2023 Endorsements- Near South Side, Wards 3, 4, 11, 12, 25, 34
Updated: Feb 9
The ward-level endorsements finish up with the Near South Side, where I find myself a bit torn in a few places. This is where most of my time in Chicago has been, and I'm excited to see some of the potential change that could be on its way here. Check out the About page for endorsement criteria.
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First, let's start with four highly competitive races:
4th Ward- Khari Humphries (with reservations)
Alder Sophia King is leaving city council to run for mayor, leaving an opening to serve the lakefront portions of South Loop, Bronzeville, and Kenwood. A lot of candidates are interested, and I'm endorsing Khari Humphries here. He is the city's Senior Director of Youth Policy and has worked widely in the field in a variety of settings. The Lightfoot connection is a bit concerning, and his website really needs to add a platform, but I think he's still likely the best option. He is endorsed by the teachers' unions and other progressive organizing groups and I've seen candidates I trust talking about how great he is, including Angela Clay and my own ward's Denali Dasgupta. If they trust him and are effusive over him, I think that's a great sign. He has experience and his endorsements, connections, and what's visible of his public statements suggest he'll be the right kind of alder. My reservations are fully because of his lack of a website campaign platform.
Another good option here is State Representative Lamont Robinson. He has a bit more of a filled out platform which looks pretty good and boasts endorsements from various officeholders and unions (including the more moderate trades unions, which always raises some questions for me). His platform mentions some good things like Treatment Not Trauma, but also seems to me like there's a lot of wiggle room that could end up with a less progressive approach, especially on public safety. He has the experience in government to jump easily into this role, but that role-jumping is also a downside. Chicago politics is dominated by domino-effect appointments, where many of our officials were first appointed to a vacancy, not initially elected by the people. Electing Robinson would lead to an appointment by Democratic leaders for his state representative seat, and that's one strike against him in this close call endorsement.
Also running is Prentice Butler, chief of staff for Alder Sophia King, who surely knows the ward well but doesn't impress with his platform. Others are educator Helen West, attorney Ebony Lucas, and Tracey Bey, none of whom convince me they are serious possibilities here.
See more at electkharihumphries.com.
11th Ward- Ambria Taylor (with reservations)
I was formerly a resident of Bridgeport's 11th Ward and often in the 11th Ward office. I was glad to see the opportunity for a new Alder, and the increased transparency of Alder Nicole Lee's office has been a welcome change from Alder Patrick Daley Thompson. I'm a bit torn in this election, but the clear progressive in the race is teacher Ambria Taylor. She's endorsed by the Democratic Socialists and the 11th and 25th Ward IPOs. She says all the right things on the issues, including her support for the Just Cause Eviction ordinance, the Treatment Not Trauma ordinance and much more. She's even endorsed by Strong Towns Chicago, a group focused on creative, pragmatic grassroots solutions for urban planning and financial sustainability, which I think has a lot of great ideas. I've never seen a candidate endorsed by them before.
At the same time, I have concerns here. Taylor did not receive the endorsement of her own union, which is ... concerning. I'm confused as they really share values, so there seems to be an unseen issue here. It's an issue across the board as she really did not get the backing of most progressive groups and unions that one would expect to easily choose her among those running. I think part of this is a hesitancy to endorse a white woman in the first majority-Asian ward. That's understandable, and while I don't value the identity-politics aspect as much as some, it makes sense that it would be best to have Chinese-American leadership of the 11th Ward office. Sadly, no progressive Chinese-American candidate is running, which puts progressives in a difficult spot. I don't think this is the whole story however. I'm not seeing any wave of support from local progressives there who I would expect to be excited about a candidate like this, and I've heard a bit of a narrative that Taylor hasn't worked well with others, not seeking to build a broad progressive coalition through communication and collaboration with those who would seem to be natural allies. I'm not on the ground there in the 11th anymore, but this is my impression. If true, this would need to change to make Taylor a good alder.
Current Alder Nicole Lee seems to be a basically neutral, make-no-waves type who is trying to be a competent middle-of-the road deliverer of ward services. That's probably the best progressives can reasonably hope to get elected right now in the 11th, though the historically conservative ward continues to change over time. Lee seems to do her job decently and will likely be the best choice in an eventual runoff between her and a more conservative candidate.
The rest of the field is a mess. I watched a whole candidate forum for this group, and they did not impress. Most notable is police officer Tony Ciaravino, endorsed by the police union and likely to get a lot of this ward's police and police-adjacent vote as he impressed in his communication at the forum. He was very focused on stirring up fear of crime and support for increased policing. Vida Jimenez also worked with the police department but seems to have a less-substantial campaign. Don Don is a founder of neighborhood watch group in Chinatown who does seem to have a decent handle on the issues, but has little listed platform. He seems likely to get a good amount of the tough-on-crime voters in Chinatown. Steve Demitro is a long-time resident with a couple of unimpressive campaigns under his belt and a minimal web presence, and Froy Jimenez is a teacher and former candidate for State Senate who is politically a bit tough to categorize. He's mostly focused on very conservative approaches to public safety and some economic issues but is more progressive on some things. He doesn't seem to have as substantial a campaign in this race as his last one.
See more at ambriaforalderman.com.
