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Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town

Sam Royko, Son Of Famed Chicago Columnist Mike Royko, Announces Bid For 1st Ward Alderman

Royko has pushed for public safety improvements since his girlfriend was carjacked in 2021. He said he'll also focus on improving constituent services and communication in the 1st Ward.

Sam Royko speaks as the Greater West Town Community Coalition hosts a press conference about public safety and car hijacking on Nov. 16, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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WEST TOWN — A West Town lawyer and son of late Chicago columnist Mike Royko is running for 1st Ward alderman in next year’s City Council election.

Sam Royko announced his candidacy Tuesday, emphasizing his work advocating for public safety improvements over the past year and a half through his group, the Greater West Town Community Coalition.

Royko formed the group after his girlfriend, Erin Groble, was carjacked in Wicker Park last year, part of a dramatic spike in carjackings in the area and city during the pandemic.

Royko said the carjacking led him to get more involved in his community and, ultimately, run for alderman.

“We started to feel like we were making real gains by organizing and working together, and we thought that doing the aldermanic race may be the next step of being able to have more influence to make a bigger difference for our community,” he said.

Royko has become a frequent commentator in local media on the rise in crime, holding meetings, news conferences and organizing letter-writing campaigns to elected officials.

In November, Royko’s organization and eight community groups sent an open letter to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and all 50 alderman, demanding more transparency and collaboration from officials to prevent carjackings.

Royko also advocated for a more cohesive ward remap process earlier this year to keep West Town in as few wards as possible, which he argued would increase public safety.

“Public safety is of significant concern in our area, and the idea of having to advocate with six different aldermen to get things done sounds daunting, even more daunting, and we’re already struggling to get those things,” Royko said in November.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Sam Royko speaks as the Greater West Town Community Coalition hosts a press conference about public safety and car hijacking on Nov. 16, 2021.

Royko is the first candidate to announce his candidacy for 1st Ward alderman in the February City Council election. Incumbent Daniel La Spata (1st) declined to comment Tuesday and has not yet announced his plans.

West Town resident and political campaign employee Lauren Young filed paperwork to run last week but has not jumped in the race.

“I am currently exploring the options available to ensure that the wants and needs of the hard-working, community-oriented residents of the 1st Ward are properly represented in the Chicago City Council,” Young said in a statement last week.

In an interview Tuesday, Royko did not directly criticize La Spata, but he said as alderman he’d focus on improving constituent services and communication with 1st Ward residents.

“I want to make sure that we’re making constituent services, we’re making communication with our constituents, we’re making that a priority. I think it’s time that we make the 1st Ward a ward that everyone can be really proud of,” he said. “I think public safety is a huge area of opportunity for us right now. I think constituent services is going to be a huge area of opportunity.”

Sam Royko’s father, Mike Royko, is arguably the most famous Chicago journalist of all time, having written almost 8,000 columns over a more-than-three-decade career at the Daily News, the Sun-Times and the Tribune. He frequently told stories of the everyday Chicagoan while also lambasting politicians of all stripes, especially aldermen.

But Sam Royko said his father’s legacy is one of the inspirations for his aldermanic campaign, and he thinks his dad “would be really proud.”

“I grew up hearing whenever I gave my credit card or my ID to someone, ‘Oh, was your dad Mike Royko?’ and then I hear a story, I hear how they had read him every day and it just made them smile, or, ‘No one else got us like Royko did,’ or how he helped them when they had an issue with the city, when they were being bullied, when they felt like no one heard their voice, and I’m trying to bring that to the 1st Ward,” he said. “I’m trying to bring that representation, that advocacy to the 1st Ward.”

Royko is a partner at L&G Law Group, according to a news release, but said he would “be greatly reducing my time there” over the coming months as he focuses on his campaign.

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