Tunney at Nearly 60%
BY TRACY BAIM
Chicago gay businessman Tom Tunney made history Tuesday night, pulling in nearly 60% of the vote to become the city's first openly gay person elected alderman. He was appointed to the 44th Ward post in December when Bernie Hansen retired, making history as the first gay appointed to an aldermanic post.
Tunney thanked the voters and the diverse group of supporters he attracted to his campaign. Hundreds of people packed into the Vic Theater on Sheffield to see Tunney accept the victory in front of his father and the rest of his large Irish Catholic family, as well as politicians including Dawn Clark Netsch.
Some activists worried that two gay candidates in the race would force a run-off—the winner needed to get more than 50% of the votes to avoid an April 1 run-off. But openly gay attorney Rick Ingram had only 23% of the vote (2,280 votes to Tunney's 6,013, or 59% of the vote). Attorney Dean Maragos was a distant third with 13% (1,343), followed by Karen Kennedy at 3% (296) and Matthew Fordham at 2% (193).
Mayor Richard Daley easily won a fifth term, with about 79% of the vote. City Clerk James Laski and Treasurer Judy Rice were unopposed.
Despite heavy attention to some contested aldermanic races, the voter turnout citywide was just 34%, the lowest in city history.
In the 49th Ward, openly gay challenger Michael Harrington got just under 27% of the vote in his race to unseat incumbent Joe Moore, who avoided a runoff with 55% of the vote. At last count, Moore had 3,693, Harrington 1,825 and Tom Bradley 1,228.
In the hotly contested rematch in the 46th Ward, Ald. Helen Shiller defeated Sandra Reed easily this time around, 58%-42%, 6,240 votes to 4,536.
In one of the only real shockers of the night, incumbent 35th Ward Ald. Vilma Colom lost her rematch against Rey Colon, and it wasn't even close. Colon at last count had 4,444 (58%) to Colom's 3,212 (42%).
Ald. Eugene Schulter fought off a challenge for his 47th Ward post, with about 64% of the vote. 48th Ward Ald. Mary Ann Smith easily won re-election with 78% of the vote.
Most incumbents won re-election, some by wide margins, others in squeakers. However, some incumbents will face a runoff, including Ted Thomas in the 15th, against challenger Bob Love, a former Bulls basketball star. Freddrenna Lyle faces a runoff in the 6th, and it appears 1st Ward Ald. Jesse Granato will go head-to-head with Manny Flores, who was just slightly ahead late Tuesday—with 49% of the vote (3,386 to the incumbent's 3,330).
Controversial 3rd Ward Ald. Dorothy Tillman had 52% of the vote in a tight race, so she may have avoided a runoff. 25th Ward Ald. Daniel Solis avoided a runoff with convicted felon and former Ald. Ambrosio Medrano (who got 37% despite his crimes).
Strongly pro-GLBT Ald. Billy Ocasio easily won his re-election with 76% of the vote, while incumbent Ald. Burton Natarus had a tough race in the 42nd, coming in with 56% of the final vote.
Openly lesbian aldermanic candidate Lydia Watts could only muster a few hundred votes in her bid to oust Ald. Arenda Troutman in the 20th Ward.
The 44th Ward race featured perhaps the most high-profile battle between two gay candidates in Illinois history. Ingram was first to enter the race, but Tunney came out charging ahead as soon as Ald. Bernie Hansen announced he was retiring. Tunney immediately amassed a large team of elected officials, fundraisers, campaign workers and volunteers, and used nationally known pollsters to focus his message.
Ingram campaigned as the independent outsider, pressing the other candidates to state their positions on controversial issues. In the end, Ingram said he believes he helped set the agenda and forced Tunney and the others to clearly state their opinion on such issues as development and crime.
The aggressive and passionate campaign got somewhat nasty, but Ingram said he wishes Tunney well and he looks forward to working with him. About 80 Ingram supporters gathered to hear him speak at his election party at High Risk Gallery.
In the end, though, Tunney's 20 years of activism and business ownership in the ward added up to victory—he was able to attract hundreds of people to rallies and fundraisers, and he translated his reputation as the hardworking owner of Ann Sather's restaurants into becoming a tireless campaigner.
'I will work every day for the citizens of the 44th Ward, and I will be a solid, independent voice downtown,' Tunney said. He also thanked his family and his diverse base of supporters, including elected officials and the 44th Ward Regular Democrats—a group he was not part of, but which backed him when Hansen supported Tunney's appointment to fill his post.
'There were a number of good candidates in this race,' Tunney said. 'They ran a hard race.'