite of Stone's dirty tricks and cynical maneuvering. Stone has indicated that he will appoint his daughter to take his place on the council when he retires, and the fight for power there is far from over.

Down south in the 21st Ward, Howard Brookins has held his seat, but at he least got a run for his money when he had it coming. Brookins wasn't expecting to have to beat back a challenge from the labor movement, and Leroy Jones chased him all over the neighborhood, calling him out for kowtowing to Daley when the going got tough.

Perhaps the most watched race, however, was in the 32nd Ward, where local-boy-done-good Scott Waguespack has defeated what is left of the Rostinkowski machine. Ted Matlak was handed his pink slip last night in one of the nastiest and most bitterly fought campaigns of the this year. The real challenge for Waguespack now is to balance the development in the 32nd while delivering city services and finances for ward residents. Challenging Daley while delivering the goods will require a lot of political savvy. We hope he's up for it.

The most inspiring race this season took place in the 15th Ward, where Jewel bakery clerk Toni Foulkes beat attorney Felicia Simmons-Stovall with the backing of her own local union, UFCW Local 881. We're expecting Foulkes to be a bright spot on the council, an opportunity to represent what regular people in this city want from government, and a rare voice for independence in a city council still overloaded with all-too-willing rubber stamps. As these new alderman take office come May, and others breathe a sigh of relief for holding on, Chicagoans will be watching, and hoping, that a new political discourse will take place.

Near the finish line by ~addicted2.