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Election Day Is Here — And There’s No Frontrunner In Sight: ‘Chicago Has Never Had An Election Like This’

A breakdown of the closest aldermanic contests, who is likely headed for a runoff and key issues facing each ward.

Chicagoans vote on Feb. 26, 2019.
Mauricio Peña/Block Club Chicago
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Get more in-depth, daily coverage of Chicago politics at The Daily Line.

CHICAGO — For only the fourth time in the last century, Chicago voters will head to the polls Tuesday to pick a new mayor from among 14 challengers vying to replace retiring Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

With no clear front-runner, polls suggest that no candidate is even close to getting the more than 50 percent of the vote needed to win outright — and avoid an April 2 run off.

But first, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners will have to count all the ballots — while officials keep their fingers crossed that they avert a “nightmare scenario” where it is not clear which candidates finish in the top two spots, as late-arriving mail and provisional ballots trickle in.

“Chicago has never had an election like this,” and may never see one like it again, Chicago Board of Election Commissioners Chairwoman Marisel Hernandez said Monday.

Approximately 125,600 early voting ballots had been cast as of Monday evening.

However, there are 160,000 more voters registered than there were in 2015, she added.

The biggest question for elections officials center on the 29,100 vote-by-mail ballots that have yet to be returned. Ballots must be postmarked by midnight Tuesday — or voters can bring their mail ballot to their precinct polling place and turn it in for a new ballot, Hernandez said.

The election will be certified March 13.

If you still have questions about the issues or who to cast your ballot for, head over to chi.vote, which is a production of the The Daily Line, Better Government Association, Block Club Chicago, The Triibe and the Chicago Reporter. It has everything you need to learn about the candidates, their positions on the issues and how — and where — to vote.

Here’s what the The Daily Line team will watching as results roll in after the polls close at 7 p.m.

What we know for sure

City Clerk Anna Valencia will win a full term as Chicago City Clerk. The two women who filed to challenge Valencia — Patricia Horton and Betty Arias-Ibarra — were removed from the ballot from elections officials.

However, both sued, forcing elections officials to keep their names on the ballot. Now there is not enough time to reprogram electronic voting machines or reprint ballots, said Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners spokesman Jim Allen. Unless the Supreme Court rules in their favor, votes cast for anyone besides Valencia won’t be reported, Allen said.

Five aldermen are unopposed and are assured of another four-year term: Ald. Brian Hopkins (2); Ald. Scott Waguespack (32); Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36); Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38) and Ald. Brendan Reilly (42).

In the contested aldermanic races, The Daily Line Chicago team made their best guesses about which races will be decided after a runoff on April 2 — check our spreadsheets for aldermanmayor, clerk and treasurer

With only two candidates running in the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 10th, 11th, 13th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 23rd, 27th, 34th, 35th, 41st, 49th and 50th wards — outcomes are certain, unless candidates call for a recount. Those races are shaded green, while the races where a run off is possible are yellow. The races shaded in pink are those where we think a runoff is possible — while those in red are the races we think a runoff is likely because of a high number of candidates or because it is an open race. 

The 20th and 47th wards are most likely to yield runoffs, with nine candidates running in each ward. 

The City Council’s two most senior members — Ald. Ed Burke (14) and Ald. Pat O’Connor (40) — are also fighting for their political lives.

Burke is also running for a record 14th term, which would extend his tenure on the City Council to 54 years — while facing a charge of attempted extortion that prompted him to resign as chairman of the powerful Finance Committee. Even if he prevails in this election, much of his power in City Hall and in the Cook County Democratic Party has been hobbled.

RELATED: Ald. Ed Burke charged with attempted extortion, feds say

O’Connor is facing four challengers, all of whom are urging voters to choose new leadership for the North Side ward. 

RELATED: Housing, Environment And Crime On Their Minds: 4 Candidates Aim To Replace Pat O’Connor In 40th Ward

In the 25th Ward, the race to replace veteran Ald. Danny Solis is also likely to result in a runoff, with five candidates vying to take the seat now held by the disgraced alderman, who wore a wire as part of the investigation into Burke. Federal investigators confronted him with allegations that he received sex acts at massage parlors, the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra and campaign contributions in exchange for ushering deals through City Council.

RELATED: We Need More Affordable Housing In Pilsen, 25th Ward Candidates Say At Forum

In the 22nd Ward, Democratic Committeeperson Mike Rodriguez is one of four candidates running to replace Ald. Ricardo Muñoz, who announced his retirement before being charged with domestic violence after an altercation with his wife. He has pleaded not guilty.

Key City Council stories:

As Napolitano runs for a second term, unions that powered his 2015 run fall silent

As Tabares runs for a full term in 23rd Ward, opponent questions her ties to Madigan

La Spata apologizes ‘unequivocally’ for bachelor party photo Black Caucus chair calls ‘racist’

Joe Moreno’s Bad Behavior ‘An Open Secret’ In 1st Ward, Opponent Says After Alderman’s Ex-Aide Accuses Him Of Sexual Harassment [Block Club Chicago]

Ald. Joe Moreno Investigated For Filing A False Stolen Car Report After Woman He Dated Arrested Driving It [Block Club Chicago]

Guzzardi, Foxx, Kaegi: Moreno used our pictures on his mailer without our permission

Facing Uphill Battle, 11th Ward Challenger Using City Hall Scandal To Try To Unseat Ald. Daley Thompson [Block Club Chicago]

Realtor Challenging Burnett Slams Him For Voting With Rahm 100 Percent Of The Time, But Alderman Defends Record [Block Club Chicago]

‘He dined and ditched’ — Landlord accuses Ramirez-Rosa of running out on his office lease; alderman says it’s politics

Ramirez-Rosa Slammed For Not Taking $35K Pay Cut As Promised, But Ald. Says Opponent Running Nasty ‘Misinformation Campaign’ [Block Club Chicago]

In The 49th Ward, It’s Up To Voters To Decide Who Is The True Progressive [Block Club Chicago]

2 Photographers Say Ald. Joe Moore’s Campaign Used Their Photos For Mailer Without Permission [Block Club Chicago]

Must-reads

Burke spurns calls to drop his bid for re-election, but change is coming to the City Council regardless [The Daily Line]

Viagra, sex acts, use of a luxury farm: Feds detail investigation of Ald. Solis [Sun-Times]

Where their interests lie: Influential sectors in Chicago take sides in mayoral race [Reform for Illinois]

Outside Takes 

In Chicago’s Mayoral Race, the Establishment Leads the Outsiders [The New Yorker]

Post-‘Rahmbo’ Chicago and the Death of Triangulation [New York Times]

In corruption-plagued Chicago, high-level shakedown charges loom over mayoral race, candidates [USA Today]

What Rahm Emanuel has done for Chicago [Economist]

Chicago’s Awful Divide [The Atlantic]

Big Picture

Memo to the next mayor: Chicago’s pension pain is about to get sharper [Crain’s]

How Political Clout And Union Power Created Chicago’s Lead Water Problem [WBEZ]

Eve Ewing still believes in Chicago’s public schools [Reader]

Analyzing Neighborhoods with Intensifying and Emerging Housing Affordability Pressure [DePaul]

Chicago police solve one in every 20 shootings. Here are some reasons why that’s so low. [Tribune]

My house is worth how much? Fixes to tax assessments bring dramatic changes for Chicago homeowners [Tribune]

With CPS poised to release 2018-19 enrollment data, ‘astronomical’ decline expected to continue[The Daily Line]

Under Mayor Rahm Emanuel, city has sharply scaled back environmental enforcement [Sun-Times]