12th Ward- Julia Ramirez
I don't have reservations here, as Julia Ramirez is definitely the best candidate for McKinley Park and Brighton Park's 12th Ward. Alder George Cardenas finally exited the council when he won a race for Cook County Board of Review, and now it's finally time for change! Mayor Lightfoot appointed Cardenas's chief of staff Anabel Abarca. Abarca seems ideologically better than Cardenas (and all of his polluter/developer-backing nonsense) but her platform is fairly limited and uninspiring.
Julia Ramirez is a restorative justice practitioner, social worker, and organizer, connected to the great progressive 12th Ward IPO, and endorsed by progressive groups and unions. She has a great platform, with support for civilian-first-responder teams for mental health situations, the Treatment Not Trauma ordinance, investments in restorative justice practices, school-based wraparound services, community-driven zoning, formation of a local chamber of commerce, Community Benefits Agreements with large developers, green-economy-focused redevelopment of key industrial sites, the Accessory Dwelling Unit pilot and other affordable-housing-supportive approaches, reopening of mental health clinics, and more. I can see how her platform comes from and responds to the particular needs of her community and believe she will be a great alder.
See more at ramirezfor12.com.
25th Ward- No Endorsement
This is a tough one, and I really wrestled with it. In 2019, I was out campaigning on election day in this ward, and lived in Pilsen years before that. This race is full of drama and accusations. Alder Byron Sigcho is one of the most prominent and visible progressives, socialists, mayoral critics, activist alders, etc. I appreciate his vocal opposition to the casino project and his showing up for various causes. Aida Flores is an educator and administrator who ran in 2019 and is running again.
In 2019, I volunteered on election day for Hilario Dominguez, a progressive candidate among the five seeking to replace Alder Danny Solis. I had concerns about both Sigcho and Flores then and they continue now. Sigcho, to me, seems more show than substance sometimes - like the protests against a historic district (for gentrification-related reasons, though it's arguable the removal of the district compounded the issue) though its removal seems to have already been a settled issue with the Zoning Committee before the protests even occurred. There are significant accusations of vote-buying and manipulation of seniors by his campaign workers as well as an incident of intimidation of Dominguez's workers. Sigcho has a reputation for not working well with the other officials around him and a wide array of them, including Chuy Garcia and some fairly progressive-ish folks have backed Flores against him. There are significant questions about the authenticity of his separation from developers and the effectiveness of his anti-gentrification work and his constituent services. There are also questions raised about his residency claims and if he has misrepresented how long he has lived in the ward. His platform is great, but my impression is there is a pattern of combativeness and aggressive culture among Sigcho and allies that is reminiscent of the mayor he criticizes and makes it difficult for me to support him. Flores seems to be backed not only by somewhat good leaders like Rep. Chuy Garcia, State Sen. Celina Villanueva, and Rep. Jan Schakowsky, but also by the more conservative trades unions and apparently by developers. She mentions Treatment Not Trauma, but I'm not sure she means the specific ordinance by that name, and there is mention of affordable housing and some other good topics on her site but not a lot of detail. It seems very unpredictable where she would land as an alder and what portions of her support reflects who she is vs. just anti-Sigcho sentiment (which is sometimes for good reasons about his character or competence and sometimes for bad reasons about his ideology).
Finally, two not-so-competitive races:
34th Ward- [Update 2/9- Jim Ascot]
The 34th Ward is newly created, as the far South Side lost a ward due to population decline while increases in the Near South/Near West Side areas brought an additional ward. This ward covers parts of the Loop, West Loop, and UIC areas. There are two candidates here and they give a low-contrast choice between wealthy white establishment centrist-ish men. Bill Conway is the one with all the campaign cash, as family, union, and corporate money have united to give him a campaign fund that looks like an incumbent alder's. Most prominently known for his campaign against Kim Foxx for State's Attorney and his tough-on-crime, "Jussie Smollett, Jussie Smollet, Jussie Smollet" campaign, Conway is a Navy Intelligence veteran involved in the war in Afghanistan, former prosecutor, solar energy developer, adjunct professor, and son of a billionaire. I expected him to run for mayor and have a strong chance at winning, but he opted instead for intimidating nearly everyone out of running for this seat with his big wallet. The one person running against him is Jim Ascot, a long-time resident of the area, President of the Chicago Association of Realtors (that's complicated as they're often on the bad side of some housing and development policy issues), and... former therapist and West Side hospital emergency room crisis intervention specialist who studied for two years at the Himalayan Institute of Yoga, Psychology and Philosophy?? That took a turn I was not expecting. He seems passionate about homelessness but offers band-aid solutions. Generally his platform is pretty basic, mentioning crime and infrastructure without much clear proposing of solutions. He doesn't have the resources to really mount the type of campaign Conway can but maybe his community connections will surprise.
[Update 2/9 - As I continue to look into this race, I support Jim Ascot here. While he is no progressive, and I wish his platform were more detailed, his opponent Bill Conway is refusing to participate in forums, is backed by big family money, is likely using this role as a stepping stone to larger political ambitions- I don't want him to launch that political career and it's not good for the ward either), and likely would be the more problematic alder on city issues. Ascot will be more locally engaged, independent, and won't use this as a stepping stone to a mayoral, county, or legislative run.]
3rd Ward- No Endorsement
Alder Pat Dowell is unopposed. She's not a progressive and she's too closely allied with Mayor Lightfoot but she seems to have done decently for her ward and has positions that aren't among the worst on the council. She nearly was elected to Congress after Bobby Rush's retirement but decided to run again for alder after that failed.
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