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Rahm wins big, City Council now 10% gay
by Matt Simonette

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Chicago will now have 10 percent of its 50 ward posts filled by openly gay aldermen, after the April 7 runoff races.

The gay aldermen elected April 7 include Raymond Lopez, who will now represent the 15th Ward, and Ald. James Cappleman, an incumbent who will continue to represent the 46th Ward. They join Alds. Tom Tunney, Deb Mell and Carlos Ramirez-Rosa.

Mayor's race: The first-ever mayoral runoff election in Chicago history resulted in Rahm Emanuel getting to keep his job for another four years.

The mayoral results were decisive. Emanuel came out ahead of his opponent, Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, with nearly 56 percent of the vote. Garcia had 44 percent.

In his victory speech, given at Chicago Plumbers Hall, Emanuel acknowledged criticism that he was out of touch with many Chicagoans and had not ventured into the city's neighborhoods. He said the election had been "putting me through my paces. I will be a better mayor because of that. ... I hear you. I understand the challenges we face will require me to approach these things differently."

Emanuel mentioned more work on city high schools, infrastructure jobs and jobs for ex-offenders, among other policy issues in the speech, and noted that the decisions made over the next four years, during which the city must confront enormous financial challenges, would determine its fate over the course of the next 40.

He also acknowledged Garcia, his opponent: "You just saw an election between the grandson of an immigrant and an immigrant, and that is why we are the greatest city in America."

In his concession speech given from the UIC Forum, Garcia said, "The people of Chicago have made me who I am today. We may have missed by a little, but you put me here today."

He further spoke of the grassroots efforts that supported his campaign: "Today, tens of thousands in this great city came together … and spoke with a clear voice to say you want to be heard. You want a city that works for everyone, and you mean everyone."

Garcia also that Chicago is experiencing a "growth crisis," as the city has lost thousands of residents who've left seeking opportunities elsewhere, adding, "We can only grow our way out of this crisis."

The runoff was a difficult race for both candidates, as they addressed complicated questions about the city's crime rates, finances and economic growth, among other issues. Emanuel faced criticism for not only his policy decisions, but his close personal ties to city financial interests and brash personality as well. Garcia, meanwhile, had to defend himself from critics who charged he lacked solid plans to actually implement his ideas.

Emanuel and Garcia each had support from members of the city's LGBT community. Emanuel was endorsed in both the regular and runoff elections by Equality Illinois PAC, for example. Garcia had support from a number of progressive advocates and released an extensive LGBT platform that promised that his administration would devote attention to trans and youth homelessness issues, as well as restoring a city LGBT liaison position.

Guide to the gays: In the 15th Ward, openly gay Democratic Committeeman Raymond Lopez won with 57 percent of the vote, while his opponent, police officer and activist Rafael Yañez, received about 43 percent. Lopez will now take the post formerly held by Ald. Toni Foulkes, who, at press time, seemed to have narrowly defeated Stephanie Coleman in the contest to be alderman of the 16th Ward. Lopez was endorsed by both Equality Illinois and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, while Yañez was endorsed by both Garcia and Foulkes, and had strong union backing.

Forty-sixth Ward incumbent James Cappleman will remain in his post following a heated race against attorney Amy Crawford, who is also openly gay. The election was largely focused on development, public safety and housing resources in the ward. Cappleman received just under 54 percent of the vote while Crawford garnered over 46 percent.

Mitts: Thirty-seventh Ward Ald. Emma Mitts defeated her challenger, schoolteacher Tara Stamps, with 53 percent of the vote; Stamps obtained 47 percent. In late March, Mitts apologized for remarks she made at community forum that were critical of same-sex marriage.

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