On Monday, the two political heavyweights in the Chicago mayor’s race — incumbent Lori Lightfoot and U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia — filed their nominating petitions, setting the stage for a brutal contest and, more immediately, petition challenges that could shrink the field.
In addition to Garcia, Lightfoot has three other competitors, one of whom is the son of a previous mayor.
For the time being, the mayoral field is down to 11 candidates.
The last day for candidates to file for the February municipal elections was Monday. And the first day for opponents to try to get them off the ballot and destroy those dreams is Tuesday.
Candidates hoping to enter a lottery for the final ballot position should file near the end of the final day. Candidates wishing to have their names appear at the top of the ballot submitted their petitions last week, as soon as the city’s election administration began receiving them.
None of this mattered to City Clerk Anna Valencia or City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin. Both filed reelection petitions on Monday, but neither received any opposition.
Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), son of former Mayor Eugene Sawyer, Chicago police officer Frederick Collins, and Johnny Logalbo all filed for mayor on Monday. However, because they all filed before Garcia, the Southwest Side congressman received the last slot on the ballot.
Lightfoot flexed a little after sending in her nominating petitions Monday morning, a stack containing an estimated 40,000-plus signatures, as she explained her choice to forego the opportunity to have her name at the bottom of the ballot, a position some say offers an advantage.
“It’s not about being in the final slot on the vote, as if you’re an unknown and no one knows who you are. They are aware of who I am. And our supporters will find us “said Lightfoot.
“So we wanted to get this done this morning, get our folks geared up and ready for the next leg of the journey.”
Garcia, a latecomer who declared his mayoral run earlier this month, filed his nominating petitions just before the filing period closed on Monday.
And he did his own flexing, filing 48,000 signatures in a stack emblazoned with his characteristic moustache logo, according to an aide.
Garcia described his petitions as “challenge proof,” claiming that the signatures represented every region of the city.
“This is an example of the type of grassroots support that our campaign is generating across Chicagoland, across ethnic and racial communities, communities of faith, we are excited,” Garcia said. “This is an example of the type of power and grassroots effort in which I will be involved. This is a successful campaign.”
He stated that his campaign would not prioritize contesting any opponents’ petitions.
Garcia may not need to oppose Lightfoot’s requests.
Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) said he has organized a team of election law experts and political volunteers to go over the signatures Lightfoot submitted to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners line by line.
“The fact that she filed at the last minute suggests that the petitions may be deficient. She claimed she filed on the final day four years ago. But four years ago, she was an unknown competitor. This time, she is the incumbent mayor. And there’s no other explanation for filing on the last day except that she wanted the extra week to fluff her figures “According to Hopkins, the Chicago Sun-Times
“This would imply that her requests were insufficient. And even if they were, it’s unlikely she could treat them in a week. So we’ll go over them thoroughly and see whether they can be challenged.”
Hopkins is not affiliated with any of the mayoral challengers, but he is so committed to making Lightfoot a one-termer that he is willing to take a cursory look, then try to raise the funds needed for a full-fledged petition challenge if there is enough smoke to suggest fire.
“Her four years as mayor have been devastating for our city. This administration has failed. I simply do not believe she has earned the right to a second term “Hopkins explained.
State Rep. Kam Buckner, community activist Ja’Mal Green, Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, Ald. Sophia King (4th), former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, and rich businessman Willie Wilson are among the five mayoral candidates that filed last week.
A lottery will be used to select the top ballot spot, which will include the names of the six candidates who filed last week.
The challenge period begins at 9 a.m. Tuesday and ends at 5 p.m. on December 5. The purpose is to invalidate enough signatures to drop a mayoral candidate below the 12,500 required to remain on the ballot.
Signatures can be contested if they contain the names of unregistered voters or registered voters who previously signed the nominating petitions of another candidate. Petitions can also be contested if they contain forged names, wrong addresses, or other fraudulent tendencies.
It’s a time-consuming and potentially costly procedure that only wealthy mayoral candidates can afford to start, let alone complete. It’s usually not worth the work unless you have a good chance of knocking out a potentially powerful opponent.
Lightfoot thanked campaign volunteers who “literally scoured every corner of the city” to ensure she had a “sufficient number of valid signatures” to qualify for the ballot after filing her nominating petitions. She specifically mentioned “my friends in organized labor,” including “the Plumbers and Carpenters” unions.
“With today’s filing, one chapter of the campaign closes and another begins. The next step is to continue reaching out to voters across the city to remind them not only of what we’ve done over the last three and a half years, but also of our vision for the next four, and why the only rational choice is to re-elect me “Lightfoot said this while flanked by first lady Amy Eshleman.
“Nothing is taken for granted by me. I know it’s going to be a lot of work, as it has been every day since I was sworn in. And we will continue to battle, fight, fight.”
Lightfoot acknowledged that her team has pulled her opponents’ nominating petitions and that she will decide whether to dispute them “if we believe there’s a legitimate basis”
Four years ago, County Board President Toni Preckwinkle contested then-Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown’s nominating papers and managed to keep Brown off the mayoral ballot before Preckwinkle’s landslide loss to Lightfoot in the runoff. Wilson contested Green’s petitions during the same campaign season and convinced Green to withdraw before the challenge was concluded.
Victor Reyes, a veteran political operative, is currently assisting Garcia’s mayoral campaign. Reyes expects the Chicago Teachers Union to be particularly active during the challenge period in order to remove Garcia and “as many African American candidates as possible” from the ballot in order to benefit Johnson, the CTU’s supported and handpicked candidate.
“Two or three of the third-tier candidates might not survive the petition challenge. That still leaves four African Americans, one Latino, and one white candidate. The gathering is still dispersed, which is bad for the incumbent “He stated.
In other races, 210 candidates filed for the City Council as of Monday’s close of business, with 103 of them seeking for the 15 seats that are either open or held by appointees because incumbents are retiring, running for mayor, or have moved on to other employment.
The South Side’s 21st Ward saw the most candidates, with 14 vying for the seat currently held by retiring Ald. Howard Brookins Jr.
Then there was the adjoining 6th Ward, where Sawyer’s plan to run for mayor brought 13 filers for the seat he is relinquishing.
And new Council members nominated to replace some of those vacancies will almost certainly have to fight for their seats.
Ald. Nicole Lee, who was appointed to replace imprisoned former Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson in the 11th Ward, was challenged by six people. Ald. Monique Scott, who was appointed to succeed her brother Michael Scott in the 24th Ward on the West Side, had seven candidates. In addition, Ald. Timmy Knudsen has five opponents in his bid to retain the 43rd Ward seat in Lincoln Park, which he was appointed to after Ald. Michele Smith retired.
Hopkins (2nd), David Moore (17th), Walter Burnett Jr. (27th), Scott Waguespack (32nd), and Matt Martin face no resistance (47th